The sign is in the front yard. You’ve boxed half of your belongings and put them in a storage unit in order to stage your home to look its best. Now the waiting game begins, wondering if each new interest in your humble abode will become the irresistible offer you’re hoping for.
But soon you’ll likely realize that having your house on the market while you’re living in it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes realtors give you about 30 minutes (or fewer) to make your house show-worthy and head out the door. And that isn’t much time, especially if you have kids, animals or both.
However, a few simple measures will help a last-minute showing seem like no big deal.
Start the Day Right
The best approach to a last-minute home showing is to be prepared for it before the call comes. Even if you have kids whose playing style may resemble a miniature tornado, you can do a few things that make the clean up easier.
As soon as you get up for the day, make all of the beds and open all of the curtains and blinds in the house. This will shave at least 10 minutes or more off of your tidy-up time when a call comes in.
While artificial scents could cause a problem for potential buyers that may be sensitive to smells, it’s better to have a pleasant smell than the aroma that accompanies teenage boys or animals (especially to a potential buyer who doesn’t have pets). Candles or warmers with mild, long-lasting scents are the best. Light them or turn them on first thing in the morning and leave them going all day so that the aroma becomes more natural to the home and less potent than when first lit.
Assuming you did a deep clean right before putting the house on the market, all you’ll need to do from there is maintain. Set yourself a weekly schedule with a cleaning task each day to stay on top of it. Martha Stewart offers a weekly cleaning checklist that will help focus your efforts—simply assign a day of the week to each area of the home.
Martha Stewart also recommends six things to do every day so that “with just a few minutes of work, you’ll easily be able to keep chaos at bay.” Among the tips is cleaning as you cook, so that your kitchen doesn’t become an unmanageable problem area for a last minute showing. Also, wipe up spills when they happen rather than waiting. Finally, sweep the kitchen floor regularly to make mopping much easier. Remember, the kitchen is an important area for potential buyers and should be at its best.
When the Call Comes In
When you receive that last minute call for a showing, don’t panic—you’re already mostly there from your morning prep time. A few quick tasks will give your home that extra charm that could seal the deal.
First, keep an empty tote or two easily accessible. When the call comes, the first thing you should do is load up the totes with the clutter accumulated on the table, the counters and any other clutter-catching places. Conceal them in a spacious closet or attic with easy access. Consider taking the totes with you when you leave if there isn’t space to tuck them away. Once that is complete, do the walk through.
“In addition to preparing your home for showings and open houses by cleaning, de-cluttering and staging, there are a number of last-minute things you can do to really allow your home to stand out from the crowd,” advises Tina Fountain Realtors. Some of these tasks include
- Removing all dirty dishes from the sink and wiping the sink down,
- Removing all shoes and coats from the entry so that no one trips over them,
- Hiding obvious signs of pets (food dishes, litter box, etc.) for potential buyers who may not be animal lovers, and
- Minimizing, organizing or disguising the kids’ toys.
According to Jenny Johnson, a realtor in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, you should never refuse a showing, regardless of how little time they give you. “Your house may not be clean, you may be feeling under the weather, it might just have been a long week. But there are a number of homes on the market at any given time and if a buyer can’t see yours when they request to, they often just move on to the next home and never come back to yours. It’s better for buyers to see your house when it’s a bit messy, rather than not see it at all.”
So, tackle your morning ritual and hide the clutter, and you’ll find those last minute showings to be less stressful. That is, of course, as long as the request doesn’t come in the middle of baby’s nap time—that’s a whole other challenge.
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