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8 Ways to Keep Your Home Show-Ready with Kids

If you have kids then you also probably have a mess on your hands. Constantly picking up after them can be especially exhausting when your house is on the market. A bit of organization and a few essential tips will help you manage any messes and keep your home show-ready for interested house hunters.

1. Keep Your Home Free of Clutter
Having a garage sale, selling items online or donating them to a local charity can help you get rid of the clutter, but then you’ll need to keep it that way. That means designating a home for all of your children’s items and communicating where you expect these things to live at the end of the day. Make sure the backpack goes to the hanger in their closet, dirty dishes go in the dishwasher and toys are put away in their room.

2. Have a Designated Kid Area
Part of properly staging a home is providing every room with a purpose. Leaving office supplies in the dining room or exercise equipment in the bedroom can signal to buyers that your home will be too small for their needs. Keep the toys in the bedroom and toy room to avoid sending the wrong message to house hunters.

3. Clear Up Unused Toys
Younger kids tend to collect a lot of toys, but they can grow out of them as quickly as they get them. To reduce the potential for piles of toys to lie on the floor and trip buyers, just keep out their favorite toys. The rest you should donate or pack away for moving day!

4. Create Clever Storage Solutions
Whatever toys you decide to keep will need a designated space to call home. Hat boxes, baskets or storage ottomans are great places to conceal toys in a creative way and are easy to pick up before buyers check out your space.

5. Stay Consistent with Daily Chores
Consider making a game out of cleaning or set up a reward system to engage your kids to help with the daily chores. Most kids should be able to help make their beds, put away their toys and clothes. Kids can also clear the table, dust and help clean the dishes to maintain a show-ready space while on the market.

6. Prevent Laundry Pile Up
If you have a lot of laundry that piles up in your home, don’t wait for laundry day! Get into the routine of washing your kids clothes as soon as you have a full load. Doing so will not only reduce the laundry pile up it will also help prevent any unwanted odor.

7. Make Some Grab & Go Bags
Sometimes you need to get your kids out of the house to provide the best showing. Have a bag already packed for them to spend an hour or so away from home with all their favorites including toys, treats, or diapers.

8. Plan Some Activities
It may be a good idea to plan some activities for your kids while your home is on the market. Heading to museums, parks, swimming pools, grandparents house will give your kids – and the lucky parent or family member – time away so that you can show your home without interruption.

Remember to keep your kids involved in the process. Tell them what’s happening and get them excited about your move. This way they’ll be more eager to pitch-in and do their part. Remind them this situation isn’t permanent. Following these tips will not only help you keep your home show-ready, but it can also be good practice for when you move into your new home.

Tori Toth is a Certified Home Staging Expert, Regional Vice President for Real Estate Staging Association, owner of Stylish Stagers, Inc and the creator of the Stage 2 Sell Strategy home staging course. She has been interviewed on CNN Money and was named a Professional Stager of the Year Finalist in 2012. For more tips on how to maintain a staged home read Feel At Home: Home Staging Secrets for a Quick and Easy Sell.

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Always Be Closing: Work-Live Space Closes a FSBO Home Sale

Aaron Stanton has been working out of his home office for the past 23 years. The location of that home office has changed a few times, but Stanton’s basic need for a personal space to work from has remained the same.

“I sell industrial materials for a variety of vendors, so I spend some of my time on the road and the rest of my time working from home,” Stanton says. “And each time I moved, I made sure to upgrade my home office. I spend a lot of time there, so I want to make sure it’s something I like.”

When Stanton decided to sell his house in San Diego, he knew he could use his home office — “the office of my dreams,” he says — as a selling point for like-minded individuals.

“Working from home, especially if you do it for years, requires a strong sense of focus and perseverance,” Stanton says. “If you have a great home office, it helps you stay focused. It becomes a key part of your career.”

The 47-year-old father of two says he targeted salespeople when he listed and marketed his home, which he did without the help of a real estate agent. “I spread the word with colleagues, I posted about my home office on some social media groups, and I mentioned it to several of the companies I have as clients, just because most of them had their own sales reps who worked from home,” he says. “You just hit your own circles of personal and professional contacts and hope something sticks.”

Stanton’s most recent office (at the home in San Diego) featured expansive windows, bamboo flooring and an 18-foot ceiling. “The ceiling was key,” Stanton says. “I never felt like I was closed in. I always felt like I was in an open space.”

That feeling, Stanton says, was much different from those in previous home offices. “I’ve sat at a kitchen table, an old door propped up on two file cabinets, a desk I bought at a garage sale and the typical Ikea desk,” Stanton says. “The rooms ranged from an enclosed screen porch to a cramped attic to the end of a hallway.”

Still, Stanton knew that his task was always the same, no matter the setting: sell. “If you’re in sales, you work the phones and your email constantly,” he says. “If you don’t, you’re not working. There’s no stagnation in sales, no dead time. You always have to be looking for the next lead or trying to close the latest deal.”

Because of that constant need for movement, Stanton made sure he kept his home office in a perpetual state of “controlled panic” when he had showings scheduled for potential buyers. “It would drive my wife crazy because she said the rest of the house was so clean and the office was a mess — but it wasn’t,” Stanton says. “I had lots of dates and notes on my whiteboard, lots of papers on my desk, lots of Post-it notes stuck to my phone.”

Stanton, who moved to Northern California to help care for his parents, says his strategy paid off, although in a way he hadn’t intended. “I did get a few inquiries from some colleagues and peers, but to be honest, the house was priced a bit beyond them,” he says. “The irony was that I eventually sold it to a real estate agent who was checking out the place for a client but ended up loving that office. She said she needed a better place to work every day, and that when she saw my office, she knew she’d found it.”

Read more: 6 Step Guide to Showing Your Home

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23 Easy Home Staging Tips for Any Budget

Going the extra mile to spruce up a home and make sure it looks like a million bucks is a home seller’s first, best step towards finding a buyer. Homeowners might think they’ll need to spend a bundle, but many projects don’t require a lot of money. These ideas will work with any budget.

Display the Best Features of Your Home
Whether they’re gazing out a car window or looking at a photo on a smartphone or tablet, the first view prospective buyers have of your home probably will be from the street. As a seller, your goal is to impress them so much with your home’s curb appeal that they want to know more. If you fail to do this, buyers simply will go on to the next property.

“You only have one chance to make a first impression, and you want it to be a good one, one that a buyer will remember,” says Donna L. Stoutenburg of Artistic Endeavors 4 U, a staging and redesign company based in Streamwood, Illinois. “It’s imperative that your house looks good from the street.”

9 Inexpensive Projects to Increase Curb Appeal
1. Make sure exterior walls are not chipping or dirty. If there’s any dirt or grime, consider power washing.

2. If window treatments or furniture can be seen from outside your home, ensure that they complement the exterior.

3. Remove unsightly items that distract from your home’s overall appearance like toys, debris and dead vegetation.

4. Trim the lawn and pull any weeds.

5. If you have a mailbox, clean or replace it. Also make sure the house numbers are recent, legible and match the architecture’s design aesthetic.

6. Utility boxes often can be seen from the street and almost always look obnoxious, so camouflage them by painting them the same color as your home.

7. Repaint the front door.

8. When seasonally appropriate, add flowers to planters to create memorable splashes of color.

9. Sweep or shovel the entrance and all walkways.

Want to really impress? Stoutenburg tells her clients to paint their walkways. Although special paints are required, the process is straightforward. “Scrub the area thoroughly, give it a good acid wash and let it dry. Apply a coat of primer, then the colored paint and you’ve updated this (exterior) space,” she says. Be sure to check the weather forecast before you start: Stoutenburg cautions that successfully completing this project requires a sunny day with no wind.

Cook Up Something Memorable
Because members of a household spend so much time in the kitchen, this room requires special attention, according to Leslie Molloy, a Certified Kitchen Designer and residential designer at Normandy Remodeling in Hinsdale, Illinois. “People want to move into something that’s ready, and minor tweaks can really help a lot,” she says.

Patricia Marie Kelly of Marie Kelly Unlimited, a home staging and interior redesign firm based in Algonquin, Illinois, agrees, and emphasizes that kitchens are an area where clutter is a no-no. “No one wants to smell, see or view your dirty laundry … or a week’s worth of dishes piled in the sink or last night’s dinner in the garbage,” Kelly says.

4 Quick Kitchen Staging Suggestions
1. Repaint cabinets that are an outdated color like olive green or harvest gold.

2. Replace knobs and finishes on cabinets and drawers.

3. Remove magnets, postcards and school artwork from refrigerator doors.

4. If you have a little more to spend, consider replacing appliances and, possibly, installing a new granite or composite counter.

3 Simple Ways to Make a Bathroom Shine
1. “A lot of times bathroom fixtures are simply construction grade,” Stoutenburg says — meaning they’re functional but uninspired. For example, many bathrooms have “Hollywood” lights — a line of a half dozen or more exposed bulbs above the mirror that make you feel as if you’re getting ready for your close-up. She says that although there are kits that can simply cover up this dated fixture, the lights are not that expensive to replace.

2. Want to quickly stage a bathroom and make it look more upscale? “Remove the shower curtain, replace it with (just) a liner and add a floor-to-ceiling drape,” Stoutenburg suggests. “The drape would be made of linen or a similar fabric.” Use a tension rod to secure the drape.

3. Nothing emphasizes an outdated bathroom like a color toilet. “You can replace that for about $125 or so,” Stoutenburg says.

When It’s OK to Be Boring in the Bedroom
This is one room where private tastes quickly become public atrocities if not carefully staged. Surprisingly, Barb Schwarz of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals suggests borrowing a lesson she credits to Disneyland and Disney World, where placement of everything is carefully considered to convey a harmonious experience. When staging bedrooms, that means removing anything that would prevent a prospective buyer from seeing themselves in that bedroom.

4 Easy Expert Bedroom Staging Tips
1. Remove all evidence of hobby clutter. Schwarz has made clients deep-six golf ball collections, teddy bears, Hollywood memorabilia — and even Disney character posters.

2. Avoid bold, shocking colors. Many parents allow their children to decide what color to paint their bedroom walls, and the result is what you’d expect. Repaint in neutral tones.

3. Clean the carpet or the floors.

4. If you notice at the last minute that your favorite bedspread is torn or has a small stain, consider either flipping it over or adding strategically placed throw pillows or an extra blanket.

3 Details to Add to Any Room
Accessorize. Accessorize. Accessorize! It’s the little touches that can really make a big difference in every room.

1. Spice up a dull living room or den by adding a few throw pillows in fresh colors.

2. Enliven your home with strategically placed plants. If they’re real, make sure they’re healthy. Artificial plants can look surprisingly lifelike these days, too.

3. Want to make sure prospective buyers appreciate a room with a tall ceiling? Place tasteful, neutral artwork near the top so visitors look all the way up.

Follow these strategies and with just a little cash and elbow grease, you’ll ensure that your home is the one that prospective buyers will want to see again.

Read more: Prepare Your Home for Photos and Visitors