How to Stage a House With Kids

Keeping your home spotless and show-ready is a challenge for any seller. But when you have kids at home, it can be even more difficult. It can mean trying to get the whole family out the door in the morning with a completely clean home, or vacating quickly for last-minute tours taking place in the evenings or on weekends.

How to stage a house for sale

In recent Zillow research, almost half of buyers said that having a home staged was somewhat, very, or extremely important to their home-buying decision. And 68 percent of recent buyers said the same thing about having the home empty or free of the seller’s belongings. Consider these tips for staging your home when you have kids.

House staging basics

Using a full-fledged professional staging service isn’t your only option to prepare your home for listing. Consider these tips for DIY home staging.

Declutter: Before listing, go room by room with a critical eye, removing as many belongings as you can, with the goal of making every room seem spacious, organized and tidy.

Give each room a single purpose: Over time, it’s common for rooms to take on different purposes (the formal dining room becomes a kids’ playroom, for example). Before listing, return your rooms to their original purposes — the ones that will appeal to most buyers, such as bedrooms, playrooms, or home offices.

Depersonalize: You love your family photos, your kids’ artwork, and your keepsakes, but buyers want to be able to picture their own family living in the home. Now’s the time to remove all those personal items.

Erase signs of pets: Many families with kids also have pets. But consider that not all buyers have (or like!) pets, so in the same way that you depersonalize your home of your family’s belongings, you’ll want to do the same with your pet’s stuff.

Deep clean: A spotless home is a must, regardless of if you have kids or pets. Once you’re done decluttering and depersonalizing, it’s time for a deep clean — either done by yourself or by a professional cleaning service.

Avoid air fresheners: Air fresheners and scented candles only mask bad smells, and buyers know this. If your home isn’t smelling its best, find the root cause and take care of it, instead of trying to cover it up with fragrance.

Staging a house with kids

Once you’ve covered the basics above, take some additional steps to depersonalize a house where kids live.

Remove baby gear. Eliminate highchairs, bathtub toys, and diaper changing stations, which can be large and distracting.

Take toys out of rooms that are not the playroom or a child’s bedroom — no more toys in the living room, office, or dining room.

Remove items that are personalized with your children’s names. Remember, there will be strangers in your home.

Stage your playroom according to potential buyers. Live in a kid-friendly neighborhood with great schools? Stage your playroom in a way that appeals to kids of all ages. Not sure about your potential buyers? Stage the playroom in a generic way that suggests it’s a great space even if you don’t have kids, such as an entertainment room, game room or home theater.

Staging kids’ rooms to sell

Home buyers search for houses based on the number of bedrooms on a listing, with the average single-family home in the U.S. having three bedrooms. It’s important that every room that’s technically a bedroom in your listing is staged as a bedroom.

In smaller rooms, a twin-sized bed will do the trick, and can make even small bedrooms seem spacious. Avoid bunk beds if at all possible — they can make even larger bedrooms seem cramped, or draw attention to low ceiling height. Here are a few recommendations for successful bedroom staging.

1. Keep the essentials. 

Keep a bed, dresser, and bedside table are all you need. If a room is clearly a nursery, it’s fine to keep a changing table and rocking chair.

2. Remove unnecessary items that may be cluttering up the floor space.

That includes things like play tables, dollhouses, bean bags, tents, play kitchens, and baby gear.

3. Keep the decor simple.

Opt for neutral paint, no wallpaper, and no playful touches like decorative light switches. Of course, some kid-friendly flourishes like throw pillows are fine. You just don’t want to give buyers the impression that there will be a lot of updating required to make the space usable as anything other than a kid’s bedroom.

4. Don’t decorate for one gender. 

Gender-neutral paint colors and decor are a plus for buyers with kids.

5. Avoid kid-themed rooms.

Your child might love their pirate, rainbow, or dinosaur-themed room, but buyers may not. Paint over murals, take down wallpaper, and swap in basic bedding.

6. Add lighting. 

Include several different types of light in bedrooms — think an overhead light, desk lamp, and bedside lamp. Also, always remember to open the blinds or curtains.

Pare down toys throughout the house

Any parent will tell you that keeping control of their kids’ toys is a challenge, even when their house isn’t for sale. When your home is on the market, it’s even more important to keep a handle on all their toys.

Staging a house to sell: Which toys to keep, which to pack

Invest in a single lidded basket — lidded being the most important word — for each child’s bedroom. Have your kids put their favorite toys in that basket, then pack all of the others in boxes in the garage or in a storage unit while your home is listed. Beyond that basket, use these guidelines to know what to keep and what to store:

  • Tuck a few toys into their travel or diaper bag for on-the-go entertainment (more on that later).
  • Keep a few nice-looking books in kids’ rooms for display on a floating bookshelf, nightstand, or bookcase.  
  • Pack up all arts-and-crafts supplies. Glitter, markers, and paint can be a nightmare for last-minute showing prep.
  • You should also say goodbye to things like modeling clay and slime, which leave colorful crumbs and sticky marks all over.
  • Just say no to stickers, which can end up stuck to the carpets, walls or windows.
  • Avoid keeping toy sets with many small pieces (like train sets or building block systems), which can be hard to clean up in a hurry.
  • Put bikes, scooters, and sports equipment in a storage unit, so the outside of your home looks as neat and tidy as the inside.

Kids room in a house for sale

Photo from Shutterstock.

Staging tips for keeping your home ready for an open house with kids

These simple tips can help you return your listed home to staged condition in just 30 minutes, while still ensuring your house is livable for your family in between showings.

1. Create hiding places.

Yes, buyers can be nosy, but it’s possible to find hidden, yet convenient hiding places for important items. For your kids’ must-haves, assign logical places where they can be tucked away quickly. Here are a few examples: backpacks and jackets in the coat closet; extra diapers and wipes in a drawer; or bedtime books and blanket hidden in a storage ottoman.

2. Keep bathroom items in a shower caddy.

Keep your kids’ shampoo, soap, lotion, and bath toys in a container that can be quickly stashed under the bathroom sink.

3. Keep a kitchen caddy, too.

A kitchen sink surrounded by soaps, sponges, and brushes doesn’t show well. Get another caddy for kitchen items so you can keep everything (neatly) under the sink during showings.

4. Clean the diaper pail daily.

If your kids are in diapers, get in the habit of emptying the diaper pail daily, so your house will always smell fresh.

5. Hide the remotes.

Tuck all your TV remotes in a drawer, dish, or even under a couch cushion.

6. Invest in a robotic vacuum.

Vacuuming your whole house is a timely endeavor. Consider buying a robotic vacuum that automatically vacuums once or even twice a day.

7. Eat out … and eat outside.

If you’re in the thick of showings, dining out or ordering takeout may be your best bet for dinner. And if the weather’s nice outside, consider a backyard takeout picnic so your kitchen remains completely untouched.

8. Deep clean a couple of items each day.

You’ve already done the deep clean, so while you’re in the middle of showings and open houses, it’s all about maintenance. Tackle a couple of rooms a day so your house will always be ready for the next short-notice tour.

Where to take the kids during a house showing

Not only does your house need to be prepared for unexpected showings and tours, but parents need to be prepared too. Make a list of activities to enjoy or people to visit, so you’ll always have something fun to do with the kids when you have to get out of the house quickly and unexpectedly.

Outdoor activities: Parks, zoos, local trails, pools or splash parks.

Indoor activities: Friends’ houses, indoor play areas, mall activities, libraries, aquariums, museums or — if all else fails — errands.

Don’t forget to pack a travel bag

Your kids may feel like their world is turned a upside down when the house is for sale, so being prepared with some of their favorite items — and some practical things that make hectic days better for parents — is always worth it. Your travel bag should always be packed and ready, and include:

  • A favorite toy or two
  • Snacks
  • Diapers and wipes
  • Books
  • Naptime essentials
  • Extra clothes
  • A phone charger

Checklist: Last-minute house staging tips

Before you leave the house for a showing, run though this room-by-room checklist to make sure you’ve covered everything.

Kitchen

 Clear countertops
Wash any dishes, dry, and put away
Put cleaning items in a caddy under the sink
Wipe little fingerprints from appliances and other shiny surfaces

Bathroom

Clear countertops
Tuck away bath products and toys
Clean bathroom mirror of toothpaste and water spots
Clean toilets

Bedrooms

Make beds
Fold and drape accent blankets
Put all toys back in lidded bin

Throughout the house

Remove electronics, cords, and valuables
Sweep/vacuum each room
Sweep front walkway

Final sweep

Turn on lights and open blinds
Check heat/air conditioning
Do one last toy check
Take pets with you

Top image from Shutterstock.

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