When your home is for sale and you have children living there, you’re forced to walk a delicate balance between maintaining a consistent home environment for your little ones and keeping the home irresistibly show-ready for a variety of demographic buyers.

Gee, talk about a challenge!

Don’t hate me for asking for the impossible.  I’m a mom and grandmother and I know what little people need, and how their spaces can look. Yeah, disaster areas. 

So, please remember, I’m offering advice, I'm not casting rules in stone. Your family comes first … and usually the budget is a close second. Home staging and parenting share a common denominator: We do the best we can and that is good enough!  

Rethink the room

Your home has just so much square footage. Every buyer wants space. Buyers will know the actual square footage from your online listing, and an appraisal and asking price will be based on price per square footage. 

Still, buyers are impressed when they see rooms that look uncluttered and spacious. 

Even children's rooms and playrooms can look roomy when staged right. Here are my best tips for staging children's bedrooms, based on the most common mistakes parents make when selling a home where kids live. 

Help your children keep their room tidy by temporarily
minimizing belongings 
and providing places to
stash stuff. Photo: Sawyer Berson via Decorpad.

Advice from smart parent/Realtors 

Ditch Little Mermaid and Friends. Ditto sports teams, pirates, cowboys, and rainbows. Don’t create a themed room. This isn't your chance to have fun. It's your chance to get a  good price for your home. Don't alienate any buyers. Instead, make the room look as much like a bedroom anyone would be comfortable staying in. Ask yourself, “Would this function as a guest room, the way it looks now?” 

Cancel writing on the wall. Don’t paint murals on the walls or ceilings. Whether it’s a professionally hand-painted masterpiece or a wallpaper border, what are the chances Mr. House-Hunter will love it as much as your children and you do? Why risk souring a potential purchaser who wants move-in ready without any painting or paper stripping on his part?  For the same reason, I also discourage chalkboard walls

Skip customized cabinetry. Don’t create built-ins that limit the use of the floor’s square footage the way bunk beds, cubbies, and custom play areas like cars or castles would. A trundle bed, sleeper sofa, or convertible day bed is a good alternative if you need to sleep two. Once again, we do the best we can, given our lifestyle and budget. 

I realize you're not going to rip out built-in shelving and play tables, and that's rational. But if you've just spent $200 on two sets of Disney bedspreads, blankets, and sheets, you could pack them away for now and replace them with bedding that doesn't shout, "Look at Me!"  

Eliminate girly or oh, boy! Don’t decorate exclusively to one gender. Not all pink ruffles but not all camo either. You’ve staged your other rooms to appeal to the masses so repeat the formula here. Go with a wall color that flows with the rest of your home. Make it easy for the buyer to envision this room as an office, craft room, or a bedroom for anyone regardless of gender or age.
I like to think that making a room look
grown-up will encourage grown-up behavior.
Photo: Phillip House NYC via Decorpad. 

You almost have to think politically correct! 

Consider safety first. Creeps are everywhere. Don’t announce your children’s names on signs, pillows, and toys. I cringe when I see children wearing clothing or carrying backpacks with their name for all to read, making it easy for a child predator to use the "I know you" trick.  Never forget that strangers will be touring your home. They know where you live. Don't give them your children's names.  

Declutter. Again. Not knowing how long your home will be on the market complicates the issue of where to store toys, books, sports equipment, mementos, awards, and other childhood paraphernalia. Most of us can usually find storage areas in our homes where you can rotate out some cartons of belongings like toys or clothing.

It‘s impossible for very young children to understand why toys and clothes need to be put away regularly. Storage like low chests and large, lidded baskets will look attractive and make daily pickups go more smoothly.

Your outdoor areas should be as tidy as the indoor areas. That means no collection of old wagons and strollers, no play equipment that doesn't get used but is still stored in the garage or attic. 

A playroom is a playroom and can be staged as one, as long as it can be visualized as having another function -- game room, family room or bonus room. Never give up a bedroom. Bedrooms translate as money. If your playroom is a bedroom, make sure there is a bed in there.    

Market your home

Look for what families need that overlaps with what everyone needs – things like plenty of storage space, comfortable congregating areas, areas for privacy, and easy home maintenance features.  Emphasize these qualities with your staging and in your listing.

Are there special features in your town or neighborhood that make it attractive to families? Attractions like exceptional schools, parks, hiking trails, swimming pools, summer programs, museums, and sports programs can be listed in your sales literature.
There's plenty of hidden storage in this nursery.
And the quilt and butterflies are a better
decorating option than paint or wallpaper because
they are easily removable.

Of course, if you decide that the target market for your home is families, you can still stage it to balance your family’s lifestyle with the demands of staging to sell.

Incidentally, I never recommend deciding who your target market is because I think it minimizes chances you will appeal to those outside your market.

Whichever way you decide to go, contain as best you can children’s essentials to limited areas where they make staging-sense. By this I mean no bins of toy boats and rubber ducks in the bath, no gallery wall of finger-painted works of art in the kitchen, and no parade of strollers, wagons and scooters in the front entryway.   

It’s just temporary.       

If you look at the Pinterest Board for children’s rooms that Barb Schwartz, home staging’s pioneer, created, it shows everything I am telling you not to do. Yes, I said that!

Top photo: Brooke Wagner Design