How to Sell Your House While You’re Still Living There

We’re going to look at a real-life issue – that affects everyone who has ever sold a home.

Picture the last few days, just before it went on the market. Remember all the work you did?

You scrubbed, and cleaned. You hauled away the clutter. You repainted some rooms, and touched up others. And just as the for-sale sign went up, you took one last look around and realized: your house has never looked better!

But then the panic sets in: how are you going to keep it that way until you sell?


It can take 11 weeks to sell a home, according to national averages. During that time, a lot of prospective buyers may be coming in and out your door. And your home only has one chance to make a first impression.

Is it possible to keep the house perfectly clean and shining 24/7 while you’re still living, sleeping and eating there? Never a dirty dish? A cluttered countertop? And every faucet sparkling and shiny?

Sure it is! It’s not only possible – it’s wonderful! Because you get to live in this gorgeous place!

But to make that happen, you need a system for cleaning, straightening up and then leaving – before every buyer walks in.

A clean house matters to buyers, and they’ll pay more to get it!

The 2012 National Home Improvement Survey by real estate information source HomeGain showed that cleaning and decluttering can help net you the biggest possible return at resale. On average? That translates to about $2,000 more for your bottom line.

So instead of thinking of it as work – think of it as making more money!

OK? so let’s start with cleaning.

The first step here is the big, comprehensive deep cleaning that you always do before your house goes on the market. You know – the kind of cleaning that takes you and your family a whole day or more.

It’s a lot of work.

But here’s the good news: you only have to do that once. Because after your home is totally clean and shining – you just have to keep it that way. And that is a lot easier.

To maintain that household shine while you’re still living there, think of a term from mystery novels: cover your tracks. That means, go ahead and live in the house – but after you do some activity – whether it’s sleeping, or dining or working out – clean everything up right away. Right then and there. Because that way you won’t have to do a big cleaning job every morning – rather, just a few little touch-ups.

Cover your tracks. Don’t leave any hints about what you’ve been doing, or where. Put the spotlight on your house – not on you, and your family.

So, for example, after dinner, get in the habit of doing the dishes right away. And run the dishwasher before you go to that it’s not running when the showings happen. That’s not a big problem…it’s just distracting.

Same is true of the laundry. You don’t want the washer and dryer running while buyers are coming through. Try to do the laundry at night, and take it out in the morning – so that when the visitors look inside the dryer – they don’t see your old gym socks.

Then, every day, take a quick visit to every room in the house – looking for anything that’s less than sparkling clean. You’ll do well wiping the kitchen countertop and stovetop, as well as the sinks and mirrors in the bathrooms. If you have a glass shower door, not a bad idea to quickly run a towel over it – so that it’s clear and clean, not covered with drops of water.

You’ll obviously want to make the beds, and fold the bathroom towels nicely.

Again, we’re not talking about a deep cleaning here – just quick touch-ups.

When you add it all up? All you have to do is commit just 15 minutes each day to cleaning touch-ups. And you’ll see the difference it makes.

Sound good? Ok. Because now it’s time to tackle the clutter. And we’re talking about the day-to-day stuff – that we all collect, and use and scatter around the house. The newspapers, the mail, the remotes.

The same approach works here also: cover your tracks.

Get in the habit of putting the morning paper in the recycling bin when you’re done reading it, rather than leaving it out on the kitchen table or sofa. Put your mail in a designated drawer, out of sight. And the same is true of all the remotes – just put ‘em in a drawer. Don’t leave any hint – about what you’ve been doing.

Remember, buyers will naturally open up anything that will become theirs – if they buy the place. The cabinets, the closets, the attic…you should expect they’ll take a look inside of those. So, you don’t want to cram them full of your clutter.

Instead, put your stuff in areas that are clearly yours alone. If you have to quickly hide things, like tons of toys or a pile of clothes – one of the best places to stash stuff – is under the beds. Big bins that fit under the beds are affordable, and they’ll fit a ton of stuff. Much better than the closets! Because as we said, a prospective buyer will probably look in the closets – but they will not get down and look under the bed., At least we HOPE they won’t.

Some stagers recommend buying a bathroom tote for each member of the family. That’s where they’ll keep a toothbrush, toothpaste, wash cloths, and other personal bathroom items. Then, before a showing, just put the totes under the sink, keeping everything neatly tucked away and not cluttering those countertops.

So – can you live this way while you’re selling your house? In a perpetually clean, and clutter free environment? Sure you can. Just remember to cover your tracks – and commit just 15 minutes a day to quick touch-ups …so when every buyer walks through the door, they see your house – not your habits.

The upsides are huge. No only do you have the chance to make more money – you’ll also get to live in a home that’s never been more beautiful, more inviting and more ready for guests – who just drop by unannounced.

The downside? Living in a home that is so sparkling clean and so free from clutter? Well, the downside is – you might not want to sell it – after all!

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