The legwork is done. You've researched the local market, found a real estate agent, decided on an asking price, and signed the mountain of paperwork.

Your home is finally on the market. Now comes the hard part.

Once the "For Sale" sign goes up, so will your sensitivity about how your home holds up under the scrutiny of would-be buyers. Of course, you'll want your home as clean and attractive as possible so that potential buyers will be impressed as soon as they enter your freshly-painted front door.

You know what it's like getting your house ready for a dinner party or a holiday get-together. If you're like most home sellers, you'll want your home to meet similar standards, but at the drop of a hat -- or the ring of a cell phone. It's not an easy task, especially if you have kids.

You may be in the middle of dinner and get a call from a real estate professional and her clients. They're 15 minutes away and want to stop in. And you know those hectic mornings trying to get everyone out the door? You'll need to make sure you leave your home in "showing" condition in case you have any lookers during the day.

But you don't have to live in a state of panic. Whether you have a 4-year-old or a 14-year-old, there are some things you can do to reduce the stress and help you stay more organized. Some things to consider:

  • Set rules. Begin this as early in the process as possible. Let each child know what is expected as far as keeping their bedroom and play areas in order.
  • Setting rules isn't just for the kids. If you don't want dinner interrupted, you can specify that your home is unavailable for viewing between 6 and 7. Or, if you need one day a week to recoup and let your guard down, let your agent know the house is unavailable on Wednesdays, or whatever day you see fit.
  • Pack away most of the toys. You'll be moving anyway, so start filling the moving boxes with the kids' toys. This will make straightening up quicker after your child plays, and could make the house look less cluttered -- and more attractive to shoppers.
  • Allow about 20 extra minutes in the morning. Get yourself and the kids up early. Let them know in advance what their responsibilities are as far as keeping kitchen, bathroom and bedroom areas clean.
  • If you have an infant or toddler who still uses a highchair, you know it's impossible to keep your floor clean. The crunch of loose Cheerios under your feet and the smothering of banana wedges on the floor are daily occurrences. Invest a few dollars in a shower curtain liner to place underneath the highchair. Shake it off or clean it after meals and put it away in the morning if potential buyers may look at your house that day. The shower curtain will keep you from having to clean the floors every time you child eats and can be quickly removed at a moment's notice.
  • Go to your local drug or grocery store and pick up some disposable wet cloths. These will come in handy for quick clean-ups of counters. They're great for cleaning up the mini-globs of toothpaste in the sink area.
  • If you've never been picky about your kids running through the house after soccer practice, that's good. Now, however, you'll want to temporarily change your standards. Be sure your children -- especially if they enjoy playing in the mud or sand -- take off their shoes and socks before entering the house. Although home buyers understand carpets can be cleaned, dirt marks on the floor leave a bad first impression and contradict your pride of homeownership.
  • Limit visitors. If your kids are older and frequently have their friends over, you may want to curtail that for awhile. Many home sellers prefer to be away from the house when potential home buyers come by. It could be difficult to tear a quartet of 10-year-old boys from their activities, (unless, of course, they're doing homework).
  • Remember curb appeal. First impressions are everything. Make sure your kids don't have a collection of bicycles, scooters, skateboards, sports gear, or anything else greeting visitors at the front door.
  • Finally, we won't call it bribery, but "challenge" your children to keep their rooms clean. Make it a contest. Offer surprises or rewards related to the moving process, like something for their new bedroom in your new home. Let them paint their room in their new home any color they like (if you dare!).

Most importantly, don't let yourself get overwhelmed with pressure to have your house look like Martha Stewart's. If you're stressed, your kids will pick up on it and adopt the stress, too. If you stay relaxed and give yourself plenty of extra time each day, your kids are more likely to follow suit, which is better for your kids, your family, and your chances of selling your home quickly.

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