Two Things These Realtors Say You Should Never Do in a Kids Room

updated Nov 29, 2021
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It’s a seller’s market right now, and for many parents looking to list their houses, the biggest hassle is what to do with their kids’ adorable (but often overwhelming) rooms. As fun as those toys and decor items are, they often contribute to the visual clutter of the space. And that’s not even accounting for what to do with the kids themselves during open houses and random showings throughout the day. As a parent who’s been there and done that (twice) with a toddler, I leaned heavily on real estate agents to guide our family throughout the process. They had a lot to say about kids’ rooms in particular. 

Here are the biggest mistakes parents make when selling their home:

Forgetting to declutter the space

All three real estate agents I spoke with mentioned the drawbacks of too much clutter in kids rooms. Whether it’s souvenirs and posters on the wall, or toys overflowing in all corners of the room, the clutter is overwhelming, to say the least. And though those personal items give the homeowners warm and fuzzies, it’s not going to give buyers the same reaction, we promise. 

It sounds counterintuitive, but a room with less personality may actually have more buying potential. Gloria Boorse, a real estate agent in Columbus, Ohio, who has been working in the industry for 18 years, says, “It’s important to declutter to remove that personal touch to allow potential buyers to picture their kids in that space.” 

But it’s easier said than done, of course. Lori Swearingen, a realtor and home stager with Coldwell Banker who has been working in real estate for over 25 years, says there’s a psychological root to the clutter: “Often the parents have a hard time asking their children to make changes to their rooms, because they feel they are already putting their children out by selling to begin with. Unfortunately, people looking to buy may feel as though they are infringing on the current seller’s home by buying it, and thus taking something away from the children. You don’t want the potential buyer to have negative feelings about purchasing the home.” 

So how can you best declutter? For inspiration, Swearingen says, “I tell people to go to a model home and see how they decorate it.” You can glance at other listings on Zillow as well to see how other parents stage kids’ spaces. There’s a balance — you don’t want your home to feel sterile or lacking in personality, nor do you want it to look overly lived-in. Swearingen reassures us that the process doesn’t have to be sad or traumatic for kids, advising, “Let them pick out a few special items to keep while marketing the home and put the rest in storage. It will be like Christmas when they open the boxes in the new house and get to redecorate!”

Painting rooms in overly specific colors

When we bought our house, every single room was painted a bright color: from indigo blue to black and magenta. Though we loved the bones of the home enough to buy it anyway, we knew it would take a lot of time and expense to bring the home back to a neutral palette. (Spoiler alert: it took much more of both than we originally budgeted!) Other potential buyers may not be able to get past that particular mental and practical hurdle. 

Seasoned realtor Marilyn Kahn of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services often sees parents designing rooms to be overly gender-specific, which can turn off buyers. She notes, “We have found when we are showing buyers with daughters, they are not always as attracted to kids’ rooms all decorated in blue or the opposite — showing buyers with boys and the kids’ rooms are painted pink with flowers on the walls.” Boorse agrees, saying, “I always suggest painting the room a neutral color.” Grays and beiges are safe bets, and even though it’s a hassle to repaint a room, it will ultimately help sell the home faster, resulting in less household turmoil overall. 

And after you’ve painted your kid’s room, whether you do it yourself or have it done professionally, make sure to reposition furniture to optimize the overall flow. Go back to point #1 and declutter again. You want a room that looks inviting yet neutral.  

Remember: this advice only truly applies if you’re selling a home. If you’re happily settled in, go wild with paint and decor if you want — we certainly have. Boorse says, “If you have no intention to sell, allow the kids to create their own space. It allows them to grow as a person and develop their identity. Remember, kids won’t be kids for long, so allow them to have fun.”