Selling your home can be a very emotional decision because this is where many milestones in your life occurred. Perhaps it was your very first home, or the first home you bought with your significant other. Or it may be the place where your kids took their first steps, learned how to swim, and celebrated their birthdays. Maybe you always hosted family and friends for holiday gatherings. And if you’ve lovingly and painstakingly made renovations and upgrades, the home may hold even more significance. However, when you decide to put your home on the market, it’s best to keep your feelings in check.
One of my favorite cartoons is a picture of a house that changes in appearance based on the point of view. For example, the homeowner sees it as a stately home with a well-manicured lawn. The buyer sees the same home as tiny, outdated, and in need of much work. The appraiser and inspector view the exact same home as barely standing, with the roof nearly blown off, and the windows and doors missing. And, no surprise, the tax assessor views the home as a palace.
Again, what makes the cartoon so funny is that it’s the same house – and only the point of view has changed. However, it’s worth keeping this cartoon in mind when you put your home on the market. It’s quite natural to feel a certain way. However, left unchecked, your emotional attachment can actually hinder the sale of your home.
It’s Not Your Home Anymore
Okay, it actually is your home up until the agreed-upon date to move out (so continue to make those mortgage payments on time). However, you need to develop a different mindset if you want to sell your home. “Sellers need to understand that once they put their property on the market, it is being marketed to a new family or buyer,” explains Elliot Machado, broker associate at SERHANT in New York, NY. “It is no longer the seller’s home; it becomes the next buyer’s home.”
[Side bar] And if you’re holding out for that magical buyer who may pay more than you anticipated, Machado says the odds are not in your favor, because a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. “The first handful of buyers to come through the door are the most crucial because, typically, these buyers are more knowledgeable, and more likely to be ready to commit to a purchase of the home.” So, take these early visitors and offers seriously.
It’s Business, Not Personal
Sometimes, sellers want to find buyers who will take care of the home as they did, and preserve the home’s style. But why? If you’re moving and for some reason have to give your pet away, it’s understandable that you’d want an individual or family to treat it a certain way. But if someone buys your house and bulldozes it the next day – it’s an inanimate object that you plan on leaving anyway for another inanimate object.
“Understandably, you may have emotional attachment to the property you’ve called home for the last few years,” says Samuel Jung, realtor with Century 21 Blue Marlin Pelican in Crestview, FL. “However, allowing your personal feelings about your home to interfere with negotiations or decision-making can result in unfavorable outcomes or lost opportunities.” It may be difficult, but Jung says you must separate your emotions from the process so you can be as objective as possible. “Focus on the financial aspects and remind yourself that selling your home is a business transaction and you are trying to get the most favorable end outcome for yourself.”
Here’s another way to look at it: According to Jane Katz, an agent at Coldwell Banker Warburg in New York, NY, “This house is not about you anymore; it’s an asset like a stock.” And your goal is to figure out how to get the most money back from the asset that you’re now selling. “Was it worth more in 2014 when you bought it than it is now – what does the current market say about your house?” And proceed from there.
Depersonalize the Home
One of the best ways to leave your feelings at the door (metaphorically speaking) is to depersonalize your home. “Potential buyers are interested in the property itself, not the memories or emotional connections you may have with it,” explains Adie Kriegstein, founder and real estate salesperson at NYC Experience in New York, NY.
And when you depersonalize your home (through staging and editing prior to listing), she says you create a neutral environment that allows buyers to envision themselves living in the space. “Removing personal photographs, unique decor, or excessive personalization helps potential buyers visualize the property as their own, which can enhance their interest and increase the likelihood of a successful sale.”
So, red may be your favorite color, but those red walls may not appeal to most buyers. You may use your home gym every day, but potential buyers might prefer to have a home office in that space, so clear out your exercise equipment to create a blank canvas. “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and they may not like the items you cherish and the way you have beautified your home,” says Vickey Barron, associate real estate broker at Compass in New York, NY. Also, their feedback may be brutally honest. But Barron tells sellers not to take anything personally. “Instead, take the money and run,” she recommends.
Trust Your Experts
If you have a seasoned and experienced realtor or broker, heed their advice, since they know what will help you to sell your home. They know the market conditions, and they know which trends are in – or out. “If your realtor or broker tells you to stage, to minimize, to declutter, to polish your floors, to paint your walls, to clean your windows, you should heed that advice as we’re trying to sell your home for the most money we can, and you’re taking a risk by not listening to us, Katz says.
“We know the styles, layouts, colors, and amenities that are most desired today.” For instance, while you may have enjoyed having a large, formal dining room, she says some Manhattan buyers have no use for this type of room and would consider it wasted space.
“They’d rather turn this square footage – so coveted in Manhattan – into other spaces that they consider more useful – for example, I often see one dining room turned into two separate spaces.”
Another example is Queen Anne style furniture. Styles change, and while you may have loved it, Katz says many buyers today don’t like this style of furniture and consider it heavy and old-fashioned.” So, if a buyer walks into your home and sees a furniture style that they consider out of date, will they be able to focus on all of the home’s great features, or will they be distracted by furniture that they don’t like? Why take the chance of making a bad first impression?
“Selling a home can be an emotional process, as it often involves parting with a place that holds personal significance,” says broker Kimberly Jay of Compass in New York, NY. “However, it is crucial for sellers to remember that the selling process is not about them personally. She explains that getting emotional about low offers, negative feedback, and resisting change can have a detrimental impact on the sale.
We know it’s a lot easier said than done to take your feelings out of the selling process. “After asking our clients to remove all personal items, declutter, organize, and perhaps paint, some sellers say they find themselves living in a space they may not recognize,” says agent Mary Barbrack of the Julia Hoagland Team at Compass in New York, NY. Afterwards, she says the result sometimes reminds them of why they loved the space to begin with. “It’s not unusual for some sellers to ask themselves why they are moving.”
Another benefit of checking your feelings at the door is the ability to reduce stress and anxiety. “Selling a home can be a complex and demanding endeavor, involving paperwork, inspections, showings, and negotiations,” said Kriegstein. “Emotions such as anxiety, fear, or frustration can add unnecessary strain and impede your ability to make sound decisions.” But detaching yourself emotionally can allow you to approach the process with a clearer mindset. “You can make informed decisions, attract potential buyers, negotiate effectively, and minimize stress, ultimately focusing on achieving your selling goals and ensuring a smooth transition for both you and the buyer,” she says.