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Selling A Home Is Stressful
So you’ve decided to sell your home. You’re probably involved in other life changes as well, like a new job, an addition to the family, a geographic move, or maybe you’re downsizing. All of these can be exhilarating, also stressful.
It’s true, when you sell your home, your life undergoes a major interruption. Daily disruptions, emotional stretching, and a unique kind of stress enters your life. Most of the time, Real Estate professionals don’t really like to talk about these issues, because they’re negative. When we’re talking face to face, we like to keep things heading in a positive trajectory…you know, good vibes…they’ll be necessary down the road.
Selling Your Home Requires Emotional Stamina
That’s one of the beautiful things about a blog. I can talk about things in a general sense that I don’t want to say in person… things that need to be said. And I can candidly say: Help your Realtor® out, bring out your best emotional stamina. And you can read these things and reflect on them before you find yourself in the thick of it.
According to the Employee Relocation Council moving is the third most stressful life event, following death of a loved one and divorce. Here are some other interesting facts:
- 43 million people move each year. That’s about 1/6 of Americans.
- The average American moves 11.7 times in their lifetime.
- Half of the moves take place between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
That’s a lot of stress. Let’s face it, the process of selling your home brings challenges with it. Having your home on the market is a disruption to daily life. Negotiating a contract, re-negotiating, dealing with inspections and repairs, and dealing with appraisals (the second sale) …these are all issues that people don’t encounter in their every day life. But the stresses don’t have to be debilitating!
All of these things have to be approached with what is called emotional intelligence, or EQ. I have three basic tips to ensure that you operate at the highest level of emotional intelligence when selling your home. Keep these things in mind as you traverse the rapids of the home sale process:
1. Detach Emotionally
It may be your home, the place where you got married, or raised your babies, or lived your dream…but when you’re selling it, it’s a house. Everyone that comes to look at it is evaluating it and measuring it according to their dreams, not yours. Detach. Don’t be offended…
- If someone doesn’t put the same value on your upgrades and renovations. That’s ok. Those are personal choices that you made for your living pleasure, not theirs. Detach from the TLC you put into your house.
- Be ready to be ok when a buyer doesn’t place the same premium on something you consider high value. What’s important to you isn’t necessarily important to a potential buyer.
- If someone doesn’t like your decorating choices, that’s ok too. Don’t take it personally. In fact, that’s a good reason to go neutral before you list the house. Buyer’s need to be able to envision themselves and their stuff in your house.
- Buyers are going to inspect your home rationally and analytically at first…then the right buyer is going to fall in love. That’s right, buyers can’t avoid emotion, it’s part of the process. By detaching from your home, you can make the necessary changes to let someone else fall in love. The truth is, you have to move anyway, so start packing up all the personal stuff and make way for someone else to imagine themselves at home.
- Understanding that buyers are also emotional during the process should motivate a seller to keep their own emotions in check.
Story-Time: Betsy was a first time buyer we helped in the summer of 2014. She’s a space physicist. Her personality, her job, her entire world has always been driven by thinking analytically. When we told her that emotions would take a role and to be prepared, she was horrified at the thought. But when she found herself in the middle of inspection negotiations with an intractable seller, her emotions flooded to the surface. Fortunately, she kept them in check. The point is, even the most analytical buyer will get emotional. But it is always much easier if the seller can participate in the goodwill.
2. Be Flexible
During the showing process, you might as well understand upfront: Your life is on display. Your schedule is at the mercy of buyers…that is if you want to sell your home. You need to stay flexible. You want to get as many likely buyers through your doors as possible, don’t you? And you want to get the right buyers. When it comes to showings, don’t be intractable:
Story Time: We had a tour of 4 or 5 houses set up with our buyers, from one end of the county to the other. They got confused about the order and ended up at the wrong house. We adjusted, but that meant that we showed up at the last house at the very end of our scheduled time. As we were showing the last house, the seller showed up. We apologized. We’re human. She was flustered and complained that she had dinner guests coming in 20 minutes. We ran through the house in 5 minutes and got out just in time. Our buyers, needless to say, left on a sour note…they were not interested in the house…even if they might have liked it.
When you’re selling your house, you want to make the atmosphere as positive and welcoming as possible. You want to be as accommodating as possible. You want to vacate. No one likes looking at a house with the homeowner shadowing their every move, much less emoting negatively. Some tips for showings:
- Give buyers a two hour window. Most buyers are seeing multiple homes. You want to give them time for the inevitable schedule mishap.
- Even if you have a schedule of 2 hours, it’s a good idea to stay out a little longer. If you show up and they’re still there, go away. Give buyers space.
- If a buyer is seeing multiple houses, don’t you want your house to be the one they linger in? You want to make them feel comfortable, you want a positive emotional experience…remembering that they will buy emotionally.
- Try really hard to allow a showing, even if it’s the last minute. Sometimes we see a house on a mobile app that we didn’t see before, sometimes the buyers drive by and see it, you just never know.
- If at all possible, don’t turn down a showing. If you have dinner guests, they know your house is on the market, they will understand. And think of it this way, you can have an excuse to go out to eat!
- It’s going to be inconvenient. But you have to put up with some inconvenience if you want to sell your home. Turning buyers away won’t sell your home.
3. Be Dispassionate
If you’re not a stoic, this may take some practice. Once you get a contract on your home, the work is far from over. We like to say the real work begins. Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong. How you steel your emotions can make a big difference for all involved, most of all you. Don’t underestimate how emotions can be exhausting.
The story of Jekyl and Hyde: Yes, he exists. He appears sometimes when things go wrong. Our sellers got an offer on their home and had successfully contracted on their next home. Several weeks into the accepted contracts, we found out that the buyers of their home didn’t qualify. We had vetted the offer, the lender and the buyer, but somehow, the lender dropped the ball and proved himself inept.
Every real estate agent dreads that call. In our case, our sellers were educated, professional, and level-headed, very pleasant people. Except when they got that phone call! The wife was screaming through her husband’s cell phone at us! It made for a few difficult weeks, but we sold the home again in only 2 weeks because that was the market, and they were able to carry out the purchase of the next home.
What happened to our reasonable sellers? Fear of Loss happened. And how did it all end? With a thank you dinner and a referral to a friend. That and a promise from our new friends not to waste their own emotional energy like that ever again!
Negotiations Continue After the Contract
From contract to close there are several negotiations that still have to take place. As you work your way through the contingencies, things come up.
- What happens when the home inspection reveals items you didn’t expect?
- What happens when the appraisal comes back too low?
- What happens when termite damage is found?
This is where I like to talk about “emotional capital”. After you get a contract on your house, the negotiating doesn’t end. If you have negotiated so hard that you leave the buyer deflated and alienated, you have used up all of your emotional capital. What happens when something goes wrong for you, and you’ve exhausted their emotions and their good will? When something goes wrong, you have no good faith left.
Another story: Our sellers are negotiating an offer on their home, which is nearly perfect and priced at the very top of the market. After an exhausting week and a half of going back and forth, Joe Seller asks us “if the appraisal comes back higher than the contracted price, can we raise the sales price?” Well, in the unlikely event that it happens, given that you are at the very top of the market already, you could push the buyer so far that they have no goodwill left. What happens when something goes wrong for you? The buyer could easily stick it to you. They could easily walk away, leaving you back on the market, with several weeks of wasted time and energy.
Keep in mind when you select a real estate agent, you don’t want a bulldozer. It may seem like a good idea, but someone who aggressively alienates all parties and advocates to a fault is not a good pick. Most often those are the agents who end up blowing up a deal and no one ends up getting what they want.
After you find the house, it’s all about personality. You want an agent who can navigate the various egos and personalities, the many emotional ups and downs, and yes, even tirades that are likely to take place.
To quote a lifelong client: “The best deals in the world are when everyone is a little uncomfortable.”
But by all means…help a Realtor out. Manage your emotions. You will have a better chance of a successful outcome…and you won’t wear yourself and everyone else out in the process.
Disclosure: We are not licensed psychiatrists…we just play one at work.
We are, however, licensed Real Estate Agents with 22 years experience. Contact us for our High-Tech High-Touch Sellers Plan. 301-401-5119