Three Tips for Emotionally Detaching from Your Home

Like many people, you probably have a deep emotional connection to your home. Your kids grew up in your house; you can still see the pencil marks you made on the door frame marking their growth. You’ve spent many happy hours on the backyard patio. The dining room has been the setting for many great dinner parties. Maybe you even grew up in the house yourself, and it’s been in your family for over fifty years.

You’re fortunate to have had so many good memories. But beware: When it comes time to sell, a “love affair” with your home can work against you. Too often, people make decisions about selling their home based on emotion instead of reason.

What they’re really doing is subconsciously sabotaging their chances for success — and that can cost them money in the end. Here are 3 tips for detaching and moving on so you can get the best deal for your home.

1. Acknowledge that selling your home can be stressful. Some people get emotionally attached to their cars and have a hard time selling them. To get an idea of what it will be like to sell your home, magnify that reaction by about 100 times.

Those who’ve been in their home just a few years are likely to have an easier time letting go than those who’ve lived there for decades or grew up in the house. Either way, it’s often stressful and emotional. Acknowledging that up front will help you make better decisions down the road.

2. Make sure you’re truly ready to sell. Take the time to ensure you’re emotionally prepared for the sale. Talk to your real estate agent and listen carefully to their suggestions. If you’ve hired a competent agent and yet you’re resisting their suggestions, that’s a clue you may not be ready to let go. If so, don’t sell just yet. Wait until you’re ready.

Maybe you have no choice but to sell — which can be even more difficult emotionally. Get as much support as you can from friends and family. Be honest with your real estate agent about how difficult this is for you. The more information you give the agent, the more they can work around any potential problems.

After all, your agent is looking out for your best interests and acting on the assumption you want to sell. But when you resist their suggestions because you’re actually not ready to sell, you’re setting up the relationship to fail. This is a common source of strain in the agent-client relationship, and savvy agents are on the lookout for this — or should be.

3. Start thinking of your home as a product to be marketed. When you haven’t detached from your home, it’s difficult to see it as a product. But that’s what it is — something you have to sell and that, with luck, others will want to buy. You can also get in your own way of succeeding.

Often, a seller who isn’t emotionally ready to sell will insist on listing at a price that’s higher than what the market will bear. This is why it’s imperative that sellers should be emotionally ready to sell; when they aren’t, they can subconsciously sabotage the process. There have been instances where a home was on and off the market for over a year with multiple real estate agents and approaches to selling it. What started off as an overpriced home that didn’t show well ended up selling for a bargain to a buyer who capitalized on the seller’s mistakes.

Sellers often need to remove personal items out of the house as part of its staging. This can be as basic as taking down diplomas, removing pictures, or personal items such as Buddha statues, NFL memorabilia or the knick-knacks from your African Safari ten year ago.

Aside from helping to show your home in its best light, removing personal items begins to make your house feel less like your home and more like a “product” for sale. It’s a subtle but important step toward detaching. Also, by removing personal items, you’re getting a head start on moving.

Most likely, your agent will recommend some changes to make your home more attractive to buyers. The flashy red paint in the dining room or the jungle wallpaper in the kid’s bedroom should make way for something more neutral. You should seriously consider your agent’s recommendations; they’ve been through this before and know what they’re talking about. On the other hand, if you balk at such suggestions, it’s another sign you may not be 100 percent ready to sell.

Still not ready? Wait. By all means, cherish the memories you’ve had in your home. But focus on the future, and imagine the wonderful memories you’ll have in a new home. Think about the excitement that change can bring. Listen to your real estate agent’s advice; that’s why you hired them.

If you find that you can’t do any of these, then wait until you’re ready. In the long run, the most important thing is that you put your absolute best foot forward when you list your home, even if it means waiting months or even a year until you’re ready. It will be in your best interests financially.

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Brendon DeSimone is a Realtor® and real estate expert based in San Francisco and New York. He is a contributor to Zillow Blog, has collaborated on multiple real estate books and is often quoted by major media outlets. Follow Brendon on Twitter.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.