Selling a home is an emotional process no matter how long a person has lived in it, so it’s only natural that homesellers have a hard time letting go. Real estate agents wear several hats, and it’s crucial to have a therapist hat in your wardrobe of skills.
My business is in Manhattan, which is one of the five boroughs that collectively makes up the city of New York. Here in NYC, the median length of time homeowners live in their home is close to 15 years, and I have had the privilege of representing several homeowners who have lived in their former homes for 30 or 40 years.
Three or four decades of creating memories in a physical location results in a powerful emotional bond, and often a person’s sense of identity stems from the space.
A wise agent doesn’t underestimate how tightly the threads of memories have woven the ties that bind sellers to their home.
It is critical to understand, that though you have been retained to sell their asset, you are also counseling sellers along the way. And to achieve the best outcome, the emotional attachment to the asset needs to be released.
Selling is a grieving process, and in letting go a seller might experience anger, grief, denial and depression. Changing the seller’s mindset from “my home” to “my nest-egg” is critical.
I help sellers overcome emotional attachment to a home by shifting the way they view their “former” home. Each conversation is a segue to the next objective of reducing attachment while simultaneously reducing resistance to change and ultimately presenting the full potential of the listing to the market. Below is how I shift sellers’ mindsets:
Refer to the home by the number or street name
This is the icebreaker to the process that starts to depersonalize the home. To help that shift be more fluid and less emotionally charged, I stop referring to it as “your home” and begin referencing it as “the space” or by a street name or number only.
It’s a small shift, but this is a situation that requires a series of small steps that subtly depersonalize before addressing the bigger concepts.
Shift from home to commodity
In the beginning, I might use the word “home” once or twice, and then I shift to using very deliberate language specific to sales.
I explain that though the sellers have created 30 years of memories here and that those memories will always be with them, now that they have decided that it’s time to sell, my job is to present the property or “product” to the marketplace.
The marketplace, I explain, is where people shop for products. The products that get the most attention and are purchased the fastest are the ones that look the best and are priced market-appropriate.
At that point, I have established the home as a product concept and set up for the next topic of conversation.
Pare down, and pack up the memories
In this conversation, I suggest that because the homeowners are selling and essentially have one foot out the door, let’s be proactive and begin to pare down items that they will be packing anyway.
It’s helpful to explain that from the moment buyers enter a home, they are mentally removing items from the space so that they can visualize plugging their life into it.
Once the mindset begins to shift and the sellers can imagine having one foot out the door, it becomes much easier for the agent to begin addressing the critical stage of helping them to pare down a lifetime of memories and create an environment that is open and uncluttered enough for buyers to walk in and start imagining themselves living in the space.
The “one-foot-out-the-door” concept, as I call it, helps establish the need to reduce the amount of items in a space, and remember, those items are the sellers’ memories.
Now that the sellers are beginning to detach emotionally and are getting comfortable with the asset being a product, the last step is to rebrand that product.
Rebrand the conversation
Now that the space is more depersonalized and less familiar to the seller, the concept of product is engrained, and the emotional attachment is further reduced.
Rebranding is a way to repackage or stage a space if needed. The essence of the sellers’ home is there, but it is less familiar and more product-based. That can greatly reduce a strong emotional bond.
Keep in mind that there is a delicate balance in all of this. A person still needs to function in the space. But the single biggest mistake a seller can make is to resist or fail to shift from viewing their property as “their home.”
My experience has been that the resistance is from the strong emotional ties that bind a person to a space.
Without shifting to the product state of mind and paring down memories, a space will be too personalized for buyers to envision their life there. And most potential buyers will move on rather than mentally removing the sellers’ memories to create a palette for making their own.
Staging creates that palette for buyers, without having to do the extra brainwork. And according to the National Association of Realtors, the potential return on every $100 invested in staging is $400. It’s another way to enhance their return on investment.
Helping sellers to detach emotionally from their home and view it as an asset will ultimately help to sell the home faster.