This doesn’t apply to everybody, since there’s a huge difference between one sale and the next.
You might be an unemotional condo-investor who is selling simply to move into another asset class.
But if you’re selling or buy a new house in Edmonton, Alberta, you have a family, and you’re spending the necessary 4-6 weeks getting your house ready for sale, the following blog post is going to outline the insane range of negative emotions you’ll go through.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
Real estate: it’s truly the most unique “investment” in the world, is it not?
I mean sure, you can “invest” in rare coins – some of which might truly be one-of-a-kind, and thus it makes for a more “unique” investment.
But real estate is the only investment that we physically live in. Unless, of course, you are an antique car collector who has fallen on hard times…
So when it comes time to sell your house, you can put a sign on the lawn the day after signing the papers with your Realtor, or, as most people in Edmonton do, you can plan, strategize, and spend often two months getting your house ready for sale.
The process can be extremely trying, but it can also be lucrative.
One thing it is never: fun.
While almost every sale ends in jubilation and celebration, a majority of the emotions a house-seller experiences are negative.
Here’s a quick snapshot of a few of the emotions you might go through when putting your family home up for sale:
This comes before just about anything else.
While I’d like to think that most people have a “glass half full” mentality, even in a hot market, sellers are always filled with doubt.
I can sit down with a seller and go over the last three sales in their area, and they still seem to think, “Well, we can’t get that price.”
Can’t, or won’t?
“We just won’t. I just don’t see it,” they’ll often tell me.
I had a seller tell me last month, “I wouldn’t pay that number for my house,” in response to me informing him and his wife what I figured their house would sell for. He refused to believe they could achieve that price, because he wouldn’t pay that himself.
Well no kidding, he wouldn’t. He paid $900K for the house, and now I’m telling him he’ll get $1.6M for it.
Some seller doubt is based on disbelief, and some is based on nerves. But most sellers do doubt their house, and themselves, at one point or another.
I almost feel silly explaining this, since it’s so incredibly obvious. Of course a house-seller is going to be anxious!
Whether it’s during the listing, before offers, or at the onset – you’re going to be anxious at one point or another, or in many cases, all the way through.
A lot of the anxiety comes after the very first meeting with the listing agent, since “the road ahead” seems so daunting.
Some single-family houses take weeks to prepare. You need to remove about 60% of your possessions, and that’s before the stagers come in to take away your furniture and replace it with theirs. You need to complete minor repairs, more often than not something needs to be painted, all of this work comes in tandem with raising your family, and living your lives.
Some of the “doubt” I referred to above stems from the anxiety of looking at the plan ahead, and wondering if you’re really prepared for it.
The doubt that you can feel with respect to the market value of your home often turns into downright fear about what could, or couldn’t happen.
I get these “what if” scenarios all the time.
Sellers want to know, “What happens if we don’t get any offers?”
Imagine under-pricing a house for multiple offers, after staging it, and getting it ready for six weeks – and you’re thinking about not getting any offers? In a neighbourhood where there have only been TWO listings in the last three weeks?
The fear can be incredibly irrational, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
This is when things get really, really personal for a home-owner.
I’ve said on many occasions that I’m fascinated with the public’s belief that it’s their inherent right to trek through somebody’s home during an “Open House,” and it’s not a privilege. People lose sight of the fact that this is somebody’s home, and not just a showroom.
So sellers can take it really, really personally when other people enter their home, and critique it.
I recently had a house staged by “professionals,” and my client took half of the stagers stuff, put it in a box, and left it on the front porch.
My client was disgusted and appalled at the cheap crap the stagers put up on her walls, in her house, and you know what? She had every right to be.
Stagers do not always have the best taste, or the best selection of high-end furniture. Their job is often to bring in furniture that fits a room, or fits a colour pallet, or “works with the space.” So when it comes to the “fluffing,” they often leave behind cheap crap from Homesense.
My seller came home last month and saw one of those “Live Everyday, Laugh Every Moment, Love Everyone” posters adorning her kids’ playroom, and she was instantly disgusted.
She had a very nice, albeit personal piece of art there, and the stagers felt it didn’t really “fit,” (which it didn’t), so they took it down, but they replaced it with some cheap, clichee piece of Homesense crap that just about made my seller cry.
By the same token, a seller who happens to be home for an open house, or get a little too much feedback from their agent, can be disgusted by the things people say.
Jealousy & Resentment
The chances are very high that your listing will be competing with another listing, and if you live in a “community” where you know people, the chances are excellent that you’ll know the person selling the house up the street.
In the weeks leading up to your listing, you might watch as one of the people in your community – whether it’s somebody in your mommy-group, or a dad that you help coach soccer with, or somebody you know from the dog park, sells their house and often gets a pretty penny for it.
There’s a good chance that you’ll be happy for them, and have nothing but good things to say about the sale of their house.
But a lot of the time, I see sellers personalize the situation, and jealousy results.
“How can they get that price for their home? She doesn’t have a decorative bone in her body, and he’s a slob!”
Negative emotions are far, far stronger than positive emotions, and if a seller is stressed, anxious, doubtful, or afraid, then seeing a neighbour’s house sell can end up making that seller more than a little jealous!
Perfectionism & Obsession
When do you stop working on your home?
At what point do you draw the line?
When is the home truly “ready” to put on the market and show to the world?
Is it ever ready? Do you want to be there every day, to check up on the house, and nit-pick about things that only you notice?
Your teenage son has been using the baseboards in the guest room as a golf tool to help his putting stroke, and you didn’t paint it because only you notice those tiny scuff-marks, and no buyer is going to get down on hands-and-knees to inspect it. But you know it’s there. So do you get out the paint on the third day of the listing and start working away?
Sellers often obsess about items in the home that only they would notice, or even care about.
Certain things that have bothered the sellers day-in, day-out, through living there for years, will suddenly seem all the more important.
Remember the episode of Breaking Bad where Mr. White spots a fly in the underground lab, and he forces Jesse Pinkman to spend hour after hour trying to catch the fly – which he deemed “the contamination”? Well sometimes, in some cases, sellers get like that…
Many sellers will actually move out of their house for a week when it’s being sold.
Other sellers will just stay out of the house until 9pm when they’re sure showings are finished.
Either way, it can confuse the hell out of you, and your children as well.
Some kids might enjoy staying at “Aunt Jenny’s” house for a week, but others complain unmercifully, “I wanna go hooooooome!”
And sellers themselves often revert back into a child-like state, where they simply long for their own bed, and to sit on their own couch, and to be able to go to their own house and not have to worry about running into a complete stranger going through the kitchen cabinets.
You know when you go away on a two-week vacation, and you come home to find that your house is pretty much the way you left it, but yet something about the return feels so surreal? Yes, it’s kind of like that for home sellers…
This is just shy of “defeat,” but after the decision-making process that leads you to sell, the 4-6 weeks of getting the house ready, and all the fear, doubt, and anxiety that comes during the listing, many sellers eventually act as though they no longer care.
“It is what it is.”
“Well get what we get for the house.”
The process can be so long, so trying, and so stressful that some sellers will throw their hands up and say, “I just want this to be over.”
Can you wait another three days to get your windfall of money on offer night? Of course you can, but much of the time, sellers act as though they’re indifferent to what happens, and that’s partly as a defence mechanism to protect against the potential of an unsatisfactory outcome.
This isn’t a negative emotion in the same way as those above, but it’s a bit more downtrodden then the “excitement” or “jubilation” that you’d expect to feel after your home is sold.
Many sellers are so relieved to have the process “finally over” that their happiness is delayed.
Or if they do experience happiness when they sign the Confirmation of Acceptance on the offer, that happiness is often short-lived as they immediately fall into a state of relief.
Buying a single-family, freehold property in Edmonton isn’t easy, nor is the process that comes with it.
And at the risk of having you fire back, “Oh, cry me a river,” I might suggest that being a home seller isn’t easy either.
Sure, you get the pay off in the end, but it comes at a cost. Your life is turned upside-down for a period of time, and the sale process can consume you.
What’s the simplest advice I can give you? Be prepared.
Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster for you and your entire family, but just know that every seller in your position goes through it…