Selling? Do you Lead with Head and House or Heart and Home?

We’ve all made life-changing decisions by following our heart. We’ve been told that if we follow our heart and trust our instincts, we will find our passion, our true love, the life we were meant to live or the home of our dreams. Without conscious awareness our emotional stories and positive and negative experiences are playing out in the background of each of these decisions and largely affect the success of the ultimate outcome. Often, we are happy with the results.

But…

What if following your heart and trusting your instincts is the wrong approach to making a life-changing decision, specifically a real estate transaction?

I am referring to the sale of your house and following your heart can actually prevent you from selling at top dollar or at a price point you’re willing to accept. In order to compete and successfully sell your house in today’s market, sellers need to lead with their head, not their heart. To begin, they need to acknowledge one key fact:

Selling your house is not about You, it’s about the buyer and they are in the driver’s seat.
Your job as a seller is to present a house as visually close to what current buyers expect and are determined to find. This dictates that changes in your home may need to be made to create a more modern, up-to-date listing that appeals to a wide cross section of potential buyers. Remember, you are not buying your own house and buyers do make snap decisions about “value” based on what they see.

Fair? No. True? Yes.

As a result, what sellers expect to sell and what buyers expect to buy have never been more at odds. A new mindset and strategy is needed for sellers to be successful.

To find out if you are truly ready for the challenge of selling your home and moving on ask yourself the following five questions:

  1. Are you confident that you are able to look non-emotionally at your home? Can you change your mindset from seller to buyer and consider it a house rather than your home? Remember, we buy a house, make it a home but need to turn it back into a house in order to sell at top dollar. This may be the largest asset you own, so removing the emotion from the process to maximize return is critical. Yes or No?
  2. Do you understand that the buyer will NOT value your home in the same way you do? Can you view your house and property as it currently presents and agree that your opinion about its value is not what’s important, but buyer expectations are, and their definition of value is? Yes or No?
  3. Are you willing to consider that fast, easy and inexpensive cosmetic updates may be necessary to sell your house in order to meet today’s buyer expectations? This is where your emotional story comes into play. This emotional roller coaster can seem obvious and most people say they get it and know it’s coming, however, what I see most often is sellers nod in agreement, but when discussions start on how to better position the property and make the necessary changes or upgrades in order to attract the largest number of qualified buyers, the push back begins. Sellers start to evaluate what is “fair” or use the logical argument that it doesn’t make any sense to put money into a house they are selling, but I remind them no one wants to move into a “project”. This is how the emotional story affects the decision making process. These changes become personal and the emotional story playing in the background is the real attachment to your home and the life you have built there. Yes or No?
  4. Are you willing to take more responsibility for the visual presentation of your asset in order to sell at top dollar? In today’s real estate environment, sellers need to take more responsibility for and control of the presentation of their asset. The Realtor may or may not be in a position to expertly advise you in this area, and it’s not their job. At a minimum, you must remove your personal footprint and take a look at the paint, flooring, carpet and lighting. Yes or No?
  5. Are you prepared to embark on one of the five most stressful life-changing events? This process, like death, divorce, illness and loss of a job, creates anxiety and uncertainty over time with no guaranteed outcome. It takes commitment to weather the emotional ups and downs of selling a house, not take it personally and understand that this is all part of the game. There is no way around it, only through it. Yes or No?

If you have answered “yes” to the above 5 questions, you are ready to embark on the sales process and create a smooth transition to your next home. Congratulations! You are more prepared than most sellers for the emotional roller coaster ride you will experience from the moment you decide to sell until the last box is unpacked in your new home.

If you answered “no” to any of the above questions you may need to rethink your seller mindset and ask yourself why you are not able to view your asset from a buyer’s point of view. Remember, in this particular situation, head and house, not heart and home will lead to a more successful outcome every time.

Read more in my book: SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life. Be A Smart Mover!

The Emotionality of Moving and Moving On…Why It’s so Hard for Most Sellers

Selling a home and moving is hard

How to Save Time and Money Creating the Perfect Listing™

It’s go-time, the decision has been made to sell the house… now what? Any Realtor® will tell you that people are passionate about their homes, their style, their things, so trying to objectively decide what needs to be done before a house gets listed can be fraught with emotion and push back.

RE Rule 101: The seller wants to maximize the value of the asset and the buyer wants the best deal they can get for the property. Period. The seller needs to maximize their time and spend as little as possible in order to get the house ready to show.

One thing I always tell sellers, it’s not about YOU, it’s about the BUYER. A seller’s job is to allow a qualified buyer up to one-year occupancy without making any material changes – no one wants to move into “an immediate project.” The seller needs to present a house that is as visually close to what current buyers expect, in a manner that reflects values to them from the minute they get out of the car and walk up to the front door.

The Devil is in the Details. As you create the plan to get the house ready. Organization is key and much can be done by the seller, saving time and money.

  1. Organizing and clearing out rooms of extra furniture and personal items. Touch everything you own once. Clean, sort (keep, store, donate or dump) the entire house and remove your personal footprint. Only keep out the furniture and accessories you will use for staging purposes only.
  2. Deep Clean. Whether you do it yourself or hire a service, do a detailed thorough cleaning of the house, including windows and store the screens. There is a psychology behind clean houses that helps the home selling process – a study at Indiana University found that clean houses were perceived by people to be linked to healthier individuals.
  3. Set the Interior and Exterior Template. When staging a house or what I call setting the template, you do not have to break the bank. Below are some guides for common, inexpensive, cosmetic updates and home improvements that can be done to increase the visual value of the house. As you go through each room and look at the furniture, be open to and look for new ways to stage the space that will open up the room.
  • Paint – white or light grey walls, white trim and ceilings. New paint is an easy and inexpensive way to make your house look fresh and new.
  • Carpet/Flooring/Lighting – new carpet and pristine floors are a must and worth the small investment. Make sure all lights work (inside and out) and have as least soft white 60-watt light bulbs – you can use 100-watt
  • Foyer/Living Room/Dining Room – showcase a tiny space in the entrance/foyer to welcome buyers and create a focal point in the living room and arrange furniture from there. Remove the leaf from the dining room table to create a smaller piece of furniture, making the room look more spacious. Purchase and place the correct style and size plant material to provide a tasteful accent near the entry, on tables or mantels.
  • Great Room/Family Room – place the furniture in a visually and physically logical format that highlights the width, depth and unique assets of the room.
  • Kitchen – Severely limit what you keep on the countertops – only essentials and pack or remove the rest. Appliances in working order.
  • Master Bedroom/Other Bedrooms – Buyers are looking for a sanctuary and are willing to pay for perfection in the master bedroom. A mirror over the dresser will make the room look bigger. Bedrooms should contain the same basic furniture, a bed, side table, lamps, chest of drawers, area rug or new carpets.
  • Bathrooms – clean and if necessary, install new vanity and countertops in white. I use the Home Decorators Collection at Home Depot.
  • Laundry Room/Basement/Bonus Space: Washing machine and dryer must be functional, vented and have adequate drainage. Basement or lower level family rooms need to be clean, bright with new carpet or polished floors. They don’t necessarily need to be staged but can be vacant if the rest of the house is visually and physically perfect.
  • Garage/Exterior Lighting/Landscaping – garage must be clean enough to see width and depth, including storage capacity. Exterior lighting must work and be clean. Trim trees and landscaping that blocks the façade. Remove dead trees, limbs, shrubs and plant material, edge gardens and spread brown mulch (not red or black).
  • Exterior Paint/Shutters/Front Door – no chipped paint. Replace house numbers with Baldwin 4-inch polished brass, nickel or black.
  • Exterior Cleaning – Power wash everything, including the outdoor furniture and grill
  • Outdoor Furniture – create conversation areas

I realize that no one actually “lives” this clean, but you must try to exist in deep clean mode in order to sell. Transitioning a principal residence is an emotional, financial and physical challenge. While the journey is different for everyone, the home transition process is the same. Saving time and money is key for any seller.

Read more about The Devil is in the Details in my book: SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life. Be A Smart Mover!

How to Avoid the Top 3 Emotional Mistakes Most Sellers Make

Transitioning a principal residence is an emotional, financial and physical challenge. While the journey is different for everyone, the home transition process is the same and needs to be anchored in hope, humility and humor.

Be warned… as most Realtors® know, when it comes to life’s major stressors, selling a home and moving, even once, lands in the top 5, along with death, divorce, illness and loss of a job. The good news for sellers is that you can rely on a good Realtor to help you through but understand you must also help yourself. I refer to it as “emotional ivy”. Like English ivy clinging to brick, your “emotional ivy” – the way you’ve made your house a home throughout the years – is so pervasive that it affects every decision you make about the upcoming move. You’ll have to rip the “ivy” out of every nook and cranny and off each surface to which it clings and that’s not easy.

The top 3 emotional mistakes most sellers make as they get ready to list are:

  1. Not being able to let go of personal items.
    Some of us refuse to let go of our things, even if we really don’t want them or use them. We look at some item and think “work of art”, while someone else thinks “garage sale”. According to the LA Times, most households in America have over 300,000 things stored in them and many people also rent off-site storage units filled with more stuff. Bottom line: we are all treasure hunters and ultimately you are the decision maker on what to keep or let go, but one thing I know for sure is the BUYER doesn’t care about any of it. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your house is the exception to the rule and a buyer will look past your things.
  2. Not removing your personal footprint.
    Remember, it’s important to remove personal photos, tombstones, diplomas, and the like, because all that does is distract the buyer.
  3. Not understanding what the BUYER values.
    The buyer wants the ability to move in and do nothing for one year. Think white, beige or light grey walls, with white trim and ceilings. New carpet and floors in pristine condition. Here is a simple key to understand the buyer: they will walk through and give themselves less than 10 minutes to decide if this could be “it”. Many will only devote four to five minutes and make a snap decision – yes or no. This means they will fly through the rooms in a minute or two and if they are distracted and a few things seem odd or cause them to pause, you have lost their attention. You do not want to leave an impression that it’s too big a “project” for them to consider or pay for.

Remember, touch everything you own once. Clean and sort the entire house and remove your personal footprint. Our “stuff” produces a great amount of stress, anxiety and expense when we try to pack, store and move it. A smart seller will realize they have four choices when it comes to every item in the home:

  1. Pack it
  2. Sell it
  3. Donate it
  4. Dump it

Procrastination and delayed decision-making is not a strategy. Remember that you are staging your home to sell, while packing for your move at the same time.

Read more about how to Brace for Impact in my book: SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life. Be A Smart Mover!

Selling your House? Why a Buyer-Based Interior Assessment is Critical

You have made the decision to sell… now what? The life changing event of selling one home and moving to the next is an emotional, financial and physical roller coaster for most sellers. This event ranks among the top five most stressful events along with death, divorce, illness and loss of a job.

Fear not! Find an ally and partner with an experienced REALTOR® in your local market who will educate you on what to do to sell-don’t guess. This process will surely entail conducting a , buyer-based interior assessment. You can do this yourself, by using the guidelines below, understanding you will look through the lens of the BUYER, as you make decisions on what needs to be done. One of the biggest mistakes’ sellers make is not realizing these decisions are not about YOU, they are about the BUYER. Ask yourself, would you buy your house in its current condition?

During the interior assessment, tour each room in the house (including attic, basement, garage) from an altitude of 30,000 feet, there is no need to open each drawer or cabinet at this point. You are looking for opportunities to make meaningful visual and physical (if needed) updates to the space that will welcome someone walking into it and entice a buyer to want to live there. Look at the furniture, carpet, rugs, lamps, artwork, accessories and discuss ideas of how to use them in new and interesting places. You will need two-and-a-half (2.5) feet to walk comfortably through the rooms without feeling physically or psychology crowded. Clear a natural path to easily navigate without stepping over or side-swiping your things – this is the perfect time to consider removing unwanted or extra items in order to open-up the rooms and help guide the buyers visual tour of your house. Also pay attention to the condition of the floors, walls, paint, lighting, odor, fans, exhaust, water damage, as those will be things that need to be addressed as well.

It’s critical to understand that most buyers will insist on a home inspection once they have a ratified contract on your house and while a house can’t “fail” a home inspection, it can receive a “poor” grade and require the seller to agree to a list of repairs or make financial restitution for these repairs as they scramble to save the sale. If you have real concerns, you may want to schedule a pre-inspection with a certified home inspector now to prepare yourself to address any big issues that may present a problem later.

There are fast, easy and inexpensive cosmetic updates you can do that will positively affect your bottom-line. Regardless of the listing price, all sellers want to maximize the sale to its full potential. You stand to gain, or to lose, both time and money in this unique transaction.

Your goal is a quick sale at top-dollar and it all starts on the inside. Conducting your own non-emotional interior assessment of your home from a buyer’s point of view is the first step.

Remember, your job as the seller is to make sure your home is delivered in a condition that will allow a qualified buyer up to one-year occupancy without making material changes. No one wants to move into an immediate project. Providing a 12-month window may be the difference between an offer and stagnation on the market saving time, money and emotional stress.

Your interior assessment is over, now what? You’ve complied a task list of some of the issues you’ve noticed that will need to be addressed before you house can go on the market. The list is typically longer than you would like, but this is not uncommon. Take a deep breath and keep moving.

Fast, easy and inexpensive updates to help achieve The Perfect Listing™:

  • Remove Your Personal Footprint. Packing up your personal footprint allows you to offer a clean, de-cluttered, clearly defined blank slate for buyers to clearly see the space they are considering for their own family. Don’t distract them with your personal photos and mementos.
  • Paint. Neutralize the walls, ceilings and trim. A neutral color palette let’s buyers see and feel the value of the room size and flow of the floor plan. It visually unifies and amplifies usable space and highlights the distinctive features.
  • Carpeting/Rugs/Flooring. Should be in excellent shape or replaced. Carpeting should be new or recently cleaned. It should be a neutral color, low pile like a sisal/berber blend. Area rugs must be in almost new condition, the right color and style and size proportionate to the room.
  • Light (natural and electrical). Recessed, overhead fixtures and lamps should all be utilized to provide adequate interior light sources.
  • Kitchen and Bathrooms. Cosmetic updates to kitchens and bathrooms to create a “move in ready” house. Upgrade hardware on cabinets. Utilize white bedding and white towels to dress bedrooms and bathrooms.
  • Appliances and systems. All are in working order or repaired or replaced.
  • Add Plant Material. Live plants and flowers must be in proportion to the area or room in which they are placed and not distracting. Elegant and simple, while adding a touch of beauty.
  • Deep Clean. You’ll have to deep clean and organize the entire house (this includes attic and garage), but especially your kitchen cabinets and drawers. Take everything out of every cabinet and drawer, remove shelf and drawer lining and pack up, donate or toss non-necessary items to create space. Gather all warranties and critical house documents the new homeowner will need and place them in one drawer.

More than likely, this house is your most valuable asset, make sure to present it to the buyer in a manner that reflects value to them from the moment they got out of the car and are on their way to the front door. (Not your front door because remember… you are moving).

You can refer to the Pre-Home Inspection Checklist in my book, SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life.

Be a Smart Mover and good luck!