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!