Don't Give It Away: Maintain Your Sanity While Selling

Maintain Your Sanity While Selling

Before I was a real estate agent, I was a psychotherapist. I have a master’s degree in social work and additional training in psychotherapy. I have found that helping people sell a home is a lot like short-term psychotherapy.

Let’s face it, selling a home is stressful. There are a lot of triggers that make people agitated throughout the home selling process. Sometimes, sellers can feel as though they are losing a bit of their sanity. To help stay sane while selling your home, it is helpful to understand what to expect. This allows you to put your reactions and emotions in perspective, feel a bit more normal, and much less susceptible to stress.

There are also special challenges to consider in keeping your sanity when you are making decisions as part of a couple. Whether you are married or not, everyone knows that financial matters can often be a source of tremendous stress for couples. Recently, a client of mine confided to me that she was “born with a beautiful silver spoon in her mouth,” but her now very financially successful husband was not. This resulted in emotional arguments over things as mundane as the overuse of ziplock bags in their multi-million dollar vacation home.

This client understood her own and her husband’s emotional triggers. The very emotionally charged nature of selling a home, different levels of risk aversion between each partner, differences in motivation over selling and/or moving in the first place, and differences in how people feel about change, can make the home selling process a powder keg waiting to explode for couples who are usually not in complete lockstep over all of these factors.

My best advice to keep a relationship intact while selling a home is to understand and normalize the  rather extreme feelings you are likely to experience towards your partner during this process. You may look at your partner or spouse with utter disdain at many moments throughout the process. That is  normal. But, remember to remain focused on your goal – to sell your home for the best possible price in the shortest amount of time. The following are just a few examples, which I experience on a regular basis, of how the home selling process can lead to temporary couple turmoil.

  • You may feel that your otherwise smart, savvy husband seems like he is ready to “give your house away,” when he eagerly wants to accept that seemingly “low-ball offer” from the “bottom feeding” potential buyer.
  • You may think your generally pragmatic, financially conservative wife has lost her mind when she insists that you can’t list your current home for sale until you have a new home under contract. You’ll find yourself wondering “how can she possibly think we can handle two mortgages without going bankrupt?”
  • A well-respected, highly polished, usually peace-loving female colleague once told me that she wanted to “throw her husband against the wall” when he wouldn’t accept an offer on their home because he refused to take his ego out of the equation and accept that the offer reflected what their house was worth.
  • An extremely successful client who worked as a Wall Street executive, who was 37 weeks pregnant with her third child under the age of five, and had her entire house already packed in the moving truck, walked away from a closing while arguing with the potential buyers over a $200 issue discovered during the walk through. Her husband eventually talked her off of the ledge and back into the closing conference room, but it was pretty ugly for a few hours while she was essentially homeless.

This was a multi-million dollar transaction, so the $200 was a very small amount to pay to get the closing over with and get her family moving into their new home. It was a classic case of emotions getting in the way and potentially causing a very expensive debacle. They are currently living happily in their beautiful new home. But, as you can imagine, the stress on their marriage for a few hours was extreme.

What should you do if you think your partner has completely lost his or her mind in the midst of selling your home? First, remind yourself that this is probably normal and that you stand a very good chance of liking him or her again when the process is all over. Second, understand that the emotions involved in selling a home are very deep-seated and can make an issue that would normally be minor, become irrationally over-charged. If possible, when things become emotionally charged, wait a while, even  “sleep on it” if that’s possible, then try to start a conversation by acknowledging your partner’s feelings about whatever issue is at hand. Try to find an element of their position that makes sense to you on any level and start by verbally validating it. Next, ask yourself if your partner is acting in a way that she or he feels is protecting the safety and best interest of your family.

Even if you believe his or her actions and thoughts are misguided, the intent is typically to protect loved ones. If that is true, let him or her know you see, feel, and appreciate that. Then, calmly try reminding your partner that often emotions can get in the way of making sound financial decisions when selling a home. Lastly, if you have put together a team of professionals that you trust to help you through the  process, rely on those professionals to do the heavy lifting of getting your partner to use logic rather than emotions to get through the home sale process successfully.

If you would like a copy of Shannon's book Don't Give It Away: Maximize the Sales Price of Your Home By Discovering The Emotional Mistakes Every Home Seller Makes... and How to Avoid Them, click here.

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