I grew up just a couple of hours from Disneyland. So as a kid, one of my greatest joys (and greatest anxieties) revolved around the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (this was pre-Johnny Depp, folks). I loved that ride – especially the big drop at the end – but I also feared that ride, especially the big drop at the end. Fast forward a couple of decades and I found myself standing in line for the ride with my own kids, with bated breath and anxious fear/anticipation. We got on and I continued to hold my breath. Just a few minutes later, we sailed gently back to the starting point.
I walked up to an attendant and asked: “When did they take the dip out?” The guy looked at me quizzically and said that the ride’s course had never been changed. The ride didn’t change. But I had – I had grown taller, and so my perspective had shifted. Nothing about the ride was worth even a moment’s anxiety now that I’d grown taller and impervious to the dips and twists and turns.
Selling a home is a bit like Pirates of the Caribbean was to me. It’s one of those life experiences that comes only after a long period of anticipation, and has lots of twists and turns. And – especially on your first ride – it occasions lots of breath-holding moments where you can do little but wait and see how your decisions will turn out.
But that doesn’t mean you have to experience your first time selling a home as a full-time emotional rollercoaster for the duration.
Here are a few perspective shifts that can minimize the anxiety and maximize the outcomes of your first home-selling experience:
1. It only takes one. The goal of your pricing, marketing and property preparation efforts should be to give your home as much appeal to as broad a segment of qualified buyers as possible. That’s why, if you read this blog often, you’ve heard me beg and plead for you to get rid of your sequined kitty cat tiles and turn your dedicated jai-alai court back into 3 bedrooms before you list your homes for sale: highly personalized customizations can often limit your home’s appeal. The chances you’ll find another buyer who has always wanted a series of permanent shrines to Twinkies surrounding the headboard nook in the master bedroom are, simply put, slim.
That said, don’t get discouraged if you set what your agent feels like is a rational list price, have a well-attended open house, show your home to 10 buyers and the sun goes down with no offers. You might have heard some other seller crow that their home sold before the sign could even go up. But in real estate, as with most other areas of life, comparing yourself with someone’s else’s experience is a setup for upset.
Work with your agent to get a good understanding of the average length of time a home in your area stays on the market, and use that as a benchmark or signal that it might be time to revisit pricing or otherwise course-correct your home selling plan of action. In the meantime, understand that while your task is to market broadly, your ultimate success at this endeavor of home selling only requires that one qualified buyer fall in love with your home – so don’t get discouraged or panic while your agent goes about the process of exposing your property to the market and the population of local buyers.
This fundamental truth of real estate also brings up one more success factor that is well within your control: make a commitment to only show your home in its very best light. Don’t slack off on the cleaning and clutter-clearing just for this one showing or that one: you don’t know which of the buyers who comes to see your home will be “the one,” so make sure your home’s smell, preparation and presentation shines for all prospective buyers who come to see it.
2. Facing reality takes courage, but is less painful than the alternative. One of my favorite authors of all time, Dr. Henry Cloud, writes in one of my favorite books of all time, Integrity: The Courage to Meet The Demands of Reality(HarperCollins, 2006), that the definition of integrity is the courage to see and face reality. Yes: courage.
- Facing the reality that your home needs a serious investment in sprucing, cleaning and staging before it goes on the market might take courage.
- Facing the reality that your home might be worth less than you hoped, and that listing it at your fantasy price is a setup for failure can also take courage.
- Facing the reality of the feedback from buyers and buyers brokers who have seen your home and passed on it? That definitely takes courage.
But here’s the thing about integrity and exercising the courage to face all these realities: they empower you to do something to change your reality and dramatically increase your home’s saleability. And here’s the other thing: if youdon’t face these realities, 9 times out of 10, at some point, “attention will be paid” (to quote Dr. Cloud).
That simply means that you can pay attention to the blind spots about your home’s readiness and pricing and marketing up front, when your agent begs you to, or you can pay attention to them later, when your home fails to sell and you’ve gone through all the stress and drama of showing it and listing it and you’re getting low ball offers from buyers who assume you must be desperate.
Facing such realities before your home ever goes on the market might take courage, and might be a little painful, but it’s much less painful and costly than allowing yourself to keep living in fantasy land.
3. You have the power to prevent much of what you fear. Fear is often the result of feeling powerless over your fate. When the fate we’re talking about is the speed and price of the sale of your largest asset, perceiving yourself to be at the mercy of the market can give rise to fear at a very intense level. Here’s the good news: feeling powerless about selling your home is only perception.
The truth is that you have a great deal of power to influence the outcome of your home’s sale. Only you can:
- take a deep-dive into your financials to understand whether you can afford a move up – or whether you need a move down – and how much you can afford to spend on housing after your sale
- make the ultimate decision about when to sell and when to stay put
- find, vet and select the just-right agent for you and your home (our Find an Agent tool can help you get started, as can asking your friends and colleagues who love their agents)
- paying attention to and understanding the comparables and making a reality-based pricing decision
- do the work of getting your home prepared for sale – and make the final call about what work to do and what to leave for your home’s next owner
- provide abundant access to your home for buyers who want to come see it – and make sure it’s buyer-ready before every single showing
- course-correct your pricing, marketing or property preparation decisions as needed based on feedback from the market
- make the final negotiation decisions when you do get an offer, in order to get into contract
- cooperate with your home’s buyer, appraiser, inspectors, contractors, escrow providers and even your local authorities to get your home sale transaction closed smoothly
Every time you get the feeling that things are spiraling out of your control, think on these things and all the other ways you actually do have control over your home’s sale and how it turns out. And loop your agent in: experienced agents can often propose alternative solutions to almost any problem that might not otherwise even occur to you, especially during your first experience selling a home.