The Psychological Side of Preparing To Sell Your House


By Diane Saatchi

When people ask me, “When’s a good time to sell my house?” I tell them, “When you’re ready to leave it.” Selling your house can be very frustrating. Once you’ve decided to go, you want to leave immediately -- but it might take weeks, months, or even years to find a buyer. There are things you can do to prepare your house and property to sell, but you’ll also need to prepare yourself. 

Here’s what I tell clients who are getting ready to sell their homes: 

Photo by Morgan Anderson 

Photo by Morgan Anderson 

Try not to get too excited the moment you list it. Once you’re emotionally ready to sell and you've made that decision in your head, you really want it to happen. Brokers tend to get excited, too. A new listing and a new relationship is like a new job -- it’s what we do, and the new challenge is always a new adventure. Our excitement, unleashed, can fuel the owner’s. Everyone is pumped. And sometimes all the adrenaline leads to... not much. 

Take a hint from what happens when you list your house. In the Hamptons market, not all months are created equal. If your house spends three months on the market beginning in May, when potential buyers are lured by green hedges and long afternoons, it’s very telling if it doesn’t sell. If it comes on the market in September, when many people’s minds are elsewhere, and it doesn’t sell, well, that’s less surprising. If there isn’t interest over the summer, it might be the house or price rather than the market, and you’ll want to be prepared for some work, a price adjustment, or a potential wait. 

Don’t check out. As excited as you might be about leaving, you’ll need to devote some energy to this house until it’s officially off your hands. I find that when people decide to sell their house, they don’t want to take care of it or invest in it. For instance, they’ll paint one room and not another, which makes the unpainted room stand out. I always say you can do 90% of what you should do, but if you don’t do the last 10%, that’s what the buyer will notice. No matter how much you do, the buyer is more likely to notice what was not done -- it's human nature. 

Know where you’re going next. It's a good idea to spend a few days looking for the next home and hometown to get a realistic idea of what is ahead. If it's not possible to get away, even looking online may help you to see where your budget will take you. When you begin to focus energy and have affection for the next place, it is so much easier to let go of home. 

Don’t fall in love with another house until you know what you can sell your house for. That said, it’s great to be excited about your next home, but you don’t want to emotionally commit yourself to a specific property until you have a good idea of your budget. We can give people a pretty realistic price range, but sometimes people don’t hear that, or the market changes, or a it is over-priced.  

Don’t expect to outsmart the market. The reality is, as a user, you sell at market, you buy at market. You come out ahead only if the market changes -- or you change locations. If you were to sell your Southampton oceanfront house and move to an apartment in Detroit, for instance, you’d feel very rich. Staying in the Hamptons, however, if you wait to sell your house until the market is high, chances are the house you’re going to buy is also high, and the same is true in reverse. 

Know that your house will sell. You can always sell a house. It’s just a matter of price. It will trade at its market value.  

© 2016 Diane Saatchi