Emotional Attachments & Selling Your Home

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When the time comes to put you house on the market, we tend to spend a lot of time preparing for the practical aspects of the sale: understanding our homes’ market value, learning how to stage, and choosing a brokerage to represent us. However, a less-obvious part of selling – and one that can catch us off guard is how emotionally difficult it can be to leave a house behind.

We’ve had clients selling their parents home, the home where their children grew up, or the ones they thought would be their “forever home.” Some have to sell as a result of loss, some as a result of growth, but usually, these houses are seen as much more than timber and brick: they’re living vessels for cherished memories, the places where the future is nurtured, the expression of the self in space.

Because ‘home’ can be such an emotional concept, some sellers do struggle to let go, and some even unconsciously sabotage their own sales. Homeowners sometimes overvalue their homes and insist on a price the market won’t support, others are unable to see where simple improvements could be made to increase their selling price, while others actually refuse offers because they don’t trust the would-be buyers to care for the house properly.

Below we’ve listed strategies to letting go when it’s time to sell to help you avoid such pitfalls:

1. Shift your thinking from home to house

Though the words seem interchangeable, we tend to connect “home” with sentimental notions of comfort, safety, and love – after all,  “there is no place like home.” when you imagine leaving your home behind, try to start using the word “house” in your thinking and conversation. A house, after all, is just a physical construct to which you brought meaning.

2. Create a photo album 

If your heart aches at the thought of never again seeing the doorframe where you measured your children’s height or hearing the birds outside the kitchen window, you might find comfort in compiling a scrapbook, photo album, or sound collage of “The Old House.” Before you start preparing to move, try to capture vignettes of your home as you’d like to remember it – even the details you think you’ll never forget.

3. Begin depersonalizing and packing

Sometimes sellers try to preserve their version of ‘home’ for as long as possible by refusing to pack anything up until absolutely necessary, which may affect your ability to let go. You’re likely to find that depersonalizing the house (for example, stowing away family photos and some of your more particular decor) and starting to pack up your belongings will make things feel less familiar, which can help loosen your emotional tethers.

4. Start your repairs and renovations

If you’re planning to make some improvements to your home for the sake of your sale, you’re already a step ahead of the game, since this means you’re looking at the situation with some objectivity. But you’re also creating an opportunity to erase evidence of yourself, whether you’re simply repainting in a new colour or putting in a new bathroom. When you change the features of the home that are part of your memories and cover the marks that tell the story of your life, you’re consigning that story to the past and clearing the slate for a new one to start.

5. Say thanks

For some homeowners, selling can be emotionally difficult because of the guilt felt over leaving the house behind – and leaving it in the hands of strangers! While it’s not particularly rational, it’s a fairly common feeling; after all, the home can start to be like a living character in your life. It can be useful, therefore, to thank the house for what it provided to you as you say goodbye. A meaningful thank-you acknowledges the importance of the home at the same time as it allows you to move on.

Though you may have considered yourself a paragon of rationality when you decided it was time to sell (didn’t we all?), it can be surprisingly difficult to come face to face with the prospect of leaving the home behind. While it may never be easy to walk through the door for the last time, it can be helpful to remember that the house was just a house until it became yours, and wherever you go, your idea of home goes with you.

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