When Does a “For Sale” Home Stop Being the Seller’s?

Especially for newer, less established agents, it’s common to represent friends and relatives in the sale of their home (over time, successful Realtors’ sphere grows beyond those groups).

Even veteran agents occasionally represent friends and family members.

How do they (we) keep emotion out of the deal ” especially when the listing agent may have their own connection to the client and their home?

Here’s my two-part answer:

One. An agent who’s doing their job will often recommend ” in fact, needs to recommend ” numerous prep and staging steps that serve to “de-personalize” the home.

That includes removing personal effects such as family photos; replacing old paint and carpeting with new and more neutral choices; and generally making the home more generic and even slightly empty-feeling (at least, to the long-time owner).

Especially if it’s been years (decades?) since the home’s been on the market, the net effect can be to render the home very different from the one the owner ” and their relative-cum-Realtor ” remember.

College Application Essays & “For Sale” Homes

Think of successful home prep as the opposite of a good college application essay.

My favorite definition of a good essay is this one: if all the applicants’ names were deleted from their essays, then the anonymous essays were thrown up in the air, someone who knew all the applicants could pick a random, nameless essay off the ground . . . . and tell who wrote it.

By contrast, the test of a well-prepped, well-staged “For Sale” home is that prospective Buyers should have no clue who owns it . . . even if they know the owner (and home) well!

Pets vs. Livestock

For agents who are still too emotionally invested, there’s always Plan B: handle┬áthe transaction the way farm kids treat the livestock they raise (minus the part about “slaughter” at the end).

According to a favorite family babysitter (and former Wisconsin farm kid, who amazingly now has three kids of her own!), it was forbidden to name their farm animals, because naming them would promote an undue emotional bond.

In real estate sales, the equivalent is labeling all the files and documents related to a deal not with the owner’s surname (my usual practice), but only by the street address.

Not only does that create some healthy emotional distance, but it more accurately describes the sales process ” and is the best way to maximize any home’s sales price.

As I tell my selling clients early on, their home stops being theirs long before legal title passes to the Buyer at closing . . .

See also, “Staging Malfunctions, or, Seller Cold Feet“; and “Shortcut for Realtors Who Can’t Remember “Related Party” Disclosure Rules.”

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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