“Oh come now, it’s just business.” How many times do we say…. or at least think…. this each day. Buying and selling properties is what we do. We help people sell their homes and buy different homes. That’s the bottom line right? (Of course I’m focusing on residential real estate for these purposes.) It’s how we make our living, and sometimes to be successful, we have to hit people with some brutal truths.
Occasionally we have to tone down our impulses for frankness a bit. We may be thinking: “Please for the love of all those waiting to watch another episode of “Hoarders”, pack up at least some of the collections you have on every surface, like who needs sixty-seven antique lunch boxes lining the room, or the dolls ranging from life-size to thimbles that all stare freakishly from their places in the guestroom” but …… this may actually be expressed more like: “ It’s lovely that you have such unique collections, but while we’re showing the house you may want to go ahead and pack them for storage so that perspective buyers can imagine their own collections here.”
We have honest discussions about how a home looks to outsiders. We impart messages about curb appeal. “Can you perhaps clear some of the larger clumps of weeds out of the front beds?” “You know, a fuchsia door is a bold choice in this neighborhood, perhaps you’d consider repainting it before we list?” It seems crazy for as long as HGTV has been on television now, but sometimes we still have to beg sellers to redo personal choices with neutrals and if the wallpaper from 1968 is staying put, well, we may have to pass along low-ball offers and explain why buyers are looking at the home as a “fixer-upper”. There are so many other anecdotes, like asking them to pre-pack overcrowded closets, run the vacuum to pick up the pet hair before each showing, or even the dreaded “smells” conversation… there was one woman who was really into making sauerkraut…..
These are just some of the many difficult conversations we have in the interest of business and beginning with the end in mind – to help the seller get the optimal price for the home and have it represented to best highlight its value and potential. None of us want to hurt someone’s feelings or criticize personal style but we share our expertise about what we know the “general” buyer is looking for in that area. It’s just business. That is what we tell ourselves to detach and deliver forthright messages that we wouldn’t utter in other social contexts. Preparing the seller that such conversations will happen and delivering them in a filtered way and helpful tone has taken the sting and anxiety out of our situation and that ringing phrase of righteousness, “It’s just business,” helps take all emotion out of the equation. This is so common place that I rarely pause to think about it now. But then I heard someone share a personal story.
A family was going to sell the home they’d lived in for more than a decade. They were eager to listen to their realtor’s advice and took all the criticism in stride and aimed to make all of the changes to sell the property quickly. Apparently the children who were tweens and this was the only home they remembered weren’t as cerebral as the parents. They mourned the changes and became emotional as their memories were stripped and scrubbed away and depersonalized. They were not yet detached from the home or excited about their next one. This can all be expected. The younger child became extremely upset when someone discussed some un-desireable characteristics of a person who made an offer and lamented that they should only sell the home to a nice family who would love it and take care of it. That’s when it hit me again, when it comes to selling your home, emotions are always involved. As illustrated by the child’s irrational desire to “interview” potential buyers, our homes are a part of our psyche as if they are living extension of our family and it’s very important to remember that really, under both good and bad circumstances when people are selling their homes, it is absolutely always WAY MORE than just business.