Chairman’s Message: Handling the Emotionally Attached Seller

Quincy Virgilio: MLSListings Inc 2018 Chairman

Quincy Virgilio
2018 Chairman, MLSListings

One of the most common challenges we run into as real estate professionals are sellers who are so emotionally attached to their homes that they can’t make reasonable decisions in the transaction process. Some of the things we hear most often:

  • I put a lot of money into building this music room, wine cellar (or some other highly customized and personal addition), and that makes my home worth a lot more money, or I want to get my money out of it.
  • This home is special and we feel it’s worth a lot more than what you are telling me the comparable listed properties are in my neighborhood.
  • Our home is not like anything else you will find on the market so you can’t really compare it to another property in setting the price.
  • We’ve lived here for 20 years and raised a family in this home and we would love to see another family buy our home and have the same experience.
  • We’ve done so much to our home and we want to make sure that someone interested in buying our home doesn’t have plans to change anything; we want someone who appreciates the home as it is.

These sellers are more focused on sentiment and ideals that they attach to their selling experience and not considering the reasons why they are selling the home. It is up to you, as their real estate advisor, to help them establish practical goals and reasonable expectations, and manage their emotions in the process.

How do you work with this type of seller? It starts in the initial conversation or listing appointment.

Ask them why they are selling. This helps to reinforce for them the reasons that are the real motivations. You will also want to raise these reasons when the seller begins to fall back on emotion.

Ask them what they expect, or hope, to get for a sale price. Be prepared to show them comparable listings and sale price trends for similar homes in that neighborhood. Get to a place of agreement on what they will accept as a sale price. In addition, you should have back-up documentation that demonstrates to buyers’ agents the rationale for the price.

Ask them what they are prepared to do if they do not get an offer at their desired price. They need to not be attached to this aspect of the process either. Instead of becoming angry, disappointed or frustrated by offers short of their asking price, they need to remain focused on their desired outcome. It is the agent or broker’s job to help keep the seller’s emotions in check and to negotiate with the buyer’s agent to help them understand the rationale for the price. If the prospective buyer won’t meet the price, the seller needs to be ready to move on and you should be there to help them in that decision.

Still concerned about how to move the seller off an emotional attachment to the property? Here are some helpful talking points that may bring them around to focusing on the bigger picture desired outcome:

  • Remind them that they likely made changes to their house when they bought it to make it their own and to fit their lifestyle. Ask them if they plan to do the same with their new home. Let them know that the buyer of their home will want to do the same thing in moving into the home they are buying.
  • Talk about the fact that they are ending a chapter with this property and beginning another one in a new property. What happens to it after they move out isn’t what they should be concerned about.
  • If a seller begins talking about the type of buyer they want for their house, immediately attempt to shut that conversation down. Talk about the fact that there are fair housing laws in place to prevent discrimination about who is able to purchase or rent a property so they cannot dictate who buys their home.

There is a significant responsibility on the part of a real estate professional to manage the transaction process for a seller, and that includes helping them detach emotionally from their property and focus on their desired outcome in the sale. Keeping them forward-focused and on the reasons they are selling their home, what they hope to make financially in the sale, and what type of home they envision for their future will help make the experience better for both of you.


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