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Mastering Your Feelings

House sales are usually emotional roller-coaster rides for everyone involved, and you probably still bear the emotional scars from the turmoil you endured as a home buyer. Now, as a house seller, you're about to sit on the other side of the table. Consider the powerful emotions acting on you when you sell your house:

  • Big needs: Shelter is one of the basic necessities of life, and you and the buyers will do verbal battle over a place to live.
  • Big egos: The house you're about to sell is your castle. If buyers or their agents attempt to justify a low offering price for your house by citing its real and imagined flaws, your blood may boil.
  • Big money: Whether this is the first house you sell or the last, the money you have in it probably represents one of your largest investments.
  • Big changes: Selling a house would be stressful enough if you only had to deal with the first two forces. Throw in a life change, such as job relocation, marriage, divorce, birth, death, or retirement, and the result is an emotional minefield.

Putting emotions in their place

Because you can never eliminate emotions from the process of selling your house, the next best option is to control your emotions. Folks who do the best job of this usually end up getting the best deals. Here are time-tested tactics to control your emotions:

  • Keep your sale in perspective. Which would you rather have fail -- your house sale or your open-heart surgery? No matter how bad circumstances are with the sale, keep reminding yourself that this isn't a life-or-death situation. Life goes on. If worse comes to worst, the deal will die -- but you'll survive to find another buyer.
  • Make time your ally. Even if you must sell because of some momentous life change -- such as getting married or divorced, having a baby, or retiring -- you probably have advance notice before the big event occurs. Don't put yourself under needless pressure by procrastinating. Give yourself enough time to sell your house.
  • Maintain an emotional arm's length. Be prepared to walk away from a sale if you and the buyer can't reach a satisfactory agreement on price and terms. Mentally condition yourself to the possibility that the deal may fall through; keep other options open. Buyers are like buses -- if you miss one, another one comes along in a little while.
  • Get the facts. Use a comparable market analysis to factually establish the fair market value of your house. A good real estate agent can help in this area. If you're like most people, having someone to buffer you from your unavoidable emotional involvement helps. Make sure that you work with patient, not pushy, professionals who are committed to getting you the best deal.
  • Accept the unknown. You always have more questions than answers at the beginning of a deal. Don't worry; you'll be fine as long as you know what you need to find out and you get answers in a timely manner during your transaction.

Gaining detachment through an agent

Unlike you and the buyers, good real estate agents don't take things personally. For example, your agent won't be offended if the buyers say that they hate the red-flocked wallpaper that you feel adds "just the right touch" to your den. The buyers' agent, by the same token, won't be upset if your agent says that the buyers' offer for your exquisite house is ridiculously low.

Objectivity is easier for agents. After all, they're not the ones who spent three months looking for appropriate wallpaper to put in the den. Nor is their life's savings on the negotiating table. Agents must listen to what the market says that a house is worth. If they don't, the property won't sell, and they won't get paid. Agents don't allow distracting details to confuse negotiations.