family home

Selling the family home was like detonating a grenade

Money expert Christina Cabrera tells us how to navigate the emotional minefield that comes with selling the family home after losing a loved one.

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They say selling the family home is right up there in terms of stress, worse than divorce and nudging on life events like the death of a spouse. Well, I did not realise how stressful it can be but when I decided to sell the matrimonial home it felt like I had detonated a grenade.

It all happened one morning – I woke up and heard a firm voice in my head that said “that is enough – it’s time to move and get on with your life.”

So began my journey to sell the house which was my home for 30 years. Not sure why I thought that the sale wouldn’t plunge me into a deep journey of self-discovery, it was my late husband’s property after all.

So what went wrong?

12 weeks after listing, the property had not sold. Plenty of interest, but no credible offers that I could work with.

It turns out nothing was wrong with the marketing plan of the property. Apparently we were on track.

What threw the spanner into the works were other properties that had come on the market at the same time as my family home.

One particular property was priced to sell rapidly. And it did in just two weeks.

Then came the failure of my mindset

What? I am the guru of money mindsets. This does not happen to me?

Why did I feel so debilitated about this? I felt frozen. All the analytical work had been done. But none of that mattered. A house up the road sold for what I thought was a ridiculously cheap price, which put pressure on the perceived value of mine.

I let my heart totally take over. There was absolutely no room for even keeled evaluation.

With stock market investing, it feels so much more rational. You can see who is at the other end of the transaction. You can see who is bidding for the stock and how much. You can evaluate the price of a stock in so many ways and can be reasonably assured that the value you have in mind is a fair price.

Instead as the weeks went by, after countless home opens and looking at new homes to buy, FOMO became my best friend.

Part of the challenge of selling the property that you live in, is that your ego or identity gets tangled up in it. Your “home” is part of who we are or at least that is what we let ourselves believe. So when a stranger comes into your home and makes you a ridiculously low offer, it can cut deep to your identity and even your self-worth. The reality is that the offer you receive has nothing to do with you. It is all about what is going on with the buyer.

Then one day I had a light bulb moment

I realised that when it comes to buying and selling your personal home, it is not about how much you think it should be worth given the sales evidence around your neighbourhood, but about the trade and exchange that people are willing make to get into their next home – their next safe place to fall.

It is about what people are willing to give up in order to gain on the other side of the equation.

So here is what I have learned:

  1. Selling the home that you live in is more emotional than you think. Even if you think you have a robust mindset, you can easily get tripped up by all kinds of booby traps.
  2. The real value of a home will depend on the motivation of the seller and the buyer – it has nothing to do with what the perceived or actual market value is.   It is all about the resilience of the participants and the story they are telling themselves in the process.
  3. It is about the “exchange” of value – no surprise here expect for the deep emotional component which can translate into rather irrational pricing on either side of the transaction (either expecting a sale price that is unrealistically high or giving up thousands, just to move along).
  4. Value has many definitions:
    1. “I just put an offer in for my dream home and I have to get out – value”,
    2. “I don’t want to miss out – value”,
    3. “I am frustrated – value”,
    4. “I am tired of all this – value” and
    5. “Comparison to sales in the neighbourhood – value”.

What does this all mean?

There is tremendous opportunity to make money if you are willing to trade in people’s fears, dreams and stories they tell themselves and you have a stash of cash to use as a bargaining chip.

Of course the crucial and pivotal component of all this is your mindset.

And here comes the happing ending:

I finally sold my property. I received an offer that was miles off what I thought I wanted to receive in dollar terms. However what I thought the property should sell for had nothing to do with who was in the market to buy it at the time. I ended up selling to a young couple who had a young daughter named Lauren. The name reminded me of the daughter I lost – my only child. The couple offered me a very long settlement period, so I could relax to find my new home. And just three weeks later that happened.

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