Why Letting Go of a Property Can Be So Hard

Could you be sabotaging your home sale? Here are four questions to ask yourself to see if you’re too emotionally attached to a home—and what to do about it if the answers are yes.

Are you putting off preparing the home for sale?

Not moving forward with getting your home ready for an open house is a huge red flag. Sellers may have to go through several rounds of getting rid of stuff, painting, and making repairs.

“You want to give your client the best marketing approach, so you give them a to-do list: spring clean, declutter, and lightly stage,” says Maramonte. “When you meet with resistance, that’s a sign.”

If you’re selling a home that’s been in a family for generations due to a death, it brings an additional challenge.

“After years of someone living in a home, there’s often too much furniture, old stuff, and clutter,” says Maramonte.

Sellers can get bogged down in sifting through memories and minutiae.

Are you too emotionally attached?

When selling a home after a divorce or financial setback, it’s often because you have to, not because you want to. And that can trigger many emotions all at once, including shame, loss, and depression, according to Donna C. Moss, a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in New York, who speaks from personal experience.

She and her husband, Ron, downsized after the 2008 financial crisis, selling a home they’d just renovated using an inheritance from her mother.

“For me, it became like a grief reaction—loss of the thing that my mother gave me,” adds Moss.

She also recognized that she was worrying too much about the effect that selling her home would have on her kids, which had made her insist on staying in the same town and school system.

“Parents tend to oversubscribe to keeping things the same for the kids,” she says. “But kids can adapt and handle some change.”

Are you overpricing a home?

When you list a home for sale, it’s natural to want to get the best price. Yet a major pitfall of emotional attachment is over-pricing.

“A property will have emotional value to the seller that it doesn’t have to perfect strangers,” says Maramonte.

He describes a multigenerational home he worked with in Hoboken that had suffered damage from two major floods.

The seller still had a certain price in mind, “even though the home was basically uninhabitable,” Maramonte says. “It took some hand-holding.”

Are you refusing a good offer?

Pauline and Ray Prosseda of Long Island, NY, were faced with selling Ray’s three-generational home. In Ray’s case, he was lucky to get an early offer.

“Maybe too early,” his wife recalls. “It wasn’t quite the number Ray was looking for, so he made a counteroffer. It went back and forth. I think we were talking about a difference of $10,000.”

The buyer eventually dropped out, and the house remained on the market for almost a year longer.

“Sometimes you have a strong but not ideal offer, and you turn it down, because you feel it’s ‘too soon’ or ‘better will come,'” says Tricia Lee, principal broker of The Tricia Lee Team at Serhant. “But you risk potential market and economic shifts—specifically with interest rates—that can limit buying power. That extra $10,000 could be even harder to get 45 days from now.”

How to find the motivation to move ahead

If you’re feeling ambivalent about selling, you need to tap into your motivation and break through.

“Money can be a driving force,” suggests Maramonte.

For Ray Prosseda, the market did shift, with a sudden influx of homes for sale.

“This was a few years after [Hurricane] Sandy,” explains his wife.

Ray’s home hadn’t been damaged. But many neighboring homes had been, and they were all being rehabbed, and were in tip-top condition as a result. In the end, he sold the home for less than the first offer. If you overprice in a depreciating market, you can lose up to 10% of potential profit, Maramonte explains. That’s $40,000 you’ll never see if your home is priced at $400,000.

An unsold home means that other costs will pile up as well.

“The longer you hold onto a home, the more carrying costs you have to cover,” says Lee.

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