The couple and their children lived in the old farmhouse for 25 years. After much discussion, they finally sold their home to a young couple that was just starting out. Understanding how much the family loved their house, the couple promised they wouldn’t tear it down, but might renovate.
Over the next few years, the sellers stopped by from time to time, just to check out the place. Nothing much had changed. In the fifth year after buying the farmhouse, the young couple began an extensive renovation of the home and added on a garage, kitchen, and two bedrooms.
When the sellers came by that summer, in the midst of the gut remodel, they were aghast to see that virtually nothing was left of their home. The exterior had been taken down to the studs and the interior walls, floors and ceiling had been removed as well. The wife was so discombobulated, that she began weeping.
As long as the property is standing, you can go home again. But should you?
The answer lies in the complex question of whether you were a homeowner or a seller when you actually sold your home.
By definition, a homeowner is someone who owns a piece of property. But beyond being financially invested in that property, homeowners are often emotionally invested in their property. After all, a home is your castle. It becomes your private place of sanctuary from the frenetic pace of daily life. It’s the place you raise your family, and for many homeowners, each corner of the home is a repository for memories both happy and sad.
You may look over at the couch by the window and recall the day your child took his or her first steps. Or, you may walk in the kitchen and remember how exhausted yet happy you were cooking a holiday meal for your extended family and friends.
A home seller is someone who has managed to disconnect the emotional ties binding him or her to the property, even though he or she may be living there. Ideally, home sellers can objectively manage the cleaning, organizing and any improvements necessary to sell the home for the best possible price because they don’t feel bad about making last-minute changes to they’ve lived for any number of years.
Flipping the emotional switch can be tricky, and agents say some homeowners who decide to sell can’t do it. The result is many people sell homes to which they remain emotionally attached.
Which is why the Boston divorcee still drives past the home she lived in thirteen years after selling it. Or, why a family visiting Chicago decided to pretend they were active buyers in order to secure an appointment to see a home listed for sale that they had owned years before.
And why the sellers of that old farmhouse, who became distraught during a visit while the home was being renovated, came back two years later, now seven years after selling, to see how it all turned out.
Unlike stock market investments, which can be reduced to mere pieces of paper, a home is a place that takes on a life of its own. In a study several years ago, a Berkeley professor discovered that our homes reflect who we are as individuals or couples. Like us, a home needs regular and ongoing maintenance in order to stay in good working order. If something breaks, it needs to be fixed so that worse damage doesn’t happen. Landscaping needs to be maintained, both to provide adequate drainage but also to improve the exterior beauty of the home. Regular cleaning and polishing can make a house shine.
When we do these ordinary tasks, we are committing ourselves emotionally to the care, maintenance and upgrading of the place we spend most of our lives. No wonder it’s so hard to separate when it comes time to sell.
If you’re planning on selling in the next few months, work on severing your emotional times to your home. Start by remembering that a house is just four walls, a roof and a ceiling. A home is where your heart is.