The Emotional Impact of Selling Your Family Home

“Home is where the heart is”, goes the saying. And selling a beloved home can feel like years of memories and a neighbourhood of friendships have been taken away. If the sale involves a life change, every twist of the process can feel like more salt in the wound.

Selling your home can be bittersweet if you’re upgrading to a larger home, relocating closer to family, or accepting a promising new job — you’re moving on to something better, even as you lose a beloved space. In other instances, the home selling process can be distressing if you’re grieving a major life change or are downsizing.

One of the most nostalgic, overwhelming experiences in my career was the day my parents decided to sell the family home – the only home my brothers and I ever grew up in. I represented the sale – let’s face it, who would know this home better than I would – although I probably knew it too well.

I had my moments; it was only natural. This campaign was a battle between business & also opening MY family home to hungry potential critical purchasers who had no idea the feeling of attachment I had in my stomach (or maybe it was written all over my face, who knows).

Fault finding buyers I deal with every day and the analytics of converting a concern into money, but when it’s your own – ouch – do you get a better emotional understanding of this experience. This home felt like an extension of myself and selling it was like I was giving away a piece of childhood identity as though I was taking something away from my parents by handing it over (at a price) to the next purchaser.

Let’s get down to a little biology first. A growing body of research equates memory to space. Physical space can be tied to memory, and that space where memories have been made can carry more value than any monetary figure. That can also make it hard to let go of that space, especially when it comes in the form of selling a home. In a nutshell, selling a family home is hard.

There was the emotional grind of hearing my mum say “You just don’t forget the house you grew your children up in.” But all I could do is laugh when I think of the fact that there are probably still ninja turtle figurine nunchucks stuck in the floorboards from turtle power battles with my brothers as kids and there may or may not be a fake moustache from Mr Potato head in a ducted heating vent.

The home selling process itself can be an unpredictable rollercoaster. There are specific parts of the process where emotions are more likely to flare up and having my own parents go through it themselves has made be me really want to share them.

Deciding the sale price. A home full of memories may have high value to you, and you may want to set a high price. But your price should be valued based on the measurable attributes of the house, not on the number of ninja weapons in between the floorboards. Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to a home sale. Don’t take it personally when people don’t love the house you’re selling. It only takes one person or family to love it as much you do. And that’s exactly what will happened.

Prepping for sale. As you begin organising your belongings and preparing your home for sale, memories you’ve made in each space could flood in. Try to give yourself extra time to prep, so you can pause and reflect when it feels necessary. Ultimately, your goal is to remove personal items and minimise the amount of décor in your home. The idea is that anyone walking through should be able to picture themselves living in the home.

Engaging with prospective buyers. Buyers may not feel the same way about your house as you do. You might overhear them commenting on the original kitchen. They might share plans to change aspects of the house that you don’t agree with. The reality is that prospective buyers have needs and desires that mean something to them, and are hoping to find a home that fits their criteria to create memories that you once did in that very same spot.

Going back and forth on negotiations. Expect negotiations. Even if it’s an auction process, the home could just need more time. Not everything always happens in the space of 4 weeks. It’s not about rushing it; it’s about making the process as least nerve-wracking as possible and it’s helpful to remember that this is what MANY homeowners go through during the traditional home selling process. Work with your emotions, rather than against them.

Understand that emotions will fluctuate throughout the process. A buyer backing out or a bank valuation causing a roadblock isn’t personal, it’s the process.

Be patient. Selling a home the traditional way doesn’t always happen quick smart. Even if you have a contract, things like overlays, council and mortgage lending can get in the way. It’s very common for emotions like frustration and worry to surface throughout the journey, especially if it’s lengthy. “Anticipate that everything will take two to three times longer than they say,” or at least it will feel this way!

Final thoughts…

As hard as it might be to sell your home, your next stop will also become a home—filled with laughter, good times and sweet memories. You will notice the surprise that comes with a new place and how the calm at home will ripple through your life no matter where you are. It’s usually a case of the nerves until you find your next destination, and once you know where you’re going you will start to picture yourself in the new place and the excitement of something different. Selling a home is one of the biggest financial and emotional decisions you’ll make. Do your best to soak in every moment, because it in itself will be a memory. By knowing how emotions affect your decision-making, you can make the best choices.

With heart, Nikki