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Living Like a Guest in Your Own Home

Living Like a Guest in Your Own Home

By Darrin Friedman

For the first time in eight years, I find myself in the process of selling my own home. I have one word for it: chaos.

The stager has made my home look really fabulous in photos -- I will grant you that -- but she has also created an environment so sterile and pristine that it is utterly unlivable, especially for a family with kids. How are we supposed to cook dinner, or do homework, or brush our teeth without ruining all the careful cooktop-degreasing and counter-emptying that has gone on around here?!? Then there's our agent, who kindly reminds us that it will all be okay if we do exactly what she says. But blindly following directions from her is not exactly easy for me, considering that I’ve been in this business for 12 years ... and I used to manage her!

The simple truth is that I had forgotten what an emotional experience it is to list your home. And because it may have been a while since you were on the other side as well, here are some quick tips to remind you of what your clients go through on a daily basis, and how you can help them survive.

1. Encouragement — My wife has been killing herself getting our house ready for sale. It took more than two months of agony to do everything the stager recommended, and she is incredibly proud of the results, yet utterly exhausted by the process. So it nearly broke her heart when the agent came inside and immediately launched into a list of tasks that still needed to be done, rather than complimenting her on all her hard work thus far. Remember, our clients can become frayed by all the preparation we ask them to do. Decluttering isn't just time-consuming -- it's emotionally taxing. Sorting through years of accumulated memories and "neutralizing" rooms whose decor is highly personal can feel like the psychological equivalent of losing a limb. So giving your clients kudos for everything they have done well goes a long way toward keeping them feeling encouraged and optimistic about the process.

2. Constant Updates — Even when you don’t have anything to say, call. It makes a difference, because it gives the client peace of mind that everything that can be done is being done. You’d be shocked at how a simple 30-second phone call can make someone feel so much more at ease.

3. Empathy — There is nothing more important than the realization that the client is going through something extremely emotional. Don’t forget that one of your main jobs is to show empathy. You never know what is happening behind closed doors. The stress of cleaning, decluttering, staging, and packing is enormous. And that's not even taking into consideration the financial strain, the family pressures, the job worries, the daunting task of finding a new home, and all the keep-you-up-at-night fears about what the new home and neighborhood and life will be like. Give your clients all the emotional support you can muster. Trust me -- they need it!