What I learned selling my own house, and why we revamped our client experience
Is there anything more agonizing than selling your own home?
A home is a sanctuary, the place we rest our heads every day and the foundation for so many memories.
Giving up a house can feel like giving away a piece of your heart.
Through my 20 years as a homeowner and realtor, I’ve only moved twice. In both cases, I held on to the former home as an income property. This was the first time I actually had to say goodbye to a house.
What I discovered was enlightening, to say the least.
Right off the bat, I made an all-too-common rookie mistake: I placed sentimental value on the house and overvalued it by at least 5%. You would think I’d know better after nearly two decades helping people buy and sell homes, but I’m only human after all.
Second, people no-showed on me out of the blue. I got to experience that infuriating moment when you realize that you or your partner cleaned up the house, raced home to be on schedule, only to be left waiting with not so much as a phone call.
Then, there were the super short-notice showings. Race home, get kicked out of your home for a few hours, have people look at it for a full five minutes, only to inform you that their own house isn’t listed yet and they’re not totally decided between a house, a condo, or a life somewhere out in the country.
Once we did have some meaningful showings, most of the feedback we got was completely obvious and unproductive. Oh, your client needed a flat back yard?
Were the 15 pictures showing a hillside property not enough to help you disqualify the house and save all of us from completely upending our schedules?
Seemingly benign things like the distant hum of road noise came up as objections. We were baffled. We hadn’t considered road noise at all when we bought the house - or while we lived in it - but it turned into a deal breaker.
Even worse, people will come to your open house and tell you they “absolutely love it!” when the truth is they’re just being polite and don’t want to say no to your face.
Meanwhile, you’ll get the false impression that an offer is on the way, but they never call back (kind of like dating).
Then, you’ll meet strangers who spend more time looking at your stuff and analyzing your personal life than they do looking at the actual home.
Over time, my wife and I began to wonder if we’d ever sell the house. We started taking it personally when people weren’t interested in the home that we loved so dearly.
Eventually, we just got frustrated and started to look for something to blame. But when you’re your own selling agent, there’s nowhere else to point the finger.
After about 30 showings, we started getting really tired. We were just two people with no kids, full-time jobs, and the luxury of not having to move in a single day.
I can’t fathom how families with kids in tow are able to pull off the miracle of delivering flawless home showings for months on end.
We finally did get a great offer on the home, only to have it fall apart over some very minor items during the home inspection.
The emotional roller coaster was real. Thinking that you’ve sold your home, only to realize you’re back at square one is a real punch in the gut.
As a selling agent, it’s part of the daily grind: one out of five deals falls apart. When it happens, it doesn't shock us or stop us from getting the best deal. As a seller, that’s a different story.
Eventually, we found a great buyer for the home and firmed up the sale. Time to celebrate? Perhaps briefly, but then reality sinks in. There’s some serious work to do after closing the deal.
Next, you’ll physically pack up all of your belongings. You’ll ask yourself questions like:
Where did all of this stuff come from? Will I ever wear this Halloween costume again? Whose idea was it to buy an elliptical machine?
Then you’ll put faith in a moving company to handle your worldly possessions with care – and hopefully not break anything.
Finally, the time comes to leave the old nest behind and start a new chapter. Now you can relax, pour yourself a generous glass of wine, and imagine life in your new surroundings.
Was it worth it in the end? You bet.
Would I like to do it again? Not for another 20 years, thank you very much.
Going through the trials and tribulations of selling my house gave me a new empathy for my clients that I couldn’t fully appreciate before.
I have been party to thousands of home transactions in my career, and like a doctor who becomes desensitized to the trauma of the emergency room, I had become desensitized to the trauma of having to sell your own home.
Right after moving, I went back to the drawing board to design a client experience that alleviates the worst pain points in managing a real estate sale.
We implemented comprehensive home selling checklists that ensure no detail gets overlooked from start to finish. We created the Moving Concierge role in our support team to organize boxes, movers, cleaners, and to handle details like change of address.
Then, we developed a new client feedback system that gets more valuable information from our showing agents so that we could provide useful, actionable intelligence.
We created a Market Plan Review — Every three weeks, we sit face to face with our clients and review the marketing and promotion strategy.
Next, we review the feedback and consider potential improvements we can make to the property to appeal to buyers, and lastly we review the price of the sales that have taken place as well as the new homes that have hit the market since we listed to ensure our price is still competitive.
This market plan review is precisely the communication point that has been missing in our industry.
I am extremely grateful for having gone through the emotional toil of selling our family home. It was a not-so-subtle reminder of how stressful moving and selling can be.
I know that it’s made me a better agent, and my agency benefits equally.
But if there’s anything we can take home from this rant, it’s that moving really does suck.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.