I Recently Sold a Home, and I Cried on Settlement Day.
The grief of selling a home is real.
This article is also equally as relevant to renters, of who need to move on from such a rental home for whatever reason. Reasons for leaving a home are not necessarily due to terrible experiences happening in your life. They also have nothing to do with having a shortfall of cash. Positive experiences are also causes of needing to move from living and/or owning any form of home (investment or otherwise), where ample memories that are unique to you have been created.
The settlement day pertaining to the sale of my investment home was on Friday the 30th of September 2022, and it was pushed forward by two weeks, despite being a fairly "quick" sale. This is a stroke of good luck, considering that three contracts were rescinded prior, for a multitude of reasons. I can definitely tell you that selling a home is like having another full-time job. I quickly learnt last Friday that the grief of letting go of a home; one of which yours truly has owned for over 16 years is palpable. On the overall scheme of things, I lived in that home twice before, yet only for just under a third of the total time of ownership of this property, while I was (and still am) nothing but grateful to have been given the opportunity to keep this home vacant for five months until the settlement came through. On he flip side, I did not cry when I purchased this home fresh out of my studies 16 years prior. Then again, buyers also have feelings, and they too can cry over their purchase. I digress.
The tears were only light at the onset, from an early rise on what was a cold and wet Spring morning, when the second train (I had to catch two trains from my current home to attend to this property to clean it up) brought up a few little tears when the destination was getting close. It is not the home itself that owners and tenants get attached to; but rather the emotions brought on by the memories and experiences of living in that home. This is something that many real estate agents are slow at latching onto.
Within the second of (finally) making it back home, the tears were heavy, and hence way heavier than the rain spitting outside. Around 30-45 minutes of non-stop tears were streaming down my face, with red eyes to prove it; not to mention a headache and dry, sore eyes for a few days, as at the time of writing this.
According to a news source from CNBC, real estate firm Zillow conducted a poll of over 1,000 people over the age of 18, of who sold a home. The results will shock you, just as much as the tears stemming from the sale of this investment home on settlement day only made me realise that such statistics definitely tell the truth. A total of 36% of adults surveyed admit to crying as a result of the sale of their home during the process, at any point from the pre-sale renovation phase (if applicable) to the listing and then settlement process. On that, 20% of this total cried five times or more during and/or at the end of the sales process.
It really goes to show that for me personally, selling a home is a significant and stressful life event. These tears are not solely coming out for sentimental and emotional reasons; but rather on the back of a stressful sale, despite having an agent who is in tune with the market, and most of all, is stellar at meeting the needs of the vendor and buyer respectively.
Despite having a great agent from the start; I personally found that the overall experience of selling a property is way more stressful than a divorce, or even a break up.
Towards the end of my tears drying out, as I hop out of one of elevators in my apartment building to head outside for some fresh air; the concierge on duty was asking me if I was ok, while I was holding a bundle of mail for the postman to return to sender, as some old tenants at that property had failed to update said address with such mail senders.
There is no sugarcoating it. Selling a home is stressful, and truth be known, it can (and is) more stressful than competing with other applications for a coveted rental home. You do not know the final sale price. Offers fall through. People nitpick your home. You need to have thick skin, as no one appreciates your home as much as you would in that situation. What about if the house does not sell? Heaven forbid, houses do not, and if that happens, you have to fork out the marketing bill regardless. Therefore, if you cry on settlement day on either end (as a buyer or seller); please do not be hard on yourself. It all makes sense. It does not help if your work (whether self employed, and/or you work for others) adds extra pressure on you during the process. If it is due to downsizing; that does not help either. And if the purchase of another home is reliant on the current home being sold in a timely manner. Furthermore, if work extend your contract longer than the initial duration of the original contract on the very same day, and therefore ask you to increase your hours at the same time, all the knowing that your business has "organically" grown from putting said house on the market; it is a compliment, and a punishing insult all rolled into one. In other words: s-t-r-e-s-s-f-u-l.
On settlement day; on either end of the relationship, you just need to concentrate on that. Thankfully in my case, the settlement itself on the early settlement day was a smooth process, and it happened a few minutes ahead of schedule. Despite settlement happening on a Friday, with a public holiday to happen the following Monday; the windfall of funds (capital gains after fees pertaining to the sale) have swiftly landed in my bank accounts; and trust me on this, it is like being given permission to just instantly rip the band aid off, and then you can sensibly drink some Kool-Aid. Why not. Same with buyers, and tenants moving from one home to another; you need to give yourself a bit of time off from work, so to process the emotions, and to allow the settling in process to work.
No different to the passing of a loved one; letting a property go for whatever reason (especially one that you might have owned for at least a decade) means that you will be grieving, and therefore the five stages of grieving is real. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. If the reason for the sale is bittersweet: in my case, to give me the space and time to grow my business; you reach the acceptance stage much faster, and thank goodness for arriving there as quick as a bullet train departs for its destination. The same bittersweet experiences would be true if upgrading, cashing in/retirement/working less as a result of the sale, as well as having to move for a new job. The same is also true if such a sale gives you the choice to relocate closer to family and/or other loved ones.
The aim is to always get to acceptance. That is trickier for downsizers, and those in mortgage distress, and perhaps for others on the verge of bankruptcy. The same is true for family court matters. I am grateful for not having to sell this particular home in Sydney, Australia for those not so positive reasons. It did not stop the tears on settlement day though.
The quality question to ask: how can we help ourselves in letting go of the emotional attachment of leaving a home we once loved (whether rental or otherwise)?
Home is where the heart is, and therefore it is wise to leave your mark. You can leave the new owner a gift (I left mine a few chocolates), as well as anything from the remaining cleaning products. Leaving a couple of diffusers also left my scent and mark, after 16 long years. There is no need to go overboard, as the new owner needs space to create their own memories. It is an end of an era for you, and a new beginning for them. Furthermore, if you are brave enough to, you can write a letter to the new owner. Keep it short and sweet. Just congratulate them on their new home purchase, and tell them that you enjoyed either living in the property and/or owning it. You can share a little memory, yet just be mindful that the new owner is not always that interested in your story, and that they want to create their own memories of their new home from the get go. You have no idea of the hard work and sacrifice that they had to endure, in order to save up the deposit etc. to buy this new home in the first place, for example. No different to renters in upgrading their rental home. Bonds do not save themselves.
You could gently take a flower from a garden. Otherwise it is great to take photos of the home, especially of the bedroom, and other memorable areas of the house. Even of some renovations that you were particularly proud of. In Australia, real estate listings are archived, and from time to time when nostalgia strikes; it will be nice to go through these images; even of ones where I was living in the property the second time round. Viewing these gives me gratitude for how far I have come in my personal space. Photos of the recent renovations were also posted to my instagram account.
House-warming parties are in vogue for both owners and tenants alike with new beginnings. They help you feel more at home, where you receive opportunities to celebrate with loved ones around you. On the other hand, house-cooling parties are great for homes that you are about to leave and/or to sell. Saying goodbye to a home in a positive way like that, can help take the sting off the end of an era, and in letting such a house go.
Having money in the bank is a source of luxury and comfort in high inflationary times. I am grateful that the funds cleared from the settlement in record time. Not that money brings me happiness, yet the unexpected form of abundance that manifested from the sale has enabled me to cut the tears, and to move on with my life sooner rather than later. Selling a vacant home has been a life changing experience, and now I can finally enjoy a deeper nights sleep when my head hits the pillow. Lavender oils optional.
Good luck with the sale or purchase of your next home. Even with the rental application of your ideal or dream rental home. As in life, and especially in tough real estate transactions; what does not kill you definitely makes you stronger. Such skills development, from diplomacy to negotiation will take you quite far in life.
About the author
UX Designer/Internet Moderator/Content Creator/Book Author
Lives in Sydney, Australia. Loves life.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme