If we’re lucky, the family home from childhood stays with the family through adulthood, bringing relatives together and creating lifelong memories. With these attachments, it can be especially difficult when it comes time to sell it. These tips can help soothe the sting as you let go of a beloved home.
1. Grieve the loss
It’s not easy walking away from a family home full of memories, especially if the sale marks a transition or the family is splintering off to find homes of their own. So allow yourself and other relatives the space to grieve — and know that, while painful, this can also be a chance to make new memories elsewhere.
“Selling your childhood home can be like saying goodbye to a loved one,” says Tiago Ferreira, founder and broker of Authentic Real Estate Team, a real estate brokerage in Orlando, Florida. “It’s also an exciting opportunity to start a new chapter in your life.”
2. Appoint a go-to family member
You and your siblings have all agreed to sell the home, but that doesn’t mean all of you have to agree on everything related to the sale. If possible, choose one person to be the decision-maker, recommends Mark Severino, a real estate investor in Dallas.
“Many people may want to be involved and create a chaotic situation by making decisions that contradict each other,” says Severino. “With the current housing market, time is always of the essence. Having only one person who is the point of contact for all decisions, negotiations, signatures, etc., will make the whole process far more simple.”
3. Lean on your real estate agent
Real estate agents work with clients in all sorts of scenarios, including when it’s time to let go of a childhood home. Your agent can help you deal with all pre-listing details, especially if selling the home is taking its toll emotionally.
“Getting your childhood home ready for market is a huge undertaking, but hiring a Realtor to handle the logistics can take much of the weight off your shoulders while you prep your home,” Ferreira says.
Alternatively, if you’re eager to part with the home quickly or avoid the process of preparing and listing a home for sale, you might consider seeking an offer from an iBuyer. These cash offers don’t require you to make repairs or do any prep work and allow you to close fast if you want to. In addition, these companies charge a service fee similar to an agent’s commission, but also offer the certainty of a sale on your timeline.
4. Maintain realistic expectations
Emotions can easily cloud judgment, and you might not be able to see the home for its true value when it’s been in the family for many years. Try to remain impartial, even if you disagree with your real estate agent’s pricing strategy, the appraiser’s valuation, or an iBuyer’s offer.
If working with an agent, remember that your agent is there to “help remove emotional bias and set a realistic price tag on your family home,” explains Jeff Johnson, an agent and investor based in La Plata, Maryland.
“It’s natural to want to get as much money as possible for a home that has been in your family for generations, but remember that the market is what it is,” adds Rinal Patel, a real estate investor in Philadelphia. “You may have to be willing to accept a lower price than you’d like.”
5. Stay objective when preparing the listing
There might be some fixing-up that needs to happen before you put the family home on the market, especially if maintenance has fallen by the wayside or the decor’s outdated. While it can be cathartic to gradually sort through belongings and make repairs or updates, the home’s carrying costs can make this impractical financially, so check your emotions if you can.
Cleaning and freshening up the home can actually be beneficial, Severino points out.
“It is amazing what a new coat of paint will do to freshen up the property and psychologically distance a person from their place,” says Severino. “Remember the final scene in the beloved TV show Friends? ‘Was this place always purple?’ If the bedroom you grew up with was painted a completely different color, you will automatically mentally distance yourself from the memories there.”
If the home contains many sentimental items, consider hanging on to some smaller possessions and donating or selling larger furnishings.
“You may want to keep some of your childhood memories, but you don’t need to keep all of the furniture and decorations,” Patel suggests.
While leaving the family home behind can feel like losing your memories, the process can also represent new beginnings. So whether you decide to put your home on the market or obtain an instant offer, give yourself time to deal with any emotions that come up, make sure you’re in alignment with other family members and stay objective about the numbers.