It can be gut-wrenching to sell a home that evokes long years of fond memories.
But Sid Davis, an experienced real estate broker, advises those who must let go of a treasured property to find ways to keep emotions in check - even when buyers make critical comments about their place.
"People feel about their homes like they feel about their kids ... you're going to take it personally," he said.
Davis knows from personal experience how hard it can be to hear negative comments. A few years back, when he listed his family's house - a sprawling ranch-style place - he became incensed by strangers' remarks.
Indeed, the comments of strangers so upset Davis that he summarily rejected three offers made by would-be buyers who noted flaws in his house. Rather than negotiate with them, he simply wrote "no" on their bids.
"Because I'm a broker, I thought it would be super easy selling my own house. But my ego and emotions got in the way," said Davis, author of "A Survival Guide to Selling a Home."
The message is clear: If you want to sell your home quickly and for the highest possible price, stay calm and approach the process dispassionately. Here are a few pointers for sellers:
• Don't hide your feelings from your listing agent.
"There are as many kinds of agents just as there are clients. If you believe your agent isn't listening to you and grasping your feelings, make a change to another agent," said Dorcas Helfant, an experienced broker and owner of a real estate company.
Before your property is entered onto the Multiple Listing Service, Helfant says, you may wish to have a full discussion with the agent and to vent your feelings.
"Be honest. It's beneficial for everyone involved if the agent understands the feelings around your selling decision. A caring agent will help you navigate a rocky transition," says Helfant, a former president of the National Association of Realtors (www.realtor.org).
• Avoid direct contact with home shoppers.
"Because selling a family house can be especially painful - not only for the parents but also the children - it's a challenge for the sellers to keep thinking in a businesslike way. You need to protect everyone in the family as much as possible," Helfant says.
One way to help protect the family from unpleasant remarks is to make sure everyone is absent when visitors come through, he says. As soon as your property is shown for sale, you can assume some visitors will say and do things that puncture your pride.
To ensure that your selling process stays on track, you need feedback about buyers' reactions to your home. But it's less hurtful if these comments are filtered through your listing agent, he says.
• Remove personal items before your home is shown to visitors.
If you're like most homeowners, you view your place as a sanctuary and an appropriate place to display treasured items. These might include a wide array of collectibles - like valuable glassware inherited from your grandmother - or one-of-a-kind memorabilia, such as sports trophies or war medals. They could also include many family photos, political, religious or artistic items.
Helfant urges you to remove such items before your house goes on the market. Not only might they elicit unkind remarks from visitors, but they could deflect attention from the property itself.
There's yet another reason to remove your treasures: security. Why risk the chance your precious belongings could be damaged or stolen?
• Expect comments from neighbors if your place is slow to sell.
If your home languishes on the market for an unexpectedly long time, your emotions can intensify, a situation made worse if nosy neighbors intervene and start asking questions.
"People in the community begin to panic when a home takes a long time to sell. You can assume neighbors will come over and ask what's wrong. They fear an unsold home will hurt their property values, and they'll take their fears to your doorstep," Davis said.
You may feel unfairly ambushed if neighbors begin making inquiries. But, as he says, try not to become defensive and begin blaming a "bad market" for your problem.
"The most constructive reaction to these unpleasant questions is to look into the real reasons your place hasn't sold," Davis said.
• Don't allow your emotions to keep you from making needed upgrades.
"If your house is correctly priced and you live in one of those top-of-the-food-chain neighborhoods, yet people still aren't making offers on your house, the reason is probably condition. The odds are your house is dirty, smells bad, is cluttered or looks bad from the curb," Davis said.
Before resorting to a big price cut on your unsold home, Davis urges you to ask your listing agent, along with trusted friends and family members, to go through the place and give you their frank reactions in a diplomatic way.
Rather than taking such critiques personally, as many owners do, try to follow any suggestions that can reasonably be made and do so promptly.
"It won't necessarily cost that much to make your home show a whole lot better. Cleaning, painting, de-cluttering and a little yard work can make a world of difference for very little money," Davis said.
Ellen James Martin, a former real estate editor at The Baltimore Sun, gives advice for anyone buying, selling or financing a home.