Of Two Minds:   Getting Your Yah-Yah’s and Your No-No’s  Out 

Dear Tom:

We’ve been back to the same house a few times and we think we want to make an offer. Every time we visit though, we notice a strange feeling that’s difficult to describe. The house doesn’t show very well. The Sellers don’t seem interested in giving it any curb appeal or cleaning it up. They act like they don’t really care if it sells. Why put a house on the market if you don’t want to sell it? This has given us pause and we can’t quite get over the hump. There’s something invisible holding us back. Any thoughts?

ON HOLD

DEAR HOLD:
Hang on a second… I know I’ve experienced the same nagging voices in my head dozens of times. What exactly are those Sellers trying to tell us anyhow?

Ah, bingo! Thanks for waiting. I think I’ve got it now. Hopefully I can explain “it” in a way that makes sense.

You are intuitively picking up on hidden clues the Sellers have left littered around their house like brightly colored Easter eggs. And your own sense of disconnect is rising in direct proportion to their heightened state of ambi-valence. (Note that I’m using a hyphenated “ambi-valence” here to illustrate the concept a little better.  Think flip-flop, push-pull or yes-no-maybe.)

The definition of ambivalence is: ” simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings towards an object or action.”  Ambi-valence expressed in the most basic fundamental real estate terms sounds something like this: “Yes! I really want to sell my house!! But to tell you the honest truth, there’s something in me that doesn’t want to let it go!!!”  And I’m going to make sure that Buyers get the message!!!! One way or another!!!!!”

Ambi-valence comes part and parcel with lots of big life changes and home sales.  Sometimes the underlying cause is obvious – like divorce situations where one spouse still lives in the house and doesn’t want to leave. The house is really only half for sale. The other half may see it as a demonstration lab for all the unresolved emotions still roiling around on the ex-homefront.

Often,  Sellers are uncomfortably unaware of their own deeper feelings. The ones that are silently shouting behind closed doors. All walled and balled and locked-down inside them. Perhaps they aren’t in touch with their own grief about leaving a place they’ve loved and nurtured. Or their own fear about life’s scary changes. Or their anger about the unfairness that’s forcing such an unexpected passage. Perhaps they are having trouble packing up and organizing all their old baggage.

Offering a home for sale and putting it on display to the world affords Sellers all kinds of creative opportunities to express subtle emotions and mis-directions they might not even know they are entertaining.  There are plenty of ways they can get their yah-yah’s and no-no’s out.  The ambi-valence list is legendary.

Mysteriously there’s never any time to wash the dishes or make the beds.  Somehow, the lawnmower broke and I can’t find anyone to fix it.  I really did mean to change that old kitty litter box but somehow I forgot.  And let me just say that I don’t care whether anyone likes my antique doll collection. Or the black paint in the bedroom. And why should I get up off the couch while Wheel of Fortune is on, just because someone wants to come through the house?  If they really like it, they can see past it all. If they really want it, they can make an offer.

HOLD, it is almost impossible to separate the sale of a home from the larger changes Sellers are going through. If Sellers aren’t dealing with their transition issues gracefully or if they are ignoring them altogether, you are probably going to find yourself on the receiving end of some ambi-valence.

What can you do about it?  You have to become a little ambi-dextrous and go through a few mental gymnastics to dodge the stumbling blocks they toss in your way.  Start by checking their emotions at their door next time you walk through the house.  And don’t forget to check-in with your own while you are at it.

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