The Selling Process: Mentally Preparing To Sell

The typical seller in the United States lives in their home for 13 years before putting it up for sale—and New Yorkers are even more loyal, with most recent estimates clocking in near 15 years. No matter where you live though, the prospect is daunting. Most potential sellers spend more than six months just thinking about selling.

Just a small percentage of national sellers are putting a home on the market that they’ve lived in for fewer than three years and that roughly accords with what we see in New York. Here, the main drivers for selling seem to hinge on the space factor—with a divorce prompting a move or a new child requiring another bedroom. Yet, once the hard decision has been made, most sellers wish they’d started the process sooner. Why? Well, lifestyle changes aside, you’re probably going to have to make a few improvements on a space to get the most out of your investments and all those minor (and sometimes major) repairs and fixes add up and it can make an already challenging time more difficult.

Younger sellers tend to be more involved in the sale of their home on every front, engaging in more selling activities and enlisting the help of an agent while also doing their own research into everything from list prices to agent reviews.Those who put in the effort to spruce up their homes before the sale are often rewarded with sale prices that are above list price. Nearly a quarter of sellers (22 percent) who make improvements sell above list price, compared with 16 percent of sellers who don’t.

A decision to sell isn’t taken lightly

Before putting their homes on the market, sellers spend about seven months on average thinking about their decision. The older the seller, the longer the time spent thinking, with the oldest generation spending twice as much time as the youngest sellers to commit to selling their home. On average, Millennials spend five months in contemplation, Gen Xers spend six months, Boomers spend eight months and Silent Gen sellers spend 10 months.

Momentous events drive many sales

The relatively brief time Millennials give to selling considerations may be due to rapid changes in their lives. Events that are likely to influence a move — marriage, having a child or a job relocation among them — happen with greater frequency in early adulthood than later in life.

For instance, 79 percent of Millennials and 68 percent of Gen Xers say they experienced a momentous life event in the past 12 months, compared with 58 percent of Boomers and 45 percent of Silent Generation sellers.

These events, when they occur, not only prompt a move but also typically shorten the time the average seller spends contemplating listing their home. In terms of time, a momentous event in the life of an average seller will reduce by two months the amount of time they ponder selling, compared with a seller who hasn’t experienced such an event.

Most homes need some TLC before listing

Part of the delay in deciding to sell may be due to the considerable logistics involved in uprooting, especially as it relates to the home repairs required to attract buyers and bring in a top-dollar sale. On average, sellers make 2.2 renovations or improvements to prepare to sell their home, with 79 percent of sellers making at least one improvement.

Painting the home’s interior is the most common update (36 percent of sellers do it), followed by landscaping the yard (29 percent), replacing or repairing carpeting or flooring (26 percent), and making improvements to the bathroom (also 26 percent). Only 21 percent of sellers list their home as-is.

Younger sellers are more likely to make improvements prior to selling: 90 percent of Millennials did at least one renovation or improvement, compared with 85 percent of Gen Xers, 69 percent of Boomers and 59 percent of Silent Gen sellers.

The hassle factor

Anyone selling a house knows there’s a mile-long to-do list before they can pull up stakes. Getting rid of stuff, some of it accumulated over decades, is the most difficult task for sellers — 23 percent rate “decluttering” as difficult or very difficult.

Other chart-toppers on the list of hassles: accommodating buyers who want to pick and poke through a seller’s home (22 percent say it’s difficult or very difficult to vacate the premises for tours and open houses) and making often-costly exterior repairs (18 percent of buyers find this difficult or very difficult).

Activities that sellers have an easier time with may involve a helping hand from agents. These include taking photographs of the home (76 percent say this is easy or very easy) and getting video or other media taken of the home (70 percent say this is easy or very easy).

Ultimately, the decision to sell your home is as much of an emotional decision as it is a financial one. You’re the only one who knows what you have the capacity to handle – but just know, you never have to do it alone! Get in touch if you want any pointers, and we’d be happy to help set you up with a team that is destined for success.


If you’re interested in learning more about the selling process, download our free Seller’s Guide. We share a ton of valuable resources to demystify the selling process and help you along this emotional journey.

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