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5 “Emergencies” That Are Actually Normal When Selling Your Home

Charles Cherney

Passionate about teaching after graduating from Harvard, I ultimately found myself drawn into the world of real estate in Cambridge and Somerville...

Passionate about teaching after graduating from Harvard, I ultimately found myself drawn into the world of real estate in Cambridge and Somerville...

Mar 11 5 minutes read

If there’s a mantra every first-time seller should memorize, it’s this: Expect the unexpected. While your realtor is going to educate you about the process of selling your home and share their thoughts about how the sale could go based on what’s going on in your market right now, no two sales are exactly alike. That’s because there is any number of issues that can come up at any point that can affect anything from your timeline to your budget. 

When these issues pop up to you, the first-time seller, they feel like an emergency. You worry that you won’t be able to sell your home, or that maybe you’ve made a terrible mistake, or even worry just because your realtor is 100% calm about the situation that’s sending you into overdrive.

Turns out they’re calm for a reason. Some issues are so common that experienced agents build these little setbacks into their timeline. Here’s a quick list of just a few of the most common surprises:

5. Staging your home

However tactfully communicated, few people enjoy hearing that their current furniture is going to turn off potential buyers, that most of their personal treasures (family photos, heirlooms, antiques, etc.) need to be put in storage and that they need to do an epic declutter before they can sell their home. It’s a little embarrassing and might push back your timeline. You might think: “They should be looking at the home, not my fun run memorabilia.”

Yet the cliched reactions of reality show home buyers are how many real-life buyers actually react. They do focus on paint color instead of room size, lighting instead of location, decor choices instead of layout, etc. Plus, the more “stuff” in a room, the smaller it will feel. 

Staging isn’t about judging your possessions. It's about helping buyers see themselves living in the space. If your Realtor is gently suggesting a lot of staging, understand that it’s probably because your home’s present state isn’t going to allow buyers to do that. 

4. Spending money to fix a problem you didn’t even notice

A move is going to stretch your budget, even if you own your home outright and are experiencing a seller’s market in your area. So, when your Realtor suggests having a carpenter check on the squeaky floorboards that you’ve tuned out over the years, and a team of painters to come by to take your walls from beige to eggshell white, and an electrician to address the 10-second delay with your front door light, you’re probably more than a little frustrated. After all, you’ve lived with all of this, is it really going to be a big deal?

Your Realtor is coming into your home with the instinctive knowledge of what buyers always notice. Fixing little things makes a big difference.

3. Adjusting your marketing timeline

Major snowstorm? Unexpected state of emergency declared? Or one of your children home with the flu? Things happen. And you might need to adjust your schedule with regard to when you come on the market.

2. The buyer’s inspector basically wrote a book called “Everything is Wrong with This Home.”

This surprise really will send you into panic mode, because a heavy-handed inspection report seems like the precursor to a doomed sale. Your Realtor educated you about disclosures and asked you to fix some issues. And yet there’s somehow a bunch of problems. 

The issue comes down to the inspector. The buyer’s inspector might just be more rigrorous than others, or just likes to be exceedingly thorough when listing wear-and-tear issues. While a potential buyer can (and often will) use the inspection report to negotiate, your Realtor will offer guidance on what requests are reasonable and what aren’t. 

1. You had a buyer…and now you don’t.

The sale couldn’t have gone smoother. You had a few offers, found a great buyer, had a contract signed and you were done…or so you thought. Welcome to the contingency period, where anything can happen. Maybe the buyer’s financing falls through. Perhaps the buyers are a couple who suddenly decided they were incompatible. Maybe the inspector found the beginnings of a thriving termite neighborhood under your deck. Whatever the reason, the contract fell through and now you’re back on the market. 

While you can’t predict what can happen during the contingency period, you can mitigate some risk here beforehand. You may consider offers from buyers who opt for a visit with a home inspector before offers are due. Consider all aspects of the offers presented.

While we tried to outline a few common “emergencies” that can send a first-time seller’s heart racing…we know that every seller has different timelines and priorities.

If you’re unsure of how much you should be preparing your home for an upcoming sale, we’re here to listen to your concerns and help walk you through the process.

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