Controlling Your Emotions to Successfully Buy or Sell Real Estate

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by Paula Pagano

Controlling Your Emotions to Successfully Buy or Sell Real Estate

Buying or selling real estate is an emotional undertaking, and the pandemic has just added more stress to this life-changing process. In my forty years as a Realtor I have seen how negative emotional responses can derail a deal, or, conversely, can get a property sold. Deals are made or broken on emotion. My bailiwick is the San Francisco Bay Area, but the challenges I see today are not unique to my area: colleagues in New York, Los Angeles and everywhere in between report similar roadblocks with their buyers and sellers due to emotional responses that are not always rational.

A big element in the current marketplace is the huge exodus of renters and buyers leaving big city high rises, because of its high density risk and current lack of city amenities. But many sellers are still stubbornly unwilling to face the reality of a lower purchase price than they hoped for, and blame Realtors for a lack of results. As a Realtor I had to learn to control my own emotions first and foremost. There were people I worked for long and hard who suddenly switched to another agent. There were clients whose properties urgently needed to be uncluttered or staged—and refused.

In my book, Getting the Property Soul’D: A Breakthrough System for Successful Stress-Free Buying and Selling, I offer real stories of people trying to buy or sell a house who let their feelings dictate their business decisions, losing themselves lucrative business transactions. In these uncertain times, these lessons apply more than ever. People are on the move—many of those in apartments now working from home are cramped and desire more office space as well as outside space. In addition, people who live in large houses are looking to downsize, whether for financial reasons or due to life’s many milestones—such as death, divorce or an empty nest. And then there are real estate investors who can no longer rent their units at a break-even cost and are forced to sell.

Even though this pandemic has made it more difficult to sell real estate and is much more burdensome and stressful, I constantly remind myself to take emotion out of the equation and help my clients focus on the final goal: getting the property of their choice at an affordable price or selling their property for top dollar. I understand that making a big lifestyle change such as moving is fraught with emotion, and try my best to help clients through this challenging and constantly changing process.

Last Spring buyers were hesitant about jumping into the unknown real estate market, and the transactions were almost nonexistent. But as months wore on people realized there was a light at the end of the tunnel and became more confident.  Then the market shifted—especially for more spacious properties with outdoor space. However, there are buyers out there now unwilling to make an offer above the asking price and are stuck in last year’s spring “Deal Market.” I calmly explain that with a low housing supply where the jobs and amenities are the demand is greater. Agreeably all of us will not be going back to our offices, but many of us will. Not everything can be accomplished on Zoom, and not everyone wants to work from home. Also, with an unprecedented high stock market and low interest rates money is cheaper, which also contributes to this current fast-moving real estate market.

So how do emotions play into all this? Let me give you a telling anecdote where controlling his emotions helped a seller get more money than he ever imagined. It goes without saying that rooms must be neat and clean for a property to be shown, but making changes beyond that can bring up a good deal of emotional resistance for most sellers. In a client I’ll call Chase, his large home was filled to the brim with personal belongings associated with strong feelings and past memories. I suggested he let us come in and refresh the walls with some paint, rearrange some furniture, put some belongings in storage, and remove the framed family portraits that were everywhere. “Why is this so necessary?” he balked. “I enjoy my things the way they are. This is still my house,” he said.

I told him to think of his home as a means of getting himself onto his next phase in life. In truth, when you decide to sell your home, you need to let go in order to move on.  None of this fully registered until I reminded him of his goal: to get the highest price possible so he could retire. As I emphasized to Chase, depersonalizing your home and making it look as fresh and bright as possible will bring you a better price. “Buyers want open spaces now. They feel claustrophobic with having to stay in all the time,” I told him. A good Realtor can help clients create such a desirable space, usually with only modest modifications.

Chase finally agreed, although some possessions remained, including the framed picture of his wife on his bedside table. Thankfully the rusty bathroom cabinet and old-fashioned sconces were replaced with modern fixtures, and we emptied out most of his bulky antique furniture. The result: his house sold for $160,000 over, with multiple offers.

My bottom line for anyone when it comes to real estate negotiating: take one step at a time and remain positive. Each step taken, no matter how small, is one step closer to successfully closing the negotiation. There are a lot more stories and suggestions in my book. I hope you’ll read it, and feel free to contact me with any questions or comments on

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 Paula Pagano is a public speaker, business coach, author and widely respected, award-winning real estate professional with Corcoran Global Living San Francisco California.  A frequent keynote speaker and media guest for her expertise in real estate, she is especially adept at helping people find affordable apartments and homes in even the most difficult markets. Her website is

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