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

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