On the Home Front


A Lesson in Listening

A twist on the real estate forum … not intended for those who need graphs, statistics or numbers to define an industry.


By Vallerie Torelli

Often I am asked to assist in preparing a property for market, and was asked to do so recently by a women whose father had built the home. She had grown up there, returning year after year for reunions, holidays with her extended family and all the special occasions that make a birthplace so special.

With the passing of both parents she and her siblings were left with the emotional task of disposing of a lifetime of memories.

I noted all the areas that required attention, provided contact information for contractors to assist if she wanted quotes, arranged for estimates from a clean-out crew …. everything I knew from experience that would help with the overwhelming task of divesting a semi-neglected property.

After several weeks of clean up on our part, on a very tight budget, we were ready to place the home on the market. The price we had discussed was increased disproportionately by a very emotional daughter, and we were no longer even remotely competitive, price-wise.

The other sales in the area did not matter.

“This is the house I grew up in,” was her refrain on any of my talking points.

I explained that this did not impact the value of the property, which fell on deaf ears. After a protracted conversation of data, strategy, and numbers, with no movement from the seller, she almost shouted, “You are not understanding what this is all about, you don’t really hear what I am saying.”

Realizing there was a huge disconnect on my part, I stopped cold. I was so sure of my numbers, of being right, I had completely dismissed the very essence of why I was there – to sell the house, sure, but more then that, to be part of the process of her letting go of an entire 50-plus-year family history.

Expecting her to be ready in a few short weeks simply because the house was ready was unrealistic on my part. I actually felt ashamed about my lack of sensitivity.

Finally, I said, “Share with me what you want to happen and how you want it to happen for you.”

I could feel the entire room shift. You know what I am speaking about: when all of a sudden it feels like a new energy has filled the room and has lightened up the moment. By giving up my focus on numbers and listening, really listening, to what was important to her, the emotions that were driving us to a non-productive space were changed.

For the next hour we spoke of what the house had been like in the past, family memories, both bitter and sweet. All talk centered around what a home means, what a truly sacred place it can be.

This then reminded me to think of what a privilege it is to be entrusted with the “letting go” process – to be part of a deeper experience, once I shifted my mind’s eye to the bigger picture.

There was no price reduction then; that came in time, when she felt she had given her family its best shot and I had honored her, and the home.

I, in turn, felt a renewed sense of purpose: I choose to be awake in every conversation, to deliver an experience where everyone feels empowered, important, heard.

Now, that’ s something to write home about.

Valerie Torelli is the owner of Torelli Realty and has been involved in the real estate conversation for 25 years. Please email me your thoughts, experiences, or comments to Valerie@torellirealty.com.