Maybe you’ve recently become an empty nester and are looking to downsize, or perhaps you accepted a job offer in a new city. Whatever your motivation, you’re thinking about selling your home and moving on to greener pastures.
But before you dive in, it helps to know which home selling mistakes to avoid to help ensure you get a great offer, sell your property quickly, and facilitate a positive experience for yourself and prospective buyers.
Mistakes Home Sellers Should Avoid
Getting a home ready for the market is often stressful. And it’s even more so if you make these home selling mistakes. From neglecting curb appeal to using low-quality listing photos, avoid these pitfalls to have a more positive and profitable selling experience.
1. Not Pricing Realistically
Pricing your home can be tricky. While you certainly want to make a profit from the sale, you also have to be realistic about the value of your property. Price it too high and you’ll scare away potential buyers. Price it too low and you’ll be taking money out of your own pocket.
A good way to gauge how much to list your property for is to look at comparable homes in your neighborhood that have recently sold. Pay special attention to how they differ from yours to determine whether you should aim for a higher or lower sale price.
- Have either of the homes been renovated?
- Is one property bigger than the other?
- Does one home have upgrades the other doesn’t, like a pool or fenced yard?
Reviewing sold homes in your community will give you a feel for your house’s market value. If your home is in better condition than a comparable property or if it has desirable features another doesn’t, you may be able to price slightly higher. However, if your home is in worse shape you might need to settle for a lower asking price.
2. Not Staging Your Home
Staging your home doesn’t necessarily have to mean hiring a professional home stager. But it does mean that you should clean, declutter, and organize your home so that it’s visually appealing to potential buyers.
To prep your home to sell, consider:
- Applying a fresh coat of paint to your walls
- Keeping surfaces like counters, tables, and desks free of clutter
- Deep cleaning carpets and rugs
- Renting nice furniture or decorative pieces
- Landscaping or maintaining your yard, deck, or balcony
- Replacing outdated wallpaper
- Fixing damages to walls, flooring, and counters
If you have a lot of items to remove from your home, such as furniture or personal items, rent a storage locker as you declutter and organize. Store any items you want to keep for your new home so you can depersonalize and stage the one you’re selling.
Or, if you’re not interested in staging your home yourself, hire a professional to do it for you. Professional real estate stagers are well-versed in interior design and will be able to help you show off your home’s best assets.
If you choose not to opt for home staging at all, you risk giving prospective buyers a poor first impression. Disorganized clutter and too many personal items like family photos make it hard for others to picture themselves living in your home. Do your best to provide a neutral setting, where prospective buyers who come for showings can envision making the space their own.
3. Not Considering Closing Costs
One common home selling mistake is forgetting to incorporate these costs into your listing price or profit. Although some costs associated with closing a home sale are typically covered by homebuyers, most sellers still have to pay at least some closing costs.
Before choosing to put your home on the market, consider how much your closing costs will be. They can vary greatly based on where you live, the type and age of your property, and how you choose to sell your home.
Understanding how much you need to plan to spend before listing your house gives you a better idea of the price range you can afford and how much profit you’ll come away with.
4. Selling on Your Own
Selling a home on your own may seem like a great way to save money on realtor fees, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, it will cause unnecessary stress and may even lead to you losing money. If you choose to list your house as for sale by owner, be prepared to:
- Set up showings and open houses
- Negotiate offers and conditions
- Stage your own home
- Take high-quality photos of your home
- Write an appealing description of your property
- Advertise and market your listing
- Close the sale of the home on your own
Realtors have access to a variety of listing tools that homeowners don’t, such as the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a major real estate platform that offers property searches, history, and more. They also network with each other to find the right buyers as well as cover communications and paperwork between you and potential buyers during the home selling process.
While selling your home without a listing agent can save you money, it’s not a decision you should make lightly. Make sure you understand what FSBO means and the responsibilities you’ll be taking on. If you don’t have the know-how to sell yourself, consider looking for a good real estate agent instead.
5. Choosing the Wrong Real Estate Agent
Real estate agents aren’t all alike. The one you choose to sell your home can make or break how successful your home sale is. A good realtor can accelerate the sale of your home, get you better offers, and make the home selling process a breeze.
A bad real estate agent can cost you time, money, and showings.
To find a good realtor, look for someone who:
- Has experience in your neighborhood
- Has sold similar properties before
- Has a real estate license
- You feel comfortable working with
- Is a good communicator
- Understands your goals and priorities
- Has a proven track record of selling homes
Bonus points if they’re a member of a professional real estate organization like the National Association of Realtors.
Get referrals from your contacts and meet with a few realtors before choosing one to work with. It’s completely acceptable to shop around and take your time. After all, a lot is riding on your real estate agent when it comes to selling your property.
6. Taking Feedback Personally
Your home likely has sentimental value to you, even if you’re selling it. This makes it easy to take lowball offers or criticisms about the paint choices or yard size personally during open houses and showings.
But it’s important to remember that your home only has sentimental value to you, not to potential buyers. Try not to get offended during the selling process. It will only cloud your judgment and cause you to base any decisions you make off your emotions, not reason.
Emotionally driven decisions can force you to miss out on negotiations and offers, causing your home to stay on the market longer.
Detach yourself from your home by depersonalizing it, avoiding attending showings and open houses, and looking at offers or other negotiations from a logical standpoint. Treat selling your home like a business transaction.
Just because someone makes a lowball offer doesn’t mean the negotiation process is over. Counter with a higher number and take it from there.
7. Selling in the Wrong Season
The housing market typically starts to quiet down during the winter months. After all, who wants to move in the cold?
If you put your house on the market during the winter, chances are you’ll wind up with fewer viewings and lower offers.
Instead, list your home during peak real estate season, which starts in the spring and runs until early fall. At this time of year, the market is flooded with buyers looking to find a home and make it their own before the end of the year.
This ups your chances of getting an offer that reflects the true value of your home without having to factor in the weather and a sparse market.
8. Selling in a Buyer’s Market
In real estate, there are two distinct types of market: a buyer’s market and a seller’s market. A buyer’s market is when there are more homes listed than there are buyers. This enables buyers to negotiate lower offers and shop around to find the best deal.
In a seller’s market, there are more buyers looking to purchase a property than there are houses up for sale. This means buyers need to compete against one another to land a deal — often resulting in offers over your asking price.
If you have the luxury of waiting to list your home until you’re in a seller’s market, you’re certain to make top dollar for your property. At the very least, try not to sell in a buyer’s market unless you have to.
9. Using Poor Listing Photos
The listing photos you use for your home heavily influence a potential buyer’s first impression. And they use them to determine whether they want to bother booking a viewing or not.
If your listing photos are poor quality, you’re almost guaranteed to miss out on showings because they won’t appeal to buyers.
Bad listing photos:
- Are taken with a low-quality camera
- Have poor lighting (too bright or too dark)
- Don’t showcase a home’s best features
- Are taken before a home is cleaned and staged
- Only provide a few shots
Good listing photos:
- Are taken with a professional camera
- Take advantage of natural light
- Showcase a home’s best features, including renovations, upgrades, or landscaping
- Are taken after a home is clean and staged
- Provide a variety of shots
Many real estate agents will have a professional photographer come in to take photos of your home, which will be covered in their realtor fees. If you sell your home by owner, you can hire someone to do it for you.
Great pictures make a big difference in how many buyers are interested in viewing your home, so it’s an investment worth making.
10. Not Being Flexible
When it comes to selling your home, it’s easy to forget that it involves two different families making a major life change. Coordinating selling your property and moving into your next home is challenging enough, but you also need to consider your buyers.
For example, in an offer, a buyer may request a closing date either sooner or later than you had anticipated. While your initial instinct may be to refuse their request, it was probably made for a reason. Perhaps the buyer is aiming to move in when their current lease ends or a week before their new job starts.
The same may be true for offers below your asking price. Maybe the buyer loves the property but offered slightly less than the asking price because it was all they were approved to borrow for their mortgage loan.
When negotiating the sale of your home, remember to be flexible — within reason. Buyers are experiencing just as much stress and upheaval as you are, and often their requests come with a reasonable explanation.
Refusing to budge on small issues like a closing date or accept a fair offer just because you are being stubborn won’t do you any good. In fact, they could be what causes a buyer to back out, leaving you back at square one.
11. Not Making Repairs in Advance
Neglecting to make small home repairs before listing your property is a big mistake. Buyers and home inspectors will notice these issues and use them to justify a lower asking price. And they’ll typically cost you more this way than if you’d just handled them in the first place.
For example, a leaky faucet, a torn window screen, or a damaged fence panel are relatively easy fixes. If a buyer notices them, they may make you an offer that requires them to be fixed by a professional at your cost. That’s likely to be more out of your pocket than if you’d fixed them yourself or had time to shop around for a handyman.
You don’t have to go for an entire home renovation, but making obvious fixes can go a long way. If you don’t take care of small repairs before listing your home, they’ll impact everything from your curb appeal and showing atmosphere to the offers you get and the conditions they come with.
12. Being Dishonest
Being dishonest when selling your home won’t get you anywhere. Buyers are encouraged — and, in some cases, required — by their banks, brokers, realtors, insurance agents, and friends to be diligent and careful when buying a home.
As an example, mortgages are often subject to approval based on an applicant’s ability to obtain property insurance. In turn, whether a buyer is approved for property insurance depends on a review by an insurance agent, which may require a home inspection completed by a professional that cites any issues with the home.
This is meant to not only protect buyers but the lenders and insurance agencies who fund and insure them.
If you try to hide something about your home or fail to disclose important information, you’re likely to be caught and could face legal repercussions as a result. Some common required disclosures include:
- Deaths in the home
- Environmental contamination
- Risk of natural disaster
- Nuisances like airports, farms, or landfills near the property
- Water damage
- Structural repairs
- Known electrical or plumbing issues
Depending on which state you live in, failing to disclose any of the above before the sale of your home closes could get you involved in a lawsuit.
Instead of trying to hide anything about your home, be upfront about it. It will save you a lot of time (and possibly money) in the end.
13. Neglecting Curb Appeal
Many home sellers only focus on staging the interior of their home, but curb appeal matters just as much. Details like landscaping, fresh paint, and small repairs to fences and decks make your property look more inviting to potential buyers.
Make the outside of your property look inviting and welcoming by:
- Tidying up your yard and raking leaves, mowing, and trimming
- Pressure washing aged wood steps, decks, and patios
- Applying a fresh coat of paint or stain to exterior doors, window frames, and sheds
- Adding a pop of color with planters and hanging baskets
- Weeding and replanting any garden beds
- Cleaning up clutter like yard tools, pet supplies, and children’s toys
Since the exterior of your home is what potential buyers will see first, it’s important to consider it when staging, photographing, and listing your property. Curb appeal can go a long way in enticing buyers to book a showing and make an offer.
14. Not Being Ready to Sell
If you’re not truly ready to sell your home, the whole process is likely to feel negative and stressful.
For example, if you’re pushing yourself to sell within an unrealistic timeline or you’re listing your home just because you want to take advantage of a seller’s market, you’re likely to feel overwhelmed and unprepared.
Think about why you’re making the decision to sell, and whether it makes sense for you to do right now — emotionally, financially, and professionally. Do you have strong sentimental ties to the property? How will it affect your finances? What about your job?
Selling your home is a big decision, so don’t make it lightly. If you aren’t ready, you may rush into making a decision you come to regret after it’s too late.
Selling a home is an exciting and life-changing experience, as long as it’s done right. Embark on the process thoughtfully and with consideration to avoid common mistakes like overpricing your home or selling during the winter months.
By preparing yourself to be a home seller and thinking ahead, you’ll enjoy a more satisfying and successful selling experience.