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10 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home

What You'll Learn: The Dos and Don’ts of Selling a Home


Selling your home is a time-consuming project, no matter the condition of your property, the market's temperature, or the time of year. We’ve put together the ten biggest mistakes to avoid ­—  for a smooth and stress-free selling experience. Read on to discover the pitfalls to dodge and successful actions to follow.

#1 Not Decluttering and Staging as a First Step

Most people don’t like clutter, especially someone else’s.  Notes on the refrigerator and piles on the kitchen counter are distracting. Toiletries on the bathroom counter advertise there isn’t enough storage space.

Pet beds and litter boxes are a turn-off, especially for shoppers without dogs or cats. And walls covered with personal family pictures announce that someone else lives here and leaves little room for new owners. What has sentimental value to you could look like clutter to someone else.

The key is to depersonalize and get rid of as many personal items and Knick Knacks as possible. If a room is overcrowded with furniture, the space will feel cramped. Get rid of extra pieces and open the room up.

Decluttering and then staging your home to sell should be the first thing you do before putting it on the market. When potential buyers view your property, you want them to easily picture themselves moving in and living happily in their new home.

Stage Like An Expert

With decluttering and staging, your house can view as a model home. Take advantage of the natural light and open the curtains for daytime showings. Set the stage to impress visitors as soon as they pull up to the property. Highlight the season with flowering plants out front and potted plants on the porch.

Inside, have attractive accent hand towels in the bathroom and kitchen and set the table with beautiful placemats and centerpieces.

Whether it’s a buyers' or a hot seller’s market — you want your home to stand out and be unforgettable (for all the right reasons). Buyers will be picturing what it would be like to live there. A blank canvas lets them dream. A cluttered home makes them wonder about hidden issues and deferred maintenance.

#2 Not Getting a Home Inspection Before Listing

One of the most nerve-racking parts of selling your home is during the buyer’s inspection period. The best way to reduce about 90% of the stress is to have your home inspected ahead of time. Then you’ll see what needs to be repaired, replaced, or disclosed to the buyers. Having your inspection results on hand for potential buyers to view demonstrates you are an upfront seller, and you’re not hiding anything.

Don’t be surprised when you see the results. Inspectors do a thorough job, and your report will most likely be many pages long. Although there will be several things you were aware of,  some items needing attention could be a surprise.  

Having the report and reviewing it will help you decide what you need to do before listing your property. Usually, a home inspection isn’t required, but many buyers get one to make sure they know the property's condition. Getting your home inspected ahead of time allows you to fix items that a buyer would discover or the appraiser could call out.  

Inspectors look at the condition of the home in general and the working condition of the appliances, electrical, and HVAC system. In contrast, the appraiser puts its focus on the value of the house. For government loans like FHA and VA, there are minimum property guidelines the appraiser follows. You’ll want to handle any dry-rot, pests, or leaking roof issues as a top priority.  

#3 Ignoring Deferred Maintenance

Deferred maintenance can come back and haunt you whether you’re talking about a vehicle or real estate. Ignoring little things creates significant problems in the future. It’s much easier to fix a small amount of dry-rot and put on a fresh coat of paint than to let things slide for years, only to end up with a major repair bill. And when it comes to deferred maintenance, taking care of your roof should be the top priority when getting your home ready to sell.

If you live in an area with severe weather like high winds or heavy snows, having an annual roof inspection is a good idea — especially after a big storm. Many home sales have fallen through because of a bad roof. Most lenders won’t loan money on the house with a leaking roof or one that needs replacing. So, it’s better to stay on top of repairs and when you’re thinking about selling, fix what you need to before you put your home on the market.

#4 Selecting the Wrong Real Estate Agent

When you’re selling your home, the success has a lot to do with your real estate agent. The good ones do a comparative market analysis and price accordingly. They know which minor renovations could boost your asking price or what you must fix before listing. Their experience is invaluable and prevents you from making errors like overpricing your home or making expensive renovations that won’t pay off.

Although you may have a friend or relative that’s a real estate agent, don’t select them for that fact alone. Consider this a business decision. Your choice makes a difference in how much profit you’ll make and how fast you’ll sell your home.

Good listing agents know how to market — especially online. They have professional photographers and videographers, so your home shows well online. Besides that, they have contacts you might need like repairmen, painters, and landscapers.

#5 Not Hiring a Professional Photographer & Videographer

Over the last decade, home buying has changed dramatically. Instead of driving around for hours looking at homes for sale, buyers now start their search online. That’s why their first impression of your home must be positive.

After decluttering, getting any deferred maintenance handled, and staging, it’s time for your realtor to start marketing your home. Using a professional photographer and videographer is a must. Don’t settle for images taken with a phone.

Good realtors understand that selling a home takes marketing. They’re efficient and have their marketing plan laid out. They know what works and what doesn’t.

Some agents pay for the photographer and videographer, and others ask their clients to. Either way, the investment in professional images and a video walk-through is well worth it.  

And the more photos, the better. A red flag for online home shoppers is when a listing has very few images or has more pictures of the exterior or surrounding town than the property's interior.

#6 Being Inflexible in Negotiations

Both buying and selling require negotiation, tact, and patience. A realtor with smooth negotiation skills is invaluable. In most situations, except for extremely hot seller’s markets, each party gives a little. That way, everyone feels the transaction was a good one.

There can be areas you’re unwilling to negotiate on, for example, the lowest price of your home you’re willing to accept. But being too inflexible can make the entire transaction stressful. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and try and make the process as smooth as possible.

In a hot seller’s market, it’s common to receive multiple offers. A good realtor knows how to negotiate for the best deal. They’re aware that overpricing a home is the number one mistake sellers make.

Ideally, you want to price your home realistically, still leaving some room for negotiations.  You may have an idea of what your home is worth, but the comparative market analysis will be the best gauge.

Besides pricing, choosing a closing date has major importance. If you need an unusually short or long escrow, make sure you let serious buyers know upfront. On the other hand, if you’re flexible on the closing date, that’s a huge negotiating point. Some buyers are willing to pay top dollar for a home that will close within their specified timeframe.

#7 Not Being Willing to Show Your Home Often

Ah – the open house! Buyers love them, but many sellers don’t feel the same way. Open houses require a lot of preparation work.

Plus, you have to plan to be away from home for the day. But as a seller, you need to know that going in.

If you have pets — figure out where they’ll go if they’re not with you. It doesn’t work to leave barking dogs in the garage, dog run, or backyard. Take the pooches away so the potential buyers can shop in peace.  

If you don’t sell your home as quickly as you’d like, that’s not the time to give up on open houses. You can talk to your realtor and maybe instead of having an open house two days on the weekend, just plan one. But even though they can be a hassle and a lot of work, open houses are a vital way to get buyers interested in your home. So, bite the bullet and show your home often!

#8 Planning a Major Event at Your Home While It’s on the Market

The selling process can be long, arduous, and a bit stressful. That’s why when you start thinking of selling your home, it’s best not to plan a major event like a wedding at your house when you’re trying to sell it. Combining selling with planning and putting on a wedding or large gathering might just be too much. Instead, list your property after the wedding or have that large family reunion in your new home once you move.

At the beginning of the process, we might expect it to only take a month or two to sell. And in many instances, that’s true. But sometimes, it takes longer. Plus, keep in mind once you accept an offer, you’re not done until the papers are signed, and the new buyers have the keys to the house.

You might get a buyer the first week in a hot market, but you still need to leave time for their loan to close, which can take 30 to 45 days. And there is that chance that their loan falls through. In that case, you’ll have to start all over. That’s why it’s best to have realistic expectations and postpone major events until after the sale.

#9 Not Being Upfront With Your Realtor About Property Issues

Real estate agents do their best work when they have all the data about the property. And what they don’t know right now, there’s a good chance they’ll find out. There is so much data available online. For example, buyers have access to all types of information, including past insurance claims on the property if you’ve had fire, flood, or sinkhole issues that need to be disclosed.

The buyer’s agent will also be doing due diligence on the property, so it’s best to be upfront from the beginning. For example, if you know there’s a contractor or tax lien on the property — let your agent know because those liens will need to be cleared before the property is sold. Additionally, if you’ve had major unpermitted work done on your home, that will most likely need to be addressed.

#10 Being Emotional Instead of Businesslike

The secrets for selling your home include remaining calm and keeping a cool head. Although remaining even-keeled and unemotional may be the most challenging point for many sellers. But maintaining an even temperament makes the transaction more enjoyable and less stressful for all involved.

Selling a home is a complex transaction involving multiple individuals. These include the buyers, sellers, plus their agents, the lender, title company, inspectors, appraisers, and possibly contractors. As you can see, you have quite a bit going on at once.

With so many people involved, different tasks, and multiple deadlines, things don’t always come out exactly as planned. For example, the closing date might get changed, or an issue comes up with the buyer’s financing. Keep your cool and work with your real estate agent to ensure the transaction moves along through the close.

Make sure to follow these tips and avoid the above mistakes for a smooth transaction and stress-free selling experience. Good luck.

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