Avoid These Common Seller’s Mistakes

Selling your house can be both exciting and emotional. You may be looking forward to a great change with a move to a new town or a larger house, but you are leaving a home full of treasured memories. Although you have strong attachments to your home, it’s important put aside sentimental feelings and make this sale one of your smartest business moves. It pays to do your homework upfront in order to sidestep the most common seller mistakes. Think carefully about each of these pitfalls to avoid frustration for you and your family, and save thousands of dollars.

Mistake #1 – Trying to Sell Your Home before It’s Physically Ready

Don’t rush when making necessary repairs and cosmetic upgrades before putting your home on the market. You will lose money if you don’t make repairs ahead of listing your house thereby letting prospective buyers see the home’s faults. You are nearly guaranteed that offers will be lower, and the buyers will want credit back for work that still needs to be done after your property is listed.

Mistake #2 – Hiding Your Home’s Flaws

Trying to cover up serious problems like foundation issues, water damage, or mold can come back to haunt you. Don’t try to keep your home’s history a secret from the buyers. They will likely be discovered during the home inspection, and you could lose the sale. Also, if hidden problems surface after the house is sold, you could be faced with a messy legal battle. Be upfront with both your listing agent and your buyers.

Mistake #3 – Selling Your Home Without a Professional Real Estate Agent

Statistics show that homes without representation remain on the market longer and end up selling at a lower price than those listed with a professional. Your agent will help you price your home, research comparable properties, market and show the property, deal with the buyers and their agent, and help you negotiate the mountain of documents that goes along with a house sale.

Mistake #4 – Setting an Unrealistic Price on Your Home

Even in markets where inventory is tight, sellers need to be careful about overpricing their home. Properties that are priced too high frequently end up selling for less than they would have if they had been priced appropriately from the start. Pricing a home to sell is an art. You must look at comparable sales in your immediate area, as well as market movement, demand, location, and your home’s condition. Sellers who are forced to lower their asking price after their home has been on the market for several weeks lose their competitive edge in final negotiations.

Mistake #5 – Marketing with Bad Photos

Over 90% of buyers begin their search online, so your photos make the first and lasting impression. Make sure you and your agent post excellent photos to show off your property and its best features. Too many homes are shown with poorly framed, crooked photos of cluttered rooms. No appeal there! This is an easy one to get right, so be sure to nail it.

Mistake #6 – Refusing to Negotiate

Although your home has a lot of sentimental value to you and your family, it must be regarded as a commodity once you put it on the market. Put your emotions aside and be ready for reasonable negotiations. You need to start with a fair and realistic price on your home, but you should also build in a little elbow room. Many buyers will offer an extremely low-ball price just to see what the response will be. Of course, they want to pay as little as possible, and they want to feel like they got a great property at a bargain price. You can keep the buyers happy by accepting a bit less than your asking price, while still making the profit you need. An experienced real estate agent is an invaluable asset for negotiating the tricky path of getting your price without scaring off the potential buyer.

Why Work with a Real Estate Agent?

A real estate agent is a professional in a field where most buyers and sellers are novices. This is very likely the largest single purchase you will ever make. After all, how often do you drop a quarter of a million dollars or more on a shopping spree? Home buying and selling is full of pitfalls that can be avoided with an agent to provide you with expert assistance, knowledge of the market and negotiation skills.

  • Your agent is the unbiased voice of reason who brings objectivity to the table. An agent helps sellers see past their emotional connection to their home and helps buyers deal with a multiple bid situation.
  • Your agent can recommend a good independent home inspector who can provide a list of repair needs. Then, the agent will help evaluate which repairs are reasonable and which are excessive as you get your home ready to sell. Your agent also has contacts with excellent contractors to make the necessary repairs.
  • Determining the price of your home is difficult: you want to realize a maximum profit without scaring off potential buyers with sticker shock. With their experience in your market area, most real estate agents can set the price of a home very quickly.
  • If you’ve ever bought or sold a house, you know that it involves a mountain of paperwork. Your agent can really save the day here because the possibility of missing something —such as initialing all the proper boxes — can drop substantially when you are working with a pro who knows all the paperwork nuances.
  • Professional real estate agents are familiar with local zoning ordinances and codes to be able to know if you can add on a new bedroom or put up a privacy fence. The agent should be able to make sure the city will allow your changes.
  • Licensed agents are required to keep a complete set of all your real estate transaction documents, making them a good resource for years after the deal has closed.
  • Plenty of pitfalls are can appear in the final hours of a sale that might kill the deal. Your agent knows to watch for trouble before it’s too late. Problems with the title or financing or timing are all things the agent knows to watch for and take steps to avoid. Agents are used to dealing with these kinds of issues and can work through nearly any challenge that might occur.
  • Nearly 90% of buyers purchase their home through a real estate agent, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Your agent is an expert in sales, as well as marketing, social media and data analysis. Home sale rules are always changing and it’s your agent’s job to stay on top of the market and bring that expertise to you. Why wouldn’t you choose to have a professional like that working for you as you make this momentous purchase?

Preparing Your Home for Sale

Take a fresh look at your house. It looks great to you, but you have to look through the eyes of potential buyers. They need to be able to picture themselves in your house. Take a good, hard look both inside and out. Be critical because your buyer will be. It is essential to have your house clean, organized and inviting.

Curb Appeal

A good first impression is essential. Your lawn and the front of your house are the first things people see when they arrive.

  • The lawn should be pristine, nicely mowed and edged. Weed the flower beds and trim shrubs. Colorful annuals will have an immediate impact and fresh mulch is always a good idea.
  • Give the front door a good scrub or fresh paint. Add a tasteful welcome mat.
  • Check to see if shutters or trim need a paint touch up. Fix damaged gutters, siding or shingles.
  • Clean all windows inside and out.
  • Eliminate clutter and keep lawn decorations to a minimum. Put away all the toys. Remove or update old light fixtures or lawn furniture.
  • Keep everything tidy. Sweep the sidewalks, porch and driveway. In the winter, make sure snow is shoveled and sprinkle ice melt as necessary.

Stepping Inside

Once again, you have to make a great first impression. Everything must be sparkling clean, neat and appealing. There are many inexpensive ways to put a fresh face on your house and most of them only cost you some time. This is a ceiling-to-floor, roof-to foundation clean-up project.

  • Declutter, then declutter again; rent a storage locker if necessary until your home sells. Potential buyers are seriously put off by clutter and we all have more than we need.
  • Remove personal items such as family photos and collectables.
  • Organize closets. The less you have in a closet, the bigger it looks. Every space will be inspected by potential buyers.
  • Straighten attic storage, the garage, and the basement. Shampoo carpets and clean wood floors.
  • Polish the wood work around door frames and wooden cabinet doors.
  • A fresh coat of paint will give tired rooms a lift.
  • Pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms. Scrub sinks, mop floors and repair discolored caulking.

Small Details Count

Potential buyers will see many properties so you want yours to make a lasting positive impression. Having all the little things fixed can make a big difference in the perceived value of the home.

  • Remember that they will look in the small places, like medicine cabinets and kitchen drawers, as well as in every closet. Look at every space with a critical eye.
  • Add a vase of fresh flowers or a plant near the entryway.
  • Be sure kitchen and bath towels are bright and clean.
  • Check all doors, knobs, drawers and windows to make sure nothing sticks or rattles.
  • Dust ceiling fans and light fixtures.

Stay Ready for Showings

Get into the habit of keeping everything tidy all the time while your house is on the market. You want it to look like a model home — clean, uncluttered and fresh.

  • Make beds and clean up daily. Pick up papers and dishes. Vacuum, dust and remember to remove kitchen trash before each showing.
  • Let the light in. It makes rooms seem more spacious and gives a positive feeling to your home. Open all the shades and window coverings during the day. At night, turn on as many lights as possible.
  • The nose knows, so be vigilant against unpleasant odors. Smoke, greasy cooking smells, pet odors and even strong room fresheners are unpleasant. Air out the house before a showing. If you can, put on a pot of coffee or boil some cinnamon in a little water on the stove. You want your home to smell sweet, but subtle.
  • Keep your thermostat at a comfortable level. You don’t want potential buyers to notice the temperature — neither too hot nor too cool.
  • It’s best for pets to be elsewhere during a showing. Either take them with you or arrange for them to stay with a friend or family member. If this isn’t possible, they should be penned in the backyard or kennel. Try to keep indoor pets in a specific room and then put a sign on the door.
  • Stay vigilant. You need to make sure your home is available to been seen with very little notice. That means less than an hour or possibly even five minutes.

Pricing Your Home

It is tempting to determine the asking price of your home by figuring what you originally paid for it, adding the cost of improvements plus a healthy profit, and then put it on the market. This is a rookie mistake, however, and can cost you a lot of time and money.

It is essential that you place a smart, competitive price on your property. If the price is too high, your home stays on the market longer, increasing your expenses along the way. You may think it’s a good strategy to start high and then reduce the price if necessary. But, if potential buyers see a history of a dropped asking price, they will either wonder what’s wrong with the home since it hasn’t sold or they will think you must be getting desperate and will offer an even lower price.

Your real estate agent can tell you that sellers who list competitively from the start get a better price than those who list high and then go lower and lower. Let your agent help you avoid the overpricing trap. Together you can review a comparative market analysis of similar homes to yours that have sold in your area recently.

Also, consider your local market conditions. Are homes in your neighborhood selling quickly? Is it currently a buyer’s market or a seller’s market? Are you listing during the spring homebuying season or in the middle of winter?

Remember that some buyers are motivated by more than just price, so plan to be flexible to get your home sold quickly. When do the buyers want to move into the house? Can you, the seller, finance the the home? Are you willing to leave the patio furniture or an area rug? Be open and creative as you review the buyer’s offer.

Price your home based on reality, not just wishful thinking, and depend on your agent to be your best ally in finding your bottom line.

Real Estate Vocab Cheat Sheet

Here are simple definitions of some terms that you may hear throughout the buying and selling process of your home or property. If you would like extra explanation of any of these terms, please don’t hesitate to ask your RE/MAX Real Estate Results Agent!

Listing: Any kind of property or piece of land for sale.

Showing/Showing Appointment: A confirmed request to show a listed property of piece of land.

Pre-Approval Letter: A letter from your bank/lender stating the amount of money you are potentially eligible for obtaining a mortgage.

Offer/Real Estate Contract: An accepted offer made by a buyer and agreed upon by a seller to purchase real estate.

Contingent: An offer has been accepted but is dependent on other circumstances that are outlined within the real estate contract.

Earnest Money: “Good Faith” money, deposit made by the buyer to the seller in a transaction. Held typically in an escrow account.

Home Inspection: Property condition examination by a qualified inspector.

Market Value: The highest price that a property should bring in fair and competitive market conditions.

Appraisal: A process completed to determine market value on a property or land.

Escrow: Earnest money and deposits placed into an impartial third-party account, called an escrow account.

Mortgage Insurance: A fee charged to protect a lender from a potential buyer loan defaulting.

Homeowner’s Insurance: Property and liability insurance for residential property.

Home Warranty: Not to be confused with homeowner’s insurance, a home warranty protects your home’s appliances from breakdowns.

Title: A bundle of rights of a piece in a property.

Closing Costs: These fees are paid at the end of the transaction and can be paid by the seller, buyer or both as determined in the real estate contract. The fees are associated with title search and transfer, taxes, insurance, surveys, appraisals and much more.

Signing/Closing: Signing all of the necessary paperwork to close on the sale of your property or purchase of your new property.