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Common Home Seller Mistakes to Avoid

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

Selling a house often seems easier in theory than it actually is, especially since most people only do it once or twice in their lives. There’s lots of work to do before that “For Sale” sign ever gets put in the ground, and then even more work before you sign on the dotted line to avoid seller mistakes.

During the sale process, there are many points where even experienced homeowners can make a mistake, costing time, money, or both. Seller mistakes can slow down your sale or even detract from money in your pockets. Knowing how to price your home correctly and prepare it for the sale can make all the difference in the world.

The number one thing is they price the listing too high, because…if you price it too high you end up usually getting less money than if you price it right at market to begin with…you have to price it right where the market is, not just where you want it to be.
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    James Silver Real Estate Agent
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    James Silver
    James Silver Real Estate Agent at Keller Williams Somerset
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    Currently accepting new clients
    • Years of Experience 21
    • Transactions 2133
    • Average Price Point $101k
    • Single Family Homes 1917

Top Home Seller Mistakes

To help homeowners who are getting ready to sell, we’ve compiled the most common seller mistakes according to top real estate agents. Knowing these mistakes can help you avoid them and ensure your home sale goes swimmingly from start to finish.

Not doing a deep clean and decluttering

Deep cleaning and decluttering your home is one of the easiest things you can do to make a great first impression on potential buyers. In fact, cleaning out a house can increase its value by 3-5%, so this is not a step to skip.

When viewing photos online or touring a home in-person, buyers want to imagine themselves in the space, which can be nearly impossible if you have loads of your own stuff, decorations, and personal items throughout.

While you don’t have to completely empty the house, try to declutter everything except a few decorative pieces such as throw pillows or potted plants. Be sure to remove anything personal such as family photos, shopping lists stuck to the fridge, or calendars in the home office. Cleaning out your pantry and closets can also help shoppers clearly see your home’s storage space.

“Clear [the home] out of all the majority of personal effects, especially if the home is a fixer-upper. Clear it out so people can see the flooring, the walls, they can visualize the size of their furniture, they can bring measuring tapes. They can really move into that property,” advises Gregg Phillipson, who ranks among the top 1% of real estate agents in San Diego.

Once your home is clear of excess items, it’s time to deep clean. If you don’t feel like you have the time or resources necessary to perform a deep clean, you can hire a professional to get the job done. Move-out cleans are par for the course for many cleaning services.

Neglecting curb appeal

Curb appeal means making sure your house gives a great first impression as potential buyers drive up for the first time. Neglecting curb appeal is a huge seller mistake. In a recent report, 94% of agents told HomeLight that curb appeal helps a seller’s bottom line.

Enhancing curb appeal doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go crazy with landscaping, but it does mean you’ll want your home to look like others in the neighborhood and be well-kempt.

For example, mowing your lawn is a top priority before taking photos and before showings. Plus, cleanliness is just as important outside as it is inside. Use a power washer to remove grime from the exterior of your house as well as your hardscaping such as a patio or walkway. Investing some time and elbow grease into getting your windows clean will also help boost curb appeal.

If you have a bit more time on your hand, consider adding some plants to your lawn to make things look livelier. Choose plants that are native to your area that will require less upkeep for both you and your buyers. Or, re-mulch your flower beds to make them look fresh.

Skipping a pre-listing inspection

A pre-listing inspection isn’t 100% necessary when selling your home, but it can make your life a whole lot easier by allowing you to get ahead of any potential problems. If you wait for the first inspection to be the buyers’, they might find damage that causes them to back out of the home sale. Home inspection issues were responsible for 11% of contract delays and 9% of contract terminations in 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Pre-listing inspections are the same as a regular inspection, except the seller pays for it. However, it could be worth the up-front cost to find problems that would cost you much more down the road in price reductions.

Even if you don’t fix the problems that come up in your home inspection, being aware of them can help you price accordingly.

“Whether we fix those issues or we don’t, at least we know that they are there,” says Jennifer Smeltzer, a top real estate agent in Jackson County, MO. “Knowing this can help us determine a price point and stand confidently with that price during negotiations with buyers.”

Forgoing easy fixes

It’s not necessary to completely upgrade your house in a seller’s market, when buyers are willing to look past imperfections for the sake of inventory., but ignoring easy fixes is a big seller mistake, especially during times when the market isn’t so hot.

But what should you fix? Your pre-sale inspection is a great place to find problems that should be fixed before you list. Many buyers will not want to deal with problems that relate to plumbing, electrical, or HVAC.

A real estate agent can also help you decide what is and isn’t worth it in your specific market. Some projects are too costly to recoup the cost during your sale, while others — such as painting over a bold accent wall — could make a sizable difference.

Not staging

Staging your home allows buyers to see as blank a slate as possible when viewing a home, without it actually being empty.

Seeing furniture staged in the space can help buyers visualize how they’ll use it, and how they could make it their own once they move in. In fact, a NAR report stated 82% of buyers could more easily visualize themselves in a staged home than one that was unstaged.

You can stage a home with the furniture you already have, and it is in fact possible to stage your home while still living in it. With the help of digital staging, you can also make your photos look great without upheaving your entire house. Your real estate agent will likely have a stager they work with so you don’t have to do all the work yourself.

Skipping professional photos

More than ever, home shoppers are checking out listings online before going in-person. Skipping out on professional photos can make your house less appealing to buyers, even if it’s in great shape. If shoppers are pouring through countless listings with excellent photos and then see one with blurry images, they’ll likely keep on scrolling.

Most real estate agents work with a professional photographer, so you won’t necessarily have to scout one out yourself. But if you choose to, ensure you find a photographer skilled in real estate. Not every photographer knows how to make a house shine.

Pricing incorrectly

Pricing incorrectly has long been one of the most common seller mistakes according to top agents, from 2016 up until today. It’s important not to underprice a home, as you may leave money on the table. But overpricing a home means buyers might skip over it entirely, or be harsher with negotiations.

It’s important to listen to your real estate agent when it comes to pricing, as they have the skills necessary to price your home according to your local market. When pricing yourself, you may fall victim to sentimental or emotional pricing. You’ve spent lots of time in your home, so you might think it’s worth more than it is simply due to an emotional attachment.

“The number one thing is they price the listing too high, because…if you price it too high you end up usually getting less money than if you price it right at market to begin with…you have to price it right where the market is, not just where you want it to be,” says James Silver, a top real estate agent in Michigan.

Selling at the wrong time

You may have a very different home sale process depending on what time of year you sell. Every market has a different best time to sell, even in a seller’s market. For most places, the spring and summer are the best times to sell at a high price, but other markets experience more demand in the fall.

If you list in a time with limited demand, your house might sit on the market for longer, leading to price reductions. However, many sellers are in a time crunch and do not have a choice when they sell.

But if you do have some leeway, work with your real estate agent to determine if waiting for a better selling time could work for you.

The Biggest Seller Mistake? Not Working with a Top Agent

You can avoid all of the above seller mistakes by working with a top real estate agent for your home sale. It might be tempting to go through the process on your own, especially if you’re daunted by paying the agent’s fees, which usually clock in between 5-6% of the sale price. But the money you save by not working with an agent is often negated by the money you leave when you go For Sale By Owner (otherwise known as FSBO).

According to the National Association of Realtors, FSBO homes sold for a median $260,000 in 2020 compared to the median $318,000 sales price of agent-assisted sales.

Agents bring years of expertise to your home sale, reducing the amount of time you need to spend learning about the ins and outs of real estate transactions. They’ll handle getting the house staged, photographed, and listed while you focus on your own moving to-do list. Top agents also know how to use a comparative market analysis to expertly price your home.

Most importantly, HomeLight data shows that top agents sell homes faster and for more money than average agents. For that reason alone, it’s worth it to put in the time to find a great agent.

Connect with a Top Local Agent

We’ve crunched real estate date to identify agents who go above and beyond, selling their clients’ homes faster and for more money. Great agents have seen it all, and know how to avoid common seller mistakes.

Header Image Source: (Cindy Tang / Unsplash)