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Top 5 Mistakes in Selling a Home and How to Avoid Them

If everything is done correctly you should be able to sell your home (or condo, or townhome) in a relatively short period of time and get at or close to market value for it. Your local market will affect the speed and price but you don’t control the market. There are factors though that you can control which will also affect how fast it sells and how much it sells for which are important for you to know. Sellers who don’t understand the fundamental principles in selling a property commonly make one or more of these 5 mistakes and by knowing about them you can avoid falling into the same traps.

1. Home Does Not Show or Present Well

There are actually 2 parts to this one. First is the appearance of the property and second is the condition of the property.

Buyers will look at various factors when deciding if they want to buy your home, such as the price, condition, location, etc. and so you might think their decision-making process will all be done by logic. However, in most cases, the decision is actually largely influenced by emotion. What will create those emotions, negative or positive, is how the property shows – it’s curb appeal.

If your front lawn is half dead or is overgrown, dirty dishes are on the kitchen counter, your house is dark inside because you keep all the shades and blinds closed, dog/cat/cigarette smells assault anyone as soon as they open the front door – you will have a much harder time selling your home and will get less for it than you probably want. Having shown thousands of homes, condos and townhouses to buyers in all price ranges I can tell you that the appearance factor can result in a buyer turning around before even going into a house OR it can result in a buyer falling in love with a house even when there are condition issues that are a concern.

This is probably one of the top 3 factors in the success or failure when it comes to selling a home and more sellers are becoming aware of this. Staging a home for sale has become much more prevalent in the past 5 years and this not only includes hiring a staging professional but for those on a tighter budget includes working with your Realtor to create a list of low-cost do-it-yourself fixes that will make a big difference.

The second part to this one has to do with property condition. You may have been unable to keep up with maintenance which has lead to various problems the new owner will need to take care of, or you may have been good with upkeep of your property except for minor issues that you planned to get to at some point in the future.

In some cases condition issues will also affect appearance, like when there is rotted wood outside that is easily seen or a roof leak that caused a stain on a ceiling.

Sometimes it does not affect appearance at all but will be a sticking point for many buyers during the inspections phase. An electric panel that has to be replaced due to safety concerns, termite damage in the attic, a septic system that is not functioning – anything that will require repairs or replacement now or in the near future can come up as a concern for a buyer and can interfere with the sale or affect the offer price.

The best ways to address this aspect is to get a home inspection done prior to listing your property so that you know what issues will come up on the buyer’s inspection. You can then choose to fix some or all of those issues and you will then be in a stronger negotiating position with any buyers that come along. You can also choose to not make any repairs whether due to costs involved or any other reason – you won’t have as strong a negotiating position but by being aware of what the buyers will find in their inspection you can be prepared for how the negotiation might go and won’t be caught off guard by their attempt to renegotiate on price after their inspections. You could also present what your inspector found in the disclosures given to a buyer who wants to make an offer so that this is all handled upfront.

This usually has more of an effect on getting a contracted buyer to the closing than it does on getting potential buyers to submit an offer. But ignoring or neglecting this still can have the same effect – not getting it sold.

2. Hanging Around for Showings

I must say that from my experience with buyers over the years that this one is not as big of a problem as the appearance aspect, but it definitely can get in the way of getting your property sold.

There have been some rare instances when it was actually very helpful having the seller present at a showing because they were very knowledgeable about the property, could answer my buyers’ questions and were unobtrusive. However, that was true only in about 10% of the showings where sellers were present.

Buyers like to be able to view a property at their own pace, look in closets and under sinks, say what they feel about what they are seeing even if it is negative – and when a seller is there they do not feel like they can do these things and often will rush through the showing. This greatly reduces the chance of that buyer purchasing your home.

Best thing for you to do as a seller is to either leave prior to a showing or, if that isn’t possible, then go outside while the buyers are going through your home.

3. Misleading Information, Photos or Descriptions

This is something that can involve the seller and can also involve their real estate agent and will definitely increase the time to sell and reduce the ultimate selling price.

Of course you and your agent want to present your property in its best light, through the photos and description that will go out to people through the Internet, the MLS and on flyers. But you also have to be truthful in what you present or you will turn off both buyers and buyer agents. When I’ve worked with buyers who wanted to see a property based on its description or photos only to find out they were misleading, those buyers were quite annoyed at having their time wasted and both the buyers and I were then skeptical of any property listed by that agent.

Just think how you would feel if you saw an ad showing a 70 inch high definition TV on sale for $99 and you drove 15 miles to that store only to find out when you got there that it was a used TV with a cracked screen (even though the picture in the ad didn’t show that). That’s how buyers feel when you and/or your agent are dishonest or misleading in what you present.

4. Incorrect or Nonexistent Pricing Strategy

There is no exact price that is correct for any property but there is a correct range of pricing. Pricing requires a strategy not just a ‘let’s try this and see what happens’ approach. Your needs regarding length of time to sell have to be factored in which will affect what initial price will be best. Then a strategy regarding price adjustments, if needed, and based on number of showings and offers within a specific period of time should be worked out right at the beginning.

In a seller’s market initial pricing can be higher but the relation to market value will depend on local conditions in your area or neighborhood and the demand for your type of property with the kind of upgrades and amenities it offers.

If you price too high at first you will then have to reduce the price at some point to get interest again from buyers. But if you are too far off and your property stays on the market longer than what is normal in your area and you have to reduce the price more than once, buyers will start wondering why or what is wrong with the property and often won’t even want to go see it.

I have seen the effects of this on both sides and can tell you that this is probably the most important factor to address correctly right at the beginning if you want to be successful in selling your home, condo or townhouse.

5. Not Really Ready to Sell

This one is actually the one that will almost guarantee you won’t sell. If you aren’t really ready to sell then wait until you are. By putting your home on the market when you aren’t really ready to sell you are creating what I call ‘false inventory’ – it looks like a property for sale but it in truth is not. This just wastes everyone’s time – your agent’s, buyer’s, their agent’s.

I’ve seen this with sellers who are completely unrealistic about the price they want in the current market and when informed how far off they are they say something like “I’m in no hurry, I’ll just wait until the market comes up to where I want it.” If asked about where they would move or what they would want to buy if someone came tomorrow and offered the price they wanted they will usually not have an answer because they haven’t thought it through that far – because they are not really serious about selling.

Wait until you are ready and only then should you start the process. If you do try to ‘test out the market’ or are willing to ‘wait until the market goes up enough’, then you have to consider that when the market is in a condition or at a price range where you could get what you want you may have a harder time because buyers will wonder why you have had your house on the market for the last 2 years without it selling! Not a good position to be in.

Selling your home can be a positive experience if done correctly but make sure you have someone who knows how to get you the best price in the optimum time for you.

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1 Comment

  1. I agree presentation is really important. You have to make sure that your house is ready before you put it in the market. Awesome blog by the way. Keep sharing!

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