9 Tips for Avoiding Common Home Selling Mistakes

Posted on Sep 18, 2020


Selling your home is stressful. In fact, many people rate it as one of the most stressful events of their life – second only to a breakup. According to a recent survey conducted by Zillow, 36% of homeowners even said that they cried during the process.

It’s important to know best practices for selling your home – but it’s also important to know what to avoid. Here’s what you should not do when selling a house, and why.

1. Don’t choose the wrong agent.

Would you hire someone for a job without interviewing them? Hopefully not – so why do so many people do it with real estate agents? Take a look at our post on how to choose a Realtor for all the questions you should be asking your potential listing agents. 

You’ll likely want to avoid:

  • A part-time agent who has numerous obligations competing with selling your home

  • An inexperienced or under-trained agent who hasn’t learned the tips and tricks of the trade yet

  • Someone who tells you the sell price you want to hear, but doesn’t back it up with data and facts 

  • An agent with little experience in negotiating – a good negotiator can help you hold on to more of your home’s equity during closing

  • An agent who mostly works with buyers

2. Don’t put minimum effort into your home’s MLS listing.

Information you provide in your online listing is the most critical part of marketing (and ultimately selling) your home in the modern world. In 2019, NAR reported that 93% of homebuyers now use the internet to search for homes – a number that has risen even higher due to COVID-19. 

Home buyers have become more selective with which homes they’ll tour in person and rely heavily on online information and visuals to screen properties. Your online listing is your opportunity to get eyes on your home and compel buyers to schedule a showing, or even move forward site unseen. To set yourself up for success, hire an agent who offers:

  • Professional photography. Photos are the single most important way to advertise your home – and yet plenty of listing agents don’t invest in high-quality photography, instead opting for photos that are grainy, badly lit, or poorly composed. When you’re paying as much as you are for listing services, there is no reason for an agent to get by using their phone to take photos. The better photos you have, the more views your MLS listing will get, and the better your chances of reaching qualified, interested buyers. 

  • Videos & virtual tours. People love video walk-throughs because videos can lend a more dynamic understanding of the home’s layout and general feel. Virtual tours allow buyers to “turn around” and see interior rooms from different perspectives. Considering their widespread popularity, both videos and virtual tours can capture buyers’ attention and boost engagement with your listing.

comparison of real estate photography

Left photo: Bright MLS photography. Poor staging and a vertical shot means the focus of the photo is the trash bin, and it’s difficult to see the room’s size or its features (low resolution means a blurry light fixture). Right photo: Houwzer’s photo uses a wide-angle lens and a strategic angle to make the room feel open and inviting. It’s easy to see the room’s entire layout.

3. Don’t hide disclosure issues.

Almost every home on the market today has issues noted in the seller’s disclosure document – so home buyers are not going to discount a home because of a disclosed issue. Nonetheless, sellers are often wary of noting problems they’ve experienced, especially if they feel the issue is resolved (such as mold, after paying for mold remediation).  They’re afraid that it could scare away buyers.

The reality, though, is that not disclosing these issues is a huge risk and will open you up to litigation. View more info on PA’s disclosure laws

4. Don’t forgo a pre-inspection.

Normally in a home sale, the home inspection takes place after you’ve accepted someone’s offer. Almost all inspections will reveal some defect that either needs to be addressed before closing, or negotiated as closing credit. What this means is that the clock is ticking: you’ll either have to pay a premium for quick repairs or leave money on the table. 

Although a pre-inspection isn’t required – and many homeowners opt to forgo it – it gives you a chance to correct issues and find affordable contractors on your own timeline for any larger problems that need fixing. Plus, the improvements you make (like updated plumbing or a new roof) can become selling points for your listing when fixed ahead of time.

5. Don’t forget to clean your home.

Keeping your home clean while you’re trying to sell it can be a struggle. Interested buyers are constantly tracking in dirt when they come to view the home, and your family still has to live there and may create messes from time to time. However, having a tidy living space is an essential component of good staging. A clean home ensures that potential buyers aren’t distracted from your home’s best features. To keep your home as clean as possible,

  • Stay organized: the more storage you have, the easier it often is to get things off of floors and counters. Placing a decorative basket in busier rooms that you can throw out-of-place items into can give you a way to quickly tidy up before showings.

  • Deep clean your floors: if you have time to refinish your hardwood floors, this can definitely add a wow-worthy gleam to your home. At the very least, clean them and put down a fresh layer of floor polish. Deep clean any carpets you have to remove the years of accumulated spots and grime. 

  • Declutter: don’t wait until your move to declutter your home – get rid of the old furniture gathering dust in your garage today. You may want to consider renting a storage unit if your home needs a lot of decluttering – by getting rid of excess furniture and accumulated stuff, your home will look more open and roomy. 

6. Don’t do expensive updates.

Home sellers often hear conflicting information about whether or not they should renovate their home before selling it. After all, everyone knows that updated kitchens and bathrooms attract buyers! 

There can be some truth to homes selling faster when they don’t require a ton of work by the buyer, but sellers should never do extensive renovations thinking they’ll make more money. As our guide to home selling renovations details, most remodeling projects never recoup their full price.

Why will agents sometimes recommend expensive updates anyway? Because sellers often get hung up on the sales price, and most agents aren’t going to dissuade you from improvements that will benefit them. You’re the one spending the money – and if your home sells for more, they get a bigger commission. Most updates will increase the sales price, but very few will have you walking away with more cash.

7. Don’t take too long to sell your home.

Selling a home within a certain time frame is one of the most common sources of stress among home sellers. There’s a few different mistakes you can try to avoid in order to keep your home sale on track.

  • Don’t price your home above market value. Homeowners are often tempted to list their home just a little too high, in the hopes that someone will pay for it anyway. They’re often following the advice of their parents, or repeating what they did in a prior home sale. The problem is that it’s often very difficult to get buyers to make an offer on an overpriced home – they don’t want to waste their time with someone who has set up unrealistic expectations right out of the gate, and they have ample data that lets them know the true cost of your property. Your listing agent will give you real estate comps to help you determine a fair and competitive price. 
  • There is a cost to listing your home too high. Pricing high really just means less competition among buyers. The longer your home sits on the market, the more it signals to buyers that there is something wrong with it, and that you might be getting desperate to sell. At that point, buyers will feel more comfortable offering low-ball amounts. And if offers aren’t coming in at all, you can expect to make a price drop or two down the line to bring it back in line with the market. 
  • Don’t limit showing times. Your life is busy, especially when you’re trying to move, so it can be a huge hassle to have to leave your home at all times of the day. The more flexible you can be in accommodating showings, though, the better your chances of selling quickly. Try to keep your home tidy and have a plan for exiting quickly with any kids and pets when needed. 

8. Don’t underestimate the cost of selling.

This might come as a surprise, but the seller pays the fees for both agents. In a typical real estate transaction, the listing broker charges sellers 6% of the home’s sales price and splits the commission with the buyer’s broker. For a $600,000 home, that comes out to $36,000 in agent fees alone. 

Not all brokerages work this way though. You can try negotiating the commission down, or you can find a flat fee brokerage that charges more reasonable prices. Instead of the 6% commission, Houwzer charges a flat $5,000 listing fee plus 2.5% for the buyer’s agent.

When you account for repairs and concessions requested by the buyer, you might end up parting with as much as 10% of the home’s value by using a traditional agent. Make sure you understand the math from the beginning so you can keep more of your home equity.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that you may sell the house faster or more slowly than you expect. If you buy your next home first, you might end up paying two mortgages for a while. And if your home sells quickly, you might be paying for temporary storage or a temporary place to live while you search for your next home.

9. What should you avoid before closing? Don’t take negotiations personally.

You should expect buyers are going to focus on issues that come up during the inspection. Rely on your agent’s expertise and remember that your ultimate goal is to finish the sale quickly while maintaining as much of your equity as possible. 

Don’t take negotiations personally. You’ve lived in your home for years and have made numerous memories there – it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the emotional side of the process (check out these 10 strategies you can employ for managing your emotions). One of the benefits of working with an experienced agent is that they serve as a buffer between you and the buyer. Let your agent handle communications and lean on their advice so small things don’t end up derailing your deal. 

How to sell your home and avoid common mistakes:

There’s plenty of things you should NOT do when selling a house.  If you really want to avoid common home selling mistakes, make sure you hire an experienced real estate agent that you can trust and rely on their guidance. 


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