Biggest Mistakes Home Sellers Make

Recently, Active Rain, an online community of more than 300,000 real estate professionals who exchange ideas on how best to serve their clients, did a survey of those agents to determine the biggest mistakes sellers make in trying to sell their home. Below are the Top 5 Mistakes Home Sellers Make. Read on and then tell me: do these answers surprise you?


Sign_REALTORS_LeftThis was no surprise, really. We see it every day and apparently, so do agents across the country. It’s a common mistake that sellers – and their agents – make. We say it’s a mistake sellers make because the bottom line is they decide at which price they wish to list; hopefully their agents present a good case for the right price, but sometimes sellers insist and agents capitulate, agreeing to “try” the market. It almost never turns out well. No matter what a seller thinks of his or her home, the market really does set the price at which it will see. “Testing” an overpriced home leads to extended days on market, which in turn leads to buyers thinking it’s either overpriced or has something “wrong with it” – and that leads to missed opportunities.


I was a little surprised this ended up at #2. I know if buyers cannot see it, you can’t sell it, but still, I didn’t realize it was such a widespread problem. Even in a hot, hot market with a hot, hot property, you will lose prospective buyers when you are unrealistic with showings and at the end of the day, that will cost you money or even preferred terms. You never know who is going to walk way from your property – it may have been the buyer with the best price and best terms.


dirty sinkI was not at all surprised by this one because I cannot begin to count how many homes I have shown that were cluttered, littered with toys, furniture, even dirty dishes and dirty clothes strewn about. I’ve walked through homes on “paths” through piles of junk food bags and pizza boxes and peeked in bedrooms where the door would not open completely due to the abundance of furniture. It happens. Sellers who are unable or unwilling to declutter a home cost themselves literally thousands of dollars, no matter how nice the property.

Not only does clutter make the space feel smaller (which is not appealing to anyone), but buyers want to envision their furniture, their accessories, their “stuff,” not yours. I once showed a townhouse with an astonishing amount of Xena Warrior Princess decor, including a massive oil painting that loomed above us as we climbed the second floor stairs. Since the buyers felt as if they were in a Warrior Princess Experience and not a home, I don’t think they paid much attention at all to the features of the home. Of course, they could barely see the features of the home with the overwhelming number of accessories, games, statues, toys and wall hangings.


Sometimes, this goes hand in hand with the cluttered space mentioned above, depending on what’s among the clutter, but it’s never good. I cannot tell you how many times I have had clients automatically reject a property without really completely seeing it because the odors were so strong they could not stay in the house. The first offensive odor that comes to mind for me is cigarette smoke, followed by pet smells. Sometimes the odors may be more recent and the result of dirty garbage, dirty diapers or last night’s dinner. Regardless, bad smells will turn off a buyer and get them out of your home almost immediately. It may take a fresh coat of paint and new carpet to get your house in shape for the market. Nothing personal, but not everyone can tolerate the same smells to which a seller has become accustomed.


half body with rollerWhile some buyers are fine with a home that needs repairs, many buyers these days are not – especially buyers in the northern Virginia market.

I once had a buyer tell me she was not interested in a house where she had to do a thing because her husband traveled extensively for work, she had 3 busy kids to care for and frankly, she just did not have the time or energy to even take the time to pick colors and hire a contractor.

When selling your home, try to put yourself in the shoes of your potential buyer – most of them these days want a move in ready home and don’t want to spend time on repairs. The buyers’ reasoning is they expect a home seller to have property maintained their home all along – if a home has a lot of obvious deferred maintenance, buyers wonder what else the seller has neglected. Sellers who do have deferred maintenance, are unwilling and unable to make repairs should expect buyers not only discount heavily for that fact but also realize they are reducing their buyer pool, as well.

While sellers often respond to objections about needed repairs, painting or worn out carpet by saying they will offer a “credit,” unfortunately, that doesn’t usually fly, for the reasons outlined above. It’s not just about the money, it’s about the hassle factor.


casual guy hand - stopThere are sellers who are set on their price and refuse to negotiate. Rarely does this end well, as evidenced by the houses we see languishing on the market for 400+ days when everything else around them are going in 30 days or less. When days on market are extended well beyond the average for comparable homes in the area, buyers always tend to assume, “there is something wrong with that property.” The house may be absolutely beautiful but once it has been on the market for an unusually long time, buyers may well pass it by sight unseen.

While agents do their best to give sellers the best, most accurate comparable sales and a price range within which they think the house will sell, setting a price isn’t an exact science and a savvy seller will recognize when it’s best to negotiate, not dig in.

So, there you have the Top 5 Mistakes Home Sellers Make. There are more on the list, which we would be happy to share with you if you are contemplating listing your Alexandria home for sale. Just give us a call, send us a text or an email and let us know.

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ActiveRain is an online community of real estate professionals who exchange best practices, write real estate blogs, and get free education from the industry and their peers.

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