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Biggest Home Seller Mistakes

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Real Estate Agents Rank Biggest Home Seller Mistakes

A recent survey of real estate agents by ActiveRain has confirmed that there are certain things a seller should avoid if they are trying to get their home sold for the best price in the least amount of time. 

The results of this survey are no surprise to real estate agents, but sellers need to understand that eliminating as many hurdles as possible to the sale of your home will help you achieve your desired outcome.

Biggest seller mistakes 


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Of the top mistakes, most are ultimately in the hands of the seller. Working with your real estate agent to minimize the impact of each of these mistakes will make the sale of your home a reality.

Here are the top mistakes real estate agents commonly see made by homeowners looking to sell their house.

1. Overpriced Home

Nothing shocking here. This was far and away the most common mistake sellers make that prevent them from selling their home. 

If you overprice your home there is a pretty good chance no one is going to want to buy it. Real estate agents do not set the real estate market. A great real estate agent will suggest a price at which to list your home based on comparable homes that have already sold in the market. Overpricing a home to 'see if you can get someone to bite' is not a strategy employed by someone really serious about selling. Overpricing a home will lead to missed opportunities with buyers that are serious about buying in the range at which your home should be listed.

The first week during which a home is listed will generally be the time that the most eyeballs are on the home and the largest potential pool of buyers will be exposed to the listing. Setting a price that reflects the market is essential to selling! This is exacerbated in a downward trending market. Many a seller has lost thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars chasing a market down after setting a listing price that was outside what the market was willing to bear.

Margaret Goss, a Broker with Baird & Warner on the North Side of Chicago gives you a few reasons that an agent will take your overpriced listing and then shares the repercussions of making the decision to price your home too high. 

2. Showing Availability - It's Difficult to Set a Showing

The chances your home will sell when buyers can't get in to physically inspect the property are minuscule. Sellers need to understand that listing a home for sale is going to lead to some inconveniences in your normal routine. Many serious buyers may want to physically inspect a property during times which may not be convenient for the seller. Knowing this, motivated sellers need to understand that flexibility in when you allow the home to be sold could have a direct impact on the sale of your home.

It's not uncommon for sellers to see 8, 10, even 20 homes during a showing tour with their agent. If your house isn't on that list because you only do showings on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm, you will miss out on ready, willing and able buyers. 

As a seller, realize that the more people that can see the home in person, the more chance you have to find the buyer that wants your home. Eric Kodner, a broker with Madeline Island Realty in La Pointe Wisconsin shares a real life example of an unavailable seller costing herself a sale and a lot of money.

3. Cluttered Space - Unwilling to Depersonalize or Remove Clutter

Sellers are sometimes unwilling to either make the effort, or unwilling to compromise how they live in their home during the time the home is on the market for showings. Serious sellers realize that by depersonalizing the home and removing unwarranted clutter, it allows potential buyers to more easily visualize their own things in the house.

When you live in your home day in and day out, you become comfortable with your own 'things'. In many cases, however, your 'stuff' can make a room feel smaller than it actually is and in some more extreme cases, your 'stuff' can completely distract someone from visualizing the potential of a room. We know you are proud of your kids as the shrine in the living room displays all of their ribbons, trophies and diplomas from the last 20 years. But for a buyer, this is only a distraction. 

Many agents will make recommendations about ways to remove clutter or depersonalize your home. Some will even suggest that a professional homestager be brought it to completely maximize the space and create a setting maximizes the buyers ability to visualize their own things. The key thing to remember here is these suggestions are not personal and you may have to be a little uncomfortable so that your house puts it's best foot forward.

Ralph Gorgoglione, a real estate agent with the John Aaroe Group in Los Angeles reminds us that "as a seller, the most important thing to realize is that, yes, your crapola means a lot to you. But it means nothing to anyone else." Especially a buyer trying to visualize their own stuff in your house.

4. Unpleasant Odors in the House

"Mr and Mrs. Seller, your house stinks!"

Most agents aren't going to be this blunt. But in some cases they wish they could be. They'll take a more tactical approach and say something like.....'during the time your house is on the market, it might be a good idea to smoke outside'.

But what they know is that nothing will stop a potential buyer in their tracks faster than a strong odor of any sort. In some cases this could just be the left over smell from last nights dinner. In more extreme cases, agents tell horror stories of entering homes that have a bad smell of pet urine or smoking. 

The main concern for the buyer is, of course, "is the house going to smell like this once we move in?" Real Estate agents confirm that many a buyer has passed on a home after coming to their own conclusion on that answer. 

Your agent isn't suggesting a fresh coat of paint and new carpet because they don't like how things look. They are making this suggestion because they realize that the smoke odor in your home is going to be a major turn off for anyone thinking about buying your home.

Real estate broker Dick Greenburg with Elevations Real Estate, LLC in Fort Collins Colorado even goes so far as to suggest "homes with bad odors don't sell because buyers are having intense and complex negative reactions that are beyond working around."

5. Seller Unwilling to Make Repairs Prior to Listing

No seller wants to spend a few thousand dollars making repairs to a house you are about to sell. Agents understand that. But they also understand that few buyers want to move in to a house that needs a bunch of work done immediately upon moving in. 

One of your objectives to selling your home is to make it as appealing as possible to as wide of an audience as possible. If the seller is unwilling to make repairs, and a buyer doesn't want a bunch of work upon moving in, you've shrunk the pool of potential buyers for your property.

Some sellers may want to offer the buyer a credit at closing for certain repairs. Real estate broker Chris Ann Cleland, with Long and Foster in Gainesville, VA shares with us why that strategy isn't better than making the repairs yourself before putting the home on the market.

6. Sellers Unwilling to Negotiate with Buyers

Setting a market price on a home is not an exact science. Many real estate agents will give the seller a range in which they predict the home will sell. As a seller, you should always want the most money the market will bear. That being said, the unwillingness to negotiate with buyers can turn away even the most serious buyers.

Price is not the only condition which is open to negotiation. Buyers and sellers can negotiate on dates, fixtures that might stay with the home, repairs and a host of other sticking points. Sellers that refuse to negotiate and are set on digging in their heels are much less likely to find a willing and able buyer.

Don't be insulted by low offers. Buyers want to get the home for the best price and on the best terms they can. Just like a sellers wants to sell for the best price on the best terms. It's rare that either party walks away from a negotiation with everything they want. Motivated sellers understand this and are willing to negotiate.

Debbie Reynolds, a broker with Prudential PenFed Realty in Clarksville Tennessee, cautions sellers against being unwilling to negotiate as well as second guessing your original listing price

7. Bad Photos in the MLS

This one will most likely fall on your real estate agent. But knowing that bad photos in the MLS can be an impediment to the sale of your home, as a seller it's imperative that you demand great photography from your agent.

Studies show that greater than 85% of people are going online as a part of their research for buying a home. Most buyers will probably first be introduced to your home online. Poor photos could be cause for them to disregard your home before they ever set foot in it. 

The photos used to market your home are generally the first impression any buyer will have of your home. When picking an agent to list your home, ask to see examples of photos from previous listings. Do their photos make you want to take a look at the home?

Never let your home go on the market without photos! If it means waiting a day or two before listing, wait. A large number of potential buyers in your market will be exposed to your home the first day it goes on the market. Having great photos the first day the home hits the market is a must.

Tammie White, a REALTOR® with Benchmark Realty LLC in Franklin Tennessee tells us why "it is crucial to have professional photographs to show off your home."

8. The Home is Just Plain Messy

You were late for work this morning so you ran out of the house without picking up from last night's dinner. Not a big deal.....unless you have potential buyers that will be stopping by. 

Some people may be able to look past the dishes stacked up in the sink, but enough buyers won't be able to look past the mess. Remember, buyers want to envision their things in your house. The more obstacles you put in the way, the harder time they have connecting with the home emotionally.

Take the time every day to make sure everything is cleaned up and the home is in showing condition. 

Woody Edwards, a REALTOR® with First Choice Realty in Chesterfield Virginia is reminded of an old saying his grandmother used to have, "never leave home until the home is in dying condition". This couldn't be more true than when selling your home. 

9. Sellers Who Like to Play Tour Guide During Showings

Almost every real estate agent who participated agreed that sellers should leave the house during showings. Some sellers want to stick around and make sure buyers see all the important features of a home. The problem with that.........as a seller you don't know what's important to a buyer. 

Sellers that hover around during a showing will make the buyer nervous. They won't feel comfortable discussing things they like or dislike about the house with their agent. In addition, most buyers like to explore a little bit. Interested buyers tend to do things like open cabinets and check in closets to get a better sense for the entire home. A hovering seller can make this very uncomfortable for some buyers.

Bottom line......leave the house when it's being shown. Your presence there will only make things worse. Karen Feltman, a real estate agent with Skogman Realty in Cedar Rapids Iowa gives you a couple of specific ways that a seller's meddling during showings can hurt or kill a deal

10. Picking the Wrong Agent

You decided to list with your aunt or with your friend that just got in the business. You paid no attention to their experience or what they do to market a home. Maybe not the best idea. 

Real Estate agents will often suggest interviewing more than one agent. You'll never know if your aunt is going to do a good job of marketing your home for sale if you have nothing to which to compare her. 

Don't be scared to ask a real estate agent questions about why they are a better choice than anyone else you may be considering. Just like with any profession, there are good real estate agents and there are bad real estate agents. Anita Clark, a REALTOR® with Coldwell Banker in Warner Robins Georgia shares a great list of potential questions you will definitely want to ask before you pick an agent

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Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

The info in this infographic is just what I needed for my iPad listing presentation, but the colors didn't go with company branding throughout. Using the pages app, I recreated the infographic in darker colors, made a screen shot, and voila... All this great info in the "right" colors, triggering a script that addresses these mistakes.

Mar 31, 2014 07:31 AM
Chandler Real Estate Liz Harris, MBA
Liz Harris Realty - Chandler, AZ

Bravo... Great Article...

Mar 31, 2014 01:12 PM
Alan Kirkpatrick
Austin Texas Homes - Round Rock, TX
Alan in Austin

Very nicely done. Great post. Hope you have a wonderful week. 

Mar 31, 2014 01:56 PM
Dee Toohey
Innovative Realty Solutions Group - Longwood, FL
Broker, ABR, AHWD, CIPS, FMS, ePro

I am working with a seller now that wants me to be present for all showings.  That will hinder showings and the sale.  I'm working with her to resolve this.  Thanks for the good blog.

Apr 06, 2014 05:50 AM
Catherine Ulrey
Keller Williams Capital City - Salem, OR
Equestrian and Acreage Property Specialist

Love the graphic!

Apr 06, 2014 09:12 AM
Elyse Berman, PA
LoKation Real Estate - Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton FL (561) 716-7824

Wonderful post!  Terrific graphic!

Apr 06, 2014 01:13 PM
Chandler Real Estate Liz Harris, MBA
Liz Harris Realty - Chandler, AZ

I come back to this post because you make so many great points!

Apr 06, 2014 02:05 PM
Bill Dean
Haggerty Team St. Louis, Mo. - Fenton, MO
William Dean - Broker, Salesperson

Excellent post!  You rounded all the bases and pretty much in order of importance!  I will be revisiting this one to check the reast of the example links.

Apr 06, 2014 03:13 PM
Edward Rozalewicz
I've reposted this and send it to all my potential listing clients. The points are dead on, and the links to real life examples validate this best practices advice.
May 06, 2014 08:02 AM
Bill Gassett
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Hopkinton, MA
Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate

I loved this graphic and have shared it quite a bit over the last few months in my social media channels. In fact I have written about this subject a few times. Home seller mistakes are bound to happen when the seller is not given good guidance by a top notch real estate agent. Real Estate is not rocket science by any means but there are some people who lack common sense and don't make prudent decisions on a number of levels.

Jul 17, 2014 06:24 AM
Chandler Real Estate Liz Harris, MBA
Liz Harris Realty - Chandler, AZ

Great post today, was a pleasure reading it.  Look forward to your next one.  Liz in Chandler

Jul 17, 2014 01:08 PM
Ian Bush
Ian Bush Homes - Ashburn, VA
Ian Bush, Loudoun County's Favorite Realtor

Just found this re-blogged elsewhere. It's worth a share as there are some great tips.  


Ian (www.loudoun-homes.com)

Feb 05, 2015 12:18 PM
Frank Rubi
Frank Rubi Real Estate, LLC - Metairie, LA

Although this post has been out over a year it still very close on target. Many sellers need to understand the perception that can fall on a property. 

Feb 23, 2015 02:01 AM
Eyeluta Haileleul
Irvine, CA

Great advice. Thank you.

Sep 25, 2015 01:51 PM
Dawn Wiggan
Buyer's Eye Design...Transforming OLD Kentucky homes to SOLD Kentucky homes! - Elizabethtown, KY
Buyer's Eye Design

Timeless advice...sharing on all our social media and our site!

Jul 21, 2016 12:40 PM
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

#9. Sellers have a multitude of reasons for why they may want to stick around during showings, but we should remind them that the buyers have their own visions and needs. Sellers need to understand that vacating their house allows buyers to imagine the home as their own. Some sellers who lived in the house for a very long time are often too emotional about their homes and feel that the agent will not be able to provide all ''valuable'' information to visitors....but they should be reminded that next homeowners are looking to create their own memories. 

Sep 02, 2017 11:14 PM
RE/MAX ACE REALTY - Downingtown, PA
Helping Achieve Homeownership & Investing

EXCELLENT article every Seller should read!    Sellers want the best price and realtors strive for that goal, however rightly priced and well staged/prepared homes sell quickly! 

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Dec 11, 2018 05:07 AM
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Dec 11, 2018 05:10 AM
Richard Morrison Vancouver Homes
RA Realty Alliance - Vancouver, BC
Vancouver realtor

By far one of the most comprehensive seller mistakes blog I have ever come across. I will have to emulate some of these on my home seller guide!

Jul 21, 2019 10:36 PM