7 Mistakes Homeowners Make When Listing to Sell

By: Reagan Miller

Even in a seller’s market—which the US has maintained over the last few years—there are plenty of missteps that can be made when listing a home for sale. Mistakes like choosing the wrong real estate partner to pricing incorrectly can mean your home stays on the market longer that necessary and you don’t get the money you deserve, and as the market begins to shift in favor of buyers, it’s key for sellers to understand how to play in this market. Here are seven mistakes homeowners commonly make when listing their homes—and how you can avoid them.

1. Choosing the wrong real estate agent

A listing agent is your partner in the selling your home. They’re your advocate, expert, your point person. Your real estate agent should be well connected and know your local market inside and out, they should help you determine a good and realistic listing price for your home that is in line with local buyer expectations and market prices.

A well-connected agent is also your best marketing tool. “Your real estate agent will also create top quality marketing materials to make sure your home gets the exposure needed to draw in the maximum amount of potential buyers,” says Brenda Di Bari, licensed real estate broker at Compass NYC. “Included in these materials will be professional-grade photos, a virtual tour or video tour depending on home price level, brochures with photos and useful tips on how a buyer can afford the home, the network of other agents that your agent can contact to bring awareness of your property. The photos will be fed through to a network of listing websites that no homeowner would have on their own.”

When looking for an agent, don’t automatically go with the lowest commission you can find—don’t jump at the cheapest deal. When it comes to agents, you get what you pay for. “A 1% agent that simply places your home on the MLS is worth a lot less than the agent who stages, takes professional photos, and markets your home for sale,” says real estate agent Brandon Hindle.

Read more: How to Find the Right Real Estate Agent in 9 Steps

2. Setting the wrong list price

Going too high or too low when listing your home can hurt your chances of making the best sale. “The number-one biggest mistake a seller can make when listing their home is not pricing it correctly,” says Realtor Donna Hamaker. “Sellers sometimes forget that a home is worth what a qualified buyer is willing to pay. It has nothing to do with how much a seller paid for the home, how much money they put into the home, or how much they need to make from the sale of a home. In fairness, updates and renovations are always factored in to how a home is priced—although not dollar-for-dollar.”

Setting the right price for your home is a matter of understanding your local market. A good agent will perform a market analysis that takes into consideration what similar homes your area have listed for, what they have sold for, and how much time they spent on the market. Listing too low can mean you miss out on the sale price you deserve, or turning off buyers who assume there is a problem with the house.

Listing too high can mean turning away qualified buyers and having your home sit on the market—which can also be a turn off. The longer a home sits on the market, the more skeptical buyers are going to be of it’s value,” says Beatrice de Jong, director of residential sales at Open Listings.

Because the the real estate market has favored sellers the last few years, some may plan to list high to incite a bidding war or because they believe they can get away with a premium price, but the 2019 real estate market will begin to turn in favor of the buyer, so sellers take note.

Sellers may also price high to give a buyer room to negotiate down, but Gill Chowdhury of Warburg Realty cautions that “is really outdated. Even in a terrible market buyers can and do pay full asking price. If you price a property right, you will drive traffic and ultimately achieve the outcome you want. If you price high, especially in a down-trending market, chances are, by the time you are willing to lower your price, you will no longer be able to get the price you could have gotten if you priced at that number from day one.”

3. Skipping a pre-sale inspection

Understanding problems with your house can help when setting the right price. Nicole Saunches, real estate advisor at Christie’s International, always recommends her clients get a pre-sale inspection: “This will provide sellers with information that buyers may present them with during the home inspection period. If a seller knows in advance what may be problematic, they can consult with professionals and either make repairs or at minimum get quotes for the repairs.”

4. Not prepping your home for a showings

Beyond the prep that goes into making necessary repairs and replacements to your home, cosmetically prepping for showings is also key in getting a buyer hooked. Here’s what you should be taking on at a minimum.

Declutter: Clean your house. Get rid of clutter. Put away what you can, but don’t just stuff the closets, because they’ll look there too.

De-personalize: Take down family photos, put away toiletries, take down your kids’ drawings, store personal collections out of sight. The goal of de-personalizing your home is to help prospective buyers envision their own lives in the space.

Repaint with neutral colors: Do yourself a favor and repaint your home with neutral colors—creams, whites, and grays. Home buyers often have a hard time using their imagination when they’ve seen dozens of houses already. By letting them start with a clean slate, you can make it easier for a buyer to see the potential of the home.

Don’t neglect curb appeal: According to a 2018 House Method survey, 57% of people say they would judge someone negatively for having unkept landscaping. Remember that prospective buyers will already begin to form an opinion of your home before they ever cross the threshold. Make a good impression by doing some landscaping, repairing cracked and broken sidewalks and driveways, and painting the exterior (if it needs a fresh coat).

Read more: 57 Ways You Can Increase Curb Appeal in a Single Weekend

Address interior cosmetic issues: Broken light switches, stains, holes in walls, chipped or cracked glass, etc., should all be addressed before you list your house. Get your house as close to pristine as you can to help prospective buyers envision its potential.

5. Using poor photos for your listing

Consider this digital curb appeal. According to the National Association of Realtors, 90% of homebuyers use online search in their hunt for a new home. “Photos are critical when capturing a buyer’s attention, says Saunches. “The photos and the presentation are what get the buyers in the house so you want to make sure you are putting your best foot forward. You only get one chance to make a first impression.”

You don’t have to break the bank on professional listing photos, but hastily snapped cell phone images won’t cut it.

6. Sticking around for showings

Just don’t. When a realtor is showing your house, leave. Don’t close yourself off in an office or a bedroom, instead grab the kids and go to the the park or hop out to a coffee shop.

“Potential buyers like to imagine themselves in the home. There’s nothing more uncomfortable and running the buyer out faster than a seller walking right behind them,” says Lorena Requejado, real estate agent at Keller Williams.

7. Not vetting the buyers or the buyers’ lender properly

Nicole Saunches weighs in: “Not all lending institutions are created equal. I always recommend that a buyer use a lender that is local to the transaction or has a broker/loan officer that is local.”

Why is this so important? Saunches points out that that local lenders will likely be more familiar with the nuance of insurance needs (do you need flood or hurricane insurance?) and loan qualifications. Failure to secure the right lender and financing can mean a deal that falls through at the last minute.

“You want to make sure your home is qualified for the type of financing the buyer is seeking. VA and FHA loans have a more stringent home inspection process, so if your home has peeling paint, windows that won’t open or close, an electric panel that insurance companies won’t insure, leaky roof, to name a few examples, you need to know they could be an issue with a VA or FHA inspection.”

Other considerations for listing your home

Give yourself a leg up by listing in the offseason

Many sellers will wait until the spring/summer rush to list their house in the hope of getting the best price, but by listing in the off-season (roughly November–March), sellers may be able to pull a special advantage. With competition lower than in peak months (typically May–August), you will be competing ith fewer sellers for the year’s highest-quality buyers.

Read more: Why Listing Your House in the Off-Season May Give You the Upper Hand

Consider hiring a home stager

If you’re in a particularly competitive market, hiring a home stager could be well worth your time and money. Jessica Silver, real estate agent at CORE New York, notes: “I’ve been the second broker on many unsold listings that were empty. I staged the apartments and quickly sold them; in multiple cases, I received full-price offers at the first open house.”

Read more: Is Home Staging Worth the Investment?

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