Worst Mistakes Home Sellers Make and How to Avoid Them

Vicki Moore Pacifica Realtor

Selling homes demands precision in creating and implementing a plan of action. As a home seller, your realtor should guide you through the process, telling you what to expect all along the way.  Following the plan and strategies that are tried and true will keep you from making the worst mistakes many home sellers make.

1. Pricing your house too high

No matter the type of market you’re in, pricing your home too high is a danger that could completely wreck the possibility of your home selling at all. Even sellers’ markets demand the right list price to get your home sold quickly and for the most possible money. The alternative to selling quickly is having your house sitting on the market, not selling, while you wonder what’s wrong with it.

The only reason a house doesn’t sell is that it’s priced wrong. No matter the condition or location, if it’s priced right it will sell. There are a lot of things you can do to get your home to sell quickly – and many of them don’t cost a lot.

Homebuyers have expectations. Anything you do that doesn’t meet those expectations is going to cost you money. Right now many, real estate markets are seeing double-digit multiple offers. But your house has to be priced right to benefit from this market. If you price it too high it’s still not going to sell, even in the hottest markets in the nation. Buyers are well educated about the neighborhoods where they want to buy. They know the recent comparable sales just as well as a lot of the realtors. And they’re expecting to be competing with other buyers. If you price your property where you expect it to sell – without considering the buyers’ expectations of having to write an offer over the asking price – your list price is too high.

2. Taking the Zestimate over the advice of your agent

Zillow Zestimates are not called “estimates” for a reason. Besides the fact that they’ve been sued multiple times for inaccurate price reporting, the prices are calculated by an algorithm. They’re not done by people who can see that you just redid your landscaping, remodeled your kitchen or your neighbor parks his cars on his lawn.

If you want to know more about the Zestimate, look at the way the prices are calculated and how accurate they are. Zillow gives you the data. I encourage you to do your online research just don’t buy it as the final answer. The list price of your house is too important.

3. Using an agent from out of the area

The consumer thinks realtors love the high prices that come with low inventory. In reality, we prefer more houses to sell rather than a few to sell at high prices. The fewer houses to sell, the fewer agents are getting paid. So although high prices are great for home sellers, they’re not so great for homebuyers or realtors.

Because we have such low inventory, real estate agents are traveling further and further not only to find houses to sell but to find houses their buyer clients can afford. The further agents travel outside of their normal market, the more they lose touch with the statistics, expectations and standards of the new areas they’re selling in.

Agents are actually calling me to tell them how to get their buyers’ offers accepted. A realtor license enables agents to work throughout the state. So we can travel anywhere within the state to sell property. The issue is that in order to best serve our clients, we shouldn’t be doing that.

4. Not giving your agent enough time to market your property

Lately, I’m seeing homes sell within the first day or two of being on the market. Those home sellers will never know what their house could have sold for because they and/or their realtor weren’t patient enough to wait for the house to be exposed to the market. How long that should be depends on where you’re located.

I recently listed a house for sale with a specified offer date. One realtor and her clients submitted an offer prior to that date, against the wishes of the seller. The offer was great and under the normal circumstances of reviewing the offer on the specified offer date, it might have been accepted. I asked the client to wait – that there were many showings – and it would be in their best interests to show the house to many more people than accepting this offer right away. They agreed to take the risk. When the offer date came that strategy was proven to be effective again. The house sold for much, much more than that offer.

Selling houses is about planning and strategy. Follow that strategy and you’ll get the results you’ll be happy with. The steps and strategies change with the type of market – sellers’ market or buyers’ and how quickly the market is moving – how fast prices are increasing or decreasing – the number of houses on the market.  Consumer expectations drive all markets, including the housing market.

I’m noticing that the housing market is less and less affected by the seasons. There are still times of the year that are better than others. Instead of being defined by the weather, school start dates or the holidays, the selling seasons are blending together

5. Letting your pets run the house

I love my animals and they definitely run the house. My cat is demanding.  She has me trained.  She wants to be fed, petted, and to be let outside at her command. But when it comes to selling for the most money possible, you’re going to have to lay down some rules and stick to them. A lot of homebuyers are sensitive to smells. In fact, it’s the first thing I do when I walk into a house – I smell it. There are a lot of warning signs that come in the way of odors. Things like mold, dampness, fresh paint, and pet odors all give me information about a house. People who don’t have pets are going to be especially sensitive to pet odor so be sure to follow the tips of How to Sell Your House When You Have Pets or it will cost you.

6. Making your home difficult to see

COVID is making it hard enough for homebuyers to get in to see houses. If you put more limits on them getting in, you’re going to jeopardize your amount of profit. Bill Gassett, in his article Home Selling Mistakes, makes this point very clear, “a missed showing is a missed opportunity.”

If you put any restrictions on showing times or days, you’re throwing away all of the work you did to get your house ready. Yes, it is a sellers’ market with low inventory but the point of putting your house on the market and exposing it to the market is to actually get those buyers in to see it. Open houses used to make it easier by getting as many showings as possible into a weekend but the importance of getting buyers in is still crucial. If they can’t see it, they’re not going to buy it.

Realtors know what a pain it is to get the kids and pets ready and clean up every time the phone rings but when houses are selling so quickly, tell yourself that it’ll be over soon and get out of the house.

7. Not staging your house

There are many levels to staging from very little to all that and a bag of chips. If you’re living in your house while it’s for sale that makes staging more difficult but not impossible. Staging encompasses many things, including the all-important first impression as well as the odors you may have floating around. Danny Margagliano gives us insight into expert staging.

Your realtor can help you with techniques for preparing your house but before you have a realtor come out to evaluate the price and saleability of your property, you can get started by downsizing your belongings. Cleaning out those closets and cabinets, giving away the things you’ve been meaning to donate. Packing up the things you won’t be using.

Remember selling your house takes planning and strategy. Do it right, and you’ll reap the rewards of a fast sale for the most money possible.