Mistakes are great learning opportunities, but when it comes to a major transaction like selling your home, it’s best to learn from others and avoid making common mistakes. All home sellers want to sell their home for as much money and in as little time as possible, and all homebuyers want to buy a home for the least amount of money and in the best condition. This can inevitably lead to mistakes and disappointment. You can’t control everything – including unreasonable buyers – but you can control your actions and strategies to give yourself the best chance of getting what you want from your sale. Here are five mistakes to avoid when trying to sell your home.
Mistake #1: believing your house is special
Your house most certainly is special – to you – but it very likely won’t be as special to your potential buyers. The features you love, flaws you don’t mind, improvements you’ve invested in and design choices you’ve made might all be viewed in a very different light by your prospective buyers.
Buyers want a house that looks new and feels like home to them, and they’ll take notice of anything that doesn’t fit that vision. They may comment on the squeaky floorboards you barely notice, scoff at the paint color in your child’s bedroom or shake their head at your favorite antique light fixture. Don’t take it personally, and don’t waste effort expecting others to adopt your tastes.
The best strategy is to cater to the broadest audience of buyers by showing your home at its cleanest and most neutral. Clean your home from top to bottom, declutter your rooms, apply fresh paint (ideally in neutral colors such as gray), make necessary repairs and tidy up your landscaping.
You’ll need to put a lot of trust in your real estate agent on both how to stage your home and how to determine its market value.
Mistake #2: trying to do your agent’s job
There’s no one better to show buyers how great your home is than you, the person who knows it best, right? Wrong.
With rare exceptions, your real estate agent is almost always the best person to interact with potential buyers. As a trained and experienced professional, they know how to promote your home in the most effective manner.
Sellers who hang around showings and open houses can make buyers feel uncomfortable, hurried or less candid. Your best bet is to leave the home when buyers visit, and give them the space, privacy and time to tour your home without the owner’s watchful gaze.
Mistake #3: expecting buyers to follow your schedule
Homebuyers can have the frustrating habit of asking to see your home on short notice. With a job, children, pets and/or home upkeep to juggle, this can be a frustrating inconvenience for you as the seller. You could be forgiven for wanting to deny the request, but you should usually accommodate buyer visits whenever possible.
Whether due to their own fickleness or to circumstances beyond their control, the buyers you refuse a visit may never attempt a second showing at your home. The burden of accommodating your schedule to theirs is usually outweighed by the chance to find the one right buyer you need to purchase your home. Do your best to keep your home as tidy as you can and have an exit plan for kids, pets and other dependents so that when opportunity comes knocking, you’ll be ready to answer.
Mistake #4: refusing to negotiate
Negotiating is a little-practiced art in America, and when it comes to something as personal and pricey as a home, it’s easy to let emotion get in the way. Whether it’s an “insultingly low” offer right off the bat or an “unjustified” request for a closing credit for some repair, it’s important not to take the negotiation process personally.
Negotiation is a normal part of home selling. You should expect it and be ready to participate in it. Some offers and demands truly are too weak to entertain, but with your agent’s advice, you should negotiate toward an agreement whenever you can and show that you’re serious about making a sale. The alternative is keeping your home on the market and hoping for the perfect offer while you continue to endure the expense and inconvenience of the sales process.
Don’t get too confident once you’ve accepted an offer. There are several contingencies throughout the sales process, including the appraisal and the home inspection. These may require you to be flexible and negotiate or risk the deal falling apart.
Negotiation is another process where you’ll rely heavily on your agent’s experience and analysis to decide which terms to accept, negotiate or refuse and which strategies to pursue.
Mistake #5: thinking everyone’s a pet person
If you have pets, you probably love them as family, but not everyone is so endeared to a home’s animal occupants. Buyers may have allergies to pets, be sensitive to smells like litter boxes or be put off by claw marks or patches of dead grass on the property.
If pets live in your home, you need to do your best to conceal the evidence. Clean up hair, pick up pet droppings, neutralize smells and put bowls, toys, beds and other accessories out of sight. The pets themselves, in most cases, should be removed during showings and open houses as well, especially when animal or buyer can pose a danger to one another.
The only people your home is special to are you and your family, so make sure it’s clean, neutral and shows great at all times. Don’t try to do your agent’s job. Be sure you and all your home’s occupants are gone for showings and open houses. Don’t assume that buyers will accommodate your schedule or your home price – be flexible! If you follow this advice, you can give yourself the best chance at a quick, strong-priced sale with minimal stress. Good luck!