8 Ways to Screw Up Your Home Sale
By Michael Corbett, Trulia’s real estate and lifestyle expert
Home prices are continuing to inch up, with 93 of the 100 largest metros clocking quarter-over-quarter price increases. Many homes that had been underwater during the housing downturn are now finally worth more than the amount owed on them. That’s great news! With the positive momentum in the market, more home owners are ready to put their homes on the market and make a sale. If you’ve been paying attention to the news headlines, you’ll know that it’s a ‘sellers’ market’ in many cities right now. But beware – just because prices are up and inventory is down and the market seems prime, don’t become overconfident or careless with your own home. There are still plenty of ways you could still sabotage your sale.
Here are eight of the top ways to screw up the sale of a home:
1. Selling a House via “For Sale By Owner” (FSBO). Trying to sell your home by yourself is sheer madness. Many people think that it’s easily doable because the market is hot and you can save on the commission. Despite the lure of not having to pay an agent a commission, you need the expertise and know-how of a professional, who can help you navigate the stacks of paperwork, provide priceless neighborhood knowledge – and negotiate on your behalf. The numbers also don’t lie: the typical FSBO home sold for $174,900, compared to $215,000 for agent-assisted home sales.
2. Mispricing Your Home. Overpricing your house is a huge money-losing mistake. Yes, the market is hot. But not hot enough that you can push the envelope and price it for way more than the comps will support. Overpricing your home is dangerous – and you can end up burned in this ‘hot market.’ You run the risk that your home will sit on the market for weeks and months and become the stale listing that every home seller wants to avoid. Know the competition and set the right price – never overprice too high in hopes that someone will unknowingly overpay.
3. Using Lousy Photos. 90% of all home shoppers start their home search online, and bad photos can tank your home sale. If you let your agent grab a few fast photos of your house on their cell phone on a rainy day and use those for all your online listings, then you’ll likely get passed over for a home with more flattering photos. You also must showcase your house on its ‘best day.’ When the light is shining through the windows, when the countertops and other spaces are clear of clutter and unnecessary items. It astounds me when any home sellers (and their agents) allow photos of rooms scattered with old clothes and filthy, messy kitchens. Every photo should illicit a “wow!”
4. Refusing to Make Obvious Repairs Prior to Sale. You will lose money if you don’t take care of repairs before the house goes on the market. Showing the house when there are leaking faucets, cracks in the walls, water stains on the ceiling, and a busted hot water heater are all ways to turn off potential buyers. When you do find a buyer willing to overlook those necessary repairs, they are going to want discounts or credits worth far more than what it would have cost you to make the repair yourself.
5. Keeping All Your Clutter and Junk. “Oh the house looks fine” you say to your agent. “It’s going to take too long to pack up and get rid of all our stuff” you say to your husband. “Buyers will see right past all my boxes and collections of plaster cookie jars and shelves overflowing with nick-knacks” you think to yourself. It may sound like a good idea, but it’s not a smart approach. Believe me, I have seen homes come on the market that obviously could have sold so much faster, had the home owners spent just one weekend depersonalizing and removing all their “stuff” inside the home. Clutter makes your home seem smaller, ultimately eating equity and killing deals. Period. De-clutter immediately! Take inventory of all your possessions and think to yourself: should I save it, store it, sell it, or chuck it?
6. Ignoring The Backyard. Everybody knows that fantastic front curb appeal sells homes, but don’t forget what’s out back. In the summer and fall months, everyone’s attention turns to the outside spaces, where they dream of warm summer nights and outdoor entertaining. If you don’t maximize and capitalize on your backyard, you are missing a huge component of your warm weather living spaces. That back yard patio is not just for storage of old bikes and broken patio furniture that should have been thrown out years ago. In a buyer’s eyes, it can be the most important ‘room’ in the house. You need to stage your backyard and outdoor entertaining areas as beautifully as you would the interior of your home. Green grass, flowers and trimmed trees should be the same standard as your curb-appealed front.
7. Hiding Problem Issues From the Buyers. I’ve watched too many home sellers pay out big bucks because they didn’t “reveal it all.” Disclose! Disclose! Disclose! Once you have an accepted offer, sellers are required to fill out disclosure statements. If you did renovations to the house without a permit over the years, disclose. If there was a roof leak that damaged the attic two years ago, disclose. If the electrical blows every time you run the dishwasher and the microwave at the same time, disclose. The buyer’s will find out eventually. And if you knowingly have kept things from them, it sets the tone for an ugly and difficult closing. Not to mention that you are setting yourself up for the liability.
8. Getting Your Ego Involved When Negotiating. Real estate transactions are business deals. Plain and simple. There is no room for ego here. If an offer comes in low, the mistake is to be insulted and not counter back. Always counter back and keep deals in play. Too many sellers take negotiations personally and lose out on creating a win-win deal. Keep your ego out of the equation and put your head back into it. Remember your end goal: getting your house sold and having a smooth and successful closing.