“Did I Do that?”
(re-print, Trulia 6/24/14, Michael Corbett)
With the positive momentum in the market, more home owners are ready to put their homes on the market and make a sale. But beware—when prices are up and inventory is down, more sellers become overconfident and careless with their sale.
Here are eight of the top ways sellers sabotage their own home sale, and tips to save the day.
1. Refusing to Make Obvious Repairs Prior to Sale.
Agents tell sellers this everyday, all day: “You will lose money if you don’t take care of repairs before the house goes on the market.” Showing a 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.
What Sellers Need to Hear: “Shelling out the money may seem like an extravagant expense—especially if you don’t think that the repair will add much to the value of your home. Trust me—time and time buyers over estimate the cost of a repair, so they are going to try to get what they think the repair will cost, and that’s going to cost you more in big credits or discounts!”
2. Ignoring the Backyard
Everybody knows that fantastic front curb appeal sells homes, but many sellers 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.
What Sellers Need to Hear: “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.”
3. Hiding Problem Issues From the Buyers
Far too many agents have watched too many home sellers pay out big bucks because they didn’t “reveal it all.”
What Sellers Need to Hear: “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. You know the history of the home better than anyone, and we need to work together so that we know how to address any potential issues. The buyers 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.”
4. Getting Egotistical When Negotiating
Every agent has had that seller who just simply cannot fathom that a buyer would even think to make such a low offer, but the truth is that most of the time, the buyer doesn’t mean to offend the seller. Heck, the buyer may even know that the home is outside of their price range, but they may just love it so much that they couldn’t resist making an offer. Too many sellers take negotiations personally and lose out on creating a win-win deal.
What Sellers Need to Hear: “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. 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.”
5. Using Lousy Photos (and Not Helping their Agent Get Great Ones)
Ninety percent of all home shoppers start their home search online, and nothing can tank a home sale like terrible listing photos. But sometimes sellers don’t understand the importance of fantastic listing pictures—and that can mean that agents need to resort to grabbing a few fast photos on a cell phone or on a rainy day. After all, the only thing worst than terrible listing photos are listings with no photos at all.
What Sellers Need to Hear: “Think back to when you were originally looking for a home. Even if you were house hunting when online wasn’t a huge thing, you probably remember that seeing a home told you more about it than any text ever could. Even in a sellers market, great photos can help draw in the best buyers—the ones who will be willing to make a big offer on this property.”
6. Holding On to Clutter and Junk
For as long as buying and selling a home has been a “thing” (so a very long time) there have been sellers that say, “Oh the house looks fine. Buyer’s will see right past all my boxes and collections of plaster cookie jars and shelves overflowing with nick-knacks.” Big mistake. Huge.
What Sellers Need to Hear: “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 could have sold much faster, had the home owners spent just one weekend depersonalizing and removing all the extra things inside the home. Clutter makes your home seem smaller, ultimately eating equity and killing deals. Take inventory of all your possessions and think to yourself: should I save it, store it, sell it, or chuck it? It may seem like a solid amount of work, but one weekend of work could mean thousands of dollars come closing.”
7. Selling A House Via “For Sale by Owner” (FSBO)
When the market is hot, many people think that selling their home on their own is easily doable. “Who wouldn’t want to save on commission?” think many sellers. Despite the lure of not having to pay an agent a commission, sellers need the expertise and know-how of a professional, who can help navigate the stacks of paperwork, provide priceless neighborhood knowledge—and negotiate on the seller’s behalf.
What Sellers Need to Hear: “The numbers don’t lie: the typical FSBO home sold for $174,900, compared to $215,000 for agent-assisted home sales. There may be more to a home sale than you realize. Let me walk you through what type of service I can provide you with.”
8. Overpricing the Home
For agents, this is the one major seller mistake that we see the most frequently. It is a misstep that seems to rear its head whenever the market seems like it’s heating up.
What Sellers Need to Hear: “Yes, the market is hot. But not hot enough that you can push the envelope and price it for way more that 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. Let me walk you through the data.”
There they are — the biggest selling mistakes of the season.