Mistakes sellers commonly make
Selling a house is a complex process and there are many potential pitfalls along the way. While no “one-size-fits-all” approach makes sense, there are certain errors you want to be sure to avoid. Sometimes, you may receive feedback from your agent or a prospective buyer that is not positive. It’s hard not to feel criticized, but try to channel that feedback into an improvement. Remember, the goal is to get the house sold.
More than ever (and this trend will only continue), the on line pictures and videos of a property are a buyer’s first impression. If they are poor quality or don’t showcase the house well, the negative impact is enormous. Keep in mind that no matter how nice it is in person, if the pictures don’t convey its appeal, buyers won’t make an appointment to come see it. It’s worth the few hundred dollars to get the best professional photography available.
While it can be a pain to keep everything clean and tidy, it’s a must when selling your house. Make sure the windows are clean, the carpets have been professionally shampooed, every light bulb is working (and is the highest wattage the fixture will take) and it is as clutter-free as possible. Take all of those magnets and kids’ drawings off the fridge. Put away lots of the tchotchkes on side tables. Try to remove as much of your personal items to make it look spacious and to allow a buyer to envision his own belongings in the space. Note: don’t forget odors. Cooking and pet smells are a turn-off and perfumey candles or plug-in scent diffusers are no better.
Don’t ignore necessary repairs
Look, with a critical eye, at your home and property. Note anything that a buyer might see as a problem requiring repair. Touch up any paint that needs it. Fix that drawer that doesn’t close properly. Make sure the gutters are all hung correctly and aren’t overflowing with leaves. Trim those bushes that infringe on the walkway to the front door. Obviously, there are some potential buyer objections (like a dated kitchen) that it wouldn’t make financial sense to remedy. Those negatives should be reflected in the price of the home. Sometimes it’s hard to make a judgment call; if you have carpet with stains, is replacing it worth the investment? Discuss the potential obstacles with your agent.
Don’t ignore the costs to selling
You will have commission, transfer tax, title fees, moving costs, use and occupancy certificates, possible credits due to home inspection issues–don’t underestimate these costs. When you price your house (and when you review any offer), your focus should be on your net proceeds. Net proceeds takes into account all the fees you will owe and buyer credits you may have to provide, so it’s the net amount that matters. Be sure you are clear on all the fees involved in selling.
Don’t be emotionally invested
Yes, this is a hard one; after all, it’s your home! But understand that this is a business transaction and having hurt feelings because a buyer said they’d “have to paint” over the mural you painstakingly created in your son’s room serves no purpose. It’s simply a matter of personal taste and is not intended to be an insult. There is plenty of stress that comes with listing and selling a house. Do yourself a favor and don’t make it worse by being emotionally invested.
Don’t make showings difficult
If at all possible, when a buyer requests an appointment, say “yes”. If you’re difficult about getting out of the house for showings, some buyers will miss seeing your house and choose from one of the others they have been able to visit. Part of being able to agree to (especially short notice) appointments is to keep it in showing condition. Don’t let it become a pig-sty and then say you need a day to clean it up before anyone can show it. Also, do NOT remain on the property for showings. It makes the buyers uncomfortable. Similarly, unless you feel it’s truly necessary, do NOT have your own agent present. All the research has demonstrated that buyers spend less time in a house and feel less able to explore it when either the seller or the seller’s agent is present.
Don’t overlook terms of an offer
When considering an offer, recognize that the terms may be just as important as the net proceeds. Look at the settlement date. Consider the deposit amounts and timing. Pay attention to the elected contingencies (and length of time for buyers to conduct their due diligence)–are the buyers electing every possible contingency? What does that mean to you? Be sure to discuss the offer with your agent, being sure you understand how the terms affect the potential sale.
Don’t neglect to disclose
While you may be tempted to not mention the leak from the bathroom that you fixed, don’t omit it from the disclosure. Why? Well, first of all, if the inspector notes it and you are asked about it, the buyer will immediately assume you have hidden or, worse, lied about other issues. Second, if a problem is discovered after closing that relates to a situation you did not disclose, you could be facing a lawsuit. Finally, it’s actually in your best interest to disclose as much as possible when it comes to negotiating the inspections. If you’ve disclosed the basement gets a tiny bit of water in heavy rain, for example, the buyer doesn’t have a leg to stand on as far as asking for it to be remedied. He was aware of that problem when he agreed to the purchase.
Don’t reject a pre-listing inspection
While there may be certain situations in which a pre-listing inspection is not a good idea, I believe they are few and far between. Yes, you are required to disclose anything you find, so many sellers shy away from them. No one relishes having to provide a list of problems with his house. However, consider what that list accomplishes.
- It demonstrates you are honest and not trying to hide anything, which can go a long way with buyers.
- It acts as a disclosure, weakening the buyer’s negotiating position on any of those items. (See the paragraph above for more on that topic.)
- It protects you from unwelcome surprises discovered by a buyer’s inspections. If you already know that the heater is broken and the roof needs repairing, when you accept an offer, you know that those issues are already known by both parties. If they are discovered later and you have to provide a credit to the buyer, your net proceeds will be less than you’d expected. So the pre-listing inspection lets you more accurately predict your final take home amount. Similarly, it reduces the likelihood of the transaction falling through as a result of inspection issues that can’t be successfully negotiated.
- It allows you the opportunity to fix glaring problems which improves the condition of the house. Buyers like to see that you’ve repaired problems. What many people do is leave a copy of the inspection report on a table in the house with notations about which items have been addressed.
- It often convinces a buyer not to take the time (or money) to do a separate inspection, so the deal isn’t in limbo during what could be a two-week inspection period. If the buyer waives inspections, you can be sure the deal is locked in much sooner after accepting an offer.
Let’s be honest. This mistake is the most common one. Sometimes, a seller overprices a property because she genuinely thinks her house is worth more than what the market values it at. In this case, please, please, listen to your agent and discuss comparables with her. Another reason homes are overpriced is a seller’s decision to price it high with this thought process: “Someone can always offer me less and this gives me room to negotiate.” While that statement is not untrue, the fact is that people don’t even come to see overpriced houses. They look at them on line and feel that, for the asking price, they can get better value elsewhere. You’re more likely to receive competing offers (which drives the price up) when you price appropriately because you generate more interest.