Critical Selling Mistakes to Avoid

1. Failing to prepare your home for the critical eyes of a buyer

When was the last time you stood across the street and took a good hard look at your home?  Don’t underestimate the importance of making a good first impression.  It begins at the street — it’s called curb appeal.  If you are competing with other homes for sale in your area, how does your home honestly compare?  Here are some basic questions that you should ask yourself:

  • What is your first impression of the house and yard area?
  • What are the best exterior features of the house or lot?  How can you enhance them?
  • What are the worst exterior features of the house or lot?  How can you minimize or improve them?

Park your car where a potential buyer would and walk towards the house, looking around you as if it were your first visit.  Some quick tips:

  • Clean windows, fresh paint, swept walkways, and a lush green lawn are essential.
  • Add colorful flowering potted plants, if the weather permits.
  • Get rid of mold and mildew on the siding, roof, and driveways.
  • Put unused garden tools into a storage shed.
  • Clean gutters, sidings, and decks.
  • Edge sidewalks and remove vegetation growing between concrete or bricks.
  • Mow the lawn and get rid of weeds.  Rake and dispose of leaves.
  • Trim tree branches that are near or touching the roof.

With 80% of buyers begining their search online, curb appeal begins at the first click. Don’t under estimate the importance of preparing your home to sell, good pictures and a detailed description of your property.  There are professionals called “Home Stagers” who are trained in assisting home sellers and Real Estate Agents in preparing homes to sell. In fact, statistically professionally staged homes sell 50% faster and for 6% more then homes not professionally staged. You can find a directory of professional home stagers at the Home Staging Resource ( or at the American Society of Home Stagers and Redesigners (

2. Not making the interior appealing 

A lot of these suggestions are common sense, but remember that old saying, “you won’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.”  De-clutter the inside of your home and box up everything you are not currently using.

  • Pack away family photos and excessive knick-knacks.  Buyers want to envision themselves in your home and your family photos might distract them from doing so.  This will start the moving process and save time by breaking the task down into more manageable projects.
  • Neatly store boxes in your garage or basement.
  • Remove your child’s artwork and the refrigerator magnets.  It may be charming to you, but to a buyer it’s just clutter.
  • Make things light and bright.  Turn lights on during showings, even during the daytime.  Remember that the way you live in a house and the way you sell a house are two different things.
  • A fresh coat of paint and new carpeting or professional carpet-cleaning (depending on the present condition) are two of the most cost-effective items.  Some sellers will offer the painting and new carpeting as an allowance, but it rarely has the impact that prior replacement would have on the home. It’s difficult for most buyers to imagine the potential of your home.
  • Bad smells are a big deterrent, so be sure to keep animal scents and cigarette smoke to a minimum in the house.  Regarding pets, try to keep them out of the house.
  • Keep stairways and walk-ways clear.

3. Incorrect pricing for the market
It is crucial to know whether you are in a housing market of appreciating or declining values.  Do your research.  The best source of current real estate conditions is your local real estate agent.  Ask your agent these questions:

  • What is going on in the local market?
  • How does the supply of available inventory (other homes for sale) measure up with the demand?  Are there other factors to consider?
  • Are you competing with new home developments?
  • What is the current unemployment rate versus new job growth?

Knowing the facts will help you price your home accordingly.  It’s important to understand the distinction between pricing your home to sell versus overpricing your home to sit on the market unsold.

4. Signing a listing contract with no way out 

If you are signing a long term contract, make sure there is an option to cancel if the agent is not performing their duties.  Most agents will do their job and more.  You want to protect yourself and make sure there is a way to cancel in case you are not happy with their performance.  Ask your agent for a written marketing plan and what sort of guarantee they offer if they are not performing their duties.  Ask if you can get out of the contract.  Even if you are let out, can you list the home immediately with another agent of your choice?  Sometimes an agent will withdraw your listing but you will be unable to list the home with another agent until the term of your contract expires with the current company.  This could waste time and cost you money.  And above all, make sure you get everything in writing!

5. Not utilizing the knowledge of a professional Realtor 
Your real estate agent is your best tool.  So don’t forget to ask him or her for their honest opinion.  They see many different homes on a regular basis and will have a good idea of what your home needs.  Sit down with your real estate agent and work together to find curb appeal projects that are within your budget.  A professional local Realtor will also price your home accordingly.  A local agent has a better idea of pricing and strategies that work in your community.  Tell him or her what your goals are and they will do their best to help you reach those goals.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you don’t understand something in the real estate contracts.  A good Realtor wants you to be happy with your decision to sell your home, they will be glad to explain the contract lingo in plain English.


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Avoid These Costly Mistakes Before Selling a Home

You’ve decided to sell your home. You have advertisements paid for and buyers lined up at your door. You are ready to accept an offer and sell your home today! A piece of cake, right? Not so fast. You could end up losing the sale or even worse, get sued by an angry buyer who misunderstood what was advertised or what was said.

1.   Don’t Sell Before You Get Qualified to Buy Your New Home

If you signed a contract to sell your house before you were qualified to buy another, you’re asking for trouble. Here’s why: Your financial circumstances may have changed since your last purchase, and you might not be able to qualify for a loan, or you might not be able to sell at a price that allows you to buy the type of replacement house you want. You could end up renting or buying something that was far from ideal.

Before you decide to sell the house, get pre-approved by a lender you trust and research the housing market in the area where you wish to live so that you have a good idea how much it will take to buy a replacement. Make plans in case you have to move right away.

2.   Don’t Guess Your Loan Payoff

Check your mortgage payoff. Call your lender to check the payoff for your current home mortgage. Make sure there are no penalties written in your contract for early payoff. Some lenders have a pre-payment penalty for paying off your loan to soon!

3.   Don’t Guess on the Sale Price of Your Home

Determine your home’s fair market value. Real estate agents will usually help you determine value as a courtesy, but you might take it a step further and order a fair market appraisal. Not an appraisal for the purpose of a full loan amount, but an appraisal for the true market value. There is a difference!

Nothing loses potential buyers faster than an overpriced home. Then, when you lower the price it makes it look like you are getting desperate to sell. On the flip side, you don’t want to lose money by selling too cheap. It might get you a fast sale, but you might miss out on several thousand dollars, too. Learn how to price your house for sale the right way.

4. Don’t Underestimate Your Closing Costs to Sell

Don’t forget to calculate the following items:

  • Real estate commission, if you use an agency to sell.
  • Advertising costs, signs, other fees, if you plan to sell by owner.
  • Attorney, closing agent and other professional fees.
  • Excise/Gains tax for the sale, if applicable.
  • Prorated costs for your share of annual expenses, such as property taxes, home owner association fees, and utilities.
  • Any other fees sometimes paid by the seller (appraisals, inspections, buyer’s closing costs, etc.).

Real estate agents deal with transactions every day and can give you a very close estimate of seller closing costs.

5. Don’t Spend Earnest Money Given to You

Don’t assume the earnest money deposit is yours until the deal has closed and recorded. Also give the buyer a receipt. There are many stories about sellers who spent the deposit money prior to closing. When the transactions didn’t take place for valid reasons — such as financing or repair issues — the buyers had to fight or sue for a refund.

Whenever possible, give the money to your broker or a neutral party who will hold the deposit for you until closing day and make sure your contract dictates what happens to the funds if the transaction doesn’t close.

6. Don’t Let Your Emotions Take Over

Keep a cool head during the entire selling process, especially during and after a home inspection. Be realistic and assume there will be issues. No home is perfect, especially older homes. It’s not unusual to have to take care of some repairs yourself. Don’t let the buyer’s demand to do a small repair kill the deal.

On the other hand, don’t commit to fixing anything in advance, unless you’re sure you can handle it emotionally and financially. Decide what type of repairs you can realistically tackle, then stick with the decision. Some repairs can get out of hand and end up costing you big money.

7. Don’t Forget to Cancel or Switch Utilities & Insurance

That sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to tell utilities they are moving or apply for utility service at their new home. Call the utilities and your insurance company as soon as you have a contract. Find out how many days lead time they need to switch or cancel, then get back with them when you have a firm closing date.

8. Don’t Become Best Friends with the Buyer

It’s great to be friendly, but don’t get into too many long discussions with the buyers, because personality conflicts often cloud judgments.

Remember, this could be their new home. You’re no doubt excited about moving. But buyers will start second guessing–everyone does. A casual statement about “gettin’ out while the gettin’s good” might be enough innocent chatter to kill the deal.

9. Don’t Panic if the Appraisal Comes in Low

At least not at first. There are some things you (and your agent) can do to correct the problem. Study your options.

10. Don’t Go It Alone

Selling a home can be one of the most stressful things in your life. Answering calls, setting appointments, cleaning house, boxing up memories can be overwhelming for most. If you’re working with an agent, it’s the agent’s duty to track many of the day-to-day details that involve the buyers and taking phone calls. The paperwork required in a sale alone is enough to drive anyone over the edge.

11. Don’t Ignore Inspection Requirements

Know what is expected of you and take care of it. For instance, a buyer getting an FHA loan will have an FHA inspector who may require some repairs to process the loan. That’s something you may have to handle yourself if the buyer can’t manage it. Answer inspector questions and provide required paperwork as quickly as possible–selling your home depends on it.

12. Don’t Go to Closing Unprepared

Do not go to closing without your “HUD Estimate” which is provided by your title company. It will outline your costs and will give you a good idea of how much money you will be getting or will need to bring at closing. Also, make certain you speak with your agent and/or title officer to get a more exact figure and to make sure no surprises have risen.  Its always a good idea to choose your own title company, and get some quotes since title insurance is a large part of closing costs.

13. Don’t Write an Offer For the Buyer

With the exception of YOUR Agent, do not write an offer for the buyer. The buyer should write the offer themselves or with the help of their agent. Hire your own agent whenever possible to protect your interests. Remember, a listing agent WORKS FOR YOU.So avoid letting your listing agent act as a limited broker who will become neutral to both sides.

14. Don’t Show Your Home Unprepared

Get everything ready in advance, especially “eye-sores” or any repairs that may scare buyers away. Get rid of any water leaks, stains, broken windows/doors, bad smells, etc. You don’t want to lose a potential buyer. I’ve often sold a home to the first buyer on the first day!

15. Don’t Follow Buyers Around When Showing

Whenever possible, don’t be home when showing. If you’re listing with a real estate agent, they’ll often ask you to leave when the house is shown. Why? Because lurking sellers make buyers nervous–they don’t feel comfortable inspecting the house when they feel they are intruding. It’s easier for buyers to visualize the home being theirs when they have a chance to critique and discuss the home among themselves. If you must be home, try to stay out of the way and answer questions only if asked.

Unless there’s a real reason for it, don’t ask your agent to be present for all showings either. That’s the kiss of death for showing activity. Other agents want privacy with their buyers and they don’t usually have time to work around your agent’s schedule.

16. Don’t Waste Your Time With Non-Qualified Buyers

Nothing wastes time worse than showing your home to someone who can’t even buy it! I had a friend who spent two weeks preparing his home for a co-worker who wanted to buy his home. He spent over $1,000 removing a storage shed and met with the guy 2-3 more times discussing the price only to find out 3 weeks later that he could not qualify for a loan!


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How to Prepare Your Home for a Quick Sale

 Here are some tips from local real estate agents who consistently outperform the market:

De-clutter and De-personalize your home:  Look at your home through the eyes of a prospective buyer.  Would you be interested in seeing somebody’s wedding photos and kid’s baseball picture?  Or would you like to see how the space can be used and picture your belongings in the home?  Removing the clutter opens up spaces such as countertops and shelving and lets the buyer use their imagination.  Be strategic with your furniture.  Pieces in corners tend to make rooms feel smaller.
Have your home ready before placing it on the market:  Walk the home with your agent prior to listing it on the market and make a punch list of things to be done before it hits the MLS.  Research shows the activity of a house spikes when it is first listed, so it needs to be ready for that initial surge.  If the home is not ready, most of those buyers will not be back to view it when it finally is.  That’s why it is essential to put your best foot forward from the get go.  Remember, first impressions are typically lasting ones.

Consider staging your home if you are moving before it sells:  A vacant home can feel cold and hollow to prospective buyers.  Staging companies can add furnishings to homes to help add warmth and color for a reasonable fee.  By placing furniture in your house you are showing buyers how space can be used and giving it a homey feel while still allowing them to picture how their belongings would look.  The cost of staging a home is usually less than your first price reduction, and can be an effective tool in selling your home.  As an added bonus, furniture helps hide blemishes in carpeting and on the walls.
Have your home inspected before placing it on the market:  Pre-inspections are becoming more and more popular with today’s sellers.  For a fee of around $300-$500, a licensed inspector will evaluate your home’s major systems (electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling, roof, etc).  By having this prior knowledge, sellers have the chance to make repairs or modifications on their own terms and can alleviate any issues that may come up during a buyers inspection.  Nobody’s home is perfect, yet sellers are often blindsided by demands for costly repairs they didn’t anticipate on systems they have never had issues with.  Often times they feel stuck after possibly agreeing on a purchase price of less than they originally asked, then after having their home off the open market for 10-20 days once it’s under contract being asked to make costly repairs or reduce the price even more.  On the positive side, if systems show up as being in good working order after a pre-inspection, sellers can use this information as a marketing tool.

Hire an experienced real estate agent:  Do you feel comfortable being somebody’s guinea pig?  That’s exactly how you’ll feel if you make the wrong choice when selecting your agent.  An experienced agent will have the knowledge necessary to give you the most leverage in the market.  They will have performed enough transactions to anticipate any problems that may arise and know what it takes to sell a home in the most competitive of markets.  Ask your agent questions such as how many transactions they performed last year, what their average time on the market was, what their sales price to list price ratios look like, and also for a list of references from past clients.  If an agent is unable to answer these questions to your satisfaction, keep looking.  Your home is too important to be somebody’s “learning” experience.
Price your home to sell:  No matter what steps and precautions you take when selling your home, if it is overpriced it will not sell!  Partner with your agent as much as possible when determining the price of your home and be realistic when setting the sales price.  Sellers who actively participate in researching comps usually have better luck in moving their homes.  An agent can show them how they come up with a price based off of prior sales and active listings and by being involved, sellers get a better feel for the marketplace.  Ask to meet with your agent at his/her office so you can view history on the MLS with them.  Overpricing on purpose and then counting on settling for the “real” price is setting yourself up for failure.


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