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.