Selling a home can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to marketing it effectively. To ensure that your home is marketed in the best possible way, it's important to avoid some common missteps that can turn potential buyers away. By being aware of these mistakes and taking proactive steps to avoid them, you can set yourself up for success and increase your chances of attracting the right buyer for your home. Whether you're a first-time seller or a seasoned pro, these tips and insights can help you make your home stand out in a crowded market.
Not Keeping Your House in “Show-Ready” Condition
When you don’t stay on top of housekeeping, your home inevitably becomes less tidy, dirty, etc. such that it may no longer be in ideal showing condition. Developing a routine for staying on top of making beds in the morning, tidying up after meals, and doing regular touch-ups like vacuuming will ensure that your house and yard are always in great shape. As a result, you'll never feel compelled to turn down a showing request. After all, you never know the circumstances that might lead to a same-day or even a last-minute showing request. Stay organized and on top of your house and yard so you don’t find yourself turning away a single prospective buyer.
Making Major Changes Without Consulting Your Realtor
We once had a client who decided to add built-ins to their living room without even mentioning their plans to their Realtor. As a result of their living room being torn up without their Realtor’s knowledge, several prospective buyers’ agents were caught off-guard and didn’t have any explanation for their buyers as to why the living room looked the way it did when they toured the property. In addition, the new nautical theme of the built-ins were out of step with the design and feel of the rest of the house, the color scheme and execution was clumsy, and the marketing did not include the new design, thus catching prospective buyers off-guard.
If possible, all changes should be made prior to the listing going live and, assuming you’re working with an experienced Realtor, only with your Realtor’s blessing. Realtors tour hundreds at homes every year and are therefore in the best position to advise sellers which updates are needed to sell the house and, of those updates, which ones are going to give you the best return on your money.
Raising the Price When The House Doesn’t Sell
Be sure to listen to your Realtor’s advice when it comes to the critical marketing component that is pricing. Once you lower the price, you won't have much credibility if you raise it again unless substantial improvements were made to the property and your Realtor spends extra time and money getting the word out to prospective buyers.
There are two key ways to know when a property is overpriced: when a property fails to generate traffic or when a property gets good traffic but doesn’t attract any offers. Your Realtor is an expert at knowing when and how to adjust the asking price. Wait too long to reduce the price and you’ll be setting yourself up to receive a lowball offer. Let your Realtor guide you to make effective changes to pricing that will generate additional traffic and attractive offers.
Ignoring Staging Advice
Today’s staging not only involves decluttering, removing unneeded furniture, and adding key pieces to enhance certain rooms, it can also involve adding and subtracting furnishings, adding or changing out window coverings, updating light fixtures, flooring, and even refreshing the paint.
If your Realtor advises you that the 1980's “sponge treatment” on your Master tray ceiling is dated and is causing the room to be too dark, take their advice and make the changes your Realtor is advising (in this case repainting and adding a light kit to the Master fan).
If an element of your home is so taste-specific that your Realtor believes it may impede the sale, take the time to address it as quickly as possible. Not every buyer is handy and/or willing to make changes. Not only do furniture and furnishings come in and out of style, so does paint and other wall coverings.
And remember, not every showing yields the level of detail to assume that something is only a problem if it's mentioned on the feedback form. Trust that your Realtor knows what's in style and can advise you accordingly. If your Realtor isn't fluent in staging, trust me—you need a different Realtor.
Ignoring Showing Feedback
If multiple buyers have the same objections, it’s best to address it by making changes or offering a credit. Ignore it and you’ll simply run up against that objection over and over again, lose time on market, and wind up either not getting any offers or attracting lowball offers due to lost time on market.
Slacking on Curb Appeal
Curb appeal dictates buyers’ first impressions. Give it short shrift and be prepared for some buyers to refuse to go inside the property when they pull up to the house. You can create a positive first impression by replacing dead or dying plants on the front stoop, replacing faded decorations such as a door wreath that’s no longer in season, and updating your online marketing to reflect the current season.
Remember that first impressions—both online and in person—set the tone for the entire showing. Does your front door need cleaning, a fresh coat of paint, or a new lockset? Does the grass need mowing, raking, or weeding? Get it taken care of before showings begin so the curb appeal wows and you make a great first impression.
Renegotiating the Listing Agreement
Don’t try to renegotiate the listing agreement including trying to restructure, cut, or otherwise compromise the compensation offered to the listing agent or the cooperating broker after the fact. You’ll run the risk of alienating the very people working the hardest to get your home sold. Worse, you could be violating the terms of your listing agreement.
Prematurely Terminating the Listing
See the point above. The last thing you want to do is create any kind of disincentive for the person working the hardest to get your home sold. Threatening to terminate the listing ahead of schedule can hurt your agent’s ability to execute their marketing plan, waste your Realtor’s valuable marketing dollars spent, and hurt your ability to get your home sold.
If you have reason to believe you should stop marketing your home for sale, take the time to talk candidly with your Realtor about your options before you yank your home off the market. Working with a Realtor involves trust and candor, otherwise your Realtor won't be able to represent your interests to the very best of their ability.
Postponing Basic Repairs
When it comes to carrying out basic repairs, excessive delays in following through on promises hurts buyers’ first impressions and makes it appear that the seller may drag their feet on other repairs.
If you have a broken front window and have advertised that it will be repaired prior to closing, make that repair as quickly as possible. Whether you receive an accepted offer is immaterial, the window still needs fixing. Not only could a broken window or a leak under the sink sow doubt among prospective buyers, it's an opportunity to show them you take impeccable care of your home.
You'll also enjoy your home more while you're living in it. And If your home is vacant, it should be comforting to know that a simple repair won't turn into a much bigger deal because a small issue was postponed or neglected.
Compromising a Major Selling Point
When a Seller excludes key components from a sale such as certain built-ins, fixtures, TV mounts (even the TV that fits that mount if the mount isn’t adjustable), or a sound system that's compatible with the screen and projector that’s included in the sale, the seller may be setting the scene for a difficult sale.
Items that “make” the sale such as the theatre chairs should ideally be included in the sale whenever possible. Putting the onus on the buyer to determine what an excluded component costs and whether its replacement will be compatible with the other included items is a sure-fire recipe for causing a buyer to hesitate on submitting an offer or even cause them to move on in their home search.
Instead, create a path of less resistance and offer complete solutions for prospective buyers. You’ll thank yourself when it’s time to move out when you're not faced with unwanted projects like repairing drywall, mudding, taping and painting just to hang onto a TV that's probably already obsolete.
Not Repairing Visible Blemishes
Is there something that’s a bit of an eyesore and yet a pretty easy fix? If looking at that peeling paint, dead shrub, or broken fence annoys you, it could very well annoy a potential buyer and reduce your home’s appeal. Be sure to replace burnt out light bulbs, repair that loose doorknob, and make needed touch-ups provided you can match the paint exactly.
While some repairs are just a step beyond cleaning and staging, others may or may not even be recommended depending on a variety of things. Be sure to check with a professional Realtor before launching into home improvements that may not only not make your home worth more but which may actually make your house less marketable. It happens more often than one would expect.
Ignoring Your Home’s Landscaping
Getting buyers through your front door is the goal and it starts right at your curb. While your lawn need not fit the definition of manicured, taking the opportunity to trim overgrown trees and shrubs, pull ugly weeds, and either plant a few colorful flowers or add some colorful pots to your front stoop will go a long way toward making a good first impression. Also be sure to clear walkways of snow, toys, garden hoses, etc so getting into the house is a no-brainer.
Forgetting to Make the Entrance Inviting
If possible, why not give your front door a fresh coat of paint with a color that contrasts the color of your house? If your house is one color, your shutters are a second color, and your front door is a complementary third color, you’ll notice your house will exhibit more 3-dimensionality and hence more pop. It only needs to be 50 degrees outside at a minimum in order to safely paint outdoors. While you’re at it, consider installing a new welcome mat and hang a fresh seasonally appropriate wreath on your freshly painted front door.
Not Letting the Light In
Removing heavy window coverings to let in more natural light can be a game changer for older vintage homes. Feel free to add lamps to brighten up dark corners or to add a pop of color. Color can be a great way to help prospective buyers connect emotionally with your home.
Ignoring Excessive Clutter
You’re going to want your home to have as open and inviting an appearance as possible. Removing clutter will not only make rooms appear more spacious and inviting, an uncluttered home is more appealing to prospective buyers because it gives them the freedom to imagine how their things will fit into the space.
Secondly, decluttering your home prior to putting it on the market is a great way to help you prepare for your upcoming move. Going through all the clutter in your home and getting rid of what you no longer want or need will definitely make your next move a bit easier.
Leaving Personal Items Out
It is said that it is much easier for potential buyers to imagine your home as their own when they’re able to envision their ‘stuff’ in it. Just like a designer needs to leave white space to maximize the beauty of their artwork and avoid it looking cluttered, a home that’s correctly staged to allow buyers to envision themselves in it should be devoid of too many personal items. These include removing family photographs, wall calendars, kids’ artwork, jewelry, prescription drugs, and other personal items during the marketing period.
Not Highlighting Special Features
Realtors typically use accent pieces and an abundance of color to draw the eye toward special features that they want potential buyers touring your home to notice. Examples include pillows, a fluffy throw, exotic plant or orchid, or any number of other eye-catching accessories. Use these and any number of other items your Realtor recommends to draw attention to a special feature such as the new kitchen backsplash or the vintage bathroom tile. Or use staging to evoke a cozy feeling in an area you want to make sure doesn’t get overlooked: a small sunroom, screened-in porch, breakfast nook, or study area.
You can use mirrors to make the rooms in your house look more spacious, more light-filled, and to give them a more finished look. For the most dramatic effect, try positioning your mirrors opposite the windows. Be sure to let us know the results in the comments below!
Not Cleaning Out Cabinets and Closets
Buyers are curious and will invariably open cabinets, especially if they are digging deep to explore how well your house is going to work for them and their stuff. Nowhere is this more true than kitchens, bathrooms, and linen closets. Don’t get caught out—be sure that the contents of your drawers, closets, and cabinets are tidy and organized.
Not Eliminating Odors
When marketing your home for sale, be sure to clean sufficiently to remove any lingering odors including pet smells that you may have grown used to and no longer even notice. Also be sure to avoid cooking any meals with heavy lasting smells right before showings.
Add the Wrong Aromas
You can easily add appeal by quartering an orange and adding it to a pot of water with a cinnamon stick. Simmer on low for an inviting aroma. Or bake a fresh batch of cookies (and leave a plate of them on the counter for visitors!).
One thing to avoid doing, even if you enjoy such things yourself and use regularly, is plug-in air fresheners or heavily perfumed room sprays. Only go with the most natural of these products as many people will instantly conclude that the homeowner may be attempting to cover up pet smells or cigarette smoke with such items.
Lastly, it should go without saying that while marketing your home, never ever smoke inside your home. Not only is this an instant turn off for most buyers, some buyers are allergic and will not be able to tolerate a single minute inside a smoke-filled home.
We hope these seller “don’ts“ inspire you to prepare your home for sale and to work with your trusted Realtor to achieve the best possible results. For a free evaluation of your home value and what you should, (and should not!) do to prepare your home for sale, please contact the broker, Jolenta Averill, to set up a free consultation at your convenience.
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