The 5 Biggest Mistakes Home Sellers Make

By Michele Lerner | November 04, 2010 AAA

Whether they are eager to sell their property so they can move to another location or simply want to downsize into a low-maintenance lifestyle, home sellers are often frustrated when their home won't sell or won't yield the cash they want from the sale. A good real estate agent will usually know the reason that a home sits on the market for too long or receives offers that don't meet the sellers' needs. The following mistakes sellers make might be among the reasons your home is still sitting on the market. (For a related reading, check out Selling Your House? Avoid These Mistakes.)

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1. Setting the Price Too High
Even home sellers who follow their local real estate market often assume their house is the one that has kept its value while others in the area have dropped. Or they believe that the condition of their home or the improvements they have made put them above the competition. But home prices are based only on what a buyer will pay, not what the seller wants. Work with a knowledgeable local real estate agent who will provide you with realistic, recent comparables for homes currently on the market - your competition - and then price your home accordingly. (For more, see Top 4 Things That Determine A Home's Value.)

2. Forgetting to Clean
One of the quickest turn-offs for buyers is to see someone else's junk in a home just when they are trying to picture themselves in it. Not only do they not want to see your children's art projects (no matter how terrific they are), they don't want to see fingerprints on the walls, dust on the mini-blinds or dishes in the kitchen sink. The reality of selling your home means that you can't live the way you usually do.

Even the neatest households find the level of cleanliness required when a home is on the market to be burdensome. Consider hiring a professional cleaning service just before you put your home on the market and try to keep your home in that sparkling clean condition when potential buyers arrive. Buyers may be comparing your home to a model home in which everything is new, so aim to have your walls, floors and surfaces as clean as the competition.

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3. Forgetting to De-Clutter
Buyers are looking at homes because they are trying to see if the space and amenities will accommodate and enhance their lives. If they walk into a home in which running shoes and hockey sticks fill the foyer, the closets are overstuffed with boxes or clothes and the kitchen counters are full of small appliances or collections of coffee mugs, the buyers will assume the house doesn't have enough storage.

As a seller, one of the best and cheapest things you can do to entice buyers is to clear out your closets. Since you are intending to move anyway, this is a great time to pack up your belongings and get rid of unnecessary items. If you don't have the space to store your boxes in your home, consider renting a storage unit or asking a friend to keep a few things until you move. A few empty closet shelves and a cleared kitchen counter will make it easier for buyers to visualize their own belongings in the space. Better yet, they will assume the home has plenty of storage if you don't need to use it all. (Learn more in 10 Tips For Getting A Fair Price On A Home.)

4. Not Letting Buyers or Real Estate Agents In
If your home is already on the market, you know how inconvenient it can be to have the property presentable and available at all hours. Sellers sometimes try to limit the hours the property can be visited, but potential buyers and their agents will simply skip looking at a home if they can't get into it when they are ready. Buyers, particularly if they are from out-of-town, will often have a small window of time in which to view homes. Buyers who work full-time need to come by at dinnertime or on the weekend, just when the sellers want to be home, too.

Try to remember that the easier your place is to see, the more likely more real estate agents are to show your home. Be sure to leave when the potential buyers arrive. Buyers find it extremely uncomfortable peeking into your closets, bedrooms and baths while you hover around, and are likely to spend less time in the property. (For more, check out 5 Reasons Why You Still Need A Real Estate Agent.)

5. Spending Too Much on Remodeling or Repairs
Don't be tempted to put in a new kitchen or a new bathroom before you put your home on the market. "The 2009 Remodeling Cost Vs. Value Report", produced annually at the end of each year by Hanley Wood LLC, Remodeling Magazine and Realtor Magazine, lists projects and the typical return on the investment in that project. Try to find low-cost improvements you can make to your home, such as replacing the kitchen faucet or painting the cabinets, rather than redoing the entire room. A real estate agent can give you advice on what must be done, such as painting a room or two, and what is unnecessary. (Learn more in 6 Things You Think Add Value To Your Home - But Really Don't.)

The Bottom Line
Avoiding these mistakes won't necessarily guarantee a quick sale at a desirable price, but sellers who are better prepared should have a greater chance of getting to the settlement table.

Find out what happened in financial news this week. Read Water Cooler Finance: G20 Leader Spats And China Fakes It.

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