26 mistakes home sellers make

| Selling | By Anslie Stokes


  1. Overpricing – this is, by far, the biggest mistake a seller can make. In our market in particular, the total days on market is a pricing indicator for buyers. Effectively buyers will use an above average days on market to justify unreasonably low offers. So pricing it high to “leave room for negotiations” or to “test the market” only increases the likelihood that a seller will be dealing with low ball offers after their listing has sat on the market for more days than the average listing in their neighborhood.
  2. Being present for showings – sellers should always vacate the premise for showings. They should avoid anything other than light pleasantries with buyers or their agents if they happen to cross paths.
  3. Not accommodating showings at the convenience of the buyer (aka rejecting or rescheduling showing requests) – having a house on the market is hard, we get it. But if a seller want their house to sell then they actually have to make it available for showings. Buyers will need to see properties at their convenience so sellers should be prepared for evening, weekend and last minute showing requests. And they should accommodate every. single. request.
  4. Insisting that their agent be present for all buyer-agent led showings – few things are more irritating to a buyer or buyer’s agent than for them to be told that the seller’s agent will be present for showings. This means one more person to schedule around and it prevents the buyer and their agent from being able to have a frank conversation about  the property as they are touring it for fear of the seller’s agent overhearing anything. Sellers (see #2 above) and their agents should give buyers and their agent full access to the property to assess it for their needs and discuss accordingly.
  5. Not de-cluttering and de-personalizing a home – a house should look like a magazine spread when it is being shown. Absolutely no clutter anywhere, no family photos, nothing political or overtly religious either. Buyers should be focusing on the features of the house, not the occupants or their possessions.
  6. Not deep cleaning (and keeping the house pristine when on the market) – a house should be sparkling clean for every showing. Not a toothbrush in sight, nothing in the sink, wiped counters, clean floors, etc.
  7. Not being laser focused on curb appeal – a pressure washer is a seller’s best friend on the exterior of their home. There should be no signs of peeling paint anywhere. Landscaping should be Pintrest-worthy. Trash cans should be out of sight (we sometimes tell our clients to stash them at a neighbors house if there is no way to get them out of eye sight). A seasonal wreath should be on the front door and there should be a clean new door mat at the front door.
  8. Not neutralizing paint colors – bold paint colors have their place in design but they rarely play well in marketing a home for sale. Sellers should stick to on-trend neutrals with pops of color in their staging and accessories.
  9. Not relocating pets while their listing is on the market – not all buyers are dog-people. Some buyers are allergic to cats. Many buyers are skittish around reptiles or small mammals. All fury, feathered and scaly house pets, and all of their gear, should be relocated for the entire time a listing is on the market.
  10. Not vacating the listing for the first weekend on the market – the easiest way for a seller to accomplish #2, #3 and #6 is for sellers to get out of dodge for the first full weekend on the market. This allows sellers to get everything ready, leave, have the cleaners come through and then showings can begin. What day of the week should this happen? See #23 below.
  11. Not replacing old/stained carpet – dirty, old or worn carpet is an eyesore and will make a buyer wonder what else should have been replaced but wasn’t.
  12. Not staging (if the house is vacant) – rooms look much larger with property sized furniture in them and many buyers have a hard time envisioning how to properly furnish a room. Call it the HGTV effect but staging is a necessity in today’s market.
  13. Staging” with oversized or outdated furniture – just because rooms have furniture in them doesn’t make them ‘staged’. It is critical that the furniture is appropriate for the house style, sized correctly and broadly appealing.
  14. Smoking in their home – prospective sellers (which is everyone!) should never ever smoke inside their home. The smell is nearly impossible to remove entirely and can really be a turn off to buyers.
  15. Not ensuring that the property is well lit on the inside and outside – Every light fixture should have working light bulbs and the lights should be on for all showings. Entryway and exterior lights are particularly important.
  16. Not being prepared (ahead of time) for the possibility of multiple offers – in a market with low inventory, a seller needs to have A PLAN  in place (prior to listing) for how they will handle early signs that their listing may garner multiple offers. Sending mixed signals on when offers are due, not being prepared for pre-inspections or accepting the first offer submitted can all cost a sellers thousands of dollars.
  17. Not hiring an agent (selling for-sale-by-owner) – 90% of all FSBOs end up listing with an agent. Buyer’s will look for every opportunity to avoid dealing with a FSBO as they typically make nearly every mistake on this list, don’t know how to effectively negotiate and don’t understand their disclosure obligations.
  18. Hiring an inexperienced agent – it can be tempting to hire a friend or family member who is a newly licensed real estate agent but this approach can go south quickly unless they have an experienced team behind them. PRO-TIP – most brand new agents try to ‘go it alone’ at first and don’t have an experienced team behind them.
  19. Hiring the agent that suggests the highest list price – this is called ‘buying the listing’ in agent-speak and it happens when an agent offers overly optimistic pricing advice to gain the listing. The agent is banking on being able to convince the seller to reduce the price at a later date. This often ends up costing the seller well more than if they had priced it correctly to begin with.
  20. Not offering a commission to a buyer’s agent – it is customary in our market for a seller to offer a commission to a buyer’s agent. Nearly all buyers engage an agent to represent them and they will likely pass on any listing that does not compensate their agent for the sale.
  21. Not allowing open houses – an open house, properly prepared for, on the first weekend a new listing is on the market should be a staple in any marketing plan.
  22. Not understanding the best (and worst)  time to list a home – timing matters in this market. A seller’s expectation for how long it will take a listing to sell and how much activity to expect will vary from March to July to October.
  23. Not having an intentional listing schedule – Thursdays tend to be the most favorable day to list a property while listing on a Monday can sometimes work against a seller.
  24. Not making known repairs and easy fixes ahead of listing – all minor handyman repairs should be made prior to listing. Doors should be aligned, leaky faucets fixed, door knobs tightened, etc. A buyer will read these kinds of minor defects as signs of much larger issues ‘behind the walls’. Looking for a solid contractor recommendation? See our list HERE.
  25. Not disclosing known defects – buyers will nearly universally insist on a home inspection and if they find issues that were clearly known to the seller then they will wonder what else the seller is hiding. ‘Fix it or disclose it’ is the policy of smart sellers who want to reduce the likelihood of a buyer walking away during their inspection contingency. Want to know what is required by statue to be disclosed by sellers? See our video HERE
  26. Not properly preparing for the buyer’s home inspection – Buyers are often both excited and anxious when they perform their home inspection. They can be caught off-guard by a laundry list of smaller ‘defects’ noted during the home inspection. So, in addition to #24 and #25 above, sellers should properly prepare their home for the day of the inspection.


Want to avoid all of these mistakes (and more)?  From your first showing to your home inspection to closing, we can help. We have the local market expertise to help you simplify the selling process. Call/text us at 202-270-1081 or send us an email here to start your mistake-free home sale.



The Stokes Group is a team of dedicated professionals who have passion for the real estate business and will advocate for our clients with the utmost honesty, integrity, and confidentiality. We believe in building solid relationships with our clients and that starts by getting to know who we are. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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