Mistakes to avoid when selling your home

Mistakes to avoid when selling your home

Joseph Darby

Avoid these 11 mistakes when you’re selling a house

Maybe you’ve recently become an empty nester looking to downsize, or perhaps you’re starting or expanding your family, or maybe you’re moving between locations for a job offer or opportunity. Whatever your motivation, you’re thinking of selling your home and moving on.

But before you dive in, it helps to know which home selling mistakes to avoid and ensure you get a great offer, sell your property without undue delays, and facilitate a positive experience for yourself and prospective buyers.

Getting a home ready for the market can be stressful. And it’s even more so if you make these home selling mistakes.

1. Unrealistic pricing

Pricing your home can be tricky. While you certainly want to make a profit from the sale, you also must be realistic about the value of your property. Price it too high and you’ll scare away potential buyers. Price it too low and you’ll be taking money out of your own pocket.

A good way to gauge how much to list your property for is to look at comparable homes in your neighbourhood. Websites such as homes.co.nz and Trademe Insights can give an accurate gauge of properties nearby. Pay special attention to how they differ from yours to determine whether you should aim for a higher or lower sale price, based on things like:

  • Recent renovations.
  • Positive improvements, such as a fenced section.
  • Condition of the property.

2. Not staging

Staging your home doesn’t necessarily mean hiring a professional home stager. But it does mean that you should clean, declutter, and organise your home so that it’s visually appealing to potential buyers.

To prepare your home to sell, consider:

  • Applying a fresh coat of paint to your walls.
  • Keeping surfaces like counters, tables, and desks free of clutter.
  • Deep cleaning carpets and rugs.
  • Depersonalising it. This means stowing away any bespoke items which may not appeal to the masses, perhaps: unique art, sporting paraphernalia, hobby-related objects, or unusual decorative items.
  • Renting nice furniture or decorative pieces.
  • Landscaping or maintaining your section, deck, or balcony.
  • Replacing outdated wallpaper.
  • Fixing damages to walls, flooring, and counters.
  • General decluttering.

If you have a lot of items to remove from your home, such as furniture or personal items, rent a storage locker as you declutter and organise, chances are it’ll be well worth it!

Or, if you’re not interested in staging your home yourself, hire a professional to do it for you. Professional real estate stagers are well-versed in interior design and will be able to help you show off your home’s best assets.

3. Forgetting about closing costs

Before choosing to put your home on the market, consider how much your closing costs will be. They can vary greatly based on where you live, the type and age of your property, and how you choose to sell your home.

No matter how you sell your property, there are closing costs you can’t avoid. For example, homeowners may have to pay for:

  • Lawyer or conveyancing fees.
  • Mortgage break fees, possibly repaying prior mortgage cash back.
  • Real estate commissions.
  • Staging and cleaning.
  • Ensuring all regular expenses are up to date:
  • Council rates.
  • Body corporate, if applicable.
  • Insurance.
  • Auctioneer services.
  • Advertising, which will usually include professional photos.
  • Listing fees.
  • Perhaps home inspection and valuation fees, though these are usually funded by the buyer.
  • Possibly offering a Land Information Memorandum (LIM) to buyers.
One common home selling mistake is forgetting to incorporate these costs into your listing price or profit. Although some costs associated with closing a home sale are typically covered by homebuyers, most sellers still pay at least some closing costs.

4. Selling on your own

While selling your home without a listing agent can save you real estate commissions, it’s not a decision you should make lightly.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, it will cause unnecessary stress and may lead to you obtaining a much lower purchase price. If you choose to list your house as for sale by owner, be prepared to:

  • Set up showings and open houses.
  • Negotiate offers and conditions.
  • Stage your own home.
  • Take high-quality photos of your home.
  • Write an appealing description of your property.
  • Advertise and market your listing.
  • Close the sale of the home on your own.

Realtors have access to a variety of listing tools that homeowners don’t, such as major real estate platforms that offers property searches, history, and more. They also network with each other to find the right buyers as well as cover communications and paperwork between you and potential buyers during the home selling process.

The best realtors are becoming increasingly tech-savvy, and will market your home on social media, as well as major listing platforms. You might also expect eye-catching drone-taken video footage of the home exterior and surrounds, and 3-D virtual reality open homes (which can also get around any lockdown restrictions).

5. Choosing the wrong real estate agent

Real estate agents aren’t alike. The one you choose to sell your home can make or break how successful your home sale is. A good realtor can accelerate the sale of your home, get you better offers, and make the home selling process a breeze.

A bad real estate agent can cost you time, money, and showings.

To find a good realtor, look for someone who:

  • Has experience in your area.
  • Of course, has a real estate license!
  • You feel comfortable working with.
  • Is a good communicator.
  • Passes a “Google search” without any red flags.
  • Understands your goals and priorities.
  • Has a proven track record of selling similar homes.

Get referrals from your contacts and meet with a few realtors before choosing one to work with. It’s completely acceptable to shop around and take your time, which includes receiving formal proposals on the strategy they suggest selling your home with, including:

  • The method of sale (for instance, auction, fixed price, deadline treaty, and so on).
  • All costs.
  • The marketing strategy.
  • Any recommended changes they suggest, for example, to spend a little time or money making the garden and landscaping lower maintenance, which may appeal if you’re trying to sell your home to busy professionals.

6. Getting emotional

Your home likely has sentimental value to you, even if you’re selling it. This makes it easy to take lowball offers or overhearing casual feedback about the paint choices, decor, or garden personally during open houses and showings.

It’s important to remember that your home only has sentimental value to you, not to potential buyers. Try not to get offended during the selling process. It will only cloud your judgment and cause you to base any decisions you make off your emotions, not reason.

Emotionally driven decisions can force you to miss out on negotiations and offers, causing your home to stay on the market longer.

Detach yourself from your home by depersonalizing it, avoiding attending showings and open houses, and looking at offers or other negotiations from a logical standpoint. Treat selling your home like the business transaction it is.

Just because someone makes a lowball offer doesn’t mean the negotiation process is over. Counter with a higher number and take it from there.

7. Using poor listing photos

In the online world we live in, the listing photos you use for your home heavily influence a potential buyer’s first impression. Potential buyers use them to determine whether they want to bother booking a viewing or not.

If your listing photos are poor quality, you’re almost guaranteed to miss out on showings because they won’t appeal to buyers.

Bad listing photos:

  • Are taken with a low-quality camera.
  • Have poor lighting (too bright or too dark).
  • Don’t showcase a home’s best features.
  • Are taken before a home is cleaned and staged.
  • Only provide a few shots.

Good listing photos:

  • Are taken with a professional camera.
  • Take advantage of natural light.
  • Showcase a home’s best features, including renovations, upgrades, or landscaping.
  • Are taken after a home is clean and staged.
  • Provide a variety of shots.

Many real estate agents will have a professional photographer come in to take photos of your home, which will be covered in their realtor fees. If you sell your home by yourself, you can hire someone to do it for you.

Great pictures make a big difference in how many buyers are interested in viewing your home, so it’s an investment worth making.

8. Being inflexible

When it comes to selling your home, it’s easy to forget that it probably involves two different families making major life changes. Coordinating selling your property and moving into your next home is challenging enough, but you also need to consider your buyers.

For example, in an offer, a buyer may request a closing date either sooner or later than you had anticipated. While your initial instinct may be to refuse their request, it was probably made for a reason. Perhaps the buyer is aiming to move in when their current tenancy ends, during the school holidays, or a week before a new job starts.

The same may be true for offers below your asking price. Maybe the buyer loves the property but offered slightly less than the asking price because it was all they were approved to borrow for their mortgage.

When negotiating the sale of your home, remember to be flexible — within reason. Buyers are experiencing just as much stress and upheaval as you are, and often their requests come with a reasonable explanation.

Refusing to budge on small issues like a closing date or accept a fair offer just because you are being stubborn won’t do you any good. In fact, they could be what causes a buyer to back out, leaving you back at square one.

Related material:

9. Not making repairs

Neglecting to make small home repairs before listing your property is a big mistake. Buyers, valuers, and home inspectors will notice these issues and use them to justify a lower asking price. And they’ll typically cost you more this way than if you’d just handled them in the first place.

For example, a leaky faucet, a damaged appliance, or a missing fence paling are relatively easy fixes. If a buyer notices them, they may make you an offer that requires them to be fixed by a professional at your cost. Or, minor issues like that may lead the buyer to take a closer look at other areas, expecting things to be poorly maintained. Either way, that’s likely to be more out of your pocket than if you’d fixed them yourself or had time to shop around for a handyman.

You don’t have to go for an entire home renovation, but making obvious fixes can go a long way. If you don’t take care of small repairs before listing your home, they’ll impact everything from your curb appeal and showing atmosphere to the offers you get and the conditions they come with.

10. Being dishonest

Being dishonest when selling your home won’t get you anywhere. Buyers are encouraged — and, in some cases, required — by their banks, brokers, realtors, insurance agents, and friends to be diligent and careful when buying a home.

As an example, mortgages are often subject to approval based on an applicant’s ability to obtain a registered valuation. This registered valuation must be carried out by a trained professional, that formally cites any issues with the home.

This is meant to not only protect buyers, but also the lenders who fund them.

If you try to hide something about your home or fail to disclose important information, you’re likely to be caught and could even face legal repercussions as a result. Some common required disclosures include:

  • Water damage.
  • Structural repairs.
  • Known electrical or plumbing issues.
  • Unauthorised renovations.

Instead of trying to hide anything about your home, be upfront about it. It will save you a lot of time (and possibly money) in the end.

11. Neglecting curb appeal

Many home sellers only focus on staging the interior of their home, but curb appeal matters just as much. Details like landscaping, fresh paint, and small repairs to fences and decks make your property look more inviting to potential buyers.

Make the outside of your property look inviting and welcoming by:

  • Tidying up your lawn. This might include raking leaves, removing overgrown plants, mowing and trimming lawn edges.
  • Pressure washing aged wood steps, decks, and patios.
  • Waterblast your driveway.
  • Applying a fresh coat of paint or stain to exterior doors, window frames, and sheds
  • Weeding any garden beds. Remove anything overgrown.
  • Cleaning up clutter like yard tools, pet supplies, and children’s toys.
  • Tidy the pavement are curb-side just outside your property. This might include water blasting it too or weeding between pavement cracks.

Since the exterior of your home is what potential buyers will see first, it’s important to consider it when staging, photographing, and listing your property. Curb appeal can go a long way in enticing buyers to book a showing and make an offer.

The bottom line - mistakes when selling your home

Selling a home is an exciting experience which might only happen a few times in your life. Embark on the process thoughtfully and with consideration to avoid common mistakes like being inflexible or too emotionally attached.

By preparing yourself to be a home seller and thinking ahead, you’ll enjoy a more satisfying and successful selling experience.

You may also like: