Seven deadly sins of home selling

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There are oodles of advice columns out there on what to do when you’re selling your home. But today I thought I’d write about what not to do when selling your home. Below are seven real examples where home sellers got in the way of their own sale. (The names have been changed to protect the innocent!)

1. Leaving no room for negotiation

Tina and Bill Johnson got frustrated waiting for their home to sell. After 60 days on the market at $500,000, they called their listing agent and asked her to drop the price $20,000. A few weeks later they were excited to hear that an offer was coming in. However, the buyers–having seen that the house was on the market for a while–offered only $460,000. The Johnsons informed their agent that they couldn’t accept anything less than $480,000 for the home.

A better answer: Since it’s very unlikely that someone was going to walk in the door at that point and pay the asking price, the Johnsons would have been better making a smaller price drop to $490,000 and leaving themselves a little room to negotiate. It also would have been a good idea for the Johnsons and listing agent to communicate about the implications of the price drop ahead of time so they didn’t end up in a sticky situation.

2. Leaving work undone

Bob lovingly remodeled his antique colonial home over the years, but just ran out of steam before he could finish the master bathroom. He listed his home for sale in as-is condition. Unfortunately potential buyers over estimated the time and cost involved with finishing the bathroom and weren’t willing to take on the project.

A better answer: Bob would have yielded a better price (and a swifter offer) if he had taken the last step to finish the home remodel. Worst case, if he lacked the ability to get the work done, he could have gotten a written estimate to complete the job. This way, potential buyers would have an idea of what was needed to complete the beautiful master suite he had started. Even better, if Bob could have provided renderings of what the bathroom would look like finished, he could have really helped buyers envision the possibilities for the space.

3. Refusing to recognize inspection issues

After living in her home for 30 years, Angela was surprised to hear that the home inspector found evidence of carpenter ants. The buyers understandably asked to have a pest inspection done to ensure the home didn’t have pest damage. Angela refuses, claiming that she would have known if there were pests in her home.

The buyers walked, the home went back on the market, and Angela had to wait three long months before another buyer came along. During that time, she paid nearly $10,000 for her mortgage, taxes, and homeowner’s insurance while her home sat empty.

A better answer: Often it’s hard to swallow bad news from a home inspection. Yet it would have been far better for the Angela to simply acquiesce to the pest inspection and work out an arrangement with the potential buyers.

4. Hanging around during showings

Prudence works in sales, and she felt like she could really add value to the home sale process by sticking around during showings of her home. Although her listing agent strongly urged her not to, she hung around the house when buyers came for a tour, pointing out the new light fixtures she installed or the fact that she doesn’t even notice the highway behind the house anymore.

A better answer:  Prudence needed to let potential buyers have a little space to try the home on for size. She also needed a listing agent she trusted to convey all the attributes that made the home special.

5. Hiding the truth

Theresa had water in her basement two years ago, but since that time she installed a French drain and a sump pump. She hasn’t had a problem since then. However, when her listing agent asks if she’s ever had water in the basement, she tells her no. She accepts an offer on her home, and the home inspector reports that there seems to have been a water issue in the basement. The buyers walk, annoyed that Theresa was trying to cover something up. Her home sits on the market for the rest of the summer with no offers.

A better answer: Theresa should have disclosed the issue to potential buyers. She was opening herself up to liability by lying. And she cost herself the home sale. She could easily have allayed the buyer’s concerns by admitting to the issue, and demonstrating that she had taken key steps to prevent it from occurring again.

6. Forgoing updates

Janet’s home was in a great location, but the kitchen was a little tired looking. Potential buyers continually viewed the home and commented that it needed “so much work”. Instead of making updates, Janet dropped the price $5,000, and then another $10,000. Yet she still had no offers.

A better answer: After months of waiting for a buyer, Janet decided to upgrade the kitchen counters and replace the appliances. These small changes cost less than $5,000–and happily, they helped her secure a buyer within two weeks.

7. Choosing the realtor that tells you the highest price.

Patrick interviewed three realtors, and asked each to give an opinion on the right listing price for the home. One agent confidently told him it would sell for at least $35,000 more than the other agents had. Unfortunately, it turns out the agent over promised. Within weeks of having the listing agreement signed, the agent was hounding him to drop the price. Even worse, the agent was doing very little to market the home beyond putting it in the MLS.

A better answer: Patrick could have asked each of the agents to back up the market analysis, and share how they arrived at the price. If he still wasn’t sure he could have paid for an independent appraisal of the home to be sure he was pricing it correctly. Moreover, he could have asked each agent to outline their marketing plan so he knew exactly what steps they would take to sell his home, instead of just which price they felt was right.

Do you have a real estate question? Contact Kyle Mann to learn more about selling your home in the Boston suburbs. Mann is a Realtor with Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty.

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