You obviously want to get the highest possible price for your home, but you won’t be doing yourself any favors if you price your home higher than the comps, i.e. the comparable homes in your area with similar square footage, construction, age and condition that sold recently or are currently on the market. Serious buyers are well-informed and will instantly dismiss your property if they believe it’s overpriced. (Hence, all the price reductions in today’s market.) On the other hand, pricing competitively (read: lower than similar homes in your area) will spark lots of interest in your home and could lead to multiple offers — and, ultimately, a higher sales price.
2. Waiting until spring to sell
Sure, spring is traditionally the busiest time for real estate sales, but people buy homes 365 days a year. Plus, off-peak season buyers tend to be more serious, and fewer homes on the market means less competition for sellers. Don’t be daunted by the thought of selling during the summer, winter or fall. Instead, draw in buyers by playing up your home’s seasonal amenities.
3. Not understanding the terms of your real estate contract
Real estate contracts can be complex and confusing, but don’t let the fine print scare you. Before accepting a buyer’s offer and entering into a formal agreement, review the contract carefully with your real estate agent or attorney. Understand the buyer’s requests and know what your responsibilities are as a seller. Can the home be sold as-is, or do you have to make repairs? What’s included in the sale (i.e., appliances, furniture, fixtures)? What contingencies are included?
4. Going it alone without researching first
Faced with the prospect of forking over a hefty sales commission, you may find the FSBO route pretty tempting. But remember, selling a home sans real estate agent means dealing with mounds of paperwork, marketing and showings. Before you sell your home by yourself, do your research to make sure you’re up for the task. At the very least, you may want to hire a real estate attorney to look over the details of the deal.
5. Ignoring lowball offers
Many home sellers in today’s market need a reality check. Just because your neighbor sold for X amount five years ago, things have changed, and you can’t expect to get the same amount for your home today. If you receive an offer you think is too low, repress the impulse to feel insulted and reject the offer completely. Instead, make a counteroffer and see if the buyer is willing to negotiate. You may be able to settle on a price — and terms — that you’re both satisfied with.
6. Wasting time on an unqualified buyer
Today’s mortgage borrowers face stricter lending standards, so it’s crucial you check out the potential buyer’s qualifications. The last thing you want is a buyer whose financing falls through mere days before closing. Before accepting an offer, make sure the buyer has been pre-approved for a loan, not just pre-qualified. Also, don’t compare offers based solely on price: A buyer who is putting 20 percent down is more likely to close than someone scraping in at the 3.5 percent minimum. TIP: Protect yourself by having a backup offer or two in place. That way, you won’t have to put your house back on the market if the first buyer fails to close.
7. Skimping on marketing
In the past, an ad in the paper and a sign in the front yard might have led to a successful home sale. But today, you’ll need a broader marketing strategy if you want buyers to notice your home. Ninety percent of today’s buyers start their home searches on the Web, so it’s important to have an impressive online listing with plenty of high-quality photos and video. The more exposure your home gets, the better, so don’t limit yourself when it comes to marketing. Pairing traditional advertising techniques with innovative methods is the most effective strategy.
8. Sabotaging the showing
When touring a house for sale, buyers need to be able to focus, evaluate and determine if the home is right for them. The last thing they need is an overeager seller following them around and pointing out new kitchen appliances and recently renovated bathrooms. So give buyers some space! During an open house or home tour, take a drive or a walk around the neighborhood, or confine yourself to one room if you absolutely have to stay home. Also, give buyers enough access to see your home. An hour during the week and a Sunday Open House may not accommodate many buyers’ schedules. Consider extending your showing hours or using a lockbox so agents can access the house when you’re not available.
9. Not prepping your home for sale
With the huge inventory of homes on the market, today’s homebuyer can afford to be choosy. That means you’ve got a lot of competition and limited attention, so a clean, uncluttered and updated home is a must.
Depending on your budget and time frame, you’ll either want to make simple fixes (repairing things that are broken or giving your walls a fresh coat of paint) or invest in large upgrades (new kitchen counters or new windows). Once you’ve made fixes and upgrades, you must clean, clean, clean. Dirty homes get lowball offers or none at all. Staging, the process of de-cluttering and dressing up your home to make it appealing to buyers, is also key. Before you begin your pre-sale preparation, visit open houses in your neighborhood to get a feel for your competition. This will give you an idea of what improvements will be necessary to put your home in the same league as others in the area.
It’s easy to get caught up in a home improvement project, especially if you think it’ll add value to your home. But be careful that you don’t over-improve for your house and neighborhood, especially if you expect to recoup your investment. For instance, if you live in a neighborhood where all the houses have modest kitchens, you won’t get your money back at resale if you put in granite countertops and Viking appliances. In other words, keep up with the Joneses — not outdo them. Don’t try to make your home the most expensive house on the block with major upgrades — you’ll never recoup those expenses. Instead, stick to improvements that put your home on par with other homes in the neighborhood. That way, you bring out the best in your home, without going overboard.