Seven Most Costly Mistakes Sellers Make

The Seven Most Costly Mistakes Home Sellers Make 

By M. Anthony Carr, 

There are a number of inappropriate steps sellers can walk down when it comes time to put their house on the market.  A seller in Virginia thought the half bath located at the front of the house would be better situated toward the back of the main level (though all the other similar models had the powder room in the same place).  He got hung up on this detail so much that he just had to move it −− for thousands of dollars, so he could get it on the market the “right way.”  That may have settled some deep−seated emotional need for him, but it didn’t draw any more buyers; and it drained his bottom line.  You might say that was a costly mistake. 

Real estate broker and author Sid Davis has identified in his book “A Survival Guide to Selling a Home” seven costly mistakes that many sellers make when they put their home on the market.  In my business, I’ve seen each one of these mistakes played out, and it just makes me shake my head as to why sellers forge ahead with unwise strategies instead of listening to the voice of an experienced professional.


Mistake 1:  Putting the home on the market before it’s ready.   This usually happens because the seller gets impatient or is a procrastinator and has pushed himself up against a moving deadline without getting the pre−sale work done.  So it comes on the market with the horrible carpet (that gets replaced during the marketing of the home); or they are painting it while it goes on the market.  Presentation is everything −− so get the work done before marketing the property. 

Mistake 2:  Over−improving the home for the neighborhood.  This happens with additions, bump outs, and upgrades that make the home stick out from among its competitors so much that it’s an anomaly instead of a nice addition to the community. 

Mistake 3:  Pricing the home based on what the seller wants to net.  This pricing strategy always ends in failure. Sellers can control the asking price, but they don’t control the sales price.  The market does. It doesn’t matter what the seller wants; the price is determined by the black and white, matter−of−fact reality of the market.  

Mistake 4:  Hiring an agent based on non−business factors.  Make sure you’re hiring a professional with a proven track record.  It might be nice to hand over your largest asset to your newly−licensed nephew, but make sure he has a mentor to keep your deal from going south.

Mistake 5:  Getting emotionally involved in the sale of the home.  This is one of the biggest challenges home sellers face.  Once you decide to sell your house, it’s no longer a home, but a commodity.  It needs to be prepared as a commodity, marketed as a commodity, and priced as a commodity.  People are going to come in to kick the tires, so to speak, and you can’t get emotional about how they may or may not appreciate the nuances of your home of seven years.

Mistake 6:  Trying to cover up problems, or not disclosing them.  Most states have a property disclosure/disclaimer form −− use it wisely.  Just because you disclaim doesn’t mean you cannot be sued later for the leaky basement or dilapidated heating/air system that’s discovered 30 days after settlement.

Mistake 7:  Not getting your ducks lined up before trying to sell.  This would involve financing, reading the fine print on your current mortgage to ensure no pre−payment penalties, not listening to the particulars of your local market, etc. If your local market is dictating lower home prices, then lower it early, not later −− it will only cost you more. If the local market dictates selling your home first, then buying second, do it in that order.

There are plenty of resources and professionals who are there to help you avoid the pitfalls.  Do the research early, and listen to that voice in your head (probably the whispers of the real estate person who’s warning you of a hole you’re about to step into).  Sell well.