6 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your House

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Sellers can optimize their proceeds by avoiding these six mistakes.

Housing inventory is so low that homes across the country are selling fast and for unexpectedly high prices. That doesn't mean that the rules of selling a home have changed, though. Avoiding these six mistakes will help your property stand out, ultimately commanding more (and higher) offers.

1. Refusing to spiff it up

It's easy to tell yourself that your home will sell no matter what you do (or fail to do), but it's a matter of degrees. Let's say there are three houses on the market in your neighborhood. A home buyer looks through your home and immediately realizes that every wall in the house needs to be repainted, and the entire space needs a deep clean. The next place they look at is darn near perfect, but there are 10 other parties making offers. The last house is a bit smaller but is in move-in ready condition. The buyer knows they're going to pay more for the move-in ready home than they would have paid a year ago, but they're so tired of house hunting that they're willing to do so if it means not having to clean and paint before moving in.

When a buyer has a choice, they will naturally be drawn to a home that looks as though it's been cared for – even in a seller's market. Not only does a move-in-ready home mean less immediate work for them, but it also gives the impression that the previous owner had pride in the property and kept up with routine maintenance.

2. Expecting buyers to overlook problems

Stories abound of bidding wars and home buyers skipping routine inspections. You can't count on that happening in your case. You also can't rely on buyers to overlook expensive issues that will fall to them if you don't get them fixed. For example, if you know your water heater is on its last leg, or you spent half of last winter having your furnace patched up so it would keep running, a home inspector will find those issues and bring them to the buyer's attention.

While the market in your area may be so hot that a buyer will overlook issues to purchase the home, it's just as likely that your house will linger – or at the very least, sell for less than it would have if you'd addressed the problems.

3. Asking too much

It's okay to hope for an ambitious sales price, but setting your house's price too high can have the opposite effect. Here's how:

  • An overpriced home makes the competition look better in comparison.
  • Overpricing reduces the number of people who will find your house when searching within their price range.
  • It could lead to concern that you're an unreasonable seller with an unrealistic view of how much the property is worth.

4. Believing springtime is your only option

It's true that homes traditionally sell faster and for more money in the spring, but that's not your only option. Let's say you plan to make the big move in September or October. Chances are, there will be even fewer homes on the market at that time of year, meaning you'll have less competition. Plus, you can stage your home to make it feel warm, cozy, and perfect for the months leading into the holidays. In other words, no matter what season it is, you can make it work.

5. Not being sure of what you want

For homeowners across the country, now is a tempting time to "test" the market, to find out how much their property is worth. If you find yourself putting your home on the market without a clear idea of whether you want to move, you're likely to run into problems. Either you'll be hesitant to negotiate with a potential buyer, or you'll be a wreck, not knowing what you're going to do next. As incredible as it is to sell a house the first day it hits the market, it can be disorienting if you don't have a clear plan for where you're going to move, how much you'll spend on your next house, or if you're even doing the right thing. Before you put your home on the market or shop for a new mortgage, do yourself the favor of mapping out a plan.

6. Remaining emotionally involved

One of the biggest roadblocks in the way of selling a home is staying emotionally involved. Sure, you love the place where you've built memories, but selling a home is a business transaction. If you're offended by a low offer or get your feelings hurt by agent feedback, it's because you haven't let go. Now that you're leaving, selling the property is strictly about business and making as much money as possible. Save your emotions for the next home you move into -- the next place you'll be making memories.

Selling a home is one of the most exciting times in your life because it means moving on to something new. It can also be one of the most stressful times, especially if your home lingers on the market. Selling is all about being flexible enough to reel in offers and letting go emotionally so you can fully appreciate the next chapter.

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