Are You Selling Your House? Make Sure to Avoid Making These Mistakes

Offbeat décor, luxury upgrades, and non-neutral paint colors can affect your chances of selling

House for Sale / Are You Selling Your House? Make Sure to Avoid Making These Mistakes
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March 15, 2017

Maybe you've found a house you like better, or maybe it's just time for a change. Whatever your reason for selling your house, avoid making these mistakes if you want better odds on your sale.

  1. Unprofessional Listing Photos
  2. No matter how good the photos on your smartphone are, they won't cut it when it comes to online home listings. Unprofessional photos often show the property in a poorer light, sometimes literally.

    "People make their decision to fall in love with your house with pictures over the internet," says real estate investor Chad Carson.

    Cheap pictures make it less likely that you'll get your full asking price. Carson suggests that you hire a professional photographer, try to stage your home well, and make sure you have ideal lighting to get the best possible shots.

  3. Luxury Upgrades
  4. Common house-selling wisdom often tells us that it's a good idea to fix up your house when you want to sell, or at least make any major repairs needed. But you can take it too far.

    "You can gold-plate everything and have improvements that would belong in five-star resorts, but if your home won't appraise for the agreed-upon sale price, you'll need to come down on the price if you want to close escrow," says Lee Huffman, real estate investor and managing partner at DLH Partners.

    It's better to ensure that you've cleaned and cared for your house as well as possible. Many buyers often want to make updates according to their own tastes anyway.

  5. Too Many Family Photos
  6. Displaying too many family pictures can be confusing for potential buyers.

    "If family photographs are crowding your home, potential home buyers can get easily distracted and it will be more difficult for them to remember the home," says Loria Hamilton-Field, Chicago managing broker of "You want to be sure that buyers can see themselves living there — and the more personal items you have, the more difficult that becomes."

  7. Overpricing
  8. Good Realtors will suggest that you list your house at a price based on its current value, comparable sales close to your house, and historical data. If you choose to ignore this advice and ask for more than the house is worth, you might end up with an even smaller profit in the end.

    "Sellers tend to look at their house as the prettiest, smartest, and most beautiful house on the block," says Realtor Wendy Gladson. "The single worst thing you can do as a seller is to make an emotional decision regarding price. Overprice your property and you will chase the market downward and end up selling for less than you would have had you priced it at market value."

  9. Staying at Home during Showings
  10. Some sellers prefer not to leave when their house is being shown, but this is a bad habit to indulge.

    "When a buyer or realtor schedules a showing, make sure you leave five minutes before they arrive," says Realtor Diego Corzo. "Staying inside the home makes it uncomfortable for the buyers to speak their mind and share what they really think about the home. Plus, they may not stay as long because they don't want to bug the seller. The buyer needs to feel as comfortable as possible."

  11. Themed Décor
  12. Sports are well and good as a hobby, but you can take it too far when you start buying décor with your favorite team's logo.

    "I had a seller who was obsessed with a certain baseball team, and the team memorabilia and logo was all over the house — from a stained glass team logo over the front door to the entire carpet in the family room being green with baseballs on it," says Kevin Lawton, Realtor and host of the Real Estate Deal radio show.

    "They invited me over to tell them what to do to prep for selling; I said you have to reduce the amount of baseball stuff everywhere — they even had player's numbers painted on the walls of the basement — and they refused," Lawton continues. "Sure enough, it was a huge turn-off for buyers who were distracted by it all. Some were wowed and missed the rest of the house, and some were fans of a rival team which left a sour taste in their mouth!"

  13. Unusual Paint Colors
  14. When you're getting ready to sell your house, remember that not everyone may share your tastes in paint colors and wallpaper.

    "Don't have garish out-of-date paint or wallpaper on your walls," says Berkshire Hathaway Realtor Trina Larson. "Decorating is a very personal thing and it can cost thousands of dollars to paint a house. Buyers walk in and begin figuring out what they'll have to spend to fix up the house."

    If the buyers think it will take too much work and/or money to change the color scheme, they might request that you lower the price significantly to make up for it or, worse, they might move on to another house.

  15. Too Much Clutter
  16. Clutter makes houses hard to sell. Buyers have a harder time visualizing the house as theirs when too much of your stuff is around, and the house seems messy and smaller than it really is when there's too much clutter.

    "Don't leave clutter around, ever," says Realtor Emily Restifo. "Agents may tell you their clients can see right past it, but they can't… at least not without it affecting their perception of value. A cluttered house may be an indication of not enough space, or not enough care, but it sends a signal that it's not the perfect property."

  17. Not Staging
  18. If your realtor suggests that you change the way your furniture is set up, you should listen.

    You want an arrangement that will appeal to all buyers. Sometimes all this takes is rearranging your own furniture, but sometimes you may need to use borrowed items to stage your house.

    "Don't reject staging furnishings or become offended when your agent recommends staging," says Realtor Wendy Hooper. "Staging is not decorating – it is the act of strategically placing neutral yet elegant furnishings to draw attention to the features of your home."

  19. Not Documenting the Details of Your Sale
  20. Never delete emails from any professional involved with the sale of your home, including your realtor, your buyer's realtor, and anyone involved with the loan.

    "In the event of a dispute, these emails will prove very valuable," says Lauren Bowling, author of The Millennial Homeowner. "When selling my home, the buyer wanted to back out after the due diligence period had closed, citing they had trouble getting financing. They wanted to keep the earnest money, even though they'd backed out a month before closing," says Bowling.

    Fortunately, Bowling had saved all of her emails. She used them to prove they had never mentioned financing and had been communicating with her the whole time. The result was that she was able to keep their earnest money in compensation for her wasted time.

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