For homeowners, selling is hard enough in today's market given the lack of interested and qualified borrowers. To make matters worse, many sellers continue to make mistakes that could cost them a promising deal or even deny them any offer at all. Avoiding the following mistakes can help keep you from shooting your home sale in the foot.
Here are nine potential seller mistakes and how to avoid them:
Mistake No. 1: Skipping the home prep. Buyers want to see a house as flawless and depersonalized as possible, so sellers need to take care of every repair, declutter their home and add some curb appeal.
"Buyers want to know their stuff will fit in the home with room to spare, so if you shove everything into the garage or into one closet and it's overflowing, they will be turned off," says Angelica Delboy, a Realtor with Re/Max Gateway in Lorton, Va.
Lee Lamont, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas, says sellers need to keep their home "pitch-perfect" with landscaping trimmed, dishes done and beds made every day.
"It takes 60 seconds for buyers to form an opinion about a house and everything else after that becomes positive or negative reinforcement of that opinion," says Lamont.
Mistake No. 2: Overpricing your house. Delboy says sellers need to price a home according to its condition and the local market and realize it must appraise at the sales price.
"Home improvements don't always necessarily get actual dollars in return, so sellers need to be realistic and understand that the value of their property is based on the local market," says Susan Paul, broker/owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/Move Time Realty in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Mistake No. 3: Dishonesty about home flaws. While the laws about disclosure vary, Lamont says sellers derail their deals when they don't tell anyone about something they know is wrong with their house.
"When the home inspector finds it, the buyers start to wonder what else the sellers are hiding," says Lamont.
Mistake No. 4: Allowing unqualified buyers to see your home. In these days of tightened credit, a preapproval should always be a prerequisite for a home showing to make sure buyers are shopping in the right price range.
Mistake No. 5: Limiting house showings. "Never turn a prospective buyer with an agent away or let them know you are unhappy, because that will influence how the buyers think of your home," says Delboy.
Sellers need to realize that even if it's inconvenient, buyers must be allowed to see the home on evenings and weekends. Sellers should always leave the home during a showing because buyers will shorten their visit or be less comfortable opening closets if the owners are around.
Mistake No. 6: Personalizing price negotiations. Paul says sellers should look at the sale as a business transaction when negotiating. Sellers often assume the highest price is the one they should accept, or they may become insulted and walk away from a low offer. But sellers need to be realistic about the current market in their area.
"It's important to look at the whole package for an offer and not just price, because you never want to choose a buyer who may ultimately be unable to finalize the deal," says Delboy.
Mistake No. 7: Arguing over minor post-inspection requests. "The biggest mistake sellers make is to get angry over requests made after an inspection," says Lamont. "Sellers should never get emotional and they should be willing to concede that their home isn't perfect. They can negotiate, but they need to have supporting evidence if they choose to reject responsibility."
Delboy says that not fixing items as required by the contract could delay or derail a settlement and could end up costing sellers far more than the repair bill because of extra days of paying interest or having to put their home on the market again.
Mistake No. 8: Not providing post-offer documents quickly. If you live in a homeowners association or a condo, you must provide association documents within a certain time period or the buyers can break the contract.
"Make sure you are always reachable and responsive to your Realtor even after an offer is accepted, because you may need to sign papers or answer questions from the buyer's attorney," says Paul.
Delboy says some associations will require a presettlement inspection and require the seller to fix any items that haven't been approved by the association before the closing.
Mistake No. 9: Not prepping for an appraisal. Once you have an offer, you may be tempted to relax your housekeeping standards a bit. Delboy says that is a mistake.
"When the appraiser arrives, you need to make sure your home reflects the same condition as the day it went under contract," Delboy says.
Your Realtor should be present at the appraisal and provide written information about comparable properties that support the sales price. Appraisals that come in lower than the sales price create friction between buyers and sellers and open the door to new negotiations.
Long story short, hiring a professional Realtor, taking care of your property and staying calm in the face of chaos are three of the best ways sellers can avoid a derailed sale.
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Michele Lerner, author of "HOMEBUYING: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time", has been writing about personal finance and real estate for more than two decades for a variety of publications and websites including Investopedia, Insurance.com, HSH.com, SavingsAccount.com, National Real Estate Investor magazine, The Washington Times, Urban Land magazine, NAREIT's REIT magazine and numerous Realtor associations.