Selling is tougher than it seems. Even in a hot market, there are homes that don’t sell for one reason or another. If you make one of these common mistakes, you could find yourself doing the slow burn even as your neighbors are selling in the blink of an eye.

Mistaken Motivation. Why are you selling? The difference in selling because you want to and because you have to infects every part of your home sale: when you list your home, how you price it and whether or not you choose an agent to assist you. If you and your spouse or partner aren’t of the same opinion, it could send mixed messages to the agent and any prospective buyers who walk through your doors.

Failing To Prepare Your Home For Sale. If you don’t want top dollar, don’t clean your home before you show it. Most buyers will be disgusted with the way your home looks, but there will be someone who will make you a low ball offer. Instead of selling “as is,” today’s market is filled with blue-ribbon buyers. They want a home to look its best and be completely done before they move in. They’ll pay extra for a home that’s neat, clean and has all the odds and ends fixed up. So unless you feel like giving away money, clear away the clutter, repair, repaint, and replace anything that needs it.

Going It Alone. If you think you can do a better job selling your home yourself, you should certainly take a whack at it. But know that only a tiny percentage of homes (perhaps 15 to20 percent) are sold by owner. The vast majority are sold with the help of an agent. The mistake owners make is not stepping back and looking at the home objectively, as an investment that needs to be sold. To them, it’s still their home, and they are homeowners and not home sellers. Give yourself a fixed amount of time in which to sell your home. If it hasn’t sold, hand the job over to a professional.

Choosing The Wrong Agent. Of course, don’t make the mistake of choosing just anyone. And don’t choose an agent because you feel sorry for them, because they sent you a Christmas card every year since you moved in, or because you used them when you bought your home 20 years ago. None of that holds water. Certainly, you can invite them to be one of the three or four agents that creates a comparative marketing analysis for your home. But that’s as far as it goes. You want to find the best agent who will meet your needs, works frequently with homes that are similar to yours in your neighborhood.

Overpricing Your Home. Whats the surest way to have your home sit on the market? Overprice it. Make sure that it’s more expensive than any other home has ever sold for in your neighborhood. That’s not to say you shouldn’t price your home fairly, and even test the waters a bit. But sellers who price their home 20 percent above where the last home sold a week ago may wait a long time before selling, if they ever do.

Hanging Around During Showings. Would you want the seller to look over your shoulder as you peek at into his or her closet? Probably not. So why would you hang around during showings? If you’re selling on your own, you should be leading the buyer from room to room, explaining what everything is. If you’re not selling on your own, consider a showing as an opportunity to get out and do something else.

Smelly Pets and Odors. There’s nothing less appetizing than a house that stinks of dirty diapers, cigarette or cigar smoke or filthy animals. If you’re going to put your home on the market, and you have kids, animals or are a smoker, make sure you have your home cleaned to bottom. If you’re a smoker, stop smoking in the house and make sure to have the rugs and curtains professionally cleaned. On the day of a showing, make sure your animals are caged in the basement.

Limiting Access To Your Home. If people can’t get in to see your home when they want to, they’ll never make an offer. You should give your agent nearly free reign to create a timetable of showings that will meet the needs of most buyers. Flexibility is key, and while that means you’ll have to stay on top of the housekeeping, you will probably sell your home faster.

Letting Your House Or Your Broker Go Stale. In a buyer’s market, where there are more homes available than buyers to purchase them, it’s not unusual to have a home sit on the market for 6 months or even a year. But in a hot sellers’ market, homes sell quickly. If one doesn’t, it may appear “stale” in the eyes of brokers and active buyers who comb through the Internet, newspapers, and listing sheets each week. To some brokers, a stale home means it can be bought at a discount. Some buyers may perceive that there is something wrong with your home. Rather than letting your home grow stale on the market, consider taking it off for a few weeks or months and then relisting it at a lower price. If your broker has grown bored representing the home, use the off-list period to interview and hire a new broker to market your property.

Timing Problems. In a fast market, sellers who sell before they’ve found something to buy may find themselves out on the street, looking for an interim rental. While that solution means the hassle and expense of packing and moving twice, it beats owning two properties, and making monthly payments on two mortgages (and a possible bridge loan as well). While it’s not always possible for the timing to work out, you’ve got a better chance at buying and selling at the same time if you begin working both ends of the spectrum at once. When you interview prospective agents, look for new neighborhoods in which you might be happy. When you list your home, start working with an agent to find a new property. When you accept an offer, make an offer. With any luck, you’ll close on your new home on the same day as you close on your old one.

Failing to Recognize A Good Offer. Every offer is worth responding to, even if the buyer is thousands of dollars below your asking price. The message you send back is encoded in your counter-offer. If you come back even $10 lower, you suggest to the buyer that you’re willing to entertain a serious offer, but that the current offer won’t cut it. By not responding at all, you risk annoying the buyer by not playing the game. What’s a good offer? One that either comes within spitting distance of, or exceeds, the minimum price you’d be willing to happily accept for your property. Recognize that, and you’ve come a long way towards selling your home.

Not Making Your Last Mortgage Payment Before Closing. Does your cash from closing seem less than you anticipated? If you didn’t pay your last mortgage bill, figuring you’d close on the property before it was due, that could be the cause of the discrepancy. Some sellers don’t realize they still have to make every mortgage payment on time even if they’ve signed a contract to sell their home. All of the closing numbers are predicated on your mortgage being paid up to date. If you aren’t current, the amount you owe plus any extra interest and penalties will be assessed at closing, taking a bite out of your final check.

Published: Aug 17, 1998