Common Mistakes Home Sellers Make

Avoid Costly Mistakes When Selling Your Home

View this short film on the Common Seller Mistakes!

The Active Rain Real Estate Network surveyed 1000 agents and asked them to rank the top 3 mistakes home sellers make. Below are the results of the survey.


An essential component of our real estate marketing plan is to help clients avoid common pitfalls when selling their home

Connie Barnes has sold over 1,000 homes throughout her career as a real estate agent, and has experienced recessions and market bubbles along the way. Buyer profiles and preferences are constantly in flux. Local real estate market dynamics shift without notice.

We work side-by-side with our sellers to help them maximize their profit potential by helping them stay in sync with current market preferences and avoid common missteps when listing their homes.

Our list of Common Seller Mistakes combines our experience along with a consensus of thousands of Real Estate Agents from coast to coast.

We compiled a list of common mistakes we see home sellers make. Click to expand on each item.

Over pricing

In our experience, over-pricing is far and away the costliest mistake Sellers’’ make in our local market.

We are very proud of our robust real estate marketing capabilities, but even the highest quality marketing can’t overcome an over-priced product. Not in real estate, or any other industry. The market will ultimately determine the correct price.

Today’s home buyer is smart and well-informed thanks to all of the real estate market data available to them online. Often home buyers are more informed than their Realtor!

Over pricing your home will probably help your neighbor sell their home!

The biggest and best opportunity to reach the largest audience of active home buyers is within the first week or so of the listing first hitting the market. An incorrectly priced property that does not reflect the local market will likely be ignored by home buyers and local agents. Or worse, you’ll probably help your neighbor sell their home!

If a home stays on the market too long, buyers and agents will suspect that there is something wrong with the property thus prompting lower future offers.

Below are some myth-busting elements for over-pricing listings

  • The most common rationale for Seller’s to overprice their home is that they think that they need room to negotiate the price. Home buyers search online for homes priced between typical retail price points based on their criteria. If the home is priced too high for the local market, Sellers’ lose those the opportunities to engage the buyers in the first place.
  • Pricing a few thousand dollars over a rounded price point. Buyers search in price ranges and if you price a home at $609,000 you potentially fall out of the search ranch for buyers who set $600,000 as their limit. It also means that you need to be competitive with homes in the next highest pricing segment.
  • Worrying about receiving “low-ball offers” is an old school pricing mistake and is a misunderstanding how the contemporary real estate market works.
  • Seller chooses a Real Estate Agent that over-promises a high selling price just to get the listing.
  • Using the wrong inputs for pricing a home: A common error is keying off the price of another active listing in the neighborhood that hasn’t sold yet. The market price is mostly determined by comparable homes that have closed escrow in the past six months and that is what agents, buyers’ and appraisers look at in determining market value.
  • Misreading local market trends: Newspaper reports of real estate sales trends usually reflect activity that originated 45 to 60 days prior. A sudden uptick in inventory can transform a seller’s market to a buyer’s market within weeks.

Failure to negotiate low offers.

Reacting emotionally to low offers

Rather than feeling insulted with a low offer, consider it a starting point in the negotiations.  The selling process is stressful enough but it is in the seller’s best interest to be cool and let the negotiation process play itself out. Refusal to counter a low offer means missed opportunities.

Deferral of minor repairs

Deferral of minor repairs or maintenance prior to marketing Buyers today who are willing to pay market price, want to buy a home where they can turn the key and move in. Sellers’ end up paying a big penalty for marketing a property with deferred maintenance issues.

  • Negative first impressions: Buyers form their impressions of the home within minutes of their visit. Example, A broken doorbell or a sticky front door lock sends the message to the buyer that they need to be on the lookout for other things that need fixing. Worn out carpet and paint is a sign that the home has not been cared for as well as it should.
  • Escrow complications: All buyers will order a home inspection, and there is no better way to complicate an escrow than to have a long list of surprising repairs that were documented by the inspector. Buyers will either cancel the deal or work to negotiate heavy price reductions.

Hard to show

Too many showing conditions

The easier the home is to show, the more showings you will have. The more conditions that a seller makes, before an agent can show a home, the fewer showings. Unfortunately, buyers don’t always plan ahead and want to see homes on their schedule. This is especially true for Bay Area home buyers who are in town for the day. The closer they are to making a buying decision, the more impatient they will be.

Bad odors

I don’t smell anything!

Strong odors are normally a deal breaker for most buyers. Homeowners can get desensitized to the others in their homes caused by pets, cooking or smoke. Failure to recognize that your home has an unpleasant odor, just because you don’t notice it doesn’t mean the odor is not there.

Back in 2011, we had clients who loved to keep their two large Dalmatians inside. They actually got indigent when they were told that the home smelled like pet urine. “We don’t smell anything! Our dogs are well trained and never would pee in the house!” We made the mistake of listing the home anyway and all of the feedback we got from realtors was that their buyers could not get past the pet smell in the home. After 30 days on the market and with the Sellers’ refusing to acknowledge their pet odor problem, we let them out of their listing agreement. Sellers’ subsequently listed with another agent who marketed the property for 60 days before giving up.

Failure to disconnect emotionally

Now that you’ve decided to sell your home, try to start thinking of yourself as a business person selling a product, rather than a homeowner. By looking at the transaction from a purely financial perspective, you’ll distance yourself from the emotional aspects of selling a property in which you’ve undoubtedly created many memories.

  • Refusal to depersonalize: Over the years, we have come across Sellers’ who refuse to give up living with their personal “things” that do nothing but distract buyers. We had one listing where the seller insisted in displaying her huge collection of antique dolls and clowns while selling the home. Some who toured the home felt that the collection made the home feel somewhat creepy despite the fact it was an otherwise beautiful home.
  • Unwilling to declutter / remove furniture: We have had several listings where there was simply too much furniture or the furniture was oversized for the living space making the home feel small and claustrophobic. Sellers’ who are convinced that their big beautiful designer furniture collection enhances the appeal of their home are only hurting their chances of getting it sold.
  • Start packing early! Buyers need to envision themselves living in your home. To help them achieve this vision, you should remove all distractions by packing away personal photos and collectibles. This will allow buyers to imagine the home as their own and not someone else’s.

Seller wants to chaperon

Seller wants to be present for showings / open house

Nobody knows more about your home than you do and you want to be there when a buyer shows up. Only the buyer’s agent knows what is important to their client and most agents agree that having the seller present only creates unnecessary tension. Kind of like being followed around by a pesky salesperson in a retail store. Buyers want to have the freedom to explore and have an open dialog with their agent which is not possible with the Seller looming by.

The best alternative is to work with us to create a detailed features list of the home that can be included with your listing. You can always meet the buyer on subsequent visits to answer specific questions.

Tip: Unless there’s a particular reason, don’t ask your agent to be present for all showings. Other agents want privacy with their buyers and they don’t usually have time to work around your agent’s schedule.

Jumping the gun

Jumping the gun

Allowing your agent to put your home on the MLS before the photos are delivered is a very common mistake. Your best buyer is one who is intensely searching for a home like yours but if there are no photos in the MLS for the first day or so, that buyer will likely move on.

Rushing to put your home on the market before repairs and cleanup is complete.

No yard sign

Listing is hard to find

For a variety of reasons, some Sellers’ prefer not to have a For Sale yard sign.  Home buyers routinely explore neighborhoods without an agent and will drive right past your listing and call on the one down the street. A yard sign can significantly improve your chance of attracting the right buyer who already likes your neighborhood!

Choosing the wrong agent

Listing your home with a friend or relative

After all, having someone you know and trust watching over the sale of such an important financial asset is likely an emotional decision when it should be all business. At a minimum, you should interview some top agents and understand what you are getting and what you are not when deciding to hire your friend. Remember, if (or when) something goes wrong, you risk ruining that relationship forever. We have taken over numerous listings from Sellers’ who hired a personal friend who did not have the horsepower to get the job done.

Bad MLS photos

Bad MLS Photos

Sellers’ who let their agent post lousy photos of their homes on the MLS are at a distinct disadvantage. We see it all of the time and that’s why we created this section on our website to educate Sellers’ on the importance of professional photography.

View the film below to see a direct comparison how our professional photography stacks up to amateur listing photos.