Common Mistakes When Selling a House

Whether you’re selling on your own (FSBO) or using a Realtor, the process is complex and it’s easy to misstep. But mistakes can cost you big money! So it’s best to learn about the most common mistakes sellers make – and how to avoid them.

Looking for a better way to sell?Discover your options 100% free

Whether you’re selling on your own (FSBO) or using a Realtor, the process is complex and it’s easy to misstep. But mistakes can cost you big money! So it’s best to learn about the most common mistakes sellers make – and how to avoid them.

Mistakes Sellers Make When Selling a Home

For most of us, selling your home is a big deal. A home sale is one of the largest financial transactions in our lives. Because of this, it can be very stressful – and we don’t always make the best decisions when we’re under stress. Here are a few of the most common mistakes sellers make when selling a home:

Mispricing Your Home – Most of us want to get top dollar for our home, especially if we’ve lovingly fixed it up to suit our tastes. But you need to be objective and evaluate how your home compares to similar properties on the market. Know the competition! If that home down the street has a brand-new kitchen and designer bathrooms – and your house still has the original tile and flooring from the 1970s – it’s unrealistic to think your home is going to command the same price. Study the comparable properties (“comps”) and be realistic in pricing your home. Too often people set a price based on what they want – or “need” – to get out of the property. The thing is, the market doesn’t care if you need to clear $50,000 in order to afford your next home. The market will bear what the market will bear.

Under-pricing a home is also a problem! If you’re not up-to-speed on the market, you may set your price too low and end up selling for less than you could have gotten. Do your research and avoid leaving money on the table.

Putting Your House on the Market Before It’s Ready – Once you’ve made the decision to sell, you may be eager to get your home on the market. But don’t rush. It’s important to get it right – to do all the clean-up, repairs, upgrades, and staging before the home is listed. It’s a cliché because it’s true: you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Staying Emotionally Involved –You may love your vintage, time-capsule living room with shag carpeting, but you need to be objective about what buyers want and how the market is pricing homes in your area. If the professionals are telling you that redoing outdated décor is going to improve your bottom-line, realize that at this point your house is an investment and you need to listen to them.

Emotional involvement can also be problematic when it comes to negotiating the sale price. Sellers who are still emotionally attached to their home may feel insulted by a low offer, or by a buyer bringing up a defect in the home. This defensiveness if rarely productive and will not usually lead to a higher sales price. More likely, the buyer will dig in their heals – or walk away.

Failing to Stage Your Home – There may be nothing “wrong” with your home as it currently is. Maybe the décor is generally attractive and you keep things fairly neat. But according to, staged home sell faster (88% faster) and for more money (20% more) than homes that haven’t been staged. So do yourself a favor and stage your house, whether by doing it yourself or hiring a professional (read The Pros and Cons of Staging Your Home Yourself). This is especially important if you’ve already moved out and the house is vacant. While it may be expensive to rent furniture to fully stage your home, NOT doing so is going to be even more costly in the extra time it takes to sell your home (and the reduced price you’re likely to receive).

Using Bad Photos – If you haven’t properly prepared the house before taking pictures – or if you’re not an experienced photographer (or have a bad camera), you may end up with pictures that don’t do justice to your home. The vast majority (92% in some surveys) of home buyers start their search online. If your photos aren’t good, a lot of potential buyers are going to pass you by. You might want to read 5 FSBO Real Estate Property Photography Tips.

Not Making Repairs – It can be painful to spend money on a home you’re soon leaving. Sometimes, sellers think maybe it makes more sense to let the new owners take care of the problems. The thing is, most buyers don’t want to be bothered – they’re looking for homes that are in move-in condition. By not making repairs, you’re likely to only attract investors or bargain-hunters who are going to make low-ball offers.

Choosing the Wrong Realtor or the Wrong Way to Sell – While there is no one right way to sell a home, there may well be a wrong way for you to sell your particular home. If you’re an introvert who doesn’t enjoy talking to people and has no idea how to negotiate, then perhaps selling For Sale By Owner (FSBO) isn’t the best choice for you. Similarly, not every qualified realtor is going to be a great match for you. Interview several before choosing one – and don’t pick one just because they are a family friend (or worse, family). This is a business relationship – and an important one – you need to find the best person for the job. You might want to read Do You Really Need a Full-Service Agent?

Having Limited Showings – Let’s face it, if your house isn’t easy to show, it’s not going to be easy to sell. Having strangers come through your home is inconvenient, but people aren’t going to buy what they don’t see. If you make it too difficult to get in to see the home, you’re going to reduce the pool of buyers.

Failing to Disclose Problems – You may think you’ll be able to get away with not mentioning the flooded bathroom from five years back, but often these things turn up in the inspection. You may have to pay a lot of money if a buyer uncovers a defect or problem with the home that you knew of and failed to reveal. While disclosure laws vary from state to state, you’re better off being completely straight-forward — no matter where you live.  But to find out your specific disclosure requirements, check out our State-By-State Guide To Real Estate Forms.

Underestimating Selling Costs – While we’re all aware that selling a house usually involves commissions, as well as a wide variety of closing costs, few people lay these costs out in advance. As a result, it’s not uncommon at closing for sellers to be gobsmacked by how much money is coming out of their proceeds. If you lay this all out in a spreadsheet in advance, there won’t be any surprises. More importantly, you may be able to avoid paying junk fees or extra expenses. You may even decide that selling FSBO (and not paying a commission to a listing agent) is worth thinking about after all… (You may want to read The 9 Most Common Closing Costs Explained.)

While there’s probably no end to the mistakes that can be made while selling a home, don’t lose heart. By preparing yourself in advance, you can avoid making the worst mistakes sellers make when selling a home.

Get your free reportThere are so many new ways to sell your home. Which one is right for you?Get my report