I have been selling homes in and around Austin, Texas since January 1997, and I have helped many, many sellers as a listing agent. I am also the broker and owner of a company with 16 agents, and I train others on how to sell real estate.
In a nutshell, part of my job is to prevent my clients from making costly mistakes. I tend to see people make the same common errors, year in and year out. By making these mistakes, they might keep their home on the market too long, or even, in many cases, keep their own home from selling at all. I've taken the time to record some of these errors here for your benefit. This is a long post, so you might consider printing it or bookmarking the page for future reference.
Frankly, the price is very important, especially with other underlying economic factors afffecting consumer confidence. One of the best ways to prevent your home from selling quickly, or at all, is to list it at too high a price. I'm sure that you don't want to pay too much for things, and neither do potential buyers of your home.
This is a sensitive issue for most people, because we tend to identify somewhat with our homes. Many people think of their homes as an extension of themselves and their lives. This is partially true, because our homes are the places where some of the most important events of our lives occur: the baby's first steps, hugs and time with family, cooking and family meals.
While this attitude is understandable, when it comes time to sell your home, it's necessary to take a different view. A home sale is a business transaction. Your home, which you value so highly, and may even still somehow see as "basically new," will not be seen as such to potential buyers who are looking for a home in excellent condition, in a good location at a reasonable price.
Keep in mind that market value is determined by what a motivated and qualified buyer is willing to pay for your home, not simply what you feel it should be worth.
NEGLECTING NECESSARY REPAIRS
I have had clients who want to get everything perfect before selling, which is a problem in and of itself, but more often as agents we see deferred maintenance items on homes that we are looking to list.
"What the heck is deferred maintenance, Jason?"
What this means is that sellers are saving money in the short-term by allowing things to remain broken, but when it's time to sell, it's time to fix these items. It's probably best to put yourself in the buyer's shoes for a moment - would you like to buy a home with problems that the seller refused to fix? Perhaps if it was priced well under market, but otherwise you wouldn't.
Another common trait among sellers that we have worked with over the years is the idea that you have negotiated a fair price, so the buyer shouldn't ask for any repairs. Again, put yourself on the other side of the deal. While the buyer may be thinking this way, the more likely scenario is that they want the right price AND the right condition.
NEGLECTING TO STAGE YOUR HOME
This one is certainly more difficult in some cases than in others. Every once in awhile, I see homes that are "showing ready", but usually they need some help preparing to show. First and foremost, de-clutter! You may be able to throw away a lot of things, or you may need to rent a storage unit, or both if you are in a serious clutter zone. Regardless, this is an absolute necessity in a competitive market. Your agent can usually help with some good ideas, or you may wish to hire a professional home stager (highly recommended if you can find a good one). We know several good stagers who can help.
As a side note, you want to make your home as neutral as possible, in order to appeal to the broadest spectrum of buyers. Home builders have known this for years, which is why they hire professional decorators to assist with the design and staging details. You want to eliminate any odd decor items that may appeal to your unique sense of style, but which may appear strange to buyers.
GETTING HUNG UP ON SMALL STUFF
I worked on a ranch sale years ago that was a multi-million dollar transaction, and it was almost blown over the deer feeders, which probably cost $1000-2000. When you are selling your home, keep the big picture in mind rather than allowing yourself to get hung up on something small. Another example would be refusing to pay for a necessary repair (you will have to do it no matter what if you really want to sell), or not paying for a one-year limited warranty. Is it really worth blowing your sale over something little?
TURNING A BUSINESS ISSUE INTO AN EMOTIONAL ISSUE
As I mentioned above, a home sale is really just a business transaction, although it can often be difficult to make this distinction when you have so much of yourself invested in your home. I have had a number of occasions when my clients did not personally like the people buying their home, but I have to gently remind them that they will not have to deal with them very long, and then they can move on with their lives. Don't allow your emotions to prevent you from getting your home sold. If you don't like the buyers, it really doesn't matter, as long as the terms are agreeable.
Keep the big picture in mind and move forward.
TRYING TO SELL IT YOURSELF
Nationally, over 80% of the homes listed "for sale by owner" end up listing the property with an agent. Clearly, this is a very low success rate. To be sure, there are exceptions, such as when you are in a VERY hot area with good drive-by traffic. Statistically, you actually stand a better chance of opening a new restaurant than you do of selling your own home.
If you do decide to "go it alone", keep in mind that you are responsible for screening everyone that sees the house, and for being available during the day for showings. You also need to familiarize yourself with the contracts, and find a suitable office to close the transaction. Add to this the relatively new challenge of tighter mortgage guidelines (Can this buyer truly qualify to buy the home?).
These are all details that your agent can and will handle for you.
CHOOSING THE WRONG AGENT TO REPRESENT YOU
If you choose the wrong person to list your home, this is something that is difficult to overcome during the sales process. If the agent has a bad, pushy or argumentative personality, no matter how experienced they are, RUN the other way! Having a dishonest agent is another terrible situation to be in as a seller.
Some agents will mislead you in order to get you to accept an offer that won't work for you, or they may try to scare you into thinking that your home won't sell at all unless you drop the price dramatically.
Primarily, you want someone who is friendly, loyal, honest, and who has your best needs in mind. Next, knowledge of the market is important - make sure you understand what you are competing with, and which homes have recently sold. Lastly, an agent with good marketing skills is worth their weight in gold.
NOT TRUSTING YOUR AGENT (unless it's the guy above)
Now that you have hired the CORRECT agent, trust them to do their job, unless you are given a strong reason to think otherwise. This includes allowing the agents to communicate on your behalf, rather than attempting to speak directly with the buyers. In some cases, it is necessary or even advisable for this to occur, but usually it doesn't help matters, especially during the negotiations.
In addition to selling lots of homes, I have watched a bunch of the home-selling shows on TV, and time and time again, I am able to predict the outcome (price, problems, etc.). This comes from experience, and it is something difficult to teach or to learn from a book. Trust that the advise your agent gives you is solid, as this is what they do every day.
SELLING AT THE WRONG TIME
Selling with bad timing can happen at least three different ways:
a. you are selling and you don't know where you are going,
b. you put your home on the market immediately before you have to move, or
c. you are selling at the wrong time of year.
If you have no idea where you are going to buy next, it's probably not great to put your home on the market, unless you simply cannot afford your home anymore, or if you are in imminent danger. The inevitable outcome of listing too soon is that you will receive an offer from someone who wants to move in right away, and you are forced to either reject the offer or move to temporary housing, then move again when you find the right home. If you are like me, you don't enjoy moving, so why put additional stress on yourself?
If you are building a home with a particular timeline in mind, or if you are starting a new job and you have some time to prepare, don't wait until it's too late to get your home listed. You don't want to leave the home vacant and (worse) have two house payments while you are trying to sell. It's never too early to contact an agent and ask when you should list, with your particular needs and timing.
We sometimes have clients who spend too much time getting their homes ready to sell, and they miss the big selling window in our market. Don't spend an inordinate amount of time preparing your home and end up missing the primary selling season in your area.
NOT GIVING POTENTIAL BUYERS ACCESS TO YOUR HOME
This is a critical point: buyers DO NOT work around your ideal schedule. If it is a reasonable time of day (i.e. you are awake and most normal people also are), LET THEM LOOK. Even if things are in disarray, LET THEM LOOK. Even if the buyer's agent doesn't give you any notice, LET THEM LOOK. Although I always try to prepare for showings the day before they happen (or at least several hours ahead of time) and I train our agents to do this, there are times when a buyer will spot a sign and ask about a particular home that is not on the list. Sometimes, they buy this home. Keep that in mind when you have your home listed.
Another good point which warrants mentioning here is to get out of the house when buyers are looking. Preferably, this means going for a walk or going to run errands, but at the very least, go outside and give them some privacy while they are looking with their agent. Buyers never feel at ease when you are in the home hovering around them. LET THEM LOOK on their terms. If you are concerned about valuables, lock them up somewhere.
BUYING THE WRONG HOME IN THE FIRST PLACE
This is another area where having a good agent comes into play. A good quality agent will prevent you from buying something that is not a wise decision (next to railroad tracks, under a freeway overpass, etc.). If you can make a smart decision on your purchase, when it is time to sell, you will be much happier. You can't change the location of your home once you have made the purchase.
Although this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of important items when you are selling your home, these are among the most common problems that I have seen personally. I hope you have found this list to be helpful. Please feel free to contact me (Jason Crouch) at 512-796-7653 (cell) or by visiting our Austin Real Estate website at http://www.austintexashomes.com. I look forward to helping you with your sale!
If you're looking for a home in the Austin area, you can also visit my primary website at www.austintexashomes.com. Thanks!