Real Estate Agents Rank Biggest Home Seller Mistakes

By Rita Danielle Steele

Statistical data and end graphic provided by the ActiveRain Real Estate Network


Attention sellers: the reasons your realtor has been giving you for why your home is not selling are worth listening to. A recent realtor survey of real estate professionals has outlined the top six reasons why some listings don’t sell. While the list will not surprise any agents out there, it may be an eye opener for some of you sellers. So before you throw your realtor under the bus for not hosting enough open houses, read on:


1. Your home is overpriced.

We told you what your home’s market value was ten times over. We showed you comparable sales, local market statistics and everything else we could think of. You thanked us for our input and then reasserted your desired, and much higher, initial listing price.


Most of us agents at this point say no thank you and move on to the next listing. We don’t want to waste our time. But some of us, the more patient or more eager in the bunch, think, “Well, we’ll try it at their price, and then get a price reduction when they see that there is no activity.” The house then sits as buyers use it as a justification for a better “deal,” down the street.

Our professional reputations and livelihood center upon a deep understanding of the local market and all its nuances. Trust us when we tell you what your home is worth. We don’t want to “list” your home, we want to “sell” your home.


2. Showing Availability - It's Difficult to Set a Showing.

I understand what it is like to live in a home that is on the market. Last minute showings for “out of town buyers here for one day only,” effectively leave me in a crazed panic after I have already run out of the house: (Oh. My. God. Definitely. Left. My. Underwear. On. The. Floor.)

Good agents will always arrive to your house early and do a quick run through your rooms, ensuring that they are “show ready.” So relax about your dirty laundry. We have already shoved it under the bed before you even realize you left it out.

House don’t sell when buyers can’t see them. As soon as you inhibit access, the buyer has moved on to the next house. That buyer will almost NEVER make it back around to your house. I see this time and time again when I am working with buyers. If the showing does not work into my client’s crazy-busy schedule then forget it. Unless I feel VERY strongly about a particular listing, I won’t make them hold out to see it if they find another suitable property that they love.



3. Cluttered Space - Unwilling to Depersonalize or Remove Clutter

One of my colleagues has an entire wall display of shoes. Her kitchen cabinets are lined with purses, and so are her cabinets. I collect “vintage,” (i.e. sidewalk scavenged “soon-to-be-restored-as-soon-as-I-get-to-it-which-is-never”) furniture items, that I leave half finished all over my house. My best friend has several very gorgeous and tasteful, but very nude photographs up in her home. A dear relative of mine collects snowmen trinkets. As in collects them absolutely all over her house.


You get the idea. Us realtors “get” personal clutter. We have it, you have it, everyone has it. De-personalizing and de-cluttering your home is a very normal, and very necessary, part of selling it. While we never leave a house so barren that it loses its “warmth,” we typically advise our clients to remove half of the non-essential items from their home. (I.e. start packing before you even list the house). Buyers need to be able to visualize their own clutter in your home, and they need all the help they can get. Your family photos and trinkets won’t leave any room for theirs.

It is our job to tell you what needs to be done to prepare your home, listen to our advice. (If you want to get a head start:



4. Unpleasant Odors in the House

Your dogs smell. Your cats smell even worse. Don’t even get me started on your teenage son’s bedroom.

I recently had a hilarious (horrible?) experience wherein I opened my clients door and was overcome by doggie-fart smell. The dogs had been removed but their odors lingered determinedly. I ran to my car, grabbed my (panic) empty bottle of emergency Fabreeze, and ran back into the house, throwing open drawers and cabinets in search of anything, ANYTHING that smelled decent that I could spray in the air before the prospective buyers arrived. Nada. No room freshener, candles, nothing. I finally found a perfume bottle, and triumphantly sprayed a few sprays in the living room just before the buyers arrived. The problem was that it was a very, VERY strong perfume, and not being much of a perfume wearer I was a bit too zealous with the spraying.

The buyers walked into a wall of perfume that literally left their eyes watering. Not good. Their agent then began to sniffle and sneeze – oh yes – very allergic to the perfume. Nightmare. Point of my story? Sellers, please air out all your unpleasant odors before leaving the house.

While my example is a bit worst-case-scenario, even something as seemingly mild as leftover odors from the dinner you cooked last night will turn buyers off. Bad odors trigger a very basic negative physical reaction out of people – they make people uncomfortable. You don’t want your prospective buyer holding their breath and rushing through your house.

Smoke smells, it hopefully goes without saying, are the biggest buyer deal breaker in this category. Smoking smells mean to a buyer: “tear up ALL the carpet, repaint ALL the walls, and wash ALL the woodwork.” And that is not an exaggeration. That is what it takes to get your cigarette smells out of a house. Trust me, my colleagues and I have had to deal with this one. If you smoke, keep it out of the house and do all of the above before we list your home.


5. Sellers Unwilling to Make Repairs Prior to Listing

Ok this one is a touchy subject sometimes. In the current market, many sellers are stretched tight financially. Even if they have fought their way to firmer financial footing, their homes may have suffered in the leaner years. Realtors understand that, and we will never demand that improvements be made that are beyond a sellers means. (If your realtor does, see my colleague Katie’s article in this Newsletter). We are instead, when we point out items that need addressing pre-market, looking to maximize your home’s marketability and get you top dollar.

Most buyers get easily intimidated by items in a potential home that will require immediate attention. Unless your home is being marketed clearly as a fixer-upper, you want to avoid scaring buyers off with seemingly expensive issues. A leaky roof, for example, could frighten a buyer away, when an affordable and quick repair (say replacement of a fallen slate shingle) would have preempted the issue. Remember that the goal is to make your home as appealing as possible to the largest buyer pool possible.


6. Sellers Unwilling to Negotiate with Buyers

Buyers are not, I repeat ARE NOT trying to piss you off when they submit low ball offers. They either, A. are trying to initiate a negotiation that will get them the best deal on the house possible, or B. are truly offering what they believe, or have been counseled to believe is the market value of your home (see part 1. of this article…they are sometimes right!). Getting insulted and refusing to work with them will get you nowhere. Unless ten other buyers are bombarding your agent with offers, work with the one you’ve got in hand. You never know how much a buyer is willing to negotiate until your yourself become willing to negotiate. (There are PLENTY of other terms and ways to negotiate beyond simple upfront price drops. If you want to know your options, discuss this with your realtor or give us a call anytime).


 We hope that you will take these mistakes to heart and avoid them when you list your house for sale. If you are overwhelmed and looking for guidance on how to prepare your home for the market please reach out to us. We are happy to guide you through the process.





Rita Danielle Steele, Esq.

Broker Owner

Geo Properties Incorporated

Comment balloon 0 commentsRita Danielle Steele • August 11 2014 05:52AM
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