Avoid These Mistakes When Selling Your Home
Learn how to get the best price for the family manse
Selling your home can be surprisingly time-consuming and emotionally challenging, especially if you’ve never done it before. At times it may feel like an invasion of privacy because strangers will come into your home, open your closets and cabinets, and poke around. They will criticize a place that has probably become more than just four walls and a roof to you, and, to top it all off, they will offer you less money than you think your home is worth.
With no experience and a complex, emotional transaction on your hands, it’s easy for first-time home sellers to make lots of mistakes. However, with a little know-how you can avoid many of these pitfalls. Read on to find out how to sell your house while getting the highest possible price within a reasonable time frame without losing your mind.
It’s easy to get emotional about selling your home, especially your first one. You spent a great deal of time and effort to find the right one, saved up for your down payment and furniture, and created many memories. People generally have trouble keeping their emotions in check when it comes time to say goodbye. Think it’s impossible? It’s not. Once you decide to sell your home, start thinking of yourself as a businessperson and salesperson rather than just the homeowner. In fact, forget altogether that you’re the homeowner. By looking at the transaction from a purely financial perspective, you’ll distance yourself from the emotional aspects of selling the property.
Also, try to remember how you felt when you were shopping for that home. Most buyers will also be in an emotional state. If you can remember that you are selling a piece of property as well as an image and a lifestyle, you’ll be more likely to put in the extra effort of staging and doing some minor remodeling to get top dollar for your home. These changes in appearance will not only help the sales price; they’ll also help you create emotional distance because your home will look less familiar.
To Hire or Not to Hire an Agent
Although real estate agents command a hefty commission—usually 5% to 6% of the sale price of your home—it’s probably not a great idea to try to sell your home on your own, especially if you haven’t done it before.1 It can be tempting, especially if you’ve seen all those “for sale by owner” signs on people’s front lawns or on the internet. So does it pay to hire an agent? A good agent generally has your best interests at heart. They will help you set a fair and competitive selling price for your home, increasing your odds of a quick sale. An agent can also help tone down the emotion of the process by interacting with potential buyers and eliminating tire kickers who only want to look at your property but have no intention of making an offer. Your agent will also have more experience negotiating home sales, helping you get more money than you could on your own. And if any problems crop up during the process—and they commonly do—an experienced professional will be there to handle them for you. Finally, agents are familiar with all the paperwork and pitfalls involved in real estate transactions and can help make sure the process goes smoothly. This means there won’t be any delays or glitches in the deal.
What to Do If You Don’t Use a Real Estate Agent
So you’ve decided not to hire an agent. That’s fine, because it’s not like it can’t be done. There are people who sell their own homes successfully. Remember, though, you’ll need to do your research first—on recently sold properties in your area and properties currently on the market—to determine an attractive selling price. Keep in mind that most home prices have an agent’s commission factored in, so you may have to discount your price as a result. You’ll be responsible for your own marketing, so make sure to get your home on the multiple listing service (MLS) in your geographic area to reach the widest number of buyers. As you have no agent, you’ll be the one showing the house and negotiating the sale with the buyer’s agent, which can be time-consuming, stressful, and emotional for some people.
Since you’re forgoing an agent, consider hiring a real estate attorney to help you with the finer points of the transaction and the escrow process. Even with attorney’s fees, selling a home yourself can save you thousands. If the buyer has an agent, however, they’ll expect to be compensated. This cost is typically covered by the seller, so you’ll still need to pay 1% to 3% of the home’s sale price to the buyer’s agent.1
Setting an Unrealistic Price
Whether you’re working with an agent or going it alone, setting the right asking price is key. Remember the comparative market analysis you or your agent did when you bought your home to determine a fair offering price? Buyers will do this for your home, too, so as a seller you should be one step ahead of them. You may think your home is worth more, but remember to set a realistic price based on comparable homes in the area. Absent a housing bubble, overpriced homes generally don’t sell. In a survey conducted by the informational home sale website HomeLight.com, 70% of real estate agents said that overpricing is the number one mistake that sellers make.2 Don’t worry too much about setting a price that’s on the low side, because in theory this will generate multiple offers and bid the price up to the home’s actual market value. In fact, underpricing your home can be a strategy to generate extra interest in your listing, and you can always refuse an offer that’s too low.