Hey, we’re not going to beat around the bush: Selling a home is stressful.
The hope that you’re going to get an offer rises and falls with each showing or open house. And prepping your house for showings is just a pain in the butt.
On top of that, you might feel sad because you’re saying goodbye to an old friend who witnessed big life moments—birthdays, holidays, your baby’s first steps.
But it’ll all be worth it once you get to closing day.
Your home is your biggest investment. You know how much sweat and money you’ve put into it, and you don’t want to make a mistake when it’s time to sell. So here’s a list of 14 home-selling mistakes and how to avoid them:
The Biggest Mistakes Home Sellers Make
- Mistake 1: Not Expecting Home-Selling Costs
- Mistake 2: Hiring an Inexperienced Real Estate Agent
- Mistake 3: Selling It By Yourself
- Mistake 4: Pricing It Wrong
- Mistake 5: Hiding Major Repairs
- Mistake 6: Selling When You’re Upside-Down on Your Mortgage
- Mistake 7: Skimping on Staging
- Mistake 8: Not Clearing the Clutter
- Mistake 9: Forgetting About Lighting
- Mistake 10: Using Listing Photos That Look Bad
- Mistake 11: Not Letting Your Agent Handle Showings
- Mistake 12: Taking a Low Offer Personally
- Mistake 13: Limiting Showings
- Mistake 14: Not Firing a Bad Real Estate Agent
Mistake 1: Not Expecting Home-Selling Costs
Okay, you’re selling a house and someone else is buying it. No need to prepare for any expenses, right? Big mistake! Don’t let these home-selling costs catch you by surprise:
- Agent commissions: Did you know sellers usually have to cover the commissions for their listing agent and the buyer’s agent? According to most real estate websites, you’ll probably pay around 6% of your home price to cover agent commissions. So, if your home sells for $200,000, don’t be surprised if $12,000 of that goes to the agents who helped you seal the deal. Is it worth it? For sure! A good agent will likely help you get more money for your house—enough to cover their commission and put more cash in your pocket (see Mistake 3).
- Closing costs: A seller’s share of the closing costs is usually 1–3% of the home price.1 These costs could include sales tax, a title transfer fee, attorney fees and a fee for whoever organizes the final transaction on closing day—like a title company or a lawyer.
- Staging costs: The cost to stage a home varies widely based on factors like where you live, the size of your home, how many rooms you want to stage, whether you’ll be renting decor, and what the staging company charges. On average, home staging costs about $1,500.2
- Home inspection repairs: It might be wise to pay a few hundred bucks for a home inspection before you even list your house. (See Mistake 5 below). Depending on the seriousness of the issues that come up, repairing your house could cost thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars! Sure, that doesn’t mean you have to pay to fix it. But if you don’t, buyers are definitely going to expect a discount.
- Seller concessions: Speaking of discounts, buyers may try to negotiate for a lower asking price—depending on the housing market. Or they might offer to pay your full asking price if you provide seller concessions. These might include an arrangement where you throw in items like your washer and dryer, or pay some or all of their closing costs, which are usually 3–4% of your home's price.3
- Your next home: Whether you’re sizing up or down, make sure you can pay for your new house in cash or find a mortgage that fits your budget. We recommend keeping your monthly payment to 25% or less of your take-home pay on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage. If that sounds challenging, first make sure you’re debt-free (except your mortgage) and have a fully funded emergency fund. Then you’ll be financially secure enough to buy a home again.
- Moving expenses: Did you forget? You’re moving too! The average cost to move locally ranges anywhere from $900–2,400 (if you hire movers).4 And if you’re not moving directly into your new home after selling your old one, you’ll need to account for rental and storage fees.
When you add up these expenses, the total can seem overwhelming if you’re not prepared for it. But don’t worry! A good real estate agent knows how to best arrange your home sale with these costs in mind.
Mistake 2: Hiring an Inexperienced Real Estate Agent
Helping out a friend or a family member by letting them sell your house might seem like a nice thing to do. But it’s a mistake to put your biggest asset in the hands of an amateur. You need a seasoned pro who’s an expert in your local market. You want to find a real estate agent who closes at least 35 homes a year or more homes than 90% of the agents in their market.
Find expert agents to help you sell your home.
Wondering how to do that? We’ve done it for you.
Mistake 3: Selling It By Yourself
This is a big one. Not using a real estate agent, or going the For Sale by Owner (FSBO) route, is a massive home-selling mistake. Do you save yourself from paying a 3% commission to a seller’s agent? Sure. But you’re still on the hook for the 3% buyer’s agent commission. Plus, trying to sell a home yourself is a major headache, and you could miss the chance to make a whole lot more money.
In fact, 2021 data shows the typical FSBO home sold for $260,000 compared to more than $318,000 when sold by an agent. That’s a $58,000 difference! And that more than covers the cost of a 3% seller’s agent commission, which would only be $9,500 on a $318,000 sale.
Most sellers already know it’s a mistake to sell solo. Last year, only 7% of all sellers sold their home by themselves.5
We know what a hassle it can be to try and sell a house without an agent. That’s why we developed our Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program that instantly connects you with the top-performing RamseyTrusted real estate agents in your area.
Mistake 4: Pricing It Wrong
Pricing a home can be tricky! If you price it too low, you could miss out on thousands of dollars in profit. Price it too high, and you could turn away serious buyers or run the risk of wasting weeks or months before you have to reduce the price to get an offer.
Don’t trust the internet or your emotions. Ask a real estate agent for a comparative market analysis that will show you how much homes like yours are selling for in your area. Setting the right price from the start can make all the difference in how quickly you sell your home and how much money ends up in your pocket at the closing table.
Mistake 5: Hiding Major Repairs
Think your buyer won’t notice that roof leak? How about the bug problem? Guess again. When you list your home, you’re required to fill out a seller’s disclosure that includes known problems that could affect the value of your home. Also, if your buyers are smart, they’ll likely get a home inspection after you accept their offer. And if a major problem with your house comes up during the inspection, it could delay your closing date or even squash the deal altogether.
Mistake 6: Selling When You’re Upside-Down on Your Mortgage
What if you owe more money on your home than it’s worth? This is referred to as being upside-down, underwater or having negative equity on your home. If you sell it, you won’t make enough money to cover the mortgage or agent commissions (or both). Breaking even on your home sale is at least better, but it’s still not great
If you’re in either situation, don’t sell unless you need to avoid bankruptcy or foreclosure. There are other ways to handle an underwater mortgage. But usually, the best option is to stay in your home and work hard to build more equity before you sell.
Mistake 7: Skimping on Staging
Staging a home may not sound like a big deal, but skimping on this step is a huge home-selling mistake. Most agents say staging a home has a dramatic impact on selling it faster. A quarter of agents said staging increased the dollar amount of buyer offers by 1–5%.6 In other words, if you stage a $300,000 home, your offers might bump up an extra $3,000–15,000!
The median cost to hire a staging service is $1,500, and agents say the living room and master bedroom are the most important rooms to stage.7 Whatever you do, don’t show an empty house to potential buyers. Instead, rent furniture and decorations from a staging company to give buyers an idea of what it’d be like if it became their home. Many real estate companies also offer virtual staging.
Mistake 8: Not Clearing the Clutter
This goes without saying, but it’s hard to show off the beauty of your home if it’s full of clutter. Piles of paperwork, misplaced toys and torn-up furniture make your home look like a slop-fest to buyers. And don’t forget pets. If you want to attract buyers, you’ve got to pretend Lassie doesn’t live there anymore.
So, clear every surface, pack up the toys, eliminate odors, clean up stains, and get rid of half-chewed rawhides. You’re marketing a house. It’s time to treat your home like it’s the buyer’s home. Get everyone in your household on board. Light some scented candles and tell them your house is now a fancy bed and breakfast.
And while you’re at it, slap a fresh coat of paint on rooms that might need it. Yes, your daughter wanted a purple bedroom, but a buyer might not be keen on pastels. Paying to have some painting done—or getting your hands dirty and doing it yourself—is a small investment that could translate into thousands of extra dollars on the sale price.
Mistake 9: Forgetting About Lighting
Unless Batman’s in the market for a new lair, dark corners are not your friend. Bright rooms make your home look bigger, so throw back the curtains and shine a light on every nook and cranny! Start by filling lamps and overhead fixtures with 100-watt bulbs. Add a warm and cozy feel with a few candles and a fire in the fireplace.
Mistake 10: Using Listing Photos That Look Bad
These days, buyers check out homes from the couch. In fact, 95% of all buyers use the internet to search for homes.8 So if your online photos look like grandma took them with her flip phone, you’ll lose buyer interest before they ever pull up to the curb. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced pro who knows how to make your home shine on camera. You’d be amazed at the difference the correct lighting and a wide-angle lens can make!
Mistake 11: Not Letting Your Agent Handle Showings
Sticking around for showings does nothing but make everyone feel awkward. Leave the questions to the agent and give the buyer room to look around without you breathing down their neck. After all, do you really want to stand in the way of the buyer’s ability to see your house as their dream home?
Mistake 12: Taking a Low Offer Personally
Remember, a buyer’s offer is not a reflection of their opinion of your home or your housekeeping abilities. Hey, they like your home or they wouldn’t make an offer, right? The sale of your home is a business transaction. Even if you’re starting with a low offer, now’s the time to negotiate. Make your counteroffer. If they’re truly interested, the potential buyer will improve their offer.
Mistake 13: Limiting Showings
Hey, we know getting your home ready for a showing last minute and finding a place to go while your house is being shown is a major pain—especially if you have kiddos. But if you limit showings to weekends or specific times during the week, you could be missing out on potential buyers. Be flexible. And try to stay calm when you get a showing request that falls right in the middle of Junior’s nap time. Showing your house is just a temporary inconvenience.
Mistake 14: Not Firing a Bad Real Estate Agent
A home-selling problem could be due to a dud agent. But a do-nothing won’t give themselves a kick in the pants. That’s your job! You’ll be paying your real estate agent thousands of dollars to sell your home, so make sure they’re worth the money. If your agent doesn’t measure up, find one who does right away!
Sell Your Home the Smart Way
There are a ton of home-selling mistakes to beware of. And each mistake could cost you thousands of dollars—and more than a few bottles of aspirin. Need more advice? Check out our free Home Sellers Guide.
You also need to make sure you have a pro in your corner to help guide you through the home-selling process. That’s why we match you with RamseyTrusted real estate agents in your area through our Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program. We’ve found and vetted the best-performing agents who will work hand in hand with you and take your home sale seriously. We make it easy for you to connect with an agent who shares your values and helps you avoid these home-selling mistakes.