Top 10 Seller Mistakes: Avoid Sabotaging Your Home Sale

In my 33 years of selling homes, I’ve pretty much seen and heard it all. Today, I want to share my experience to address the most common mistakes and poor mindset issues that cause home sellers to sabotage their bottom lines.

The top 10 mistakes sellers make usually stem from ignorance. Once these concepts are explained, most sellers take corrective action and strengthen their position. However, reactive fixes often mean some money has already been lost.

That’s why I prefer to discuss these ten mistakes with sellers before they hit the market. You can keep reading to learn these lessons, or simply watch the video below.

Mistake #1: Insulted by Low Offer

When selling your home, it's crucial not to let emotions get in the way, especially when it comes to receiving offers. Many sellers feel insulted by low offers and react negatively, but this can be a huge mistake.

Imagine you just listed your house for four hundred fifty thousand dollars, believing it was a fair price based on the upgrades you had made over the years. One week into the listing, you receive an offer of four hundred thousand dollars. You feel insulted and angry, and think, "How dare they offer so little for my beautiful home!"

Instead of countering the buyer with a higher price, you tell your real estate agent you don’t even want to respond to “that idiot.” That buyer obviously does not appreciate your home and has no clue as to what it is really worth. You dismiss the offer because you have taken the offer as a personal insult.

A better course of action would be to discuss your home’s value with your listing agent. You’ve only been on the market for a week, but in most markets today, your home should have received multiple offers for a home in your price range. If your agent thinks you’ve missed the market and are over-priced, counter the buyer at the price you think it is worth. Worst-case scenario, counter back at the full asking price. Smart home sellers never let a deal die in their hands; they always counter the buyer, regardless of what they think the buyer will do.

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Mistake #2: I Need to Get $X Amount

One of the biggest mistakes sellers make is focusing on the amount they need to get from the sale rather than the market value of their home. This can lead to unrealistic pricing and extended time on the market. It's important to understand that sellers do not control the price; buyers do. Sellers control whether or not they will sell their homes.

Imagine you’re a homeowner who needs to sell your house to pay off debts. You decide you need to get four hundred thousand dollars from the sale because that amount will satisfy your mortgage, cover your debts, and leave you with enough money for a down payment on a smaller home. However, after getting a comparative market analysis from your real estate agent, you learn that similar homes in your area are selling for around three hundred seventy-five thousand dollars.

Despite the market data, you insist on listing your home for four hundred thousand dollars. Weeks go by with very few showings and no offers. You start to get anxious as the bills pile up. Your agent advises you to lower the price to match the market value, but you’re hesitant because you need that extra money.

Eventually, you decide to lower the price to three hundred eighty-five thousand dollars, hoping for a compromise. This generates more interest, but still no offers. Finally, you realize that you must price your home competitively to attract serious buyers. You lower the price to three hundred seventy-five thousand dollars and quickly receive several offers, one of which you accept.

By initially focusing on the amount you needed rather than what the market would bear, you wasted valuable time and endured unnecessary stress. Additionally, you failed to create a “fear of missing out” response from the best buyers for your home by entering the market too high. This means you did not create a bidding war and did not maximize your net from the sale of the home. Pricing your home according to market conditions from the start would likely have led to a higher price, a quicker sale, and less financial strain.

Mistake #3: I Want X Amount

Another common issue for sellers is setting a price based on what they want, rather than what the market will support. This can result in a property sitting unsold for an extended period.

Imagine you’ve decided to sell your home and want to get five hundred thousand dollars because you believe it's worth that much. You’ve put a lot of love and effort into the house over the years, and you're confident in its value. You list it for five hundred thousand dollars, even though your real estate agent advises you that similar homes in the area are selling for around four hundred sixty thousand dollars.

Weeks go by with minimal interest and no offers. You start to get frustrated, wondering why no one is seeing the value in your home. Your agent suggests lowering the price to align with the market, but you’re reluctant because you want that five hundred thousand dollars.

Eventually, you agree to lower the price to four hundred eighty-five thousand dollars, thinking it might attract more buyers. This generates some interest, but still no offers. Realizing you need to be more realistic, you finally lower the price to four hundred sixty thousand dollars.

Now that you are at the market value, you expect a quick sale, yet no offers arrive. You wonder what in the world has happened to the buyers. Most likely, the buyers in the market assume there is something wrong with your home. After all, it’s been on the market a long time and many other homes came and went. Many just assume that your home is defective. Eventually, you lower your price to four hundred fifty thousand dollars, get an offer for four hundred twenty-five thousand dollars, and go to contract at four hundred thirty-five thousand dollars.

By initially focusing on what you wanted rather than the market value, you wasted valuable time and soured your home to potential buyers. Pricing your home according to market conditions from the start would have likely led to a quicker sale, a lot more money, and less frustration.

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Mistake #4: I’ve Already Lowered My Price $20K

Sellers often feel frustrated after making a significant price reduction and may resist further adjustments, believing they have already compromised enough. However, price reductions do not make a home more saleable until they bring the home within its market value. If you are overpriced and drop your price to a new overpriced level, you have effectively done nothing. Remember, buyers set the price; sellers merely decide whether or not they want to sell.

Let’s consider a more extreme example. Imagine you have a home that is worth five hundred thousand dollars, but for some crazy reason, you decide to ask six hundred thousand dollars. Now we know that nobody will show interest in your home because you are one hundred thousand dollars overpriced. Does a fifty thousand dollar price reduction make your home appealing to buyers? The answer is no.

Even after reducing your price to five hundred fifty thousand dollars, you’re still fifty thousand dollars above the market value. Buyers do not care about price reductions; they care about value. Price reductions only matter when they move the asking price within the boundaries of a current market valuation that motivates buyers to take action.

By initially focusing on what you wanted rather than the market value, you wasted valuable time and potential buyers. Pricing your home according to market conditions from the start would have likely led to a quicker sale, more money, and less frustration.

Mistake #5: We’ve Only Been on the Market a Few Weeks

Many sellers think that if their home has only been on the market for a short time, they just need to give it more time. In all fairness, this was true prior to the digital age, but here’s something I tell my home-selling clients: If your home is not under contract within the first four to fourteen days, one of two things has occurred. Either I have not done what I told you I would do, or your home is overpriced.

We need to talk, and I need to show you that I’ve done my job. With digital marketing channels, I can reach ninety-five percent of the potential buyers for your home within four days. So if we don’t have a ton of showings and multiple offers right away, and you and I have reviewed that I have indeed done my job, then we know that the market has rejected your asking price.

Here’s another way this can manifest. Imagine you’ve just listed your home for four hundred seventy-five thousand dollars. In the first week, you receive an offer for four hundred sixty-five thousand dollars. You feel confident that, since it's early, better offers will come along, so you reject the offer, thinking you have plenty of time.

In my experience, the best buyer for your home is the first one that makes an offer. If you have overpriced your home, that buyer will have no competition and can negotiate you down. Here’s an important tip: If only one person is interested in your home, you will negotiate your price down with that person. But if multiple buyers want your home, they will compete among themselves for the right to buy your home. Which scenario would you prefer?

The key takeaway on this point is this: If you hired the right real estate agent for the job of selling your home, and your agent has done what they said they would do, yet your home is not being swamped with buyers, then your asking price missed the market and you need to make an immediate correction. Lower your price and get multiple buyers fighting for the right to buy your home. Time is not your friend as a home seller; work diligently to create a fear of missing out among buyers.

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Mistake #6: I’m Not Going to Pay the Buyer’s Closing Costs, Those Are Their Problem

When a home seller tells me they refuse to pay costs for the buyer, I know I need to help them focus on the primary goal. For some home sellers, the primary goal is achieving a sale within certain time parameters. For others, it’s the bottom line. Ironically, the first thing every seller tells me is that they want to get the highest price possible. Here’s what I ask them:

Do you want the highest price? Or do you want to walk away from closing with the most money possible? For most, the answer is that they want to walk away with the most money they can get.

The best way to get the most money from the sale of your home is to bring the highest number of possible buyers to the negotiating table. Your willingness to pay closing costs brings in cash-strapped buyers who will be willing to pay more for help in the purchase. If you focus on the bottom line (the money you get), the top line (the sales price) will take care of itself. I always explain that when I myself am a seller, I will consider any and every term buyers can offer. That way, I can choose the solution that best serves my needs.

Here’s an example. Imagine you’ve listed your home for five hundred thousand dollars. You receive an offer from a buyer who is willing to pay more than the full asking price, but they need help covering some of their closing costs. Do you immediately reject this request, thinking, "Why should I pay their costs? Those are their problem"?

What you might not realize is that many buyers, particularly first-time buyers, may be stretching their finances to afford the down payment and other costs associated with purchasing a home. By refusing to help with closing costs, you make it harder for them to buy your home, and you might be chasing away your best buyer.

Instead, discuss with your agent how you can help the buyer afford to buy your home while delivering your best bottom line. It’s a win-win situation.

Mistake #7: My Roof/AC Is Only 15 Years Old and Works Fine, I’m Not Going to Replace Them

Sellers often think that just because something in their home is functioning, it doesn't need to be replaced. While a fifteen-year-old roof or air conditioning system might still be working, potential buyers see these as future expenses and may factor this into their offer or be deterred altogether. Additionally, the majority of buyers in the market will borrow money to purchase your home, and insurance companies and lenders may deny loans on homes with older HVAC systems or roofs.

When a real estate agent or appraiser (or any online home valuation service) determines a home’s value, it typically is based on the assumption of good working order for all systems and appliances. If a qualified professional tells you your home’s value is between four hundred ninety thousand and five hundred thousand dollars based on comparable listings and sales, they are assuming everything is in good working order. Unfortunately, older roofs and HVAC systems become a deduction for your home’s value once they age out, regardless of condition.

Imagine you’ve listed your home for five hundred thousand dollars. Your roof and air conditioning system are both fifteen years old but still work perfectly. A buyer shows interest and gets a home inspection, which notes the age of the roof and AC unit. The buyer requests that you replace them or provide a significant credit at closing. You feel frustrated because, from your perspective, the roof and AC unit are fine and should last a few more years. You decide to reject the buyer's request, thinking it’s unreasonable.

The buyer walks away from the deal, unable to secure financing due to the age of the roof and AC unit. Weeks go by without any offers, and you start to realize that the age of these systems is a significant barrier to selling your home.

What you might not realize is that most buyers are borrowing money to purchase your home. Lenders and insurance companies often require homes to have updated systems to qualify for loans and insurance. By refusing to address these issues, you make it difficult for buyers to secure financing, effectively narrowing your market to cash buyers who typically pay less than market value and have agents advising of the reduced value once the home inspection is completed.

Instead, discuss with your agent how you can address these concerns. While you could offer a credit for the roof and HVAC system, a price reduction by the same amount is often a smarter way to go. Your lower price will attract more buyers, hopefully creating a bidding war, and you might get back a portion of the devaluation by creating a fear of missing out among buyers in this inventory-starved market.

Taking this approach, you lower the asking price to reflect the age of the roof and HVAC system. As a result, you attract multiple buyers, create a competitive bidding environment, and ultimately sell your home for four hundred ninety-five thousand dollars, close to your original asking price. The buyers are satisfied, knowing they got a fair deal, and you achieve a quicker and more profitable sale.

By proactively addressing the concerns about your home's major systems, you make your home more appealing to buyers and facilitate a quicker and more profitable sale. Understanding buyer concerns and limitations and being willing to make necessary updates can help you achieve a successful sale.

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Mistake #8: The Home Inspector Is an Idiot, Those Issues Have Not Bothered Me

It’s easy for sellers to get defensive when a home inspection report highlights issues that they’ve lived with for years without any problems. Most of us have numerous emotional ties to our homes, so a stranger pointing out imperfections can make us feel defensive and hurt.

Imagine you’ve listed your home for five hundred thousand dollars. A buyer shows serious interest and pays for a home inspection. The inspector finds several issues: an aging water heater, a minor roof leak, and outdated electrical wiring. You’ve lived in the home for years without any major problems, so you think the inspector is being overly picky and unreasonable.

You dismiss the buyer’s requests for repairs or credits, thinking, "These issues have never bothered me, so why should they bother anyone else?" The buyer, concerned about the potential future costs and safety issues, decides to walk away from the deal.

What you might not realize is that home inspectors are thorough for a reason. They are there to identify potential problems that could affect the safety and longevity of the home. Buyers rely on these reports to make informed decisions, and ignoring or dismissing the findings can make you appear uncooperative and untrustworthy.

I have been selling homes for thirty-three years, brokering tens of thousands of sales, including new construction homes, and I have never seen a home in perfect condition. Licensed home inspectors are a blessing for buyers and sellers, as they provide the most accurate view of a home’s condition, seeing and measuring things most would never even think of.

Be prepared when you order a home inspection. Expect it to tell you everything that is not in great shape in the home. The inspector is not telling you what needs to be fixed; instead, the inspection report serves only to advise on the condition. Discuss the inspection report with your real estate agent and consider addressing the most critical issues. For example, you could replace the aging water heater, fix the minor roof leak, and offer a credit for the electrical updates. By proactively addressing these concerns, you show buyers you are serious about maintaining your home and ensuring it is in good condition.

Address the most pressing issues identified in the inspection report and adjust the asking price for the rest. This will reassure potential buyers, and your home will likely sell and close quickly.

By taking the inspection report seriously and addressing key concerns, you can build trust with buyers and facilitate a smoother, more successful sale. Understanding the importance of these findings and being willing to make necessary updates can help you achieve your goal of selling your home.

Mistake #9: If That’s What the Home Is Worth, I’ll Just Plan to Live Here Until I Die

Some sellers react to market feedback with stubbornness, thinking, "If that’s what the home is worth, I’ll just plan to live here until I die." Most times, this sentiment stems from considering the amount of money needed for their next home. Sellers believe that if they wait long enough, the market will eventually meet their asking price. However, this approach often overlooks the fact that as home prices rise, the price of their next desired home increases as well.

Imagine you’ve listed your home for five hundred thousand dollars, hoping to get that amount to comfortably afford your next home. After several weeks, the market feedback indicates that your home is realistically worth closer to four hundred seventy-five thousand dollars. Frustrated and focused on the financial gap, you decide to hold out for the five hundred thousand dollars, thinking, "I’ll just stay here until I get the price I want."

Months go by with your home still on the market, and while you’re waiting for your ideal price, the value of the homes you’re interested in buying has also increased. The gap you were trying to bridge remains, and you’re now facing even higher prices for your next home. Additionally, you continue to incur the ongoing costs of maintaining your current home.

If you are planning to move to a more expensive home, then the next home is rising in value faster than the one you need to sell, then you are in a hurry. But if you are planning to downsize, then your current home is moving higher faster than the next one, so waiting might be a better choice.

My advice is this: If you want to move and can afford to move, then move. The market determines the value of your home, not you. Your decision is whether or not to sell based on current market conditions. Remember, after you sell, you will be a buyer in similar market conditions, so the best course of action is to move when you want to, rather than waiting for the market to change.

By understanding that the market sets the price and adapting your expectations, you can make a timely decision that benefits your overall situation. Selling your home at a realistic price now allows you to move on and purchase your next home before its value rises even further, ensuring you make the most of your real estate transaction.

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Mistake #10: The Neighbor Down the Street Is Asking $50K More Than What You Are Recommending

Many sellers compare their home’s price to nearby listings, but this can lead to unrealistic pricing expectations if they don’t consider differences in condition, upgrades, and market dynamics.

Does somebody’s asking price change the value of your home? The simple answer is no. If the seller down the street is priced above market, their home won't sell. If they ask far too much and then raise their asking price even more, it still doesn't impact the value of your home. Asking prices do not determine the market; they highlight the true value of correctly priced homes.

Think of home values like car values. Will every used Ford F-150 sell for the same price? Upgrades, condition, features, mileage, and seller situations all impact resale value. The same principle applies to homes.

Imagine you’ve listed your home for four hundred seventy-five thousand dollars based on your real estate agent’s recommendation. However, you notice that your neighbor down the street has listed their similar-sized home for five hundred twenty-five thousand dollars. You start to question your agent’s advice, thinking your home should be priced similarly.

You call your agent and insist on raising your asking price to match your neighbor’s. Your agent explains that while the homes might appear similar, your neighbor’s home has several upgrades, including a new kitchen, modern bathrooms, and a recently landscaped yard, which justify their higher asking price. Your home, while well-maintained, doesn’t have these recent updates.

Despite this explanation, you decide to raise your asking price to five hundred twenty-five thousand dollars. Weeks go by with few showings and no offers. Frustrated, you ask your agent why your neighbor’s home is attracting more interest. Your agent reminds you that buyers are willing to pay more for homes that have been updated and are move-in ready. Additionally, your agent points out that the neighbor’s home is not sold either, suggesting that both homes are priced too high.

Realizing your mistake, you decide to lower your asking price back to four hundred seventy-five thousand dollars. Almost immediately, you see an increase in interest and receive multiple offers. You end up selling your home for four hundred eighty thousand dollars, an above-asking price sale because you created a fear of missing out among buyers with your asking price.

The lesson here is that while it’s natural to compare your home to others in your neighborhood, it’s crucial to understand the factors that contribute to each home’s value. Hire a trustworthy agent, and then trust your agent’s expertise and market knowledge to set a realistic price that reflects the true condition of your home.

Knowledge Is Power

By now, you should understand the top 10 mistakes that can sabotage your home sale. Avoiding these pitfalls will position you to get the best possible price for your home and ensure a smooth selling process.

Remember, knowledge is power. The more you understand about the selling process and the potential traps, the better prepared you’ll be.

There are a lot of people who endorse Joe for the job of selling your home, including Preston Scott (host of Tallahassee's top daily "Audio Magazine," as well as the thousands of happy customers Joe has helped in the past. Listen why!

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