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How Not to Sell a House

The time has come and you have finally put your house on the market for sale. “Great! This is going to be a piece of cake… slap a sign in the yard and watch the offers come flying in! After all, it’s a great house, the neighbors are nice, and it’s conveniently located.” Days go by… weeks… still no offers, and you’re baffled as to why. Chances are you did everything right… to NOT sell your house!

We don’t want this to happen to you, so here are 10 of the best ways to NOT sell your house. You may not be guilty of everything here, but by avoiding the following you’ll not only stand a better chance of selling quicker, but also for more money!

1) Get creative / over personalize

Part of fun and privilege of owning your own home is being able to do what you want with it; decorate with wall art or personalized sculptures, add additions, customize the layout, or paint the walls your favorite team colors. I’ve even seen a kitchen that was 100% ceramic tile (Yup! Foor, walls, ceiling, countertops, the works)! This is all well and good until you put your home on the market and other people (potential buyers) are not jiving with your personal style. For example, by hanging deer head trophies on the wall in your basement you are potentially eliminating a large percentage of people who view your home and are “animal friendly” or simply don’t have any interest in hunting. When deciding to list your home for sale, be prepared to pre-pack decorative personalized items and family pictures and re-paint the walls to a “neutral” color. Additionally, while living in your home and are considering additions, floorplan modifications, or any other permanent change, consult an expert (such as a Realtor) to see how this may affect your future exit strategy.

2) Don’t clean up

I can’t tell you how many homes I’ve walked through that have the dirty toilet seat up, dishes in the sink, and a hamper full of dirty clothes. Yes, these are all things that are temporary and can be easily cleaned up, but the average buyer simply can’t look past them. When they leave your house they’re going to remember the current condition, dirty and gross, not think about what it “could be;” especially if the NEXT house their going to look at is clean and organized. Remember, you may be comfortable living this way but other people don’t want to picture living in your filth. While listed, go above and beyond with the cleaning because if you do your house will sell quickly.

3) Forget the staging

It is amazing what moving furniture around, adding pops of color, and decorating with current trends will do. If I had a nickel for every time a customer positively commented on the staging of our listings, I would have tons of nickels! A good stager will rearrange and decorate every space in your house to help potential buyers visualize the use those particular spaces, and thus visualize themselves living in those spaces. Stagers are professionals at making a room feel “welcoming” and “warm” and make a huge difference when you want your potential buyers to have a good FEELING about your house, or should I say, their future house.

4) Ignore curb appeal

The classic “first impression” cannot be ignored when selling your house. When someone gets out of their car and sees overgrown grass/hedges, kids toys in the front yard, and dirty sidewalks they immediately assume the inside is the same way. Spend time addressing these things. Imagine someone is walking to the front door and steps in dog doo-doo on the way in… you think they’re having a good experience? Now imagine the opposite and the yard’s picked up, grass is green and trimmed, neatly groomed flowers, and no “dog presents”, I think you’ll have a much better chance of impressing buyers. In order to sell quickly and for top dollar you want the entire experience for your potential buyers to be enjoyable, even before they get out of their car!

5) Let the buyer fix the small things

Some folks are handy as can be and see small repairs as no problem, but the vast majority of home buyers want a “move-in ready” home. They don’t want to move in and then all of the sudden have to fix a leaky faucet, patch a hole in the wall, or quiet a squeaky door. Before listing, take an unbiased look around the house and see what the small projects are that you can get done quickly and inexpensively. Are the windows or kitchen drawers sticking? Is there an awful stain on the wall that needs to be painted over? Does the blind in the master bedroom not roll up right? Buyers WILL see and touch these things, and remember them. The short amount of time and minor investment is well worth it!

6) Dim the lights

Natural sunlight has many benefits; offers great boosts to vitamin D, warms you up, and can give you a gorgeous tan! It also makes a big difference when selling your house. By leaving the curtains drawn, keeping the valances up, or leaving other window obstructions in the way, you are limiting the amount of natural light that comes into the house; don’t do this! Additionally, make sure all your lightbulbs are replaced and working, and use the right type. I always recommend “bright white” bulbs rather than “daylight,” as most daylight bulbs tend to have more of a yellow-ish tint which is less appealing to the eye. Buyers won’t love the features of your house if they can’t see them clearly!

7) Odor

Over time we build up a tolerance to our own “funk.” You might get a brief whiff of it when you get home from work, but it soon fades and we become immune to the odors present in our own homes. If you have pets (especially ones that aren’t well potty-trained) the odors are even worse! Some things you can do are clean the carpets, paint the walls, and deep clean your bathrooms and kitchen (yes, behind the stove as well!). If you’re having a showing, don’t be afraid to bake some cookies or throw a load of laundry in just before, which can fill the air with fresh scents. If you’re using candles or other air fresheners be sure that they aren’t over-powering as that can actually have a negative effect. Lastly, ask your realtor or a friend if they noticed any smells as they walked in, a 2nd set of nostrils can reveal a lot.

8) Require a 24 hour notice

Buyers, just like you, are busy. Often they have 3-4 or even more showings lined up in one day. The more inconvenient it is to view a property the less likely they are to even see it. If you have a “24 hour notice” (or a similarly long timeframe) specified on your listing it’s probable that you will get far fewer showings than if you were to be more flexible and let buyers view the property within one or two hours. The idea here is to make viewing your house as easy and convenient as possible, because people tend to avoid complicated or inconvenient.

9) Price based on emotion / sentimental value

It’s the hard truth… emotions and sentimental values are worth $0 in the real estate world. Believe it or not, buyers won’t pay you extra because you raised your 3 children in the home, you think the light fixture you bought in another country is unique, or you tended to the garden every year on your own. The fact of the matter is your home will have a very specific price point based on the current market, its location, size, condition, and what active buyer’s actually think its worth. If you price based on your own perceived value you’ll often price incorrectly and your house will sit on the market for much longer than necessary. This leads us to the final way to NOT sell your house…

10) Don’t hire an agent!

Are you an expert in how to buy and sell a home? Do you know your local real estate market through and through? Are you a great negotiator? Do you have time to show your house (during business hours) and field several calls a day regarding your property? A great marketer and/or networker? Do you have connections with contractors, inspectors, appraisers, lenders and tons of real estate agents? How about handling mountains of legal paperwork all while meeting specific and important deadlines? If you just read all of those questions and thought, “Absolutely!” then you might have a good chance to sell your house on your own. These are only a few of the things that a good real estate agent has mastered. From pricing your home right, to taking amazing listing photos, to negotiating the right deal, to seeing everything through to a successful closing, your real estate agent will handle it all. Seriously, you could risk missing out on thousands of dollars and losing a lot of time by not hiring a professional to get the job done.


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