- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 5, 2010

While inexperienced homebuyers often share stories of their naive mistakes, home sellers make their share of missteps, too. Some seller errors can be minor and may mean a slower sale or perhaps the loss of a small amount of money, but others can sabotage a sale. Here are some of the biggest mistakes home sellers make and how they can be avoided.

Failing to price the home for market conditions

“The number one, most important task of any seller is to price the home appropriately for the market,” says Pat Fales, an associate broker with Re/Max Allegiance in Burke, Va. “A good Realtor can show the seller the black-and-white facts about comparable homes, but a lot of sellers believe their home is better than others on the market.”

Sellers who choose to add a cushion to the price to see if they can make more money from the sale often end up with a property sitting on the market too long or selling for a lower price.

“Sellers need to realize they have two or three weeks to control the listing, and then the purchasers are in control,” says Kimberly Casey, an associate broker with Washington Fine Properties in the District. “Statistics show that the longer a home is on the market, the lower the percentage of the asking price the seller will earn.”

Heather Elias, a Realtor with Century 21 Redwood Realty in Ashburn, Va., says the worst thing a seller can do is list a home for an elevated price.

“Overpriced homes sit on the market,” Mrs. Elias says. “When buyers come into a home, they ask me three questions: ‘How old is the home?’ ‘How many square feet does it have?’ and ‘How long has it been on the market?’ Buyers want to know what’s wrong with a home that is staying on the market.”

Mrs. Elias says sellers need to price their home based on what the market will bear and what a lender will approve based on an appraisal.

“Sellers often start by thinking about how much money they want to earn from the sale rather than current market conditions,” she says.

John Burgess, a broker with Realty Executives in Burtonsville, Md., says today’s market is extremely price-sensitive.

“Sellers who put their home on the market with a ‘Let’s see what happens’ mentality will end up with slower interest and then will be chasing the curve of the market,” Mr. Burgess says. “They will end up selling it for less than if they had priced it right in the first place.”

Staying emotionally tied to the home

“Sellers need to treat a home sale as a business transaction,” says Harlene Bernstein, an associate broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Bethesda, Md. “Sellers that stay emotionally attached think their home has a greater value than it does and are less likely to price it right. If they want to sell, they need to price the property at the exact right price so that it sells before it gets stale.”

Being inflexible and unwilling to negotiate

Mrs. Fales says sellers sometimes are disappointed by the first offer they receive and refuse to compromise on their price.

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