- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2005

There are always appropriate steps to investing in real estate, and I hope you’ve garnered many of them right on these pages. However, there also are inappropriate steps sellers can take when it comes time to put their house on the market.

For instance, there’s a seller in Virginia who thought the half bath the builder had placed at the front of the house would be better toward the back of the main level, despite the fact that all the similar models had the powder room in the same place for the previous 20 years.

He got hung up on this detail so much that he just had to move it — and did. It cost him thousands of dollars just to get his house on the market the “right way.”

His hang-up might have settled some deep-seated emotional need, but it didn’t draw any more buyers and it drained his bottom line. You might say it was a costly mistake.

Real estate broker Sid Davis, author of “A Survival Guide to Selling a Home,” has identified another seven costly mistakes that many sellers make.

I’ve seen each one of these mistakes played out. It just makes me shake my head. Why do sellers forge ahead with unwise strategies instead of listening to the voice of an experienced professional?

• Putting the home on the market before it’s ready. Most times, this happens because the seller gets impatient or is a procrastinator and has pushed himself up against a moving deadline without getting the pre-sale work done.

The home comes on the market with the horrible carpet — that gets replaced during the marketing of the home. Or perhaps the seller is painting it while it goes on the market. Presentation is everything, so get the work done before marketing the property.

• Over-improving the home for the neighborhood. This happens when additions, bump-outs and upgrades make the home stick out from among its competitors so much that it’s an anomaly instead of a nice addition to the community.

• Pricing the home based on what the seller wants to net. This pricing strategy always ends in failure. Sellers can control the “asking” price, but they don’t control the “sales” price. The market does. It doesn’t matter what the seller wants; the price is determined by the black-and-white, matter-of-fact reality of the market.

• Hiring an agent based on nonbusiness factors. Make sure you’re hiring a professional with a proven track record. It might be nice to hand over your largest asset to your nephew who just got his license, but make sure he has a mentor to keep your deal from going south.

• Getting emotionally involved in the sale of the home. This is one of the biggest challenges home sellers face. Once you decide to sell your house, it’s no longer a home, but a commodity. It needs to be prepared as a commodity, marketed as a commodity and priced as a commodity.

People are going to come in to kick the tires, so to speak, and you can’t get emotional about how they may or may not appreciate the nuances of your home of seven years.

• Trying to cover up problems or not disclosing them. Most states have a property disclosure/ disclaimer form. Use it wisely. Just because you disclaim doesn’t mean you cannot be sued later for the leaky basement or dilapidated heating-and-air-conditioning system that’s discovered 30 days after settlement.

• Not getting your ducks lined up before trying to sell. This would involve financing, reading the fine print on your current mortgage to ensure no prepayment penalties or not adhering to the particulars of your local market.

If your local market dictates lower home prices, then lower the price earlier rather than later. A delay will cost you more. If the market dictates selling your home first, then buying second, do it in that order.

Avoiding these mistakes is not that difficult. There are plenty of resources — this publication is one — and professionals who are there to help you avoid the pitfalls.

Do the research early and listen to that voice in your head. It’s probably the whispers of the financial, real estate or insurance person who’s warning you of a hole you’re about to step into. Sell well.

M. Anthony Carr is the author of “Real Estate Investing Made Simple.” Post questions at his Web log (https://commonsensereal estate.blogspot.com).

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