People deciding to sell their homes need to approach it as the pricey and complicated transaction that home selling is. Here a some of the biggest mistakes they make.
1. Pricing the home. Look. It's hard. Ever notice how real estate brokers all get goosey at pricing time when they lay that slick CMA down? Too high, and buyers won't look. Too low, and money gets left on the table. Pricing is part art and part science, so you need to navigate among the hard numbers, market conditions and, frankly, your home's condition and neighborhood. Moreover, buyers are more market savvy than sellers, who've been out of the market ever since they moved in. Buyers eat, drink and sleep market.
2. Thinking you need a real estate broker. The most critical task is to make sure every potential buyer out there knows your home is for sale. In the past, the only way to make this happen was through the local Multiple Listing Service, which required a member broker's services. Now, buyers find homes online through many websites. For pricing, you can hire an appraiser, and a real estate attorney can handle the contract, all which will probably cost less than a commission.
3. Thinking you don't need a real estate broker. Look, let's be serious. Real estate brokers do this for a living. Brokers can do in their sleep what some sellers freak out over. They understand the mortgage market, pre-approval versus pre-qualification, repair contingencies, and who gets what if a deal falls apart. Moreover, they work hard to make sure it doesn't fall apart. Realtor contract forms cover just about every phase of a transaction and were created by generations of lawyers. As for fee pricing, shop around and get referrals. It's gotten competitive out there. If you use a real estate broker to sell your home, he or she may cut you a deal if you use him or her to buy your replacement home.
4. Not fixing everything. Chipped molding, torn carpets, wall gouges, whatever. To a buyer, even such minor items as burned out light bulbs suggest that something larger might be wrong. Get the furnace and air conditioning serviced and make sure all the appliances work. Bad appliances are big fat red flags to home inspectors. As for re-painting and redecorating: If that one magenta bedroom looked good to your kid, understand it will look horrible to most buyers, and instead of sugar plums, they'll see re-painting dollars dancing in their heads.
5. Overlooking stinky. Stinky is hard. After all, have you ever noticed that everyone's house has a unique odor? Most often, these aren't offensive, but sometimes, they're two-second deal killers. Offending odors can come from a variety of sources, but I'm thinking, here, of cigarette smoke, dogs, cat pee, strong cooking (curry, for example, or even greasy range hoods) smells, whatever. Find the source and get rid of it. And don't think those awful floral plugins will do the trick. Not only are they almost as bad, but they shout stinky cover-up.
6. Not eliminating clutter and not cleaning. Okay, I said, five big mistakes, but this one's important. Clutter makes rooms feel smaller and more crowded than they are. Countertops need to be as bare as possible. Remove furniture from rooms, if possible, to make them seem bigger. Get rid of all the pictures and cute school drawings from the refrigerator and stash pictures of family members, Jesus, vacations, and the like into storage. If the kids' rooms have posters on the wall, trap sets, large sound systems and the like, pack them. And don't forget to clean the house, and then clean it again. Buyers hate dirt in corners, dust on furniture, dishes in sinks, toothpaste smears on faucets, and the like. Cleaning is easy, and it's safe to say that buyers' respect level for homes skyrockets when the place is hospital-clean.
There's more, but that should get you started. Feel free to ask any questions or make comments.