6 Mistakes to Avoid While Selling Your Home

From hiring the wrong real estate agent to looking at outdated prices, don't make these rookie errors.

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While the real estate market downturn has benefited buyers, it’s made selling a home much more stressful. It’s common for a home to remain on the market for months before a sale. More often than not the home’s listing price is reduced due to a large amount of foreclosures on the local market, which have listing prices below median home values.

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According to Zillow Real Estate Market Reports, 37 percent of homes sold for a loss in February 2011. As spring and summer approach, many buyers know they’re in the driver’s seat. If you’re considering selling your home, it’s crucial to understand these common seller mistakes and how to best avoid them.

Mistake 1: Outdated prices. Although your home may have been worth a lot during the real estate peak in 2006, home prices have dropped 27 percent nationally since then. In some markets, home values have declined 50 to 60 percent. Many homeowners however choose to ignore these facts and attempt to list their home with an outdated price rather than current real estate market conditions. If a home is priced too high, it’s invariably going to sit until the seller is forced to make price cuts which can signal to buyers that there’s more room for negotiation. In the past month, 23 percent of homes on Zillow have had their listing price reduced.

Tip: Research comparable home sales, percentage of listings with price cuts and how long homes sit on your local market so you’re prepared to find an appropriate price for your home with your agent.

Mistake 2: Focusing on comps: Don’t look solely at recent sales of homes in your market—compare your home to what’s on the market now. Based on your competition, would a home buyer put an offer on a competing home or yours? Tip: Go see homes for sale in your neighborhood and ask your agent what prospective buyers are looking for in a home and consider if your home has those features.

Mistake 3: Hiring the wrong agent. If you’re selling your home you need to choose a real estate agent that not only knows the area and the housing market well, but has the marketing skills to make your home stand out. Make sure that your communication styles mesh and don’t just rely on one friend’s suggestion for an agent.

Tip: Before you go with an agent, review online agent ratings and reviews to help you make an educated decision. Interview at least three agents before you pick who you want to go with.

Mistake 4: Limiting Market Exposure: Real estate is often thought of as a local business but instead of limiting your home’s listing to local websites, consider posting on social media and national sites as well. Remember home buyers aren’t always local and many companies transfer employees. You’ll have a much better chance selling your home if you cast your marketing net wide.

Tip: Make sure you agent is familiar with the top online home sites as well as social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.) Even if you aren’t familiar with online home shopping, 90 percent of buyers use the Internet to look for homes, according to National Association of Realtors.

Mistake 5: Ignoring Web Appeal: When marketing your home online, attach as many photos as possible. Include shots of important spaces like the kitchen, living rooms, bedrooms and even bathroom. Make sure to de-clutter; a photo filled with your personal belongings will make it harder for a potential buyer to picture themselves in your home. Many buyers now use mobile apps to shop for homes online so it’s best to have high-resolution photos.

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Tip: Make sure your agent uses a high-resolution camera when shooting your home. When your home is posted online, check to see if the featured photo is one that is the best representation of your house. Making sure you have good lighting and including detail shots also improve home photographs in listings.

Mistake 6: Following Buyers Around When Showing: One of the worst things a seller can do is to follow around a prospective buyer while they tour the home. This makes the buyer nervous and less likely to take the time to visualize themselves in your home and do a full tour. Give them a chance to critique and discuss the home on their own.

Tip: Unless there’s a good reason, don’t ask your agent to be present for all home tours. It makes scheduling hard and many agents prefer to have privacy with their buyers as they look through a house.

Jill Simmons is a real estate correspondent for Zillow Blog, a resource for real estate and mortgage news. Twitter: @zillow.