Things Sellers Do That Real Estate Agents Hate

At the very least, sellers should leave during the open house and clean up after themselves.

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Home sellers today are under a lot of stress. It’s a tougher market, home prices have fallen a lot, and many are trying to get as much money as possible to recoup their investment. Real estate agents feel sellers’ pain and we’re on their side. But sometimes, sellers do things that make it harder to for an agent to sell a home for what it’s worth.

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Here are five not-so-great things sellers do that make their real estate agents cross their fingers and hope for the best.

1. Sellers who think their property is unique, thus worth more money.

Sellers consider their homes special; most likely they've put a lot of heart, soul, and money into fixing it up. It may be where they started a family or built a lifetime of memories. Real estate agents get that, but trust me, unless it's the Winchester Mystery House, most properties aren't that unusual.

When a seller believes their home is unique, however, they also believe it’s worth more. Sellers then end up fixating on an asking price that’s too high, despite the advice of an agent. If it's priced too high, a home will sit on the market for months. Unfortunately, nine out of 10 times, the seller will end up selling for less money than they would have gotten if the home was listed at an appropriate price from the start.

2. The home is a mess.

Sellers: It’s important to pick up the home before a showing. Potential buyers touring a home usually don’t appreciate stepping on a child's toy and fail to see the charm of a dog's discarded tennis ball. Buyers want to feel that a home is clean and well maintained. If it’s not, they'll likely move on to the next.

3. Sellers who hang around during an open house.

There’s a reason why real estate agents don’t want sellers sticking around when potential buyers arrive. While a seller may be perfectly friendly and agreeable, they can alienate buyers or make them feel uncomfortable without even knowing it. I have one horror story involving a seller attempting to shoo a cat out from under the bed just as buyers were arriving. He’d just gotten out of the shower and wasn’t appropriately dressed, needlessly repelling potential buyers.

4. Holding out for extra money at the last minute.

Say a buyer made an offer that was $40,000 less than what the seller wants. The agent and the buyer’s agent have gone back and forth with a series of counter offers. The seller is only about $3,000 from their dream price but they insist on trying to squeeze another $1,500 out of the buyer.

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During escrow, the buyer may find a reason to ask for that $1,500 or more back in credits anyway. In demanding more money, the seller may have created bad will, as well as stressed those involved in the purchase. When it comes down to it, extracting that last $1,500 may actually cost the seller more at the end of the transaction.

5. Sellers who don’t clean up before turning over the keys.

Sellers should imagine themselves as the future buyer. Would they want to walk into their new home and find twelve cans of old paint in the garage? Or an old sofa with a broken leg in the attic?

The tip to sellers is to try to make the home as spotless as possible for the new owners. They’ll appreciate it and so will the agent. And besides, it's good karma.

Brendon DeSimone is a realtor based in San Francisco. He is a contributor to Zillow Blog, has collaborated on multiple real estate books, and is often quoted by major media outlets.