Someone I know, someone I haven’t seen or spoken to for a long time, recently decided to sell her house. Because we’d somewhat lost touch, she was unaware of the fact that I work at a real estate agency and by the time I spoke with her she’d already found an agent elsewhere. She complained about all the things that went into selling it and claimed that all of the people in her house were driving her crazy. It turned out that the agent she’s working with suggested making some repairs to the house in order to get more money for it once it was put on the market. This is a very common occurrence in the real estate business, but her surprise in this had me thinking about all the things that go into selling a house — the things that ordinary people never contemplate. Most people only go through the process of selling a house a couple times in their life and are ill equipped to deal with everything involved in the sometimes arduous task of selling. Often this leads to mistakes that will most certainly cost them in the long run. These mistakes are, of course, preventable, and once you know what to expect, you can easily deal with them.
Not Using an Agent: There is a saying among lawyers — “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” This is more or less the same when it comes to selling a house without an agent. True, there are many people who go the For Sale by Owner route and some of them do really well, but for the most part they don’t. As I’ve already said, a lot of things go into selling a house. There’s reports to be ordered, forms to fill out, and let’s not forget about opening Escrow. All of that is before the house is even on the market! Obviously, I am biased as I work with agents every day, but seeing everything they do for their clients, I would never want to deal with those things on my own as someone who doesn’t know much about how the housing market works.
Over or Under-Pricing The House: One of the biggest hurdles in selling a house is deciding on the listing price. If you go too high, chances are you’re not going to get many offers on it. Many things go into a house’s value and someone who doesn’t know how the market works is more likely to go either too high or too low. A part of an agent’s job is to look at not just your specific house, but at all the others in your neighborhood that have sold recently. They also look at the schools in your neighborhood as schools tend to be important to people buying a house. Whether or not a school is considered good makes the neighborhood — and by extension your house — more desirable.
Failing to Leave Your Ego Out of It: A couple of months ago I was searching for properties for one of our clients and I hit upon a result that wasn’t really for sale. I say that it wasn’t for sale because the owner was only interested in selling his house if he could get at least $5 million. While the area he lived in was indeed one of the more expensive areas in Silicon Valley, none of the other houses in that neighborhood were worth anywhere close to $5 million. The closest was somewhere just north of $2 million. Yes, your home is your castle, but that doesn’t mean that people would be willing to pay an exorbitant amount for it. Another part of this is not to let your nostalgia influence you. To you, the marks on the family room wall are a timeline of little Susie’s growth, but they don’t mean anything to your potential buyers, so don’t be upset when they want to paint over them.
Not Disclosing Potential Issues: One of the most costly mistakes a seller can make is one that can come back to haunt them after the sale. That paperwork I mentioned above? This is a big part of that. Depending on where you live and how old your house is there are many forms you need to fill out for everything from trees on the property to lead paint (if your house was build prior to 1978) and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors. Not disclosing the fact that your house might have some structural issues or mold caused by an old leak is a big no-no and can lead to legal difficulties if the buyer finds out after the sale.
Failing to Make the Necessary Repairs: Like my friend, most people don’t realize that a big part of selling your house involves fixing it up first. It is even possible that you might not realize that there is anything wrong with it — mostly because when you live in your house day after day for years you probably don’t see all the little things that are wrong with it. You’ve acclimated to your house’s little quirks, but someone coming in and looking at it for the first time won’t see those things as nostalgic little quirks, but as things that will make living there harder on them. Fixing those things first makes it easier on everyone. Plus, whatever you spend on the repairs, you’ll make back during the sale.
Using Bad Pictures: When I first started working for Shan, I had to take a class with the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service) about how to list a property on their site. One of the most important things they stressed was the quality of pictures used in the ads. As we looked at pictures that were actually submitted with the listings, those of us in the class couldn’t help laughing. There was one picture in particular that had a peculiar tint and we all joked about aliens living in that house. While we got a good laugh out of it, this is not the reaction you want potential buyers to have. You want your pictures to look inviting. You want them to see themselves living in your house. It isn’t just weird tints, either. There were crooked pictures, fuzzy pictures, small pictures. I literally just looked at a listing that features messy rooms and unmade beds. Basically the exact opposite of what you want. The pictures you post of your house are the first look potential buyers have and if the pictures aren’t appealing, no one is going to give your house a second look.
Not Presenting the House at Its Best: Presentation is an important part of selling your house. No one is saying you need to go full on Danny Tanner, but you don’t want potential buyers to think that your house is an episode of Hoarders waiting to happen. Instead of thinking about how nice your house is and how much they’ll enjoy living in it, they’ll be worrying over the types of mold growing behind your walls and in your bathtub. Making sure your house is clean before showing it, is a much better option.
Not Staging a Vacant House: Let’s face it. Unless there is furniture in the house while you’re showing it, most people will have a hard time imagining what it could look like. They don’t simply want to see a house. No, they want to see a home and those are two very different things. If you don’t have extra furniture sitting around, you can always use a local staging company.
If you’re thinking that this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. I can’t even imagine what my friend would be going through if she was going through the moving process on her own. Thankfully, she made the decision to get an agent because without one she would most likely be a bit of a basket case right now. If you’re reading this thinking that you’d be the same way, don’t hesitate to call. Here at Referral Realty Silicon Valley, we’re with you every step of the way.