Your first time selling a house is a big deal. Unlike your second, third, or even fourth time you sell a home, you don't fully know what to expect, what to look out for, or where to even begin. That's totally normal, but we're here to break that norm. Here are four common mistakes many people make their first time selling a house.
1. Dismissing Comparative Sale Prices
Selling a house is an emotional process. One of the most common pieces of advice you'll get when selling your house is to not make it emotional. That is often easier said than done.
When you first bought the house, it may have been an average house like any other on the block. But you took it, added your own touch, updated a few key elements, and are now ready to reflect all of that hard work in your home listing price.
But that's the emotional side of the selling process talking. In reality, buyers aren't going to look at the house and compare it to the ones you compared it to before renovating. They're going to look at your home in comparison to others that are just like your house (and some that are even more updated!). And that's what you should do as well when you price the house.
What To Do Instead: Research comps thoroughly.
The listed price should be in the ballpark of other homes similar to yours that have recently sold in your area. If you are working with a real estate agent, they'll complete a comparative market analysis (CMA) where they'll do a deep dive into the elements of the sold houses in your area to see where your home could be priced more or less than those homes.
Price your house too high, and you'll end up with few to zero potential buyers at the open house. Price your house too low, and people will either a) wonder what is wrong with the house to make it that price, or b) snatch it up before you realize you could have made thousands more.
2. Not Understanding the True Price of Selling Your House
When many first-time sellers put their home on the housing market, they expect to get paid and that's it. No opening their wallet at all, unless it's to put money in. But that is not completely true.
Beyond some closing costs, there's also real estate commission to consider—even if you personally do not use a real estate agent.
That's right. If your buyer uses a real estate agent to help them find your house, you'll need to pay them a commission of up to 3%. It's also a good idea if you use a real estate agent to sell your house, as they'll provide you with the best chance of getting it sold for what your house is worth.
All in all, you can expect to pay about 5% of your sale price to real estate agents. That's $12,500 toward real estate commission.
What To Do Instead: Find ways to save even more money.
You do have options to paying 5% on real estate commission.
One way is to sell the house FSBO. If you're game to set the sales price, market the home, and negotiate with the buyer, it could save you up to 3% of your sale price. But with those savings come a lot of extra work on your part, as you'll be entirely responsible for marketing and showing the house as well as completing all transaction paperwork.
Another way to save on commission is to negotiate a lower commission rate with your listing agent. Be careful with this approach, however. If your real estate agent is willing to drop their commission rate, imagine how they'll do when negotiating your sales price with a buyer.
Probably the best way to save money on real estate commission is to go with a flat-fee real estate agent (like those at Clever!). Clever's flat-fee agents are full-service agents, which means they do everything a 3% commission agent does, only they do it for a low flat rate. In Clever's case, you won't ever pay more than 1% of your sales price.
3. Saying "No" to Home Staging
Preparing your home for the sale is a daunting task. Many people rush around last minute to repair everything on their to-do list to attract the right home buyer—but neglect a crucial element: home staging.
Staging your home might seem like a frivolous aspect of home selling, but it can do wonders when attracting a buyer. Many sellers think they can wing it by fluffing the mismatched pillows on their couch and hiding last week's mail in the cupboard. This might work, but there's a better way.
What To Do Instead: Bring in a staging pro.
Hire a home stager. Some have packages where they'll come and help you stage the house your own things—for less than $100/hour. Of course, if you want to move most of your items out, there are stagers that bring their own furniture to stage with, for a higher price.
Staging the house does two things:
- Takes away the personalization of the house. While it's cute to have your children's cheesy grins smiling over the mantelpiece, it doesn't exactly make the house scream "buy me!"
- Helps the buyer picture themselves living in the space. You want them to picture cooking at the stove with their partner, tucking their kids into bed in those rooms, or catching up on their favorite show in the living room. Picturing someone else's life in a house is one thing. Picturing your life in a house is pure magic.
4. Underestimating the Power of Photography
Anyone who has ever taken a selfie can attest to the power of photography angle and lighting. Taking pictures of your house to sell it is no different.
Many people take their point and shoot camera and post those pictures as the listing photos. This often results in dark images, awkward corner shots, and poor coloring in the photos. While you most certainly can take your own photos, remember that this is going to be the first view of the home that many potential buyers have, and it needs to make an impression.
What To Do Instead: Pay for quality.
Hire a professional photographer. Depending on the size of the house, it shouldn't cost you too much (in the neighborhood of $200-$500), and many real estate packages include it. (When you work with a Clever agent, real estate photography is included!) When choosing a professional photographer, make sure to take a look at their portfolio and ask if a virtual tour is included. Virtual tours allow potential buyers to tour your house from the comfort of their own home, helping them get a feel for the layout and area that the home is in.
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