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How Sellers Sabotage Their Home Sale

Much has been written ad nauseam about how to sell a house. Clean, declutter, reorganize, pressure wash, paint, freshen up landscaping, make repairs, update light fixtures and plumbing hardware, stage, repeat. The list goes on and on…

Most times, Sellers implement some of the agent’s recommendations, but not all. Financial and time constraints are often two of the biggest factors that influence what items they accomplish and what they leave alone, whether intentionally or not.

Do we really have to do all of that? Isn’t a buyer going to want to come in and paint the walls a color of their own choosing anyway? What’s the point of making repairs when an inspector is going to poke around and come up with a “list”?

Despite an Agent’s proactive efforts, many potential sellers insist on doing things their own way. Sometimes it’s better to tell the Sellers what not to do.

Telling people what they should do can often have an opposite effect (rather than pointing out what not to do and robbing a seller of maximum equity). Did your ears perk up? Without further ado, here’s how not to sell a home:

1. Overpricing…

This is one of the most common sale sabotaging tactics that sellers do. Everyone wants the most the market will bear for their home, of course; however, the buyer’s perception along with agent perceptions are likely to be less than how the Seller sees the value of what they are offering.

Sellers are fearful of leaving money on the table, but that money is perceived, not actual dollars and cents in their pocket.

There’s a saying that you can’t lose what you don’t have, and overpricing is a classic example of this. While a home sits on the market with a high price, buyers are making offers on the competition that is more reasonably priced.

2. Lacking preparation…

To do anything well in life requires planning and preparation, and selling a home is no exception. Why risk the single largest investment by leaving it all to chance?

The notion that you don’t really have to do anything and can throw a home on the market to see what sticks is plain foolish. Every property has strong points, weak points and challenges.

Many can be overcome with proper preparation — cleaning, painting, repairs, staging, etc. Some cannot be changed such as location or layout, but the more preparation that takes place, the better the chance of a more positive outcome.

Just assuming buyers can see past the clutter, overgrown landscaping, old worn furniture and not notice the dog smell is like taking money out of your wallet and flushing it down the toilet.

3. Making it difficult to show…

What’s the point of being on the market if the ability to see the home is more of a rarity than an everyday event? Complicated showing instructions, lots of notice, specific blocks of time during the day or certain days that the property cannot be shown will only contribute to the property sitting.

Depending on the price point, if the majority of the competition is relatively easy to show and is on a lockbox, then a Seller’s home that is about to come on the market should be as well (luxury and unique homes or those with special circumstances where listing agents need to be present excluded).

Do you really think an Agent is going to go out of their way to coordinate with your listing agent so they can be present when they are showing five or six other homes in the neighborhood that are accessible via lockbox?

Showing homes is an on the fly, any time and all the time business, and when showings need to happen, they need to happen.

You don’t want your property to be a thorn in a showing agent’s side. Like it or not, the reality is agents absolutely can and do influence what a buyer ends up seeing and making an offer on.

The home that is difficult to show when 15 other properties can easily be seen? Don’t expect an Agent to go out of their way to rearrange all of the other showing appointments and unfairly inconvenience those sellers to make the difficult property a priority or double back when that’s an hour in a completely different direction.

4. Hovering over showings…

Sellers who insist on being home or lurking around for every showing almost guarantees that an offer won’t be made on their home or that it’ll sit for a really, really, really long time on the market.

There is nothing that makes Buyers and their agents more uncomfortable than a Seller who won’t allow a lockbox because they don’t trust anyone or the showing process and insist on being there for every viewing.

When counseled on the perils of being home for showings, these sellers tell their agent, “I’ll just open the door and step aside.”

What does that mean?

The Seller that goes into the office, listens to every word being said and takes note of how long the Buyers and their Agent spend in each room and what areas of the home they didn’t explore.

No wonder the Buyer doesn’t want to go in that area of the home at all. This plays out while the seller is texting their own Agent in real time giving room-by-room updates.

When the Buyer leaves, the Seller calls his or her agent to download about the showing, analyzing every move the Buyer made and trying to figure out if they are the right one for the house.

They also proceed to lament how the Buyer didn’t even go in the backyard or just poked their head in the garage for a brief second, quickly walked around and then left.

And the Buyer’s Agent? The Seller vents that the Buyer’s Agent just didn’t seem to understand the home or appreciate all of the details.

Disappointed, they are upset and quite worried that because these things were seemingly missed or skipped over, the buyer won’t make an offer for that reason. Hmm…If the Seller only knew why that might be.

5. Not disclosing and denying repairs…

Sellers who are in la la land when it comes to their home’s condition will only contribute to losing potential Buyers. What seemingly appeared as the perfect home suddenly turns into anything but after inspections.

There are things that scream attention, yet the seller shrugs their shoulders and thinks it is the Buyer’s problem to deal with. The Sellers who offer to do very little or throw a couple of hundred dollars toward a several thousand dollar issue is likely going to send the Buyer running for the hills.

Old water heater that is corroding with a slow leak? What’s the big deal? Multiple electrical issues that are potential fire hazards? The Seller’s attitude is they’ve lived with it for years, so it can’t really be that dangerous.

Not their problem to deal with in their view. Confusing and incomplete answers on a seller’s disclosure is also another area of concern for buyers.

When the Buyer (through their Agent) seeks clarification and does not get much in the way of answers or information is a surefire way for a Buyer to grow suspicious and think the worst.

6. Stepping over dimes to save nickels…

Everyone loves to save money when it comes to selling a house. Nickel and diming the Buyer to death in a negotiation is not the way to do it.

Sellers who counter nearly every item in the offer that has been requested is a huge turnoff. Especially when they keep trying to step over dimes to save nickels.

Home warranty? No way. When the Buyer pushes back in the negotiation asking for one again, the Seller only agrees to pay a certain amount toward it and only for basic coverage.

They will not leave their refrigerator or washer and dryer, but they will be happy to sell them to the Buyer at a price nearing the equivalent of purchasing new ones.

They intentionally exclude their perceived fancy light fixtures and fans and list out the cost of everything they spent on each component in a home to justify the number they are coming back with.

The back-and-forth is endless with no conclusion in sight. When it appears to be close, the Seller asks for a different closing date that is the most inconvenient date for all involved but the Seller.

The Buyer might just walk away out of pure mental exhaustion. If it is this difficult now, they tell themselves, what will it be like once they go under contract?

7. Putting unreasonable conditions on the sale…

Although this practice is done in some markets — particularly low inventory, high-price markets like California — this type of contingency creates too much uncertainty for all involved.

A Buyer needs to know where they are going and by when. An entire contagion effect comes into play and that might stall a buyer’s ability to sell and close on their current home if they own one or hamper them terminating a lease.

To try to match up the timing of a Seller finding the ideal property while they are trying to find a Buyer for their home might be extremely difficult.

It could also cause the seller to miss the market for their home, costing them not only time and a potentially higher selling price, but also and most of all, inability to move forward on a property that they like because you never know when your dream home will hit the market.