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9 Preventable Problems That Kill Home Sales

Problems That Kill Home Sales

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Is your home sale DOA the day it hits the market? With so many problems that kill home sales, it sure could be.

Even in a hot real estate market when the inventory of homes for sale is low, plenty of homes will fail to sell.  Owner unfamiliarity (and sometimes, arrogance), Realtor incompetence and irrational exuberance will all conspire to torpedo your home sale if you are not careful.

What’s more, most of these failed sales could have been avoided if the sellers and their agent had taken care of these completely preventable problems that kill home sales, which fall into the fail-to-sell category.

Most of these failed sales could have been avoided if the sellers and their agent had taken care of some common and completely preventable problems that kill home sales.

So here they are, 9 of the top preventable problems that kill home sales.

Problems That Kill Home Sales #1: Overpricing

The number one most easily avoided mistake that home sellers make and that is guaranteed to kill the sale of their home is by overpricing it. If you want to intentionally sabotage the sale of your own home, this is the one to go with. Even if you have taken care of everything else on this list, listing it for too high a price will leave your for-sale sign swinging in the wind.

Sellers are only human and want as much as they can get for their homes. However, there’s a fine line between getting “the maximum” and actually selling and pushing it too far and sitting on the market.

Yes, pricing a home is not an exact science but it does need to be based on reality and recent nearby, comparable home sales and current prevailing market conditions. You need to hire a competent agent who will do a reliable market analysis to determine what your home is worth. A good Realtor will develop a pricing strategy based on market statistics. Don’t rely on pie in the sky online plug-in-your-address” evaluations.

At the end of the day, the real answer as to what your home is worth will be determined by your local real estate market at the time you list your home. However, the closer the list price you select is to “reality”, the better the chances you will get all the way to closing day.

If you decide to ignore your (competent) listing agent’s advice and list well above the “rational price range”, that is completely your choice. But be prepared to suffer the consequences. Also, be prepared for your agent to suggest that you might be happier working with a different agent.

Problems That Kill Home Sales #2: Bad Odors

There is no point having great curb appeal and a welcoming entryway, if prospective buyers, upon opening the front door, are greeted by a blast of je ne sais quoi stinky home smells. You have just deflated 80% of any enthusiasm that they might have had before entering.

And no, a giant bowl of potpourri in every room won’t help, nor will those suffocating plugins. Fix the problem, not the symptoms.

Stinky pets and stinky poop trays, cigarette smoke and yes stinky humans… stinky feet, laundry baskets, undefinable kitchen odors, hormone-riddled teenage bedrooms, and gym bags and damp moldy basements will all conspire to make buyers turn their noses up at your home.

You, the seller, are probably oblivious to such things since you dwell in its opulence every day and it just “smells like home”. Have you ever gone on vacation and then go back home, open the front door…. That is what your home really smells like but your friends are too nice to tell you.

Bad odors kill home sales and it’s something many agents dread bringing up with the owners. A good Realtor will take a deep breath and subtly make you aware of these odious issues. If it makes you feel any better, your agent’s home probably has some aromas they are unaware of too.

#3: Slacking Off On Preparing The Home Properly

Many sellers tend to be blindly oblivious to the reality of how their homes look. However, when you put your home on the market for sale, it becomes a product that is competing with all the other homes on the market.

Do you want to be a prime, top-shelf home or one people have to bend down before taking a look at it on the lower shelf produce? The better your home is prepared, the better it will look when it hits the market and hence the faster it will sell… and for more money hopefully.

You have to roll up your sleeves, get your home ready and take care of all those things you’ve heard about a million times before… decluttering, a thorough cleaning, curb appeal and staging. If you skip on these and your agent isn’t motivated enough to get you motivated to do them, then don’t be surprised if your home fails to sell.

Problems That Kill Home Sales #4: Bad Listing Photos

One of my biggest pet peeves is slacker/cheap listing agents who are perfectly content to list your home with depressingly bad listing photos. Those photos, quite frankly, are a complete insult to the homeowners. Ninety percent (90%) of home buyers start their home search on the internet and making sure you have great photos is CRITICAL!

Photos taken by a professional real estate photographer don’t cost much and make a huge difference as to how your home appears online.

If you see your listing agent taking out their “smart” phone to take the listing photos, you should defenestrate them immediately. Even if they whip out a fancy looking camera, do they really know how to take great photos…lighting, white balance, verticals, ceiling v floors ratios etc? Insist on your Realtor paying for a professional photographer or refuse to hire them.

#5: Hiring The Wrong Agent

Many of the issues described above can be easily avoided in the first place if:
• You hire a competent local Realtor.
• You take their advice and do the things they recommend.

As the stats go, many home sellers go with the first agent they meet which means a LOT of home sellers are probably not screening their listing agent very well. Just because aunt Vera raves about Rob The Realtor (as seen on Safeway shopping cart advertising) does not mean that Rob is automatically a fine agent. Maybe he is…but don’t take it for granted. Interview and screen him like your life (and home sale) depends on it.

Does Rob know your neighborhood? Ask for proof that he has sold homes in your area, ask to see his listing photos (are they professionally taken?), ask for stats on how long his homes are taking to sell versus the rest of the market and how much how are his listings sell for relative to the list price. Will Rob have your home professionally staged?

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Also, make sure to ask any agent you interview how he or she will market your home. Pricing and exposure are two of the most critical elements in selling your home. How are buyers going to find your home? Do they just stick it on the MLS and cross their fingers?

#6: Not Fixing Needed Repairs

Just how motivated are you to sell your home? Are you willing to do what’s needed or just “hope for the best”?

If you know that there’s a leak under the kitchen sink, or that the garage door motor is dead or that there’s a leak in the roof…then REPAIR THEM!

Don’t cross your fingers and hope those potential buyers won’t discover these issues. Buyers hire professional home inspectors as part of the home buying process and they will find those issues in a jiffy. Regardless, you are legally obligated to disclose any known defects to your home to potential buyers via the Sellers Disclosure Statement.

Obviously, living in your home is a lot different compared to a buyer going through it with a home inspector. Most homeowners don’t know there’s an issue until something breaks, stops working or they start sensing an odd lingering odor. Inspectors are actively looking for those issues.

Here’s a conversation I tend to have with home sellers:
Realtor: How’s your attic?
Seller:, Oh, its fine.
Realtor: How’s your crawlspace?
Seller: Oh, that’s fine too.
Realtor: When was the last time you were up in the attic or down in the crawlspace?
Seller: Oh, not for years.
Realtor: (muttering silently to myself)…Oh, brother!

Rainwater, rodents, mold and other good things just love attics and crawlspaces. All the more reason that you should have them checked out BEFORE you put your home on the market. Trust me, if you haven’t been in your crawlspace for a few years, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have critters running a Rodent Airbnb down there!

A buyer discovering these problems during their inspection will probably run for the hills and your home sale is dead. Actually, It was DOA when it hit the market because you didn’t take care of these completely preventable problems that kill home sales.

#7: Sellers Who Insist On Attending Viewings

As the movie title goes…GET OUT!!

Have you ever gone to a clothing store and are trying on a pair of new jeans in the changing room or behind a flimsy curtain and the overly enthusiastic sales assistant keeps asking/haranguing you with “how do those fit, do you like them, let me see!”

All you want to do is scream, “GO AWAY, LEAVE ME ALONE!”

Well, that’s exactly how home buyers feel about homeowners who shadow their every move around the home while expounding the virtues of their 20-year-old, Formica topped kitchen remodel. You’re not doing yourself or your home any favors.

Go walk the dog, go for a coffee or a stiff martini, but whatever you do, give the buyers some space. They probably came with their own Realtor and have no interest in robbing your senseless.

#8: Accepting An Offer That Will Never Pass An Appraisal

You list your home for $500,000.

You get multiple offers in a bidding way and are presented with a bid juicy offer for $550,000. Woohoo!

However, the highest offer is not always the best offer or the one most likely to get you all the way to closing day.

Unless that offer is an all-cash one, the purchase will be contingent on an appraisal by the buyer’s lender. If all the homes near you are selling in the $480,000 to $520,000 range, then how likely is it that an offer for $550,000 will pass the appraisal test?

It’s usually around 3 weeks after accepting the buyer’s offer by the time the buyer receives the appraisal report back. If that appraisal comes in low, then you have a problem. Most buyers won’t have any extra cash to make up the difference between the agreed to the sale price and lower appraised value… and now they will be looking for you to drop the sale price. If you don’t drop the sale price the buyers can walk on the sale and get their earnest money back.

In the meantime, that pool of buyers who were enthusiastic about your home 3 weeks ago, has now moved on to other, newly listed homes plus they will be wondering why your home came back on the market.
Curb your enthusiasm go with the offer that is the best combination of the offer price and the best chance of getting all the way to closing.

#9: Buying The Wrong Home In The First Place

OK, I admit it, this one is a little on the harsh side.

The vast majority of home buyers have to make some compromises and remove some items from their home buying wish list. However, buyers should be keenly aware of the potential resale value of any home they are considering making an offer on. If the home is struggling to sell in a hot market, how well do you think it will sell when the market is slow and there’s lots of inventory for sale?

Does the home have an odd layout that can’t be modified? Sits in a bad location beside a gas station or a very busy road? The lot is prone to flooding or has high voltage power lines running behind the property? As desperate as you might be to buy your very own home and dump your landlord, think carefully as to whether you are buying a good investment/home or putting a long-term financial albatross around your neck.

Final Thoughts On Problems That Kill Home Sales

Hopefully, this article has provided you with some actionable advice that you can take to avoid ending up one of those homes that fail to sell. Some of these items are just common sense like cleaning and preparing your home for sale properly. And for some of these items, you could be forgiven if you hired the wrong Realtor who gave you bad advice and worse photos.

You’re not selling old golf clubs on eBay. This is YOUR HOME! As they say, an ounce of prevention……

Some additional helpful resources from top real estate bloggers:
Why Buyers Bail on a Home Sales via Michelle Gibson
Some Red Flags That You Hired The Wrong Listing Agent via Bill Gassett
Your Home Is Only NEW ON THE MARKET Once via Kevin Vitali
Testing The Real Estate Market Is Not A Good Idea via John Cunningham

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