10 Things Not to Do When Selling a House

Quick Answer

When selling a house, take care to avoid common mistakes that could lengthen the process. They include being stubborn about your asking price, failing to properly stage your home and not getting rid of obnoxious odors.

A man wearing a blue shirt smiles as he gives a set of house keys to a couple.

Sellers cite a number of reasons for putting their homes on the market, such as deciding to move into a bigger house or wanting to relocate to a more desirable neighborhood. No matter the reason for putting up the for-sale sign, you should consider what will give you an edge in attracting buyers, including dodging any blunders that you can.

Here are 10 mistakes to avoid when selling a house.

1. Neglecting Repairs

Not making major repairs, such as patching up a worn-out HVAC system or shoring up a weak foundation, before putting your home on the market could spell trouble.

If you decided to sell a home as-is, without making repairs, a potential buyer might wonder what flaws the home has beyond what obviously should be fixed. Therefore, some prospective buyers might look elsewhere. And if you do wind up luring in a buyer for a home that clearly needs repairs, the sale price might be considerably lower than if the home had been fixed up prior to listing.

Keep in mind that a buyer might require repairs of items that came up during a pre-sale home inspection. However, other issues may not need to be fixed, such as scuff marks on walls, or may become rolled into the contract negotiations.

2. Overpricing Your Home

Overpricing your home can hurt the ability to make a quick sale—or any sale at all.

A price that potential buyers view as being too high might mean your home stays on the market too long. The longer a home lingers on the market, the more that prospective buyers will think something is wrong with it. Pricing your home too high for the market might push potential buyers toward similar homes with better prices.

Bottom line: An overpriced home can shrink the pool of would-be buyers.

3. Failing to Stage Your Home

Staging your home means setting it up so that it appeals to prospective buyers, both in person and online. This might involve completing projects like freshening up the paint in the living room or installing new carpeting in the main bedroom, or simply choosing some fresh linens and throw pillows to scatter around.

Hiring a decorator for a home staging typically ranges from $749 to $2,825, data from HomeAdvisor shows.

That sum could be money well spent, though. An estimated 85% of staged homes sell for anywhere from 5% to 23% over list price, and staged homes also spend less time on the market than non-staged homes do, a 2020 survey by the Real Estate Staging Association indicates.

4. Kicking Curb Appeal to the Curb

Overlooking your home's curb appeal could be costly. Curb appeal refers to how attractive a home appears when a potential buyer walks or drives by, or looks at your home online. This includes exterior elements such as the landscaping, roof, front door and driveway.

Curb appeal could account for 7% of a home's sale price, a study by the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics determined.

5. Shying Away From Showings

While letting potential buyers roam through your home may be inconvenient, it's a necessity. Letting would-be buyers tour your home—even if it means leaving your home at the last minute—boosts the odds of securing a buyer who's willing to quickly purchase your home at a fair price.

6. Overlooking the Clutter

Although you might be just fine with piles of clothing on the floor of your bedroom or mounds of old magazines stacked in your home office, a potential buyer probably won't be OK with it.

Since your home is being marketed to people who likely are strangers, your place should look its best. Clearing out the clutter should be on your to-do list. Putting away the kids' toys, stashing your scattered kitchen equipment and tidying up the garage could go a long way toward nailing down an enticing purchase offer.

Decluttering leads the list of improvements that real estate agents recommend to home sellers, according to the National Association of Realtors. And a survey of real estate agents done by HomeLight indicated decluttering delivered a 432% return on investment when it came to a home's resale value.

7. Leaving Too Many Personal Items Out

A potential buyer wants to imagine themselves in your home. So, if you leave your son Jimmy's graduation photos on the wall or keep your collection of figurines in the curio cabinet, it lessens the ability for a prospective buyer to view your space as their new home.

Before your home goes on the market, you should reduce the presence of personal items as much as you can. At least temporarily put away things like stuffed animals, religious icons, souvenirs and unique paintings. In the end, your place should be neutral but not dull.

8. Ignoring Obnoxious Odors

A potential buyer might not be able to smell a good deal if your home smells foul.

Odors that might make a prospective buyer turn up their nose include trash, pet odors, a garbage disposal that's overdue for a cleaning or lingering cigarette smoke. These and other smells could cause a potential buyer to cut short their tour of your home—and erase your home from their wish list.

9. Skipping Hiring an Agent

Many home sellers think they can save money in the form of agent commissions by selling a home on their own. But in many cases, that could be a disastrous move.

In 2021, the typical for-sale-by-owner home (FSBO) fetched $260,000, a study from the National Association of Realtors found. That's more than 18% below the typical price of $318,000 in a sale assisted by a real estate agent.

According to the study, 90% of sellers worked with a real estate agent to sell their home in 2021. Only 7% went down the FSBO route.

10. Being Unwilling to Negotiate on Price

Sure, you'd like to snag a purchase offer that's 20% over the list price. But that's not always going to happen. In some situations, you might need to come down on the asking price to secure a buyer.

A lot of home purchases involve back-and-forth haggling over offers and counteroffers. If you're reluctant to budge on the price, you could lose a deal and risk the home being stuck on the market even longer.

Keep in mind that you might be able to gain some concessions from a buyer in exchange for a lower price, such as gaining more time to move out or paying less in closing costs.

The Bottom Line

Selling a home involves some smarts, some sweat, some patience and some persistence. To make the process smoother, steer clear of mistakes like neglecting major repairs and overlooking curb appeal. By following tried-and-true advice, you might decrease the amount of time it takes to sell your home—and might put more money in your pocket.