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Common Home Selling Mistakes

Selling your home is a big deal, and it seems overwhelming. After all, chances are you aren’t a real estate mogul who knows the ins and outs of the selling process. If you’re getting ready to sell your house, you may feel like you’re doomed to make some big-time mistakes along the way.

We’ve got some good news: You aren’t! You can totally do this and knock the whole thing out of the park. But a lot of people do make mistakes when they sell their house, and you need to be aware of the biggest ones if you want to avoid them.

So, let’s take a look at the 10 biggest mistakes home sellers make and break each of them down. That way, you’ll be completely prepared.

  1. Not Expecting Home-Selling Costs
  2. Selling Without an Agent
  3. Hiring an Inexperienced Agent
  4. Pricing It Wrong
  5. Hiding Major Repairs
  6. Moving to a Home You Can’t Afford
  7. Skimping on Staging
  8. Using Bad Listing Photos
  9. Taking a Low Offer Personally
  10. Limiting Showings

Mistake 1: Not Expecting Home-Selling Costs

Even though you’re the one selling a house and someone else is buying it, there are still several costs involved beyond paying for your next home. Now, assuming you have some equity in your home, most of those costs will be covered by the money you make from the sale. But you do need to be aware of the most common home-selling costs so nothing catches you by surprise.

Here’s a list:

  • Agent commissions: Typically, sellers cover the commissions for their listing agent and the buyer’s agent. You’ll probably pay around 6% of your home price to cover agent commissions. So, if your home sells for $200,000, around $12,000 of that will go to the agents who helped you seal the deal. 
  • Closing costs: Sellers usually pay 1–3% of the home price in closing costs.1 These costs could include taxes, a title transfer fee, attorney fees and a fee for whoever organizes the final transaction on closing day—like a title company or a lawyer. 
  • Staging costs: The cost to stage a home varies widely based on factors like where you live, the size of your home, how many rooms you want to stage, whether you’ll be renting decor, and what the staging company charges. On average, home staging costs about $400 if you do it yourself, and $600 if you hire a service.2 You also may want to give some rooms a fresh coat of paint and touch up your home’s landscaping. 
  • Home inspection: You should get a home inspection before you list your house. You might not necessarily fix any problems that pop up, but you at least want to know about them ahead of time so you can be transparent with buyers and avoid having an unfortunate surprise pop up down the road. If you decide to make repairs, you’ll need to budget for those too.
  • Seller concessions: This is when a seller sweetens the deal by offering buyers some icing on the cake—such as throwing in your washer and dryer, or paying some (or all) of the buyer’s closing costs. Depending on your housing market, this could be a good idea. 
  • Moving expenses: The average cost to move will depend on a lot of factors, such as how far you’re going and whether you hire a moving and storage service like PODS (a good idea, by the way). Moving companies cost around $1,700 on average.3

When you add up these expenses, the total can seem overwhelming if you’re not prepared for it. But don’t worry! A good real estate agent knows how to best arrange your home sale with these costs in mind.

Mistake 2: Selling Without an Agent

This is a big one. Not using a real estate agent and going the For Sale by Owner (FSBO) route is a massive home-selling mistake. Trying to sell a home yourself is a major headache—you could wind up skipping important steps, struggling with complicated paperwork, and missing the chance to make a whole lot more money.

In fact, 2022 data shows the typical FSBO home sold for $225,000 compared to more than $345,000 when sold by an agent.4 That’s a $120,000 difference! And that more than covers the cost of a 3% seller’s agent commission, which would only be $10,350 on a $345,000 sale. Plus, even though you won’t be paying an agent to help you sell your home if you go the FSBO route, you’ll still have to pay the buyer’s agent’s 3% commission.

So, save yourself from the hassle of handling everything on your own and hire an agent. But you don’t just want to hire any agent—you want to work with a really good one. That brings us to our next mistake.

Mistake 3: Hiring an Inexperienced Agent

Helping out a friend or a family member by letting them sell your house might seem like a nice thing to do, but it’s a mistake to put your biggest asset in the hands of an amateur. You need a seasoned pro with at least three years of full-time experience who’s an expert in your local market—not your third cousin, twice removed, who just got his license so he can start a side hustle.

Wondering how to find an agent like that? We’ve got you! Our local RamseyTrusted agents have at least three years of experience and close twice as many homes in a year as the average agent. They’ll serve you with excellence and help you avoid all the mistakes on this list.

Mistake 4: Pricing It Wrong

Pricing a home can be tricky! If you price it too low, you could miss out on thousands of dollars in profit. Price it too high, and you could turn away serious buyers or run the risk of wasting weeks or months before you have to reduce the price to get an offer.

Don’t trust the internet or your emotions. Ask your agent for a comparative market analysis that shows you how much homes like yours are selling for in your area. Setting the right price from the start can make all the difference in how quickly you sell your home and how much money ends up in your pocket at the closing table.

Mistake 5: Hiding Major Repairs

Folks, there is no reason to be dishonest and hide things when you list your house. Not only is it a low-character, zero-integrity move, but buyers are also going to find out. If you think they won’t wind up noticing that roof leak or bug problem, think again. Your buyer will likely get a home inspection after you accept their offer, and any problems you’ve hidden from them will pop up.

Mistake 6: Moving to a Home You Can’t Afford

When you’re moving, you need to make sure your new home is one you can afford—even if you’re upsizing. What does that look like? First, you should be able to make a down payment of at least 20%. Second, your monthly payment (including taxes, homeowners insurance and HOA fees) on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage should be no more than 25% of your take-home pay.

Whatever you do, never sell your house if you owe more money on it than it’s worth. That’s called being “upside-down” or “underwater,” and it means you won’t even make enough money from the sale to cover your current mortgage—not to mention you won’t have a head start on a down payment. And while breaking even on your home sale is a little better, it’s still not great.

If you’re not in a financial position to afford a new home, stay at your current address and work hard to build more equity before you sell.

Mistake 7: Skimping on Staging

Staging a home may not sound like a big deal, but skimping on this step is a huge home-selling mistake. Why? Because staging your home can make it sell faster and for more money. Not only do 48% of sellers agents report that staging decreases the time a home stays on the market, but 44% of agents also say staging can increase offers by at least 1–5%.5

So, don’t show an empty, cluttered, or poorly lit house to potential buyers. Instead, keep your furniture in place (and arrange it nicely), clear the clutter, and make sure every room is well lit. If you don’t have any furniture to show off, rent some from a staging company to give buyers an idea of what it’d be like if it became their home.

And while you’re at it, slap a fresh coat of paint on rooms that might need it. Yes, your daughter wanted a purple bedroom, but a buyer might not be keen on pastels. Paying to have some painting done—or getting your hands dirty and doing it yourself—is a small investment that could translate into thousands of extra dollars on the sale price.

Mistake 8: Using Bad Listing Photos

These days, buyers check out homes from the couch. In fact, 95% of all buyers use the internet to search for homes.6 So if your online photos look like grandma took them with her flip phone, you’ll lose buyer interest before they ever pull up to the curb. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced pro who knows how to make your home shine on camera. You’d be amazed at the difference the correct lighting and a wide-angle lens can make!

Mistake 9: Taking a Low Offer Personally

Remember, a buyer’s offer is not a reflection of their opinion of your home or your housekeeping abilities. Hey, they like your home or they wouldn’t make an offer, right? The sale of your home is a business transaction. Even if you’re starting with a low offer, don’t take it personally and get emotional. Instead, now’s the time to negotiate. Make your counteroffer. If they’re truly interested, the potential buyer will improve their offer.

Mistake 10: Limiting Showings

Hey, we know getting your home ready for a last-minute showing and finding a place to go while your house is being shown is a major pain (especially if you have kiddos). But if you limit showings to weekends or specific times during the week, you could be missing out on potential buyers. Be flexible—even when you get a showing request that falls right in the middle of Junior’s nap time. Showing your house is just a temporary inconvenience.

And when you do show your house, let your agent handle it and get out of the way. You sticking around for showings does nothing but make everyone feel awkward.

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