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60 Home Seller Mistakes and How to Avoid Them (1-20)

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Whether you’re selling your first home or your 20th, it’s crucial for you to know the common (and not so common) mistakes that sellers make that often cost them money. Below is a detailed- but not exhaustive- list of the first 20 of 60. Be sure to check back regularly as this list will grow.


1. Trying to “time” the market.

This approach is not only frustrating, it’s also flawed. Read on here to see what you should do instead.


2. Not educating yourself on the condition of market.

Market knowledge is crucial. When selling your home you need:

    • Up-to-the-minute stats on what has sold in the past 90-180 days.
    • Details about how they compared to your home.
    • The number of days they took to sell.
    • An understanding of what competition is on the market now and the current absorption rate.

Have an expert interpret these findings for you to understand how each detail will affect your selling decisions. Market knowledge is key to getting the most for your home in the shortest time.


3. Pricing your home too high. 

Often the Achilles heel for sellers, pricing your home too high is very tempting. This mistake deserves a post of its own. You can find it here.


4. Not leaving your home for showings.

We understand the fear. It’s your home and you’re nervous to let strangers wander through without your supervision. Remember that a licensed and insured Realtor will escort any buyer viewing your property. It’s important to reduce the nervousness about this, since there is a vital reason you should not be there. Buyers need space to themselves so they can picture themselves living there.  If you stay, they will always feel like guests in someone else’s home. They will hesitate to open closet and cupboard doors, and they will probably leave more quickly than they would have if the house had been empty. All this reduces the chance of a sale.


5. Not investing in your home before you sell.

When you decide the time is right to sell, it’s important to view your home as an investment. For most people, real estate is their largest asset. Choosing to put your home on the market “as is” with little or no preparation is likely leaving THOUSANDS of (possibly) tax-free dollars on the table. Although every situation is different, we’ve put together a list of tips for every room in the house. You can find it here.


6. Not completing necessary repairs.

Buyers are “visual” shoppers, and those looking at homes that need work are looking for a deal. If it’s within your means, it’s wise to complete necessary repairs before listing. It will help sell your home faster, for more money, and with fewer headaches.


7. Not knowing which repairs you should (and shouldn’t) do.

Completing repairs doesn’t always mean taking on an extensive project, it can mean completing minor projects you’ve already started. Since renovations take time and money, It’s wise to get professional advice on which projects you should, and shouldn’t complete. We would be happy to do a walk-through of your home to give you our thoughts. For an excellent place to start, click here.


8. Not determining your penalty for breaking your mortgage prior to selling.

This should be one of the first phone calls you make when you are thinking about selling. Check in with your lender – especially if it’s still early in the mortgage term. Ask them what penalties would apply if you were to break your mortgage. Since penalties can cost thousands of dollars, it will be an important part of your financial calculations. If the penalty is high, ask whether you have the option to port your loan to a new home.


9. Not decluttering and staging.

Decluttering involves removing excess furniture and knickknacks. It’s one of the first, and most important, tasks when getting your home ready for the market. Buyers prefer open, spacious rooms, over cramped, cluttered spaces. Buyers cannot see the potential when we don’t remove excess furniture. When they leave, all they remember is how much “stuff” was in the house, not the home itself. Clutter will show up in all the pictures and marketing materials, and may even turn buyers off before they see it in person. Next is staging. Staging involves placing furniture and artwork attractively to create a feeling. Effective staging will highlight your home’s true potential and make a buyer WANT it. Staging costs money, but in most cases it’s definitely worth it.


10. Not painting because the buyers will change it, anyway.

We hear this objection often, but freshly painted homes are far more attractive to buyers and sell for more money. When we live in our homes, we often use colours WE like and these colours may not be everyone’s “cup of tea”. Many buyers dread painting after the brutal process of moving. A home that’s freshly painted in neutral tones offers a tremendous advantage.. Buyers know they can move in and worry about accenting the home to their taste later.


11. Not deep-cleaning the house before showing it.

Cleanliness often registers in a buyer’s mind as a measure of how well maintained the home has been. Even a house that looks like an outdated “time-capsule” will impress potential buyers if it is spotless and pristine. Walls, windows, baseboards, floors, interior cupboards, nooks, crannies – the cleaner they are, the better the chances that buyers will perceive a higher value. This applies to the state of the exterior of the home, too. It is well worth your time to neaten up flower beds and power wash walls, decks, walkways, and driveways.


12. Not de-personalizing your home.

Stagers say this all the time, but it bears repeating: Make it easy for buyers to see themselves at home in the space. This can be difficult if the decor is overly personalized. Think beyond family pictures, too.  Put away treasured religious items, personal mementos, children’s artwork, trophies, and collections. Paint all the walls a neutral colour and remove any mismatched or strictly sentimental pieces of furniture. Buyers want to feel like they have entered their new home. They are looking for a space where they can imagine a fresh start, not one where they are invaders into the personal space of the current owners.


13. Assuming all real estate agents are the same (we are not).

All real estate agents in Ontario complete the same initial schooling to receive a licence. This, however, does not mean we all operate the same way. Obtaining a real estate licence is like learning all the rules of golf but never picking up a club. Once licensed, it’s up to each agent to continue learning, to choose how they would like to operate, to determine how they spend their money, and to decide how they will deal with clients and other realtors. As a consumer, you need to be very careful when selecting representation. An excellent place to start is by reading online reviews. If an agent has negative reviews or no reviews at all, it may be wise to consider other options. You also want to ensure the agent you choose works full-time in the industry. Some agents are “part-timers”, working a full-time job elsewhere, while fitting ‘the real estate thing’ in on the side. These agents won’t be able to dedicate the time, energy or expertise you require.


14. Assuming all agents have the same marketing plan (we do not).

Failing to hire an agent with an excellent marketing plan WILL probably cost you thousands of dollars. A highly effective marketing plan ensures we portray your home in the best way, to the largest group of people, in the shortest time. Placing your home on the MLS and putting up a “For Sale” sign is not enough. You can read more about what we do here.


15. Picking an agent with the lowest commission.

Have you heard the saying, “You get what you pay for?” This applies when selling your home. When an agent offers a low commission, it can mean a few things.
-They don’t see value in their service and therefore, they discount it.

  • They don’t spend money marketing your home.
  • They are desperate for the listing because they need money.
  • They are bad negotiators and are letting you know in advance. If they can’t negotiate their own commission, how can they negotiate top dollar for you?

This is not to say all agents who offer low commission are bad at their jobs, there are exceptions to every rule. If you feel this is the case, be sure to read their reviews, clarify the services they are offering, and compare apples to apples.


16. Hiring the agent who offers to list your home at the highest price.

You may lean toward hiring the one who suggests listing your home thousands higher than any other agent. This may sound fantastic – but caution is in order. There are several reasons an agent may offer an unrealistic listing price:

  • They are inexperienced and don’t know the market. If this is the case, they may be sincere in their suggestion. But beware of sacrificing the benefit of experience when selling your largest asset.
  • They are trying to “buy” the listing. Once you’re in the contract, they beat you down on the price and waste valuable time on the market. We suggest listing at market value. Read more about the dangers of overpricing your home here.


17. Hiring a part-time agent.

Selling your home requires the full attention of the agent you hire. Your representative is responsible for many time-sensitive tasks before, during, and after the transaction. There is no way a part-time agent will have the time and energy to do the job wholeheartedly. You need a team that includes at least one full-time agent with partners or support staff to sell your home with the best outcome.


18. Hiring a solo agent.

Selling a home is no minor task. With the right amount of help, a solo agent can handle selling a home. Issues arise, however, when you’re not their only client. Agents who work alone can quickly reach their working capacity. When life happens, as it inevitably will, tying up their time, it will become difficult for them to return calls promptly and provide the time and attention each individual client requires. Working with a solid team of professionals solves this problem. They can help each other ensure that your needs are met, and that you never have a gap in your service. Wonder what it’s like to work with us? You can read our reviews here.


19. Picking the offer with the highest price in multiple offers.

This may or may not be a mistake. The decision can be complex, as there are important factors to consider besides price. When you receive multiple offers on your home, your agent has created a scenario where you stand to walk away with more money than you were asking. It’s important to select the right offer because, if that deal does not work out, it’s not always easy to replicate the situation. It is crucial to look carefully at all the details in each offer. There are three key areas to consider: price, closing date, and conditions. An offer with no conditions is almost always worth substantially more than an offer of the same price with conditions. Be sure to have a competent agent on your side to help navigate this stressful, but exciting, time!


20. Thinking spring is always the best time to sell.

Do you remember the spring of 2017? If you were a home buyer or seller, you may never forget it. The market was HOT and it was set to be a busy season. That spring would be different, though. The government took preventative measures to cool what they felt was an overheated market. They implemented a “stress test” that shook the real estate market for the rest of 2017. Things did cool off, and quickly. The lesson is this: If the market is good, now is the best time to sell. Yes, spring markets traditionally perform well. But we can’t know for sure what next spring will be like. Spring of 2020 confirmed this truth with the unwelcome arrival of COVID-19. The entire globe has suffered with a pandemic – the effects of which are far more than simply economic. The real estate market, as you might expect, had not been quieter in the past 100 years. Thankfully, the market has recovered, but many sellers got caught in the middle and sold for less.


21. Hiring an agent that has been in the business a really long time

This may or may not be a mistake. On one hand, they have a wealth of experience to rely on. On the other hand, at times this strength can become a real weakness. Real estate has changed dramatically in the recent years, from the way we market homes to the way we complete transactions. Some older agents are not keeping up with new technology and market conditions, and tend to be a little complacent when it comes do doing market research. Agents who depend only on their own length of time in the industry are more likely to “drop the ball,” and that’s a bad thing. You want to hire a team that has a wealth of experience and knowledge, but is also competent and keeping their skills sharp.


22. Not getting a pre-inspection.

We believe pre-inspections are a great idea for a couple of reasons.

  1.  If the market is more balanced and buyers can have a home inspection of their own, a pre-inspection will alert you to many of the issues beforehand. Correcting them before your home goes on the market will prevent the buyer from asking for a price reduction after they discover a defect, or even from walking away from the deal.
  2. In a strong sellers’ market like we’re having, a pre-inspection encourages more buyers to submit firm offers for more money, since they are more comfortable with the condition of the home.


23. Not disclosing latent defects to the buyer.

A latent defect is a problem with the home that is not easily found by a buyer or inspector. Examples could be a cracked foundation wall that’s been covered with fresh drywall, persistent water issues in the basement or attic, hidden electrical or plumbing hazards, etc. If you know about these things, disclose them. If you don’t the buyer can come back years later and sue.


24. Not allowing a “For Sale” sign.

We wrote an article on this, you can read it here.


25. Not hiding or removing personal or expensive items from sight.

In our experience, it’s very rare to have items go missing while a home is for sale. Unfortunately, though, it could happen. To avoid disappointment or financial loss, it’s best to move sentimental treasures, sensitive papers, and expensive items to a safe place during showings.


26. Not trusting your Realtor.

This point assumes that you’ve picked your Realtor wisely. If you’ve decided to work with the Brandow Group, you’re in good hands 🙂 As a home seller, maybe this is your first time selling, and all your friends and family have lots of unsolicited advice to offer. Unfortunately, that advice, although well-intentioned, may be based on false or outdated information. You need information reflects the pulse of the market. An example of this could be proper pricing. Most people instinctively think that pricing higher is better so that you can negotiate down to a fair price. The current market, however, has shown that listing below market value, even just a little, allows buyers to bid for the home and is the best way to get top dollar. A seasoned, busy Realtor will know exactly what is, and isn’t working in the field.


27. Hiring a cheap lawyer.

We’ve written an article on why this is a bad idea. Click here to check it out.


28. Closing on a Friday or before a Holiday.

There is only one exception when this might be ok, that you already have a place to go. The issue with closing on a Friday or before a holiday is that things can happen that prevent you deal from closing on that day. Things like: Funding issues, lawyer issues, global pandemics, etc. If this happens to you, you could be without a house for 2-3 days till they resolve the issues. A simple way to prevent this is; pick a closing day from Monday – Thursday or Monday-Wednesday if Friday is a holiday.


29. Closing your sale and purchase on the same day.

Completing both transactions on the same day seems like the most reasonable thing to do, but this is another mistake to avoid, if at all possible. Closing day involves many moving parts and if everything doesn’t line up perfectly your big moving day could be a mess. To avoid the chaos, we suggest having a few days (or a week) between closings. To accomplish this, your mortgage broker (or bank) will set up bridge financing. As the name alludes to, it’s financing that bridges the gap between the closing dates. There is a financial cost, but we believe it’s worth it. Staggering closing dates removes a considerable amount of stress from moving day. It also allows time to complete minor renovations and cleaning to your new home before you move in.


30. Not adjusting to the market and other properties that list while you’re for sale.

This can be tricky. Buyers are comparison shoppers, they look at all the properties on the market and gravitate toward the home that offers the most value. In our current market, listing at a low price and holding off offers attracts the most buyers and can pull attention away from other properties listed at market value or above. As a seller, it’s wise to monitor all the new listings that come to market while you’re for sale. Failure to stay tuned in can result in new listings pulling attention away from your home. If this happens, you can make adjustments to regain attention.


31. Damaging the home before closing day.

This is far more likely to happen if you’re selling a property that’s tenanted. Although not common, we have seen it happen. When a property sells, the sellers are responsible to leave the home in the same condition in which the buyers saw it. For example: If you ask your tenants to leave for the new owners but they damage the property before closing day, you must fix the home or provide financial compensation. One way to avoid this is by inserting a clause in your agreement of purchase and sale that states the new buyers will be responsible for any damage caused by the tenant after asking them to vacate the property.


32. Warranting, or even insinuating, that an auxiliary apartment is “legal” or rentable when it’s not.

Without a doubt, basement apartments have gained massive popularity in Hamilton in recent years. These apartments are popular with investors and buyers looking to cover the increased cost of owning a home. Sadly, this is where we see many inexperienced agents put their seller clients at risk. If your agent lists anything in the MLS description that suggests that a buyer can “rent out for extra income,” they are misrepresenting the property and the buyers could come back later to sue. For more info on this, check out our article on legal and non-legal second suites.


33. Not taking time to get a clear understanding of the costs associated with selling your home.

When it comes to selling a home, most people tend to focus on commission. Although this is one of the larger expenses (or investments) to consider, there are others. Not having a clear picture could cause issues at the last minute, and no one wants that! Check out what we wrote about closing costs here.


34. Not leaving yourself enough time to prepare your home for the market.

A common saying is: “If it weren’t for the last second, nothing would get done.” It’s true, some people thrive under pressure, but for most people that’s just stressful! This can be especially true with preparing your home for the market. We see it often: Despite the fact that plans to sell started many months prior, homeowners wait till just days before photo and video day to start prepping. Our suggestion is to do this: Once you’ve decided to move, determine what needs to be done and get started! We’ve created a downloadable PDF that can help you with this. We’d also be happy to visit in person to let you know what you should (and shouldn’t) focus on. You’ll thank yourself later!


35. Focusing on what other homes list for instead of what they sell for.

When listing your home, you need a complete (and clear) picture of what’s really happening in the market. You need a plan of action that will work best for your situation – one that will get you the best results. In our current market, listing slightly (or even well below) market value can yield incredible results. You might look at someone using this method in your area and think it’s a bad idea. Before coming to that conclusion, it’s wise to see what it sells for. We’ve seen many properties in this market sell for less money than they should have by listing too high and missing out on prospective buyers that are shopping below their budget.  Read more about why properties are getting listed at low prices here.


36. Not understanding what you’re signing.

This market is moving at breakneck speeds, and it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. The danger in this is signing paperwork that you don’t understand. Click here to learn more about this!


37 . Expecting buyers to make an offer when you’re over-priced.

In this market, there are few things that will stand in the way of a home selling quickly. Inventory is so low and buyers are out in full force. There is one thing that will guarantee many days on the market, though, and that is being over priced. Buyers in this market have become accustomed to shopping below their budget because they expect to offer above asking. When you price a home too high, buyers assume you will want more than you are asking (and more than they can afford). As a result, they look at properties that are priced more attractively. With more direction from an experienced Realtor, these sellers could achieve a higher sale price by listing slightly lower.


38. Accepting a “Bully offer”

This could be the biggest, most costly mistake on the list! A “Bully Offer” is an offer received from a buyer before the scheduled date to look at offers. This offer usually has a short irrevocability period and is intended to pressure the seller into accepting quickly. Bully offers exist because some buyers don’t want to wait till the offer date. They know there will be competition. We’ve had 3 recent cases where accepting a bully offer would have meant losing out on BIG money.

  • Example 1. We listed a home in central Hamilton for $399,900 and held off offers for a week to allow showings. a few days before looking at offers, we received a bully offer of $420,000. We declined that offer and sold the property for $497,000 on offer night.
  • Example 2. We listed a small 1 bedroom bungalow with no basement for $325,000. One day prior to offer night we received a bully offer of $385,000 which we declined. The next day we received 43 offers, and the property sold for $495,000.
  • Example 3. This example is where a client choose to accept a bully offer. We listed the home for $599,000 and the offer came in at $635,000. Less than two weeks later, a similar unit sold for $700,000.


39. Not focusing attention on the exterior of the home and landscaping.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This statement is accurate in real estate. If your home does not have great curb appeal, it does not mean your home will not sell, it simply means you may not get as much as you could by focusing some attention on the exterior. These do not need to be expensive upgrades. Depending on the time of year, it can mean some fresh paint, stain, flowers and mulch. Enhancing your home’s curb appeal can have a tremendous impact on how much a buyer will pay for it.


40. Thinking you have “all day” on closing day to leave the home.

This mistake can throw a big wrench in an otherwise smooth transaction. Many sellers think they have until 6:00 pm to move all their belongings out of the home and clean up. This is not true. Closing officially happens when you receive the money from the buyer. This is often complete by early afternoon. At that moment, the buyer owns the home and may take possession. Here is our advice:  Have your movers show up first thing in the morning and plan to be out by early afternoon. Better yet, have a short bridge loan in place. Have your current home and the new home close on different days. There is a cost involved, but most sellers say it’s well worth it for the reduction in stress.


41. Hiring an agent who doesn’t use DocuSign.

DocuSign and other electronic signature apps have drastically changed the way Realtors operate.  It’s hard to believe some agents still don’t use this technology. DocuSign allows buyer and sellers to sign documents electronically instead of meeting in person. Not only is it incredibly efficient, it’s an absolute necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before you hire anyone to sell your home, make sure they offer this option.


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