15 Wallet-Draining Mistakes People Make When Selling Their Homes

Discover the top 10 mistakes homeowners regret during a home sale.

People looking at housing paperwork
Updated July 11, 2024
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From deciding on pre-listing renovations and hiring a stager to correctly timing the listing, selling your home can be overwhelming.

Your goal in selling your home is typically to maximize your profit. To do that, you have to minimize the opportunities to leave money on the table.

If you plan on listing your home this year and getting top dollar, avoid making mistakes that could cut into your profit and hurt your chance of selling as quick as possible.

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Not vetting agents properly

Drazen/Adobe happy female real estate agent

You need an agent ready to go to bat for you and understand your local market. They should come to the table with a staging, outreach, and marketing plan.

The right agent will know the comps in your area, understand the target buyer, and provide recommendations on preparing your property for sale.

Selling without an agent

Andy Dean/Adobe real estate sign

Going without an agent is tempting if you’re in a strong seller’s market and you feel confident your house will generate significant interest. 

Skipping an agent can also save you from paying the 5% to 6% commission split between the seller’s and buyer’s agents.

However, trying to sell your home on your own can put you at a disadvantage since you may not have experience in pricing, marketing, and negotiating a real estate sale.

Not budgeting for selling costs

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe Movers packing sofa with transparent roll

Adding up the cost of renting staging furniture, paying a portion of closing costs, and footing the bill for your actual moving expenses, selling a home isn’t all money in the bank.

You’ll have to spend money to make money. If you don’t budget for these expenses, you might find yourself with a much smaller net profit than anticipated.

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Pricing your home too high

Krakenimages.com/Adobe woman shocked covering mouth

While you want to get top dollar and boost your bank account, pricing your home too high can lead to your house sitting on the market.

Buyers may not even come in with an offer if they’re afraid of making a lowball offer. And once your house has sat longer than most comps, they’ll wonder if there’s something wrong with it.

Leaving your clutter out

Syda Productions/Adobe messy home living room with scattered stuff

A staged home, even if it’s staged with your own items, should have significantly less stuff than one that you actually live in. Take out your pet supplies, toiletries, office paperwork, and nightstand accouterments.

There should be few items on surfaces and drastically reduced items in storage spaces, including closets and cabinets. Less stuff makes a home look bigger, and what buyer doesn’t want that?

Not knowing when It’s time to lower the price

Andy Dean/Adobe price reduced real estate sign

Even if you've priced your home correctly, the market may impact interest, and there may come a time when you have to reduce the price.

Reducing the price on your terms is better than waiting for low offers. It keeps the control in your hands rather than letting the buyers name their price.

Using phone photos

Andy Dean/Adobe woman taking pictures of a kitchen

According to the National Association of Realtors, 96% of homebuyers search for homes online.

To stand out, you need to invest in professional photography rather than snapping a few quick photos with your phone and hoping the low-res images will suffice. 

A professional will bring in the right light, know how to capture your home’s angles and come ready with equipment to take wide shots.

Skipping the pre-listing spruce up

New Africa/Adobe designer decorating white wall with pictures

If your home is in bad shape and it's almost certain an interested buyer will gut it, you can leave it as-is. But if you are appealing to a turnkey buyer, you should spruce up the place before listing.

From a light renovation in the kitchen to repainting the entire home to retiling a bathroom, some renovations should be done to garner the highest possible offer.

Refusing to part with personal items

Photographee.eu/Adobe picture frames packing

Seeing a seller’s personal photos and belongings can be a turnoff for buyers who want to envision themselves (not you) in the space. 

A blank canvas makes it easier for them to picture themselves in your home. You may love your family photos, but you can live without them for a few weeks or months.

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Limiting showings

AntonioDiaz/Adobe Realtor Explaining Agreement To Couple In New Apartment

Limiting the number of showings, only showing to pre-approved buyers, or being generally unavailable throughout the showing process won’t help you get much interest. 

The more people you get through your house, the more likely you will sell your home for the price you want.

Listing during the wrong season

Sharon/Adobe bungalow house on spring day

Depending on the market, it’s possible there isn’t a wrong season, particularly if inventory is low. However, there are generally times of year considered best to list.

Spring will have the most inventory, so while many houses show the best during spring, there are also more houses for buyers to choose from. 

Buyers during the summer will have the crunch of getting into a new school district before Labor Day, which could make them anxious to meet your price.

Forgoing major repairs

artursfoto/Adobe male worker installing insulation on roof

Replacing a roof or an HVAC system is not inexpensive, but they could have an ROI when it comes to bringing in the right buyer.

Outstanding major repairs could call the house's integrity into question, causing buyers to bid lower than asking. Or a buyer might make replacing a roof a contingency on the sale.

Doing major repairs before putting your home on the market could cost less than having to sell at a lower price.

Working with an agent who won’t negotiate

BalanceFormCreative/Adobe A female real estate agent

You should always come to the table ready to negotiate. And you can and should consider every reasonable offer. But you also need a real estate agent prepared to go bat for you.

You don’t want to leave any money on the table or come across as a pushover to buyers. There are times when there’s give and take, but your agent should always have your bottom line in mind.

Not having a marketing plan

Cody/Adobe filming a house

Even in strong markets, the homes that sell for over list typically had a marketing strategy behind their listing. They listed on the right day, they got in front of the right real estate social media influencers, and they generated buzz.

This leads to more people walking through your front door and, hopefully, putting in an offer — ideally multiple offers.

Getting too wrapped up in who’s buying

Monkey Business/Adobe female realtor showing couple interested in buying around house

If this is the house you raised a family in, made memories in, or grew up in, it’s understandable that you might be emotionally attached. You want to see a buyer who will love the house as much as you did — and you may not want them to change it.

But this is a business transaction, and while a meaningful letter can and maybe even should sway you, you should also prioritize your financial wellness over your emotions.

Bottom line

hedgehog94/Adobe outside in front of their new home

Maximizing your profit when selling your home is a financial event that can have a massive impact on your net worth.

While you can do small things to get ahead financially, it’s the windfall that can come from big money moves like selling your home that can totally change the course of your financial future.

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Author Details

Heather Bien

Heather Bien is a writer covering personal finance and budgeting and how those relate to life, travel, entertaining, and more. With bylines that include The Spruce, Apartment Therapy, and mindbodygreen, she's covered everything from tax tips for freelancers to budgeting hacks to how to get the highest ROI out of your home renovations.