How to Avoid the 10 Biggest Mistakes Home Sellers Make

You'll sell your house faster — and for more money — if you avoid these common pitfalls.

You will need

  • A thorough housecleaning
  • An open mind
  • Home improvements

Step 1 Declutter your home Get rid of as much clutter as possible. Stuffed closets, extraneous furniture, exercise equipment in living quarters, crowded countertops, overflowing cabinets, and endless knickknacks make homes seem smaller than they are. Consider putting some things in storage.

Step 2 Hide your pets Hide all evidence that you own animals. Just because your potential buyer loves his own pets doesn’t mean he wants a house that reeks of yours. Get rid of pet stains and odors (pay a professional if you have to) and send the four-legged family members to a neighbor’s house when you show your home.

Step 3 Be scarce yourself And, while you’re at it, make yourself scarce during home showings. You know how you feel about those annoying salespeople who follow you around the store, making you uncomfortable? That’s how potential home buyers will feel about you.

Step 4 Don't discount the first offer Think carefully before you reject the first offer on your home; studies show it is usually the highest bid you get. And the longer you hold out for a better offer, the lower your chances are of getting it, because people start to think that something must be wrong with a house that’s been on the market for so long.

Step 5 Always negotiate Don’t take lowball offers personally, or you’ll lose a lot of potential buyers. Instead of viewing them as insults, look at them as starting points for negotiation.

Step 6 Out with the old Toss or change anything that makes your home look tired — worn carpeting, old throw rugs, dirty light switch covers. Give every room a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color. Don’t let cost deter you; this is truly a case where you’ve got to spend money to make money.

Step 7 Remember curb appeal Don’t discount the importance of a good first impression from the street. Trim hedges, reseed the lawn, plant some flowers, wash the windows, scrape and repaint the front door and windowsills, and put some oversized potted plants at the entrance.

Step 8 Depersonalize your home Rid your home of all your treasured personal touches — family photos, the kids’ artwork on the fridge, religious artifacts, bowling trophies, your ceramic pig collection, the shrine to Elvis. They will only make it more difficult for potential buyers to imagine themselves in your home.

Step 9 Aim for light and bright Because home buyers are nearly unanimously looking for a light, bright house as opposed to a dark, dreary one, do what you can to make that happen. Ditch the heavy drapes, take down dark wallpaper, put in high-wattage light bulbs, and get rid of wood paneling.

Step 10 Fix anything that's broken Fix whatever is broken before you list your home. It’s almost always cheaper to do it yourself than to let the buyer use it to bring down the price.