Top Common Seller Mistakes 

Selling a home is one of the biggest events that can happen in a person’s life. Whether you are downsizing, relocating, or selling your late mother’s home, it’s a monumental event.

Considering the price of homes in Santa Clara and the active Santa Clara real estate market, you would think that selling a home in Santa Clara wouldn’t be so difficult. 

However, as a home seller, be aware that mistakes can be costly and result in the loss of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars.

Before you sell, be sure to understand the top mistakes to avoid when selling your Santa Clara home.

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As a Home Seller, You Should Never:

  1. Overprice Your Home
  2. Sell Your Own Home
  3. Not Prepare Your Home for Sale
  4. Spend too Much Time and Money Preparing Your Home
  5. Sell at the Wrong Time
  6. Not Stage Your Home
  7. Take Poor Listing Photos
  8. Fail To Disclose Important or Trivial Issues
  9. Hire The Wrong Real Estate Agent

When selling your house, you should never:

Mistake #1: Overprice Your Home

Overpricing your home could possibly be the most common mistake that sellers make.  An overpriced home will have fewer showings, take longer to sell, and sell for a lower price than if it were competitively priced.  

Today’s buyers are savvy home shoppers. They have online home valuation websites, they study the market on Redfin and Zillow, and they do their homework.  

If buyers suspect your home is overpriced, they won’t waste their time dealing with what they perceive as unrealistic sellers.  

To further complicate matters, buyers in our Santa Clara market are already expecting to pay over asking. This means even if you price your home at the price you are expecting, the buyers may factor in how much they have to bid and come to the conclusion that your home is overpriced.

The consequences of overpricing your home are fewer showings, more time on the market, fewer offers, and ultimately lower priced offers and unfavorable terms, ultimately making the sale longer and more difficult.

Pricing your home competitively with the market, which in Santa Clara means pricing below the market price will result in multiple offers and higher offers. 

The end result is that you will be able to sell your home quickly, over asking, and for a higher price than if you priced it at market value.  Also, you will be able to negotiate the terms you want such as a rent-back and likely receive a non-contingent offer.

For more information on how to properly price your home to sell in the Santa Clara market, read our article Selling? Make Sure the Price is Right.

Mistake #2: Sell Your Own Home

When you take into consideration how expensive homes are in Santa Clara and real estate commissions, there is no surprise that many homeowners consider selling their homes themselves.

The median home value in Santa Clara is over $1.7M and at 6% that’s a lot of commission and a huge chunk of money from the seller.

Let’s be accurate here- 6% commissions in our area are rarely sought by real estate agents.  Commissions for selling a $1.7M home are more likely to be 5% to 4% depending on the agent and the service you are seeking.

As a home seller, whether you are selling your home yourself or have an agent, you should really consider offering 2.5% to the buyer’s agent who brings you the buyer for your home.

Most qualified buyers are working with an agent, and they prefer it that way. With home values being so high they are seeking the help of agents to navigate the market, find them a good home and make sure they don’t make a mistake.

Eliminating the buyer’s agent will result in eliminating lots of buyers who might be interested in your home.

In reality, what sellers are debating when they are thinking of selling their home is whether saving 2.5-1.0% is worth hiring an agent.

A good agent will do many things for you.

They will protect you and reduce your liability, they will assume lots of the responsibilities of selling a home such as showings, communication with buyers and other agents, coordinating improvements, and marketing, there are lots to do when selling a home.   

They know the market and will help you price and market your home to get it sold. They have great resources and understand the complete home selling process.  

Also, they will manage the entire transaction.

Ultimately a good agent will protect you, save you time, and sell your home for more money than you would be able to yourself. 

The amount of value you will receive from working with a good listing agent will far surpass the cost you incur from paying 2.5-1.0%. 

Mistake #3: Not Prepare Your Home for Sale

It’s a seller's market and you think that you don’t need to do anything to sell your home for the highest price.  

If the market is hot your home may sell and it may sell quickly, you may even get a great price. But are you leaving money on the table by not doing any work?

The answer is yes.

There are all sorts of buyers out there and in hot seller’s markets, buyers are more willing to compromise on what they really want. But not all buyers will feel that way.

Your best chance of selling your home for a great price is making sure your home shows the best it can. That means it’s bright and clean. It’s ready to move in, and although it may not have the latest and greatest kitchen and bathrooms, it feels like home to buyers.

Most buyers don’t want project homes. Especially project homes that are 50+-year-old homes like many Santa Clara homes. There are many concerns for young or first-time home buyers buying an older home, and if they feel your home isn’t well maintained they will pass.

So before you decide to sell your home, consult with a professional on what it would take to get your home in showing and selling condition. Generally, the cost is anywhere from $10K-$20K, but you could get 5 times that if you do the right updates.

For more information on how to improve your home check out our article on Best Home Improvements when Selling.

Mistake #4: Spend too Much Time and Money Preparing Your Home

The best way to get your home sold for top value is to make it stand out and get as much attention from buyers as you can.

One way to accomplish this is to remodel your home to fit today’s modern tastes and style. This will surely get your home sold, but will it net you the most money?

In order to answer this question, you need to understand your home and your home’s market. In other words, you need to check out the competition.  

If it’s a strong seller’s market and your home is in a desirable neighborhood and location, you may not need to do much to get your home sold for top value. 

In fact, doing too much may not result in a higher price and cover the costs of the remodel.

Also, keep in mind that if a home sells for too high of a price the buyer may have problems with the home appraising.

There are a number of other factors to consider when planning out improvements to sell your home – one is timing.   

If your improvements take too long the market may shift and prices could drop before you can list the home. It’s important to understand the timing of selling a home in your market.  For a great article on when to sell check out the Best Times to Sell Your Home.

Many improvements require permits. The more substantial the improvement, the more likely a permit would be required and the more risk a homeowner will incur if a permit is not obtained. 

Permits are not necessarily expensive, but they do take time and can extend the amount of time it would take to complete the improvement.

One of the biggest improvements that I run into is kitchen remodels.

Kitchens are a big factor for buyers and an updated kitchen with new cabinets, countertops, and appliances really impress. Santa Clara requires a permit for kitchen remodels and for many homes, this will result in an electrical panel upgrade.   

There are many homes that are sold in Santa Clara with un-permitted remodeled kitchens. As a homeowner, you can disclose that you remodeled your home without a permit and this will limit your liability if the buyer has trouble in the future.  However, you run the risk if the city finds out before escrow closes and some buyers may not be comfortable with your unpermitted improvements.  

New kitchens and bathrooms make a difference when you sell your home.  Before you commit to lengthy and expensive updates make sure you take into account the market and the risks.

For more info on home improvements before selling, check out our article Avoid These Home Improvement Mistakes.

Mistake #5: Sell at the Wrong Time

There is really no such thing as selling at the wrong time. If you have to move you have to sell.

It’s rare that we have a bad seller’s market or a bad time to sell in Santa Clara, but there are better times than others to put your home on the market.

Understanding the seasonality of our market can help you time your sale for a faster and potentially higher price home sale. Delaying or speeding up your sale could mean the difference of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Essentially, you want to avoid the slow times of the market if possible and take advantage of the times when the market is heavily favoring sellers.  

For more information on the best time to sell your home, read our article Best Time to Sell a Home in Santa Clara.

Mistake #6: Not Stage Your Home

Staging can be a big expense when selling. In recent years the demand and the cost of staging have increased substantially. At the time of this article staging a 3 bedroom 2 bath home of approximately 1200 sq. ft. can set you back $3000-$4000 dollars.

That’s a lot of money to spend on temporary decorating.

The reality is that staging does make a big difference.  

Buying a home is personal and emotional.  Buyers make lists of wants and needs when shopping for a home, but make their decisions based on how they feel when they’re in the home.

Staging a home can make a home feel luxurious and contemporary.  Staging gives buyers a better idea of the home’s potential and how it can be used. 

Good and thoughtful staging can make odd spaces in a home feel more functional and add value.  Ultimately, a home with the right staging will look better, feel better, and make buyers want it more.

Homes without staging require buyers to be more imaginative about how to use the home.  For some buyers, this isn’t a problem, but for others who struggle to make design decisions, this can be a challenge.

Getting the most buyers interested in your home and getting them to love it, will get you the top price you are seeking.

One last piece of advice about staging. Not all staging is the same. Like everything else, there is good staging and bad staging. To make sure your home benefits from staging make sure you have a stager who is thoughtful and determined to make your home stand out.

Personally, all our listings are staged.  We believe so much in staging that we have our own staging furniture and stager, and provide it free to all our listing clients.

For information about our staging please visit our article Staging Your Home.

Mistake #7: Take Poor Listing Photos

These days everyone starts their home search online and what gets their attention are stunning photos of bright and spacious homes.

Spending money on home updates and staging won’t do you much good if the photographs in your marketing show a dark home with small rooms.

Access to quality real estate photos these days isn’t too difficult. There are however agents or sellers who don’t want to incur the expense.

Expect to pay anywhere from $100-$200 for high-quality professional photos. Typically agents pay for this expense.

However, if you are selling yourself you will want to make sure that the photographer you chose is professional.  They should be using a wide-angle lens for inside shots and an ultra-wide-angle lens for spaces like bathrooms or small bedrooms and offices.

You may want to check to see if the photos will be High Dynamic Range photos.  These photos are comprised of multiple shots at different exposures and make interior shots look bright and detailed.  

In addition to high-quality photos, you may want to also have a 3D scan of your home’s interior for a 3D walk-through tour.  3D tours save time and allow buyers to preview your home’s layout before viewing your home.  More importantly, after they have seen your home they don’t need to revisit the home to verify any spaces. 

We personally use Matterport 3D scanning technology for our 3D scans and tours.  We have found them to produce the best quality images and tour functionality among all 3D tour providers.

 Mistake #8: Fail To Disclose Important or Trivial Issues

As mentioned earlier, real estate transactions can be highly emotionally charged events.

It’s not uncommon for buyers to have remorse after buying a home, especially considering some of the hot markets where substantial overbids occur.

In many cases, buyers make non-contingent bids which leave little recourse if they want to back out of the deal.  If a buyer does not wish to move forward and wants to retain their deposit, the way to do so is to claim that the seller withheld information or failed to disclose important details.

Sellers have disclosure obligations to disclose any material fact or detail which may influence the desirability of the home. This could essentially be anything.   

One of your agent’s responsibilities should be to go over the disclosures with you personally and make sure they are complete and accurate.

Avoid language that dismisses issues or makes them seem like they are not problems or have been resolved when in fact they still linger.

Understand that any missed question could be an opportunity for a buyer to request clarification in the middle of the escrow and then claim that the new material fact that was disclosed is justification for cancellation.

A worst-case scenario would be after the home is sold and the buyer discovers a material fact that was not disclosed.  In these situations, the buyer’s only recourse is to seek damages in the court system which can be a stressful and expensive mistake.

Mistake #9: Hire The Wrong Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents help their clients with many important aspects of selling their homes.
They should be expert marketers and experts in your neighborhood.  They can assist you with preparing your home to get top value, making recommendations for reliable and professional tradespeople. They will develop a strategy to get what you want from your sale and handle all the details.  
As trusted advisors they protect you. They limit your liability and ensure that you are in compliance with all your disclosure obligations. 
The right agent with their years of experience, an extensive network of other real estate professionals, and good negotiation skills is the biggest asset to you during your real estate transaction.
The wrong agent is the opposite. They can cost you thousands in lost equity, fail to negotiate the terms that will protect you, and if not careful or diligent can open you up to liability that you could be dealing with for years afterward.
For more information about what questions to ask, when hiring your next real estate agent, please read our article 14 Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent.


Worried about making common seller mistakes?

Selling a home can be riddled with challenges and mishaps, but you don't have to navigate this journey alone. Our goal is to provide you with the knowledge and insights you need to have a successful selling experience. We're here to provide you with all the important details you need to know before selling your house.

As a real estate professional, I am always available to answer any of your questions and am happy to be of assistance. Please leave me a comment or contact me with any questions.

Contact Me Today

VINICIUS BRASIL, Principal Realtor
Keller Williams Thrive
19900 Stevens Creek Blvd #100
Cupertino, CA 95014
Call Me: (408) 582-3272
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