How not to sell your home. Mistakes home sellers make.

Common home seller mistakes

The overgrown cedar trees in front of this home not only kill the curb appeal of the home but their roots can damage the foundation. Image from www.shiftinvestments.com

I recently  held an open house Silver Spring, Maryland and found that the home was a perfect candidate for an article on mistakes home sellers make.  The problem was that although the  home was very lovely with a new upgraded kitchen, baths and a fantastic addition, the front door was in horrible shape. This immediately caught my eye and  got me to thinking about my past experience showing and staging homes for sale. I came up with a list of five common mistakes home sellers make that I frequently see with homes that are on the market. The issue here is that the mistakes that  sellers make preparing the exterior serve to stop potential buyers in their tracks before they even enter the home. By overlooking these items the sellers had effectively shot themselves in the foot. It makes no difference how cool your home looks inside if the appearance from the street is preventing potentials buyers from getting out of their car.

  1. Make sure the front door and entrance is looking good. A beat up front doors says everything about what to expect inside. It just creates a negative feeling for people entering your home for the first time and is a clue that you are not taking good care of your home. If your front door looks bad replace it, or at least paint it. Make sure the door knob and locks work. You can’t believe how many homes I have shown where the lock is so old that I have to fiddle forever to get the door open. I also really hate to see storm doors on front entrances. Some newer storm doors look OK but for the most part a storm door makes the entrance of the door looks cheap. Remove old storm doors.  You can put them in the basement in case the purchasers want to keep them. If your front entrance area is plain go buy some potted flowers and leave them around the door. A new doorknocker or a decorative wreath is not a bad idea and costs very little.

    Mistakes home sellers make

    Nothing like a crappy front door and storm door to turn a buyer away.

  2. Get that driveway fixed. Nothing is more noticeable from the street than a worn our driveway.  Yes, it costs a fair amount of money to replace an old driveway but it does not take a rocket scientist to know when a driveway is shot, and most buyers are not going to see your driveway right away and opt not to inherit a big ticket expense such as that.

    Mistakes home sellers make.

    If the driveway is shot then any buyer is facing a big ticket repair when they move in.

  3. Cut down big trees and overgrown ornamental shrubs that are too close to the house. Not only do they look bad but a large tree near the house is a potential problem to the structure of the home. One of my biggest dislikes when viewing a potential listing is those little ornamental cedar trees that were planted decades ago and now are larger than the home.  If the buyers miss it, a good agent or home inspector is going to point problem trees.
  4. Get rid of all that weird stuff that you put in the front yard.  One of the most common mistakes that sellers make is to assume that everybody else is going to appreciate your eclectic (strange) tastes in yard art. So, haul out the lawn jocky. concrete statuary, strange art  and other bizarre items that you many have accumulated over the years.  Even if you don’t sell your home, your neighbors will  probably like you better.

    Mistakes home sellers make

    Nothing says weird like a bunch of funky stuff in the front yard.

  5. Paint your home. I just can’t understand why a home seller does not see the value in putting a fresh coat of paint on the exterior of the home. Old and peeling paint send a message to buyers that the home has not been cared for over the years. Make sure you hire a professional. It is better to have no paint job than a bad one. So many sellers try to tell me that they are leaving the old paint like it is so that the new owners can put on the new paint of their choice. The reasoning does not work at all. Buyers want to see a home that looks like the owner has cared for it. Below is a nice series of before and after paint jobs from Davis House Painting, just look at the difference that a new coat of paint makes.


Remember, it is my experience that home buyers purchase homes on emotion and not necessarily reason. To think that you can leave the exterior of the home in poor shape and just offer a reduced price to compensate does not work. You will have fewer visitors and as a result the home will usually sell for much less than you would net by paying to fix it up. I am speaking from three decades of experience here. The biggest problem facing a home seller in this market is getting enough buyers into the home to generate a homes full value. If it looks bad, believe me it is going to sell bad.

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