4 Things NOT to Do When Putting Your Home on the Market

Posted on Dec 29 2016 - 10:27am by Zoe Eisenberg

home on the market

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on December 29, 2016. Housecall continues to share this piece due to ongoing requests and reader interest.

So you've decided to put your home on the market. Congratulations! Hopefully, you've brought a rockin' REALTOR® on board to help you list your spot, and together you've done your due diligence on what to ask for. As you start checking things off your to-do list, it's also important to pay mind of what not to do. Below are a handful of things to get you started.

Don't over-improve.
As you ready your home for sale, you may realize you will get a great return on your investment if you make a couple of changes. Updating the appliances or replacing that cracked cabinet in the bathroom are all great ideas. However, it's important not to over-improve, or make improvements that are hyper-specific to your tastes. For example, not everyone wants a pimped out finished basement equipped with a wet bar and lifted stage for their rock and roll buds to jam out on. (Okay, everyone should want that.) What if your buyers are family oriented and want a basement space for their kids to play in? That rock-and-roll room may look to them like a huge project to un-do. Make any needed fixes to your space, but don't go above and beyond—you may lose money doing so.

Don't over-decorate.
Over-decorating is just as bad as over-improving. You may love the look of lace and lavender, but your potential buyer may enter your home and cringe. When prepping for sale, neutralize your decorating scheme so it's more universally palatable.

Don't hang around.
Your agent calls to let you know they will be bringing buyers by this afternoon. Great! You rally your whole family, Fluffy the dog included, to be waiting at the door with fresh baked cookies and big smiles. Right? Wrong. Buyers want to imagine themselves in your space, not be confronted by you in your space. Trust, it's awkward for them to go about judging your home while you stand in the corner smiling like a maniac. Get out of the house, take the kids with you, and if you can't leave for whatever reason, at least go sit in the backyard. (On the other hand, if you're buying a home and not selling, then making it personal is the way to go, especially when writing your offer letter. Pull those heart strings!)

Don't take things personally.
Real estate is a business, but buying and selling homes is very, very emotional. However, when selling your homes, try your very best not to take things personally. When a buyer lowballs you or says they will need to replace your prized 1970s vintage shag carpet with something “more modern,” try not to raise your hackles.

21 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Nancy Krysiak January 1, 2017 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    the market here in Connecticut is terrible we are thinking of renting the house . The rent would more than pay the mortgage but not sure of the pitfalls

    • Donna Burzynski January 12, 2017 at 11:15 am - Reply

      Hi Nancy, There are few questions I’d like to ask you in reference to deciding whether or not to rent your Connecticut house.
      How far away will you be moving? If you are relocating out of state you will need someone local to address any items that may unexpectedly arise. You will also need a realtor you trust to work with as your tenants move out and a new tenant needs to be found.
      How long do you envision keeping it as a rental property? Most houses look best when the owner lives there in comparison to when a tenant lives in the premises. If you plan on renting the property for just a couple of years with the hope the market will improve keep in mind the house will need sprucing up prior to being listed. This includes but is not limited to a fresh coat of paint inside and out in the current colors, landscaping, appliances.
      What is the age of the roof, boiler, driveway asphalt, air conditioning system if you have one? These all have a design life, are costly to replace and are considered maintenance items not improvements.

    • Andrew December 23, 2017 at 8:56 am - Reply

      Very true showing homes when seller not present increases your chances of a sale!Realtor Long Island NY since 1978 Good luck happy holidays!

  2. Debbie Barrett January 4, 2017 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    Very good information. Some of the points I had never thought about.

  3. Tom spott January 10, 2017 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    I disagree about not being there. I think both the owner and listing agent should be there to make sure the buyer sees everything and gets all their questions answered immediately. That is called sales. At a minimum the seller should be there. Listing agents shudder at this thought. They are in the business of listing homes not selling them. This idea that the buyer needs to experience it is a convenience for listing agents so they can be out looking for more listings and not at the property making a sales pitch. The listing agent should also be prepared to defend the asking price in that meeting.

    • Donna January 12, 2017 at 10:57 am - Reply

      Tom, I have been a real estate agent for many years and I have never had a buyer purchase a home they viewed when the seller was present. It makes a buyer very uncomfortable And they don’t feel they can look freely at the home. Secondly, they can’t picture themselves living there once they see the people who live there now. Buying a home is a very emotional time for most people and they want to envision it as theirs. I even ask my seller to remove any family photos and neutralize the home so the buyer can envision themselves living there. It does work.

      As far as letting the buyers know about all the good qualities in the home, I ask my sellers to give me a list is all the improvements they have done and all items they feel are s
      “Special to the home. I then put together a brochure (which lists all these items) to give to all the buyers.

    • Linda September 7, 2019 at 4:51 pm - Reply

      You may be a salesman and think that is best, but buyers hate it when the seller is hovering. They will ask questions that the agent will relay and get answers for them. If you are hovering and SELLING, they may just leave right away – I have known it to happen.

    • Jan September 7, 2019 at 4:57 pm - Reply

      Hi, The seller is not in the business of selling homes. The agent is. Agent’s are not only in the business of “listing” homes. If you think about it, they wouldn’t make a DIME if all they did was list them. They’re not paid hourly you know. As far as “making sure they ‘see’ everything”…. Trust me, when they walk into the house they know if they want to buy it or not. If they don’t want to buy the house, finding out the windows tilt out to clean or the garage has extra storage isn’t going to do it.

  4. Robert McArtor January 12, 2017 at 7:25 am - Reply

    Great information. I do agree that the Homeowner should step aside during showings, etc. The listing agent is the marketing, the one to close the deal from start to finish. That is why the Seller is paying a commission correct? The Buyer needs to feel comfortable asking their agent questions about the home and the process without the Seller being present. If the Buyer has any further questions, they are represented by an agent that will contact the listing agent to get the answers they need.

  5. Phil January 12, 2017 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    Tom, respectfully, is uninformed or misinformed about brokering property. The only place for sellers to be when showing a home is ELSEWHERE!

  6. Paul Cottone January 13, 2017 at 9:09 am - Reply


    I represent buyers in most of my real estate transactions. A seller being present in an initial showing (in my opinion) is just too much of distraction for a buyer than it could possibly be constructive.I, too, have never had a buyer-client purchase a property in which the seller was present when they saw it the first time. Over a period of nearly 40 years in the business, I could describe embarrassing situations where the seller followed us around the house, making my clients feel very uncomfortable (sometimes, escalating the discomfort, resulting in an exchange of words, at times). Having a list of improvements on-hand is a much better idea. I can emphatically say that when the seller is present, my buyer inevitably walks away feeling they had no idea what they saw, and/or, (worse, for the buyer) that they have no interest in the property. At an initial viewing, I (and my clients) would MUCH prefer that the listing agent be present IN ANOTHER ROOM, leaving us to speak freely/privately about the property among ourselves, if it is an accompanied showing, or an open house. Other than at open houses and accompanied showings, if there are any immediate questions that require answers while we are there, I rely on questions answered over the phone.

  7. Jonathan Stokes February 28, 2017 at 1:56 am - Reply

    Great article and very useful for anyone trying to sell their house. It’s easy to feel anxious and seem overinvolved when buyers come to check your property, but important to let them take a tour in peace.

  8. new honda crv 2020 May 30, 2018 at 9:15 pm - Reply

    Thanks for finally talking about >4 Things
    NOT to Do When Putting Your Home on the Market

    RISMedia\’s Housecall <Loved it!

  9. Investigator in Toronto August 16, 2018 at 3:13 am - Reply

    Grrr, I’ve a blog on my website and it sucks. I actually
    removed it, but may need to bring it back again. You gave
    me inspiration!
    Keep on writing!

  10. Central Valley House Buyer May 24, 2019 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    Couldn’t agree more. These are all great points!

  11. Tree Service June 29, 2019 at 9:00 am - Reply

    Good tips, thanks. You’re right, over decorating your home with your taste isn’t ideal. Keeping it nice and clean, but simple goes a very long way. If I see a house that isnt clean then it makes me think of all the other things that could be wrong with the house.

  12. Marlene D Weaver September 7, 2019 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    Good article! I’ve been in real estate for 18 years. I work with both buyers and sellers.

    I am not in the business to get listings. There’s no sense in getting listings if you aren’t in the business of selling them. It sounds like Tom had a bad experience with an agent. Which is to bad, but unfortunately it happens real estate just as it does in every field.

    If the seller works with the listing agent, the agent should know everything about the house that the seller knows. Therefore, being able to relay the information professionally versus emotionally to either the buyer’s agent or buyer, if the buyer isn’t with an agent.

    When the seller is present it normally always make the buyers feel uncomfortable. They talk way to much, about the good and the bad. They often come across as desperate. It doesn’t let buyers to look at the home freely and imagine themselves living there. They don’t know what the buyer is looking for so they could say something that is a total turnoff.

    Everyone thinks it’s an easy job, but if so, why do only 3% of who go into to real estate, make it past 3 years in the business?

    There is so much more that goes into selling real estate than buyers and sellers realize. That’s why we go to school for it, have to be licensed, and continue to take a required # of hours if education each year we are licensed, and more!

    It’s more than making homes look pretty, it’s more than putting a sign in the yard. Believe it or not I’ve even cleaned a client’s toilet and packed away their clutter. We work 7 days a week and get calls and texts 24 hours a day. If you aren’t immediately available, your client forgets that you took them out to look at house 10 times at a minutes notice or dropped everything to meet you within a hour of calling because you think you’re ready to list. They’re on to the next agent.

  13. Marvin Von Renchler September 7, 2019 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    40 years in real estate. Im 90/10 on sellers not being there, and as a newbie had a few sellers kill the potential purchase just because they didn’t like the sellers! Not that the sellers weren’t nice and friendly—sometimes ya just don’t like someone. Also, I had a few sellers give their personal negative thoughts about some of the neighbors, etc. On occasion the seller helped but the properties were large farm or ranch types that needed a lot of description and explanation. I try to pretend Im going to be buying the place, and come up with as many questions as I can, having listened to 100s of buyers.

  14. Elda Serna September 7, 2019 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    I’ve been a Realtor in Southern California for over 15 years.

    I think it’s ideal to decorate for the holidays. It really creates a Great ambiance. A very homey feel.
    There has been some occasions when the sellers are present and have been very helpful in describing details about the property.
    Specially the ones that have lived in their homes for many years and have pride of ownership.
    My buyers have appreciated their input.
    However it is highly recommended for sellers to leave so that the potential buyers don’t feel like they are invading and rushed.

  15. Diana B Kaeding September 8, 2019 at 9:56 am - Reply

    I am a 25 year veteran Realtor. I agree; The seller should not be present during first showings. They usually talk to much and are a distraction. If the buyer’s agent is doing the best for the buyer, they will know enough about the property to guide the buyer. If listing agent wants to be present that’s fine too. Buyers like to view the home through their own eyes and speed while feeling free to make comments to each other or to their agent. The time for “defending the list price” – In Tom’s words- is when an offer is actually presented.

  16. Jessica Schmidt November 13, 2019 at 9:45 am - Reply

    Good tips. I’d like to add another. Sellers do not turn off the utilities. It will how the property shows and it may cause delays on the inspections, appraisal and closing.

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