12 Confessions of a First-Time Home Seller

Buying a first home is always exhilarating, but selling is often bittersweet. When it’s time to move on, it’s so hard to let go. Like so many others first time homeowners, my first house was a harborage of memories—first baby steps, first holidays, first schools days, and yes, first DIY successes. Selling a house with such sentiment was so inconceivable, that I almost sabotaged the sale. But thankfully, my real estate agent set me straight. The following confessions are based on my personal experience as a first time home seller. If you’re thinking about putting your home on the market, first time seller or not, hopefully you can learn from my mistakes.

I thought our original buyer’s agent should be our selling agent.

We had such a great experience with the agent who sold us our first home that we decided to hire her again, this time to sell it. Unfortunately, our original agent was a buyer’s agent. Thankfully, she advised us to hire a top producing “listing agent,” whose knowledge and experience included a comprehensive marketing plan. So, we took her advice and hired her colleague.

I thought I should take my own MLS photos.

As a former media professional, I knew how to use a camera. I thought that meant I could photograph our home for the MLS listing; little did I know that because 85% of buyers shop online first, professional pictures shot with specialized lenses were mandatory in a competitive marketplace. Luckily, my agent hired an experienced real estate photographer who also included a panoramic video as part of the package. The best part? The cost was factored into the marketing plan, so there was no direct expense to me!

I thought home staging was an extravagance.

Honestly, I thought home staging was a waste of money—but I was wrong! Everything looked so fabulous when it was finished, I almost didn’t want to sell. To keep costs down, we used all of our own furniture, but moved some pieces into different rooms. The total cost was $200 for 3 hours, but the end results were priceless.

I stuck around during showings.

When I first put my home on the market, I thought, “Nobody knows this house better than me.” So I gave potential buyers the grand tour myself. Big mistake! My agent explained, “Buyers in the presence of a seller are overly cautious, so they don’t always give the house a fair chance.” Plus, any negative feedback could lead to hurt feelings. With that advice, I always stepped out during showings.

I didn’t think comps really counted in my case.

I turned a volume builder home into a one-of-a kind wonder worthy of a high asking price—at least in my opinion. However, my agent said, “Your labor of love is emotional, the comparable homes (or comps) in your neighborhood dictate the listing price.” I thought my house was unique, but I later learned it wasn’t. Instead of getting multiple offers, I received critical feedback about the kitchen. But that’s another story.

I didn’t want to lower the price, so I raised it and put in a new kitchen.

Usually, when sellers don’t get an offer, they lower the price. I refused. Buyers were put off by my robin’s egg blue laminate countertops, so I went with my gut and put in new granite countertops and kitchen cabinets. Risky move, but it paid off.

I got angry at a lowball offer.

I poured my heart and soul into getting the house ready for sale—painting bedrooms, changing out carpets and did I mention—replacing the kitchen! So, when a low ball offer came in, I was livid. My agent’s rationale was, “Some people on a limited budget try to push the envelope.” I realized the offer wasn’t a reflection of my home, but an indication of the buyers’ finances. Nothing personal!

I didn’t want to fix the moldings until we moved out.

When my agent asked me to repair the pencil marked molding, I refused. I told her, “It’s not sold yet.” Those little lines marked every inch my children grew over the years we lived there. Taking it down was just too painful. So, my agent stepped in to remind me that leaving your mark (literally) can deter buyers.

I was upset the buyer wanted and expected my personal stuff.

When our family moved from an apartment into our first home, we didn’t have a lot of furniture. When moving out, I wasn’t willing to part with what we did have. During the negotiations, the buyer requested an antique mirror be included in the deal. My agent said, it was common practice, so I should offer it up as a gesture of good will. I said, “It was a wedding gift.” I fibbed.

I didn’t have a contingency plan between the sale date and the time school let out.

School let out at the end of May, but we sold our home in early March. I thought we could negotiate a delayed moving date, but no such luck. My agent informed me that in some cases buyers are willing to lease back to the seller, but our buyers were eager to move in, so we rented a hotel suite until the end of the school year.

I didn’t realize all the costs involved in closing.

Although I had never sold a home before, I was aware that the seller was responsible for the brokerage fees, but I didn’t factor in other expenses including pro-rated property taxes, utility bills, and homeowner’s insurance. As an additional perk my agent suggested we offer a homebuyer’s warranty in the amount of $600. After buying the warranty and fixing all the post-inspection problems, the final costs really added up.

You will never have a second chance at a first home.

Remember, although your first home now belongs to someone else, all the memories of your time there are yours forever. Once in a while when I want to turn back the clock, I click on Google Earth and take a stroll down my old street—Memory Lane.

 

Jill Lawrence O’Hara
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