home selling

The Biggest Regrets of Real-Life Home Sellers

for-sale-by-owner

Paul Velgos/iStock

Even homeowners who’ve successfully sold their place can be plagued by the shoulda-coulda-wouldas—meaning that, looking back, they wish they’d done certain things differently. Sometimes very differently. Regret can be a beast. One with teeth.

The silver lining? We got these remorseful souls to tell us their stories so that you, future home seller, can learn from their mistakes! Read this rueful list of home sellers’ biggest regrets—and take note when the time arises for you to put your own place on the market.

Regret No. 1: Not fully preparing the place

Serious about selling your home? Spiff it up, stat! Recent seller Kim Maggio admits that she didn’t focus on making cosmetic changes before putting her Haverhill, MA, house on the market and wishes that she had.

“I didn’t spend enough time prepping our house for sale—purging, staging, or doing small repair projects,” she says. “And I regret not planning ahead or getting real about what had to be done, because it ended up dragging out the home-selling process—in terms of finding a buyer and negotiating repairs—costing me precious time and money.”

Regret No. 2: Making the property too perfect

On the other hand don’t go overboard, either. When Jen Mason and her husband sold their Denver condo in order to buy their neighbor’s bigger apartment across the courtyard, she put extra energy into leaving the property in pristine condition.

“But why did we care about patching every nail hole, making the place look flawless, and leaving behind our beloved custom window coverings?” she gripes. “Our buyer was an older single woman who really just wanted to live in our neighborhood. All of our efforts had all been a waste.”

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It’s possible to make your home look too perfect. Terry J Alcorn/Getty Images

Regret No. 3: Staying in contact after the sale

Always do your best to keep things “just business,” Mason advises sellers. She didn’t, and is still kicking herself for it.

“Since we only moved across the street, we availed ourselves to the buyer for questions,” the Denver homeowner explains. “And she called us for at least a year on a regular basis whenever she couldn’t figure out how something worked: the house alarm, air filter, fire alarm, window screens, and on and on. It was as though my husband became her personal handyman!”

Despite their best efforts to remain friendly in the tight-knit community, she admits, “we eventually tired of her calls and stalled on our response time until she finally stopped reaching out.”

Regret No. 4: Trying to sell without an agent

“We tried to sell our home without using an agent and soon realized that in our market, and it didn’t quite work out,” says Boston-area homeowner Rebecca Addison. The approach “wasn’t really accepted by the buyer’s Realtors®, who often questioned our price point, which made things difficult.”

So she ditched the for-sale-by-owner approach and wound up enlisting a Realtor after all. “I wish we had just done it right away, because instead it set us back at least a month if not more,” she says. “And in that time people moved on and the market changed. I think we might have missed out on a better sale.”

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Selling your house without a Realtor could be a risky proposition. IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock

Regret No. 5: Caving to a buyer’s whims

Addison also learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to bend over backward, sideways, and into intriguing pretzel shapes for a demanding buyer.

“Our buyer was really difficult and wanted us to give on so many items,” she says. “We also agreed to give the buyer money toward updating the roof so we were very frustrated on the day of closing when he wanted even more.”

Addison stood firm, and after a few hitches the sale continued thanks to an agreement between the Realtors to appease the buyer by reducing their commission.

“I found myself resentful that the buyer got away with that and got the house,” she says. “Especially when I can see for myself that he hasn’t completed any roof work in the past five years.”

Regret No. 6: Skipping the staging

“I really regret not paying the money to stage my apartment right off the bat,” confesses Chicago homeowner Rachel Bertsche. Hoping to save on expenses since she’d already bought and moved into a different home with her family, Bertsche skipped that step until it was too late.

“The money that it cost us owning the apartment longer was far more than the price it eventually cost to stage it.” That jibes with the stats on staging, in fact. Professionally staged properties spend 73% less time on the market.

Regret No. 7: Jumping at the first offer

Antsy to exit her Washington, DC, condo, Aimee Agresti and her husband acted with their hearts rather than their heads. More than a year later, she regrets it.

“We were so anxious to move, we accepted the first offer for our apartment before it even went on the market,” she confesses. “We went for it because we thought it was quick and easy, but I can’t but help think it would have been able to get much more if we’d just taken a breath.”

Regret No. 8: Picking a buyer based only on money

Valerie Blanchard dreamed of finding a buyer who’d love her bucolic Nashua, NH, property as much as she did.

“Our goal was to sell that house to a family who’d maintain it well, since it was big and in a beautiful neighborhood,” says Blanchard, who downsized to a more urban area. But she took the best deal on the table. Later, “when I drove by, I saw that their promise to care for it didn’t actually happen. It’s so disappointing and disheartening, looking back at all the work we did, the labor, the love, the hours contemplating grass seed and bushes gone to pot!”

She advises others to follow their instincts when it comes to choosing a buyer.

“It was a seller’s market when we listed the house, and we had multiple offers, so I should have held out when my gut said that these buyers won’t love the house like we do,” she says. “But I didn’t. And now when we drive by the old house, I cringe every single time.”

 

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6 Surefire Signs It’s Time to Sell Your Home

By Angela Colley

time-to-sell

Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

Most people don’t plan on living in their first (or second or maybe even third) home forever, but knowing when the time is right to put that baby on the market can be tricky.

In fact, it can feel kind of like breaking up with a longtime boyfriend or girlfriend. Deep down, you knew you wouldn’t be with that person forever—but ending things can be way easier said than done.

Sometimes life changes force the issue: There’s little reason for self-doubt or trauma-level angst if you’re relocating to another state or you know your newborn twins won’t fit in your one-bedroom bungalow. But without a pressing reason staring you in the face, it can be hard to know when you’ve outgrown your home.

So how do you know when it’s the right time to let go?

1. You’re feeling cramped, and you can’t add on

Your family might not be growing, but that doesn’t mean your lifestyle still fits in your current house.

If you’ve started working from home, for example, or you’ve adopted an extended family of indoor cats—or maybe you’ve just never gotten over your dream of having a sewing room—your house might be too small.

But before you jump to conclusions, see if paring down your possessions works to free up some space. Another option might be to finish an attic or basement, add another room, or even add a whole story to your home. But, of course, that won’t work for everyone.

“If your property isn’t large enough or your municipality doesn’t allow it, moving to a bigger home may be your best option,” says Will Featherstone, founder of Featherstone & Co. of Keller Williams Excellence in Baltimore.

To decide which route to take, check your local building laws and get estimates from two or three contractors. It also wouldn’t hurt to check with your Realtor®. Sometimes adding on won’t increase the value of a home, and you don’t want to make big-time improvements that will bring only a small-time return on your investment.

2. You have too much space

On the other hand, perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed by vacant rooms and silence. (Hello, empty nesters!)

“In this case, it no longer makes sense to have, say, four bedrooms and a basement,” Featherstone says.

Saying goodbye to a family home can be difficult, but you should consider how feasible it is to stay. If yardwork and house upkeep are getting to be a little too much, or soaring utility bills are cramping your style, it might make more sense to move.

3. You’re over the neighborhood

Maybe you can no longer deal with the rigid rules of your homeowners association, or perhaps your neighbors turned their house into a rental for frat guys. Whatever the reason, neighborhood dynamics can change dramatically over time.

And sometimes, you can change. Maybe the 40-minute commute to work didn’t seem like such a big deal the first few years, but now you’re dreading it every day. Or your kids are getting older, which can be a big problem if you’re not in the right location.

“If you can’t afford a private school system, you are limited to one school for your children,” Featherstone says. “Moving may be a benefit to your child’s education.”

4. Remodeling won’t offer a return on your investment

Giving your kitchen or bathroom a face-lift can make your house feel like new again, which might be all you need to decide you want to stay put for years. But that doesn’t mean it’s a financially sound decision.

“Before making significant improvements, you should really study the neighborhood and know the highest price point of your neighborhood,” Featherstone says.

If your home is already similar in style and condition of some of the priciest homes in the neighborhood, remodeling might be a bad idea, and you should consider selling instead.

5. You can afford to sell

Sure, you’re going to make money when you actually sell your house, but as the adage goes, it takes money to make money. So seller beware: You probably won’t be sitting around and waiting for the dollars to roll in.

“Before you consider selling, you should have the funds available to prepare your home for sale,” Featherstone says.

Most sellers need to make some minor improvements such as painting, landscaping, or updating flooring to get a good price on their home. Those costs will come out of your pocket at first, so it’s a good idea to have a cushion before you start.

6. You’re ready to compete

If you’re living in a seller’s market, you might be enticed to offload your home before things cool off. But don’t forget—once you sell, you’ll probably be a buyer, too.

“If your market is hot, your home may sell quickly and for top dollar, but keep in mind the home you buy also will be more expensive,” Featherstone says.If you’re going to get out there, you should make sure you’re ready to compete.