What's the biggest mistake a first-time home seller makes?

If you've never sold a home before, it can be a daunting process. On weeknights and weekend, you'll most likely find yourself anywhere but your own home, allowing potential buyers to see your place in person. That can be quite a time commitment. It takes an average of 40 to 60 days to sell a home, says the National Association of Realtors.  

To make it worth the journey, you need to avoid making the biggest mistake that many first-time home sellers make: Mispricing their homes. If you price too low, you are leaving "money on the table." If you price too high, you'll likely miss a faster sale and have to lower your price anyway. 

Get professional help. This is what real estate agents do every day: Help buyers understand what is happening with the market, what homes are selling for, and why they sold. Ultimately, the seller sets the price, but getting expert counsel helps you avoid making mistakes.

3 tips for selling your home faster

The number one rule for selling a home faster is to make your first impression your best impression. Because the greatest number of buyers visit a home within the first 10 days, it's listed as the optimal time to capture your best offer.

Knowing this, here are 3 great tips:

Price it right: Don't make the mistake of pricing your home too high, only to have to lower the price later. In a seller's market, a lower price attracts multiple buyers that can drive the final sales price higher. Price too high, and you'll end up with zero offers.

Increase your curb appeal: To tap that initial first glance of love for the right buyer, focus on what you can do to make a great first impression as they drive up. A well-manicured lawn, fresh paint, a clean driveway, a debris free roof, and a new front door together can maximize your curb appeal.

Clean, clear, and de-clutter: A spotless home is hard to achieve when you're living in it with an active family. But it also can put your place at the top of a buyer's list. Even if you have to put things away in a storage unit, less stuff makes your place look bigger and clears out any religious or political items. Do this to help buyers envision your home as theirs.

5 things every home seller must do

If you've been thinking about selling your home, you probably have tons of questions. Is this the right time to sell? What's the best way to start? How long will it take? What does it really cost?

Your home is your biggest asset and you have a lot invested in it, both financially and emotionally. A real estate agent can help reduce the stress and make your sale as successful as possible. Here are 5 steps to achieving that goal:

Read your CMA: To understand how to price your home, an agent-provided
Comparative Market Analysis will show homes similar to yours, both ones that have recently sold and ones listed for sale.

Understand the costs: Every seller has to do the hard math. You need to determine how much equity you have in your home, understand the closing costs involved, and determine how much you expect to net from the sale.

Be ready for surprises: A flawless home sale is rare. Talk to your agent about what surprises you might encounter so you will be better prepared.

Stage it: To make the best first impression, professionally staging a home makes rooms look bigger and brighter, downplays the negative, and accentuates the positive.

Price it right: 45 percent of home sellers had to reduce their asking price at least once, which delayed the sale of their home, according to the National Association of Realtors. While your agent can share their pricing expertise, you set the price.

The best day and month to buy (and sell) a home

Research now tells us that the best month to buy a home is October. Monday turns out to be the best day of the week to buy. And the single best day to buy a home is October 8. How did they come to this conclusion? 

RealtyTrac created a study 15 years ago that included 32 million home and condo sales, and discovered that October home sales were sold at a discount of 2.6% of the current fair market value. Experts attribute the lower prices to the fact that there are fewer buyers in the market in October, and that encourages sellers to take a lower offer.

Other great months to buy according to researchers include January, February, July, and December. April is the best month for sellers, because buyers historically paid 1.2% more than the market value.

Should you hire a Home Inspector before you sell?

More than 85 percent of all home buyers who applied for a mortgage also applied for a home inspection, according the U.S. General Accounting Office. While sellers know that a buyer is going to require a home inspection, they often wait for the buyer to take the initiative. Then sellers wait nervously for the results.

Because most real estate contracts have an inspection clause, the results of a home inspection could cost the seller thousands of dollars to fix the problem, force them to accept a lower price, or cause them to lose the sale. Some sellers have started requesting a pre-inspection from a licensed home inspector. This approach has several upsides:

A competitive edge: In a hot real estate market, sharing the pre-inspection with a buyer could give the seller's property an edge and speed up the closing.

Fix before listing: A thorough home inspection helps sellers identify potential issues upfront. By fixing the problems before listing the home for sale, the seller removes items a buyer could potentially use as leverage to negotiate a lower price.

Peace of mind: A pre-inspection puts both the seller and a prospective buyer at ease about the potential issues. Even if the seller does not fix the defects found in a pre-inspection, they'll know what to expect when a buyer pays for their own inspection.

Getting ahead of the transaction with a pre-inspection can save a seller time and money.

Why for sale by owner will cost you more

If you have been watching summer home sales sizzle, and you're thinking about selling your own home this fall, you might be tempted to do a For Sale By Owner. Most people think they will save money, since they won't have to pay a real estate commission. That assumption is false for two reasons. 

First, you're unlikely to save money because your home is unlikely to sell for its potential maximum price. The National Association of Realtors found that a typical FSBO-sold home sells for $210,000, but a typical agent-sold home sells for $249,000 ($39,000 more).

Second, while you won't have to pay an agent to list your home, if you want to find the most buyers, you'll have to pay a commission to the agent representing the buyer, unless you also find a buyer that does not have an agent. Today, that's rare; our FSBO sales make up less than 10% of all home sales.

The 184 things a Realtor does for a seller

When Pat Vredevoogd-Combs, a former president of the National Association of REALTORS, was asked to testify before a U.S. Congressional committee looking into industry commissions, she put together a list of how a Realtor helps sellers sell their homes.

The list is 184 items long, and details all of the tasks that a Realtor performs for a seller in a typical transaction. She broke her list down into 11 categories with a number of specific tasks and their descriptions for each category. This includes Pre-Listing Activities (20 tasks), Listing Appointment Presentation (13 tasks), After Listing Agreement is Signed (44 tasks), Entering Property in MLS Database (6 tasks), Marketing the Listing (26 tasks), The Offer and the Contract (21 tasks), Tracking the Loan Process (5 tasks), Home Inspection (7 tasks), The Appraisal (5 tasks), Closing Preparations and Duties (24 tasks), and Follow Up After Closing (3 tasks).

Vredevoogd-Combs admitted that most people really have no idea what real estate professionals do because, she explains, "most of the important services are performed behind the scenes."

Fall failures: 3 seller mistakes that can kill a home sale

Fall brings change: Leaves fall, apples ripen, and the air gets crisp. Home sellers need to stay aware of changes and avoid these three fall mistakes:

Price too high: When the real estate market in the summer is hot, but begins to cool in the fall, sellers make a mistake when they don't adapt and keep their prices high.

Selling alone: Watching homes sell fast in the summer may tempt a seller to go at it alone. But that could be a big mistake. Studies show FSBO homes are on the market longer and sell for as much as 20% less.

Leaving the leaves: If you have a lot of fall foliage, make sure you keep your landscaping clear of debris. You don't want to telegraph all the yard work a buyer will have to do each fall.

Spring forward to a faster home sale by doing this

Home buyers seem to come out of hibernation in the spring. That's why it's also called the "Home-Buying Season." As a seller, you can speed up your home sale by doing just one thing: Give me a call several weeks before you are ready to have your house listed for sale. Talking early allows us to spend more planning time together. It also will help you get started on a list of things that every seller needs to do before they put their house on the market. Better planning up front, and taking time to do the prep work right, translates to a faster home sale.

Winter prep for a summer sale

If you're thinking about selling your home after school is over and summer begins, you can save time by starting prep during the winter. Here are a few easy ideas that can help make a great first impression:

Focus on the front door: Fresh paint for the front porch and even a new door can brighten your entry. For a finishing touch, add a brand-new welcome mat and change out your door hardware for something shiny and unscratched.

Kitchen and bath refreshes: Change out the drawer knobs and handles, and get organizers for the drawers. New toilet seats are crucial.

New entryway lights: Designers say that proper lighting can help put buyers in a good mood. The entry is where their first impressions begin, so that's the perfect place to start.