These common mistakes make it hard to sell a home

Published 8:12 pm Thursday, September 14, 2017

Beaufort County has experienced a renaissance in residential sales this year, finally bouncing back from an eight-year lull in the real estate market. The average number of days a house spends on the market before it sells are down; prices are a little up. Nearly 50 homes have sold in Beaufort County in the past month alone. It’s a good time to sell. But a home doesn’t sell itself. In fact, a few common mistakes made by homeowners looking to sell will pretty much guarantee a house will languish on the market.


When visitors look at a house, they want to envision their own belongings there. Though homeowners might adore their dining room with red walls and extensive collection of grandmother’s china and crystal on display, potential buyers will find it difficult to imagine their belongings in the house if their vision is strong-armed by an abundance of personal stuff. Alexis Davis, with Century 21 The Realty Group in downtown Washington, encourages people to put it away despite the emotional connection to their belongings.

“The person who lives there, their idea of clutter is not the same as your idea of clutter,” Davis said. “It’s emotional. But you’re already planning to sell the house. Just think of it as packing. Just start packing — every knick knack, every photo.”

TOO MUCH: Tables and a wall full of family photographs, collections of knick knacks, even fine art, are no-no’s in the art of selling a home. Depersonalizing it so that potential buyers can picture their belongings there is vital.


“The most important thing is having it look nice and also in good shape,” said Tomp Litchfield, of The Rich Co. in Washington. Litchfield recommends making the repairs that need to be made. That way potential buyers won’t leave a showing with a list of “things to do” that might prevent them from even considering the property. That includes going ahead and replacing carpets if pet odor is an issue.

“In my experience, in 28 (years) total, one of the things that will run somebody off is when they go into a house and there’s a pet odor. Because that means new carpets,” Litchfield said.



Weeding the flowerbeds and mowing the lawn might not seem like it can sell a house, but potential buyers aren’t just looking at a structure; they’re looking at the whole picture. Litchfield said little things, such as sweeping fallen leaves off a walkway, make an impression. However, not taking care of the yard could very well turn people away before they even make it to the door.

“They want to make sure prior to showing a house, walking into house, you want it to be welcoming mat — not physically a welcoming mat, but its appearance is welcoming,” Litchfield said. “The sad part about landscaping is that it looks good, but it adds no value to a house.”

NOT SO WELCOME: Overgrown grass, weedy flowerbeds, leaves on walkways — all contribute to the overall feel of a property. The house may be gorgeous and affordable, but if its first impression is not good, its likelihood of selling may suffer.


Though many memories and emotions are tied up in a home, the process of buying/selling a house is ultimately a business transaction. Through their realtors, sellers are often given feedback on potential buyers’ experience viewing a home: what they liked about it, what they didn’t.

“Some of it is good, like ‘banged up doorframes,’ so you fix it. Others — ‘It’s too small; the master bedroom has a weird layout.’ You have to take it all into consideration and not see any of it as personal. You can’t go down that road or you’ll never sell it,” Davis said.

Davis said she’s seen deals jeopardized when sellers are insulted by buyers’ lowballing.

“Buyers want the lowest price; sellers what the highest price,” Davis said. “You can’t take it personally.”



“Not using an agent is a really good way not to sell your house,” Davis said. “For what they think they’re going to save, they’re going to lose out on at least that and more by not having it put out in front of the whole world.”

Litchfield agrees. Part of his reasoning is because the process is complicated enough that one disputed word in a contract can tie up a property for years. Realtors make every attempt to ensure a person is qualified to buy before he is shown a house, he said.

“For Sale by Owner” may seem like a better deal, but it can actually work as a deterrent.

“A customer does not feel comfortable looking in closets with the owner there,” Litchfield said.

“They want to talk about it. They want to look at the house. Potential buyers are not comfortable enough to look at the house, even if the owner is in another room. They go in and they get right back out again,” Davis said.