By Lisa Marie Conklin

Jan 18, 2024

(Getty Images)

With a new year comes the urge to kick bad habits to the curb—hence the popularity of “dry January,” for instance. But too much bubbly or Bud Light is hardly where our vices end.

If you’ve decided to sell your home this year, then it’s high time to make sure you’re in the right mindset to make it happen. Because let’s face it: Even in the best market conditions, selling a home can be a complex and stressful process where sellers might unknowingly engage in misguided tactics that could backfire and kill the deal.

To help, we asked real estate agents what outdated habits home sellers should give up for good. Here’s what the pros say should go out with the old year and what’s in for the new year that will get your home sold for the price and terms you want.

Outdated habit No. 1: Trying to sell your house on your own

If you believe the home-selling process is as complicated as it is, you might think adding another person to the mix—in the form of a real estate professional—could make your journey even more challenging.

But that concept needs to be chucked out the proverbial window—quickly.

Why? Because homes for sale by owner “never sell for the same price it would if it was listed with an experienced” real estate agent, says Andrea Viscuso, an agent at Forte Team at Compass in Connecticut.

In addition to knowledge and experience, a listing agent has networking power with contacts within the industry and can boost marketability.

Even if a buyer falls into your lap, you must still be familiar with the laws and regulations of selling a house. Despite your many other talents, you might be missing the skills to vet offers, avoid wire fraud, and negotiate deals, which a real estate professional can offer.

“We know how to negotiate in our client’s best interest and provide a buffer for the client,” explains Viscuso.

Outdated habit No. 2: Considering only the highest offer

Weird fact alert: The highest offer on a home might not be the best offer.

Sure, the highest bid looks appealing, but it’s crucial to consider other factors, too.

As a seller, you should consider the buyer’s overall financial stability, the contingencies, and the closing timeline.

For example, the buyer making the highest offer might have a lender that requires a home appraisal to support the accepted offer. And if the appraisal doesn’t support the offer—the buyer can back out. Or maybe the highest offer comes with an extended closing time, yet you need to get moving due to a contractual agreement on another property.

“By broadening your perspective beyond the price tag, you’ll make a smarter decision and avoid any unpleasant surprises down the road,” says Fran Lisner, a real estate agent with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty on Long Island, NY.

Outdated habit No. 3: Being inflexible for showings

Yay! Your agent has a very interested buyer who is excited to see your home. Ugh! The requested appointment is in two hours.

Being at the beck and call to show your home can turn your daily life upside down, but a home seller needs to be as flexible as possible.

It can be a major turnoff to home shoppers if you’re rigid with showings and unwilling to work with prospective buyers’ schedules.

“Be the unicorn-friendly seller and show some flexibility,” says Lisner. “By accommodating various showing times, you’ll cast a wider net and reel in more interested buyers.”

Outdated habit No. 4: Assuming a cash offer is always best

cash offer for the full asking price seems like the ultimate dream come true for a seller. Cash usually means a quicker sale at a good price. Plus, you might avoid inspections, appraisals, and contingencies.

Cash offers mainly come from wealthy buyers, investors who fix and flip properties, and iBuyers. Yet because cash buyers don’t use conventional financing, it can be difficult to know if you’re dealing with a reputable buyer.

“Cash really is king as it does present huge advantages, but some investors throw out offers casually and then walk,” says Viscuso. “I have seen more cash deals go sideways because of a change of heart than mortgaged offers.”

So, don’t jump at the chance to take the money and run.

“A strong buyer with a pre-approval letter who is properly vetted can sometimes be more invested in the property,” adds Viscuso.

Outdated habit No. 5: Forgoing minor repairs

We get it—fixing up a home you plan to leave doesn’t inspire anyone to break out their tools.

Yet, making minor repairs could yield an even higher sales price for some sellers.

Best of all, you can prep your house on the cheap. Take a fresh look at your home—inside and out. You might need to do a deep clean, declutter, and organize. Or fix that hole in the screen and repaint the front door.

Jen Turano, a real estate agent at Compass in Greenwich, CT, encouraged her sellers to make minor improvements to increase the home’s value, which paid off.

“We received multiple offers, and the home sold significantly over the list price,” says Turano.

Outdated habit No. 6: Skipping staging

Is home staging really necessary? The answer is a resounding yes. Staging can be the key to getting the highest price regardless of market conditions.

“Neglecting home staging and maintenance is like serving a gourmet meal on a paper plate,” says Lisner. “It just doesn’t do justice to your beautiful property.”

Staging likely secured an offer above the asking price for one of Turano’s clients selling a home they had already vacated. (Staging is just as crucial for occupied homes, too.)

“Staging made the home feel more finished, and the beautiful furniture and decor selected by the stager transformed the home’s already beautiful appearance into something pretty spectacular,” says Turano.