John's Florida Real Estate Blog


Are You Guilty of Murdering a Home Selling Deal???

Let's face it. At this moment, in much of the United States, it is a "buyers market". That means there are more homes available at bargain prices and fewer qualified buyers who are out there looking for them. This may not be the way some sellers would like it to be, but it is the reality that we now have to deal with. So here are some things you may intentionally, or more likely, unintentionally do, to "murder" a deal that could be in your best interests in the end. As agents, we see these errors happen all of the time. Usually, after it happens once the sellers get wise very quickly. However, some continue to bang their heads into walls as a futile way of insisting that things are going to go "their way or no way". Those are the homes you see that have been on the market for months, if not years. And I am not joking! So see if you are guilty of any of the following real estate sins:

  • Add up all your improvements and then demand a dollar-for-dollar return on your costs. If your improvements were recent ones, it is unlikely you will get all of our money back. If the improvement is out-of-line with your neighborhood, you might only get back 50%. The longer you live in the home after remodelling before you sell, the better the chances are that you will recoup most of your money. I am not talking about needed repairs here.
  • Now for those repairs. Do not leave a hole in the wall, ugly stains on the wall, smelly/dirty carpet on the floor, stains on the ceiling, cobwebs in corners, dirty air filters, etc for buyers to see. Cleaning and a little work can put thousand$ in your pocket$ when you sell and cost you thousands if you refuse to fix them. If the item is a structural issue like a broken window, a door that will not open, rotten wood, termite infestation, etc you will send the buyers running for cover. Even a purple room can do it. I have turned down listings when sellers have said "Let the buyer repaint it". Truth is, the buyer will go down the street and buy the home that already has the fresh neutral colored paint.
  • Insist that your home is "special" and should be priced higher than all of the other homes around it. Frequently I will present sellers with the hard evidence that shows what similar homes on their street have sold for, only to hear them say, "But my home is special". Of course it is, TO THEM. But to the buyers, it is just one of many similar homes that they will see. And what the seller thinks makes it special may actually be seen as a negative by the buyers. One lady had made a bedroom into a piano room with special accoustical tiles on the ceiling and walls. That made it special for sure. But all the buyers could do was think about how much it was going to cost them to remove all of the stuff and change it back into a bedroom for their child. For them it was easier to go down the street that already had the bedroom they needed
  • Take things personally. If the buyer offers a price you think is way too low, do not take it personally. Same goes for any comments you may hear about your furniture or decorating. Remember, they are thinking of what their tastes and needs are, not yours. That is natural. You do the same thing all the time. So if you are sensitive about such issues, it is almost always better if you are not on the scene when your home is shown. If you cannot leave, then stay in one place so the buyers and their agents can wander around the home and speak privately. Do not hover over them constantly. Trust me, both agents and potential buyers will hate that.
  • Restrict showing times and conditions so much that no agent wants to show your home and no buyer can arrange their schedules to meet yours. I saw one recent listing where it said "Owners need 48 hours notice before showing, and the home can only be shown on Saturdays and Sundays between the hours of 2 PM and 6 PM." And this was for a mobile home worth less than $100,000!! Are you surprised when I tell you that it had been on the market for almost 2 years? Give me a break! You have to wonder if they truly want to sell or not.
  • Have a dog in the home that barks constantly while the buyers are there. I know this can be tough. I love dogs a lot. But some people can be frightened of them, and when one is in a home and barks constantly, it can drive visitors crazy. I have seen good buyers leave a home after just a few minutes due to the constant barking of a large (or a small) dog. So, do what you can to avoid this problem. If you are there, perhaps you can take Rover for a walk. If you are away and have a cage, perhaps you can let him/her spend the visit time in the garage or with a neighbor. As I said, I know it can be complicated, but do what you can to keep the buyers in your home as long as you can. If they leave quickly, you have lost a potential sale.
  • Avoid anything that will leave a long-lasting strong smell in the home. As a former smoker I really sympathize, but a home that smells of stale cigarette smoke will kill a deal faster than an atomic bomb. So if you smoke and are selling your home, clean the walls, carpets, upholstery, etc. and smoke only on the patio or the garage if you can. I now it is a pain, but we are talking of a lot of extra time on the market and literally thousands of dollars out of your pocket. So do what you can. If the weather is mild, consider keeping the windows open when you smoke. Along the same line, try not to fry fish or cook cabbage, etc before a showing. However, these smells will disappear a lot faster than that of tobacco.
  • Take a long time responding to an offer. If you are lucky enough to get an offer, even a less than ideal one, do not wait a long time to respond. Even if it is a counter-offer or an outright refusal, you should not delay in responding. Keep in mind that until both parties accept an offer, it can be withdrawn, and the buyer could move on to another property and leave you hanging. Once all parties have signed, then you have an agreement. How disappointed you would be if you waited until the next day only to get a call telling you that the buyer had found a better deal down the street and was withdrawing his/her offer. 
  • Pricing your home using ACTIVE listings in the area instead of SOLD listings. The best indicators of home prices are the prices of similar homes nearby that HAVE SOLD RECENTLY. Those are the only ones that appraisers will consider, and the only ones your agent will give the greatest weight to when pricing your property. I have seen homes in the same neighborhood that sold for $250,000, yet the neighbors down the street seemed to be in a competition and had their nearly identical homes priced at over a half a million! You can guess the outcome, right? Now if you lived there too, where should your house be priced? Obviously, closer to the 250K mark. It would look very attractive compared to the two over-priced ones up the avenue. Listen to your agent and use the solds to help you target the best price for you.
  • Put a lot of weight in computer home valuation tools you find online. These programs use county information in many cases, and this data is notorious for being incorrect or outdated. Also, computers cannot tell if the home next door is purple, in disrepair, has 10 howling hounds outside, 4 wrecked cars out back, or is on a busy street. Your agent will take all of these items into consideration while fine-tuning his/her price opinion of your home. Are the online sites ever right? Sure. But even a broken clock is right twice a day. Your REALTOR is a better judge for you to listen to. Follow the advice of just the computers at your own risk. They are only as good as the data that they contain which is often not very good. 
  • Downplay the value of internet marketing. All agents use the internet to some degree. Just by putting your home in the local Multiple Listing System (MLS) it will appear on a few sites.My listings appear on well over 50 sites now. I even have 4 of my own blog sites and a Zephyrhills 55+ Bulletin Board! This is due to MY hard work. When I take a listing it takes me a good 2 days to get all of my sites covered, and I load them with pictures which the buyers love. Buyers will avoid a listing with few, or worse, no pictures, like the plague. When listing your home, you had better go with an agent that can prove they utilize the internet VERY well. Over 80% of home buyers search on the web for homes. If your agent is just a "so-so" computer advertiser, you could miss out on selling your home quicker and for a better price. Let's face it, the more people that see it, the more competition you will have. Today, that means internet exposure, not magazine or newspaper ads. Now the internet drives the market and that can sell your home.
  • Refuse to depersonalize your home. If you leave up all of your family photos and other personal items, you will be reminding buyers that they are VISITORS, and sometimes that makes it very hard for them to think of themselves as future OWNERS. I have seen walls covered with photos that were lovely, but made the home too much of a museum to its current owners and not a home up for sale. So pack away those pictures. It will only be temporary, and hopefully you will soon be able to put them on the walls in your new home.
  • Have lots of cluttered rooms and others with too much furniture in them. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone into what are really very large homes, yet I feel like I am going to get caught in an avalanche of stuff or have to wend my way around this piece of furniture and that one. I once saw a bedroom with a king-sized bed, two chests of drawers, a dresser with a mirror, a television, two night stands with lamps, and a loveseat. The room was good-sized, but looked like it was tiny and cramped. Needless to say, my buyers did NOT buy. So clear out those over-stuffed rooms and store items you do not need. Make those rooms seem bigger any way that you can!

These are just some of the ways you can kill a deal. Remember that in our current market conditions you need to work extra hard to make sure that when your agent brings in potential buyers, your home is the one they like better than all the rest. Your agent can get the buyers to your door. At that point, it is the house that has to impress the visitors. Best of luck!

For questions or advice about this topic, you can call me at: 813-783-4444 or e-mail me at:  You can also visit my webpage at:

John Elwell - REALTOR


Bill Nye Realty, Inc.


Licensed in Florida


Comment balloon 15 commentsJohn Elwell • December 19 2009 06:20PM


Extremely well put together and thought out list! With your permission, I would like to incorporate some of these into my listing presentation.

Posted by Jim Palmer, Washington County, Florida (Chipola Realty - Chipley Office (850) 638-2777) about 10 years ago

Jim, Thanks for asking, and you have my permission to use them in any way that helps you.


Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) about 10 years ago

I try to avoid all these deadly sins.  I am in this business to sell property not have listings, which means me and the seller are grounded in reality or it's not a match.  It serves no one to be living in fantasyville when you're trying to get a house sold.

Posted by Frank Castaldini, Realtor - Homes for Sale in San Francisco (Compass) about 10 years ago

Dude. Killer list. Here's one I'd add:

Be present at showings, breathe down the buyer's necks the whole time, and blather about things they may not even care about. 

Posted by J. Philip Faranda, Broker-Owner (J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY) about 10 years ago

I like the point about the internet presence. Buyers start their search on the 'net, an agent that is "so-so" on the the internet will get the same "so-so" results in showsing and offers

Posted by Donny Coram, Real Estate the right way (The Integrity Team @ Keller-Williams) about 10 years ago

Great points for a buyers market. Now (and everytime) the house needs to say "buy me".

Have a great day


Posted by Tony Grego, 317-663-4173 #1 Trade Association for Alternative Inv (REISA - 317-663-4173) about 10 years ago


This is very well-stated and drives home some excellent points.  Unfortunately, most sellers think their homes are "special" and should be priced more than any of their neighbors and wanting to price it in the "actives" rather than the "solds" is all too common.

Very well done.


Posted by Claudette Millette, Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass (The Buyers' Counsel) about 10 years ago

In this market you need to use active listings but not to make the price sky high, but to realize that the competition is fierce.  Also don't use solds that are six months back. In this market that is ancient history.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) about 10 years ago

Wow John, you are so right.  It's very powerful to see all of these "anti-sales" techniques in one big list... and so true!

Posted by Dianne Bartlett (Brightside Realty, LLC) about 10 years ago

Hi, John

Great post!! You are so right....I am a C-21 agent too. Hope you the best for 2010


Posted by Tinker Hulsey, Century 21 Wright-Pace Real Estate (Century 21 Wright-Pace Real Estate) about 10 years ago

Very well thought out list, and very true.  Thanks for the great post!

Posted by Stephanie Frost, CDPE, SFR (Home Team Realty) about 10 years ago

Thanks for all who helped get this featured. Normally the ones that are mostly for consumers never get featured. I typically write to them. But, as the season song goes "though it's been said many time, many ways...."  LISTEN TO YOUR REALTOR AND YOU WILL SELL YOUR HOME!

Have a Happy Holiday Season everyone, no matter how you plan to celebrate it! My best wishes to all of you!

Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) about 10 years ago

John, Sellers have to do every thing right in this market or their prpo[erty will just sit on the market. The number 1 thing they can do is hire a professional that will give ot to them straight. Well done John.

Posted by Bryant Tutas, Selling Florida one home at a time (Tutas Towne Realty, Inc and Garden Views Realty, LLC) about 10 years ago

I agree Bryant. Sometimes the truth is hard to accept today, but to live in a fantasy world is worse. Funny how some people will panic over a home going down in value (and we all know that in time they will increase again) yet they will hold a stock portfolio that fluctuates just as much or more. In fact, the wrong stock could become worthless if its company goes "belly-up" That will never happen to a home. Even if the home blows away to the Land of Oz, the lot will still have value, Unless you are talking about a serious contamination catastrophe, the property will always have some value. And most of the homes today will go back up, just like stocks do.

How many times have we seen this cycle in a smaller arena in San Francisco. They go through a period where homes cannot be sold fast enough, only to plummet during the next year. Then in a year or so, they are fighting over every home and bidding prices even higher. Happens in northeast as well.

But even in this market, the sellers can do a lot to maximize their home's appeal. If they refuse, the inventory will provide many other options for the buyers that are out there looking.

Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) about 10 years ago

Yes it is. I try to keep the sellers out of the way. But sometimes there are things you have to tell them.

Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) about 10 years ago

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