12 Confessions of a First-Time Home Seller

While buying a first home is always exhilarating, selling it is often bittersweet. When it’s time to move on, it can be hard to let go. As is no doubt the case for most first-time homeowners, my first house harbored so many memories—first baby steps, first holidays, first schools days, and yes, first DIY successes. It was so inconceivable to me that I could sell a house that aroused such strong sentiments that I almost sabotaged the sale. Thank goodness my real estate agent set me straight. The following confessions come from my personal experience as a first-time home seller. If you’re thinking about putting your home on the market, first-time seller or not, I hope you can learn from my mistakes.

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  1. I thought the agent we used when we bought our home should be our selling agent.

    Confession-1

    We had such a great experience with the agent who sold us our first home that we wanted to hire her again, this time to sell it. Our original agent was a buyer’s agent who, fortunately, advised us to hire a top-producing “listing agent”—an agent who works on the seller's behalf and whose knowledge and experience include a comprehensive marketing plan. We wisely took her advice and hired her colleague.


    Related: Find the Right Realtor—9 Tips from Happy Homeowners

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  2. I thought I should take my own MLS photos.

    Confession-2

    As a former media professional, I knew how to use a camera. I thought that meant I could photograph our home for the MLS listing. Little did I know that 85 percent of buyers shop online first, so professional pictures shot with specialized lenses are expected in a competitive marketplace. My agent hired an experienced real estate photographer who included a panoramic video as part of the package. The best part? The cost was factored into the marketing plan, so there was no direct expense to me!


    Related: 9 Things First-Time Homeowners Don't Know to Do

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  3. I thought home staging would be an extravagance.

    Confession-3

    Honestly, I considered home staging a waste of money—but was I wrong! Everything looked so fabulous when it was finished, I almost didn’t want to sell. To keep costs down, we used our own furniture but moved some pieces into different rooms. The total cost was $200 for three hours, but the sophisticated yet inviting results were more than worth the expense.


    Related: 9 Little Things You Can Do to Help Sell Your House

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  4. I wanted to stick around during showings.

    Confession-4

    Figuring that nobody knew my house better than I did, I decided to give potential buyers the grand tour myself. Big mistake! As my agent explained, “Buyers in the presence of a seller are overly cautious, so they don’t always give the house a fair chance.” Plus, their negative feedback could lead to hurt feelings. After hearing that advice, I always stepped out during showings.


    Related: 9 Mistakes Not to Make When Selling Your Home

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  5. I didn’t think comps really counted in my case.

    Confession-5

    I turned a volume builder home into a one-of-a-kind wonder worthy of a high asking price—at least in my opinion. As my agent, however, observed, “Your labor of love is an emotional value—it's the comparable homes [or comps] in your neighborhood that dictate the listing price.” So, while I thought my house was unique, I had to accept that it wasn’t. In fact, instead of getting multiple offers, I received critical feedback about the kitchen, which leads me to my next confession...


    Related: The Cheapest Ways to Boost Your Home's Value

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  6. I didn’t want to lower the price, so I raised it and put in a new kitchen.

    Confession-6

    Usually, when sellers don’t get an offer, they lower the price. I refused. The feedback I was getting was that buyers were put off by my robin’s-egg blue laminate countertops, so I went with my gut and put in new granite countertops and kitchen cabinets. It was a risky move, but it paid off.


    Related: 6 Tempting Upgrades That Smart Homeowners Avoid

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  7. I got angry at a lowball offer.

    Confession-7

    I poured my heart and soul into getting the house ready for sale—painting bedrooms, changing out carpets, and—did I mention?—replacing the kitchen! So, when a lowball offer came in, I was livid. My agent’s rationale was, “Some people on a limited budget try to push the envelope.” I then realized that the offer wasn’t a reflection on my home, but rather an indication of the buyer's finances. Nothing personal!


    Related: 10 Things to Know Before Buying a Foreclosed Home

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  8. I didn’t want to fix the moldings until we moved out.

    Confession-8

    When my agent asked me to repair the pencil-marked molding, I refused. I told her, “It’s not sold yet.” Those little lines marked every inch my children grew over the years we lived there. Taking it down was just too painful. My agent tactfully reminded me that leaving your mark (literally) can deter buyers.


    Related: 12 Reasons Why Your House Isn't Selling

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  9. I was upset the buyer wanted and expected my personal stuff.

    Cf

    When our family moved from an apartment into our first home, we didn’t have a lot of furniture. But then over the years, like homeowners everywhere, we outfitted our home comfortably. I was caught by surprise during the negotiations when the buyer requested that an antique mirror be included in the deal. My agent said it was common practice and that I should offer it up as a gesture of good will. Frankly, I simply wasn’t willing to part with it. I told them it was a wedding gift. (I fibbed.)


    Related: 11 Packing Tips & Tricks for a Smooth Move

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  10. I didn’t have a contingency plan for the period between the sale date and the time school let out.

    Confession-10

    School let out at the end of May, but we sold our home in early March. I thought we could negotiate a delayed moving date, but no such luck. My agent informed me that in some cases buyers are willing to lease back to the seller, but our buyers were eager to move in, so we rented a hotel suite until the end of the school year.

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  11. I wasn't aware of all the costs that would be involved in closing.

    Confession-11

    Although I had never sold a home before, I was aware that the seller was responsible for the brokerage fees. I didn’t, however, factor in other expenses, including prorated property taxes, utility bills, and homeowners insurance. As an additional perk, my agent suggested we offer a home buyer’s warranty in the amount of $600. After figuring in the warranty and the expense of fixing all the post-inspection problems, the final costs really added up.


    Related: 8 Home Costs That Take New Buyers by Surprise

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  12. You will never have a second chance at a first home.

    Confession-last

    Remember, although your first home now belongs to someone else, all the memories of your time there are yours forever. Once in a while when I want to turn back the clock, I click on Google Earth and take a stroll down my old street—Memory Lane.


    Related: 8 Things New Homeowners Waste Money On

    Zillow Digs home in Kenilworth, IL

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