12 Reasons Why Your House Isn't Selling

Throughout the years you live in a house, you pour your heart and soul into maintaining it and making it comfortable and attractive. When it comes time to sell, you hope that your care and hard work will be evident to potential buyers, and that the offers stream in quickly. But even a much-loved and well-tended home can linger on the market if the sellers make some unfortunate missteps. To avoid any hitches in the sale of your home, beware of making these 12 costly mistakes that can sabotage a sale.

  1. You're Not Ready for Goodbye

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    Emotionally Ready to Sell Your House

    Selling a house isn't like selling a car; a home is wrapped up in so many memories and emotions. If you aren't emotionally ready to pull up stakes, then hold off on listing your house. "Otherwise, there’s room for self-sabotage," says Brendon DeSimone, real estate expert at Zillow. "You could set the price too high, ignore recommendations from your agent, or miss spots in cleaning the house."

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  2. You Haven't Started Packing

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    Move Your Stuff Out

    A cluttered home filled to the brim with furniture and collections may be overwhelming to potential buyers. It's wise to begin planning for the move even before you put your house on the market. "Take all the stuff you won’t use for six months and put it in a storage locker—that’s the smartest $20 to $30 you can spend during this process," DeSimone says.

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  3. You Didn't Hire a Cleaner

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    Hire a Professional Cleaner

    "Definitely hire a professional cleaner," says Gary Rogers, regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors. This isn't meant to be an insult to your cleaning abilities. A professional steam-cleaning can make old carpet seem new again, and streak-free windows let in more sunlight. If you’re not ready to hire out, at least call in a friend to help find and attack any last dirty spots.

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  4. You Stayed for the Showing

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    Leave for the Open House

    "A lot of times owners want to be there at the showings to point things out," DeSimone says. "They think, 'It’s my house, and I know it better than anyone.'" But buyers want to dig through the cabinets and closets, peek behind doors, comment on likes and dislikes, and be comfortable—and that won’t happen with you around.

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  5. You Left the Windows Closed

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    Open the Windows

    Before buyers arrive, try to make your house appeal to all the senses. "Not that you need to burn candles or bake cookies," says Kerrie Kelly, founder of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab. "Instead, just open up windows and doors to air out any unpleasant scents." Couple the soothing breezes with a freshly cut bouquet from the backyard to create a memorably warm welcome.

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  6. You Have Too Much Furniture

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    Keep Seating to a Minimum

    Sometimes what seems like just the right amount of seating for entertaining in your living room can feel overstuffed to potential buyers. "They like big, wide-open spaces, not closed-off rooms," DeSimone says. The less furniture in a room, the larger it feels, so go ahead and move one or two pieces out.


    Related: An Expert Reveals the Rules of Arranging Furniture

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  7. You Didn't Let the Sun Shine In

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    Take Down Curtains

    "As much as you can make it seem bright and light, do it," DeSimone says. "This means taking down dark, heavy window coverings if they're blocking light."

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  8. You Remodeled

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    Keep Interior Design Simple

    When remodeling, eschew trends in favor of simple updates that hold appeal for the widest possible swath of buyers. In rooms with an idiosyncratic style, prioritize toning it down. Trying to anticipate other people are going to like is a losing proposition. As Kelly says, "Every time new homeowners move in, they have their own ideas."

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  9. You Left Out Photos

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    Put Away Family Photos

    While framed family photos are warm and inviting when you have guests over, they only turn off potential buyers. House shoppers want to envision their own family in the house. Before visitors arrive, do yourself a favor and take down all family portraits, diplomas, and children's art.

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  10. You Let Repairs Slide

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    Fix All Problem Areas

    If a potential buyer makes an offer but maintenance problems are encountered during the home inspection, you could lose the sale. At that point, your home would get relisted—and that doesn’t look good to future buyers. "I can explain away that the first couple changed their minds," Rogers says, "but the next potential buyer is going to wonder, 'Why would anyone back out of this beautiful home? What’s wrong here?'"

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  11. You Took Bad Photographs

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    Prep Two Weeks Early

    In today’s digital world, you open your house to visitors as soon as you list it online. "The photo shoot is the new first impression," DeSimone says. Your mission is to ensure that your home is open-house-ready even when you're taking the photos before the house officially hits the market.

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