Real Estate

84% of recent first-time home sellers have regrets. Here are 4 mistakes to avoid

Brandon Bell | Getty Images

Timing is everything, especially when it comes to real estate.

But finding the perfect time to sell your home — especially if it’s your first time — may be a challenge as the residential real estate market fluctuates.

A recent survey from Zillow finds 84% of first-time home sellers wish they had done something differently regarding the timing, pricing or marketing of the transaction.

Notably, 9 in 10 first-time sellers think they could have sold their home for more money if they had made different decisions.

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The findings are based on a poll of first-time sellers who completed their transactions in the past two years. The November survey included more than 2,000 adults.

The real estate market has had notable shifts in the past couple of years, with mortgage rates climbing from 3% to more than 7%, noted Ted Jenkin, a certified financial planner and the CEO and founder of oXYGen Financial in Atlanta. He is a member of CNBC’s Financial Advisor Council.

Recent bank failures prompted mortgage rates to tumble, with the average rates on 30-year fixed mortgages dropping to 6.57% versus a recent high of 7.05%.

Yet experts say it is still a seller’s market.

“Even in a really strong seller’s market, people still have regrets,” said Amanda Pendleton, Zillow home trends expert. “They second-guess their decisions.”

The best time to list a home for sale nationally to maximize your sale price is the last half of April, according to Zillow data.

Here are four regrets from recent sellers that homeowners ought to be aware of before listing their homes this spring.

1. Not having a winning pricing strategy

To get the best deal on your home, you want to list it for the most competitive price.

“If you price it competitively, you’re going to be able to sell it a lot quicker,” Jenkin said.

Competitively priced listings that find a buyer go under contract in 31 days, Zillow data finds. Meanwhile, other homes may linger on the market for a median of 73 days.

“That speaks to the power of pricing,” Pendleton said.

If you price it competitively, you’re going to be able to sell it a lot quicker.
Ted Jenkin
CEO of oXYGen Financial

To find out what your home may be worth on the market now, see what comparable homes in your area have sold for in the past six months, Jenkin said. Getting a good independent appraisal can also help set expectations.

While most homeowners will not face capital gains taxes on the transaction, keep in mind that may be a possibility, Jenkin said. An exemption on primary residences is available for the first $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for married couples.

But the exemption may only be used once every two years. Notably, it will also not apply if you did not live in your home for at least two of the last five years, Jenkin said.

2. Ignoring curb appeal

To increase the amount of money you get for your home, you may want to make investments that will improve first impressions.

New flowers and shrubs and a fresh coat of paint may help prospective buyers to see themselves living in the home, Jenkin suggested. Having your home staged may help show it off in the right way for it to sell, he said.

Online curb appeal is also crucial, particularly now that virtual home selling standards have changed since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Pendleton said.

Curb appeal is important in getting the right price from the right prospective buyer.
Dreampictures | Photodisc | Getty Images

“People want to be able to tour homes from the comfort of their living room,” Pendleton said.

Keep in mind prospective buyers may eliminate your home from their search based on just a photograph.

Homes that get more saves and views on Zillow have virtual, three-dimensional home tours and interactive floor plans, Pendleton said. Investing in professional and drone photography can also help show off your listing, she said.

3. Bad timing

A quarter of recent sellers felt they got their timing wrong, Zillow found.

Yet timing the real estate market is not a good idea, Pendleton said. People who sold their homes and then rented, with the expectation home prices would come down, are now finding that while prices are a bit lower, mortgage rates have skyrocketed.

“It’s so hard to time it,” Pendleton said.

The idea of getting out at the top of the market also means you’re anticipating a crash, which is not in experts’ forecasts.

“Our economists are just not seeing that,” Pendleton said.

4.  Ignoring repairs

About a quarter of recent first-time sellers think they could have gotten a better price if they had paid more attention to home repairs. But some improvements may pay off more than others, according to Pendleton.

Massive projects such as a kitchen renovation or roof replacement typically do not provide a significant return, Zillow has found.

The most common projects homeowners complete before listing their home include interior painting, carpet cleaning and landscaping.

“That’s for good reason,” Pendleton said. “Those are the projects that give you the most bang for your buck.”

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