Man painting wall in living space.

Newly-painted rooms can make a big difference for a home on the market. (Getty Images)

Putting a For Sale sign on the lawn is not just physical step, but there is a mental and emotional toll that selling has on a family selling their home. Let’s face it, a seller has put his or her heart and soul into the home. You’ve raised a family in the space, upgraded amenities and it now has sentimental value to the seller. As a seller, are you ready to move?

Before making a decision, talk it over, weigh the alternatives and remember “testing the market” can jeopardize the sale, because most homeowners who do have a wishy-washy feeling about how much money it will take to get them to move.

The experience can be grueling for sellers when their personal lives become public displays to strangers and their criticisms. If you’re going to be living in a home when selling, you have to willingly be inconvenienced. So what’s the best way to get out from under the microscope? Sell fast.

Seems simple, but those sellers who have had a home on the market for months with no buyer leads can testify that many factors play a role in the final sale.

  • The home has to be researched and priced right.
  • You need a great marketing strategy.
  • Your product (home) has to entice buyer demands.

[See: 10 Ways to Save Energy and Reduce Utility Bills at Home.]

Whether you're new to the selling process or if your home is already listed on the market, it’s never too late to prepare and properly showcase the home for sale. That’s where home staging comes in handy, but in most cases homeowners have no idea they’re making these five mistakes … are you?

Mistake No. 1: Color Hues

Selling a home with your favorite color choices making a statement on the walls is a huge turn-off for buyers. Neon-bright, bold or dark colors are not only taste-specific, but they can direct the buyer’s eye in a negative way and actually make a room’s square footage look significantly smaller, if done incorrectly.

While a seller can have color on the walls, err on the side of caution and choose more neutral hues. This doesn’t mean paint every room in the home hospital white or real estate beige. Subtle color palettes can go a long way in setting the tone of the home. Take a cue from nature and use colors that inspire buyers like blue, green, gray, taupe and, of course, white.

You want buyers to see themselves living in this home as they tour the space, so neutralizing the walls will give them an opportunity to envision their own style – think of it like giving them a blank canvas to work with.

Why should a seller care about painting his or her home? While painting is an easy update and cost effective for a seller to make, in a buyer’s eyes it’s a reminder that work needs to be done on the home, which can wreak havoc on the offer. A 2012 survey by real estate blog HomeGain.com found new interior paint could provide a 107 percent return on investment in the home sale.

[See: 10 Unorthodox Ways Your Real Estate Agent May Market Your Home.]

Mistake No. 2: Pet Presence

Are you a pet lover? If so, you may be overlooking your pet’s presence throughout the home. Thirty-five percent of households in the U.S. don’t have pets, according to the Humane Society of the United States, a large portion to rule out when you're trying to find a buyer for your home.

It’s important to reduce pet odor. If pets have urinated on the carpet and it still smells, remove it. Have a cat? Don’t forget to stay on top of litter boxes by cleaning them every other day, too.

Treating the backyard as a toilet for your pets is a huge no-no, so start walking the pooches, especially when showing. If a buyer steps in dog doo-doo while walking through the backyard, don’t expect an offer.

If your pets have broken items around the home – like chewing molding, scratching walls or breaking screens – repair any damage.

Also, keep your pets a secret from homebuyers by making sure to remove them during showings and open houses. Remember to pack up all their belongings as well.

Mistake No. 3: Personalized Decor

Removing personalized decor is a must when getting ready to move. You want buyers to visualize themselves living in the home, rather than see the seller’s reflection in the space. This is one of the biggest reasons to stage the home. If buyers can’t imagine what could be in a home, chances are they won’t make an offer, leaving the seller lingering on the market.

Personalized items can be a major downfall for homeowners when it comes time to sell because they serve as a sentimental reminder, and they can become emotionally attached to their belongings. Belongings, by the way, the buyer isn’t purchasing. So, why not start the packing process and remove the clutter? Here are some personalized items to remove before a showing:

  • Collections or memorabilia
  • Figurines
  • Personal portrait photos of you and loved ones
  • Anything with your name on it
  • Religious or cultural items

[See: Weird Home Features That May Confuse Homebuyers.]

Mistake No. 4: Lights Out

Do you have light fixtures that are outdated or builder-grade? If so, consider replacing them. It’s important to remove fixtures that not only look cheap, but that date the space.

Most homeowners have ample lighting in their home – they just neglect to change the light bulbs once they’ve blown out. Make sure to have the appropriate wattage (use maximum wattage), and on a multi-bulb fixture be sure all light bulbs match.

Mistake No. 5: Worn-Out Carpets

Now, that you’ve taken a moment to look up above in your room, what about what’s under your feet? One of the biggest mistakes sellers can make is sell their home with dated or worn-out flooring, particularly carpet.

Carpeting is a touchy subject when it comes to staging a home, but it all comes down to this: What is the easiest, budget-friendly way you can update your flooring and make the biggest return on your investment?

Things to consider when changing the flooring:

  • Is there real wood hiding underneath? If so, remove the carpet. Wood not only raises property value, but buyers love it.
  • Is the current color an eyesore? If so, replace the carpet with one of another color.
  • Is the carpet full of stains? Or does it smell? If so, remove, or at the very least get a professional carpet cleaner in to steam the carpet.
  • Do you have a worn-out carpet? It has to go.

If replacing existing carpet with new, use a neutral color, like tan. If you don’t want to replace carpeting, consider talking to a real estate agent about providing a carpet allowance in the offer.

Tags: real estate, existing home sales, housing, housing market, home prices, home improvements


Tori Toth is a best-selling author, DIY and lifestyle expert, award-winning home stager and lifestyle authority. She can show anybody how to add more value to their home by giving the tools needed to prepare and showcase any home for sale. She works with consumers, real estate agents, or anybody else who wants to make their home look its best quickly and easily. Home staging is a strategic marketing tool for the biggest return on investment of a home, focusing on renovation and creative design. By creating a lifestyle that buyers will find aspirational, Tori Toth will demonstrate methods of rearranging, organizing and in many cases, adding or editing furniture and home décor. The best, clearest, most helpful information of how to stage a home with and be an immediate success can be found in Tori’ best-selling book "Feel at Home: Home Staging Secrets for a Quick and Easy Sell."