Learn From Other's Mistakes

Learn From Other's Mistakes


The #1 reason people lose money on their home sale (as in, not getting all the money they could) is underpricing. They think their home is worth ‘x’ dollars without researching the value. They put their house on the market, sell it for less than it’s worth, and never realize their mistake. That is why it’s so critical you have a real understanding of the value of your home in today’s market. A perfect example is the sellers who sold three acres — worth about $300,000 — for only $80,000. They lived about 30 miles away and didn’t realize the development potential the property had. They hired an agent who was unfamiliar with the area and who also didn’t realize the development potential. Their buyer was knowledgeable and experienced with developments. He researched the zoning and discovered the three acres were zoned for high-density condos. The sellers did not know about the zoning, nor did they know the county was planning to build a new road bordering their property. You can see where this one went. In the end, the sellers were not aware they left $200,000-plus on the table until condo-building began.


Banks know that if a buyer makes an unsolicited offer, most of the time, the offer is below fair market value. In one case, a bank lost more than $30,000 on a mistake based on that assumption. Two people were interested in buying a piece of property. It was in an excellent location and unique among properties available in the area. Both buyers were anxious to make an offer before someone else could offer more. Either one of them would have been willing to pay the fair market value of $100,000 for the property. Money was no problem; both buyers had the ability to pay in cash. Unfortunately, the bank refused to take any offers on the property. They would not budge until it was listed on the open market. For some reason, possibly due to an oversight, they put the property on the market for $67,000. First, the bank underpriced the property by $33,000. Second, the hired agent didn’t market it properly. Errors were made in the MLS listing. As a result, it did not show up in search results for other agents who had buyers looking for that type of property. The address was incorrect. As a result, the listing did not show up on any of the real estate websites that use a map display. Finally, the agent neglected to put a sign on the property. (The person who eventually bought it lived down the road and drove past the property every day.) After the bank refused to work with the buyers, each waited for the listing to appear. When it didn’t show up in searches, they gave up. Ultimately, both buyers moved on to find other pieces of land. Meanwhile, the property sat on the market, unnoticed. Because of the agent’s errors, no interest was generated, and the property went into foreclosure. The man who lived nearby knew the bank had been trying to foreclose on the property. He did some research on the foreclosure at the courthouse. He found out the bank had successfully foreclosed on it. Knowing it had to be listed somewhere, he went online and searched through all of the properties for sale until he found the listing. To his surprise, it was priced well below the market. Had the bank and agent not made mistakes, the two originally interested buyers would have made offers and likely started a bidding war. There is a good chance the two buyers would have driven the price up to the fair market value. Most bank-owned properties are priced below market for a reason. Banks will discount homes they sell because they sit empty for months, and the banks typically have no knowledge of their condition. The bank missed a full-price sale and lost $33,000. The property was acres of raw pasture. There were no problems with it. The buyer had lived down the road from it for years and was very familiar with it. He submitted their asking price, and the bank accepted it. He saved $33,000 because the bank’s agent didn’t perform well and substantially underpriced the property. The bank suffered a significant loss.


 There are times when pricing adjustments may need to be considered. For instance, let’s look at Tim and Sue’s situation.

Comparable Home A: $368,000 

Comparable Home B: $349,000

Tim and Sue’s Home: $345,000

Comparable Home C: $345,000

Comparable Home D: $333,000

Comparable Home E: $329,000 

Tim and Sue appear to have priced their home competitively for the market. Over the next month, the market changes.

Comparable Home A: Expired

Tim and Sue’s Home: $345,000

Comparable Home B: $339,000 (Reduced Price)

Comparable Home C: $335,000 (Reduced Price)

Comparable Home D: Sold

Comparable Home E: Pending

Comparable Home F: $326,000 (New Listing)

Comparable Home G: $325,000 (New Listing)

Comparable Home H: $319,000 (New Listing)

Tim and Sue now have the highest priced home in the area in their price range. When a buyer looks at the comparable home prices, it is now the worst value proposition in the marketplace. Most sellers, like Tim and Sue, do not realize the market can shift so far so quickly. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is for you to price your home right the first time. House D sold, and House E had a pending sale from the start.


 Do you see how important it is to know the true value of your home? Moral of the story: Anyone can lose money in the real estate market. A seller unfamiliar with the ever-changing market risks selling the home for less than it’s worth or losing a sale because of incorrect pricing at listing. In most cases, sellers never even realize it. Pricing errors happen to private sellers all the time. Knowing the home’s true value protects you from settling for less money.


 Any real estate transaction can go awry. Out of ignorance, mischief, or larceny, issues can arise to complicate selling the home or cost the seller money. Having a real estate professional involved in the transaction will provide knowledge, dependability, and action.

Preclosing Error: Buyers Moving in Too Soon An agent-represented homeowner was selling a house owned in a small town in Washington State. She accepted a buyer’s offer, moved, and was awaiting the transaction’s closing. The seller found out that the buyers were moving in before the date of closing. The seller called her agent, who contacted the buyers’ agent and noted that the buyers should not have had the keys and definitely should not be moving into the house. (There are several legal reasons for this). The buyers told their agent that they thought it was all right to move in before closing. While the buyers did not get to move in early, they did transfer the utilities to their name well before closing. The agents worked together to explain that the buyers could not turn on the utilities in their name until escrow closed. “I don’t think they ever really understood why, but they did comply,” the seller’s agent said.

Fraudulent Buyers A real estate agent was working for sellers whose house had sat unsold for several months. They were thrilled to get a cash offer for the $400,000 house from a couple. The buyers offered a proof-of-funds letter from a brokerage firm. The buyers’ extended family turned out for the home inspection. It was like a holiday open house. Later, the brokerage informed the agent that the proof-of-funds letter had a forged signature. The would-be buyers vanished. The agent now makes sure she verifies proof of funds and pre-qualification letters.

Homes Not Researche In a transaction without the involvement of real estate agents, a woman purchased a rural home. She found out two years later, at the time she went to list the home, that it had once belonged to a person who was in jail for producing methamphetamine on site! The revelation also obligated the homeowner to take the necessary steps of decontaminating the home and ensuring it was fit for resale, costing her a whopping $16,000 in the process.

Pressure to Sell from Your Own Agent Homeowners were selling a starter home in Washington D.C., circa late 1990s. They were asking $235,000. When they received a $226,000 offer with buyer demands that they cover $6,000 in closing costs, their agent prodded them into strongly considering the offer. Ultimately, they sold for $228,000, while honoring the closing cost request at the behest of their agent. Pre-housing crisis, homes in this neighborhood were selling for between $650,000 and $700,000. “In hindsight, I felt that I’d been negotiating against three people—the buyer, his agent, and my own agent,” said the seller. This is no way for a seller to feel.

Pre-closing Error: Large Bank Deposit Causing Delay  A couple buying a seller’s home deposited $8,000 in cash into their checking account three days before closing. Their father had given them money to buy new furniture and appliances for the house. Their mortgage company checked balances the day before, and it was “dinged,” as it required a gift letter. The father had just gone to Michigan for a hunting/fishing trip, and no one could reach him. This delayed the closing by two weeks.

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