It pains me to say, but there are too many sellers in the real estate industry who are prone to committing costly mistakes. The sad part, however, is that the majority of the selling mistakes made are entirely avoidable but nonetheless devastating. Don’t fall pray to avoidable mistakes like those who have come before you.

  • There's always a chance of danger, so be sure to secure a home that is for sale.
  • There is one cardinal rule that sellers can't afford to ignore: the power of the first impression.
  • Sizzle features are the luxury improvements made usually to a kitchen or bathroom.

It pains me to say, but there are too many sellers in the real estate industry who are prone to committing costly mistakes. The sad part, however, is that the majority of the selling mistakes made are entirely avoidable but nonetheless devastating. Don’t fall pray to avoidable mistakes like those who have come before you.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes sellers make in today’s market and the best ways to avoid making them yourself when it comes time to sell your next home.

Neglecting to secure the property

Security is, and always will be, an issue for anyone dealing in real estate. For as long as there are tangible assets at stake, threats will proceed to loom around every corner. To think otherwise is to practice ignorance.

That said, negligence is never an excuse when there is something as expensive as a house on the line. Why take any chances — especially when keeping the property safe is as simple as implementing a few security measures?

Whether you are an investor trying to flip your 11th property or you are simply selling for the first time, chances are you have a lot riding on the upcoming transaction. Don’t let something that is entirely preventable ruin what should be a momentous occasion. Let’s take a look at a few of the security measures I currently use to keep unwanted trespassers out of the homes I intend to sell:


Lockboxes, to this day, are a rather elegant solution to what I consider to be an antiquated problem. These little devices, for what they’re worth, are the gatekeepers to your property while you are away. With the proper due diligence, it’s entirely possible to control the traffic that is granted access to a home.

And trust me, with everything that takes place before selling a property, you will want to regulate who is allowed to go inside. Remember, you need to account for any work that is being done to the home to prep it for sale, in addition to any agents and prospective buyers that might come along. Simply put, the home must remain accessible to a select group of people. The trick is to limit those who are granted access.


I can honestly say that deception is one of the cheapest and best preventative measures you can take to protect your property. If for nothing else, giving off the impression that someone is in the home is a surefire way to prevent a break-in.

I have had a lot of success with dusk-to-dawn lights. Place one in the front yard and another in the back. That way the most obvious entry points are lit up when they need to be. Of course, it’s not enough to stop with the exterior; proceed to place lights in various rooms throughout the home.

The key, however, is to hook said light fixtures up to timers. Remember, lighting a home serves one purpose: deception. Give off the impression that the property is occupied.

Radio noise

Not unlike illuminating the home during all hours of the night, radio noise can give the impression that someone is inside. Despite its simplicity, a little radio noise can go a long way in deterring those with mal-intent. At the very least, it will turn away any would-be intruders who are looking for an easy score. I recommend leaving the radio on all night.

Alarm system

Although anything but revolutionary, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the most obvious security measure: the alarm system. That said, there is no reason to spend your entire budget on a state-of-the-art alarm; a portable one will do just fine and can be used multiple times.

The mere placement of an alarm system sign (something to suggest the house is equipped with security measures) will deter unwanted visitors. You can even take it one step further; faux security cameras give off the impression the house will be much more difficult to break into.

It’s worth repeating; each of these security measures is nothing more than a deterrent. They will not prevent anyone from getting into the home, but they can significantly reduce the chances of your home becoming a target.

At little to no cost to your budget, these measures are entirely worth the investment. Remember, one break-in has the potential to cripple a sale.

Thinking landscaping doesn’t matter

Selling a home is a complex process with many moving parts, but there is one cardinal rule that sellers can’t afford to ignore: the power of the first impression.

Buyers will decide whether or not they should inquire further based solely on the curb appeal of a property — and I for one can’t blame them.

A well-maintained front yard suggests that the rest of the home was treated with similar regard. Consequently, a poorly maintained front yard can just as easily turn people away. There is no excuse for neglecting to landscape your front yard before selling. You are only hurting yourself — and your bottom line — if you don’t.

Although you don’t have to turn your front yard into a tropical oasis, it wouldn’t hurt to:

  • Replace old grass with new, fresh sod.
  • Work from the outside in. The sooner your landscaping looks nice, the sooner you can start marketing your property. That’s right, go ahead and work on the front yard before even touching the inside.
  • Use plants that are indigenous to the area, as they will be easier and cheaper to maintain.
  • Add flats of annuals to infuse a little color into the yard.
  • Apply a fresh layer of mulch in all garden beds.

You need to understand that the exterior speaks volumes about a home. Proper maintenance and upkeep of the front yard landscaping can go a long way in convincing potential buyers that the house is for them.

There is no other way to look at it. Failing to maintain the landscaping can prevent a home from being seen by the right buyers, and thus landed on my list as one of the biggest mistakes a seller can make.

Failing to include “sizzle” features

I am always shocked at a number of sellers that fail to realize how important it is to make the home stand out from the competition. That said, if you are doing nothing to separate yourself from your competitors, prospective buyers might never come to the realization that your home is even an option.

In their eyes, the home is just one of many cookie-cutter properties that aren’t worth looking into. That said, it’s up to you to convince them otherwise. If it doesn’t stand out, how will they ever find it? The answer is rather simple: “sizzle” features.

Sizzle features are the improvements made to a property that aren’t necessary but rather more of a luxury. They are essentially the features that hook buyers and keep your property at the forefront of home searches. There might be no better way, at least that I am aware of, for buyers to envision themselves living in the home.

Far too many sellers neglect to incorporate sizzle features into their homes. Even more forget to advertise the sizzle features they do have, which is just as bad. There is no easier way to make sure your property gets glossed over in the sea of available homes.

Of course, you can’t add just any old feature; there is a method to the madness. Sellers are advised to stick to certain rooms when adding sizzle features.

There are no two rooms more deserving of special features than kitchens and bathrooms. After all, these are the rooms that sell homes. Any attempt to add a sizzle feature should take place in one or both of these areas.

Here are a few of the sizzle features I like to use in my projects:

  • Under-cabinet lighting
  • Granite countertops
  • Double oven
  • A flat-screen TV mounted in the kitchen (who wouldn’t love that?)
  • Wine fridge
  • Jacuzzi tub
  • Rain showerheads
  • Heated floors

The list could go on forever. The key is to make the home slightly better than those around it and to highlight said features when it comes time to sell. And here’s the best part; sizzle features not only help you find a buyer, but they also harbor the potential to sell your home for more. The right features can tack on some extra dollars to any sale.

It breaks my heart to know that each of these mistakes are entirely avoidable, yet far too many sellers are committing them. However, I hope that you can take what you have learned here and apply it to your next home sale. Learn from the mistakes of others, and understand that avoiding mistakes is just as important as making the right moves.

Than Merrill is the founder and CEO of FortuneBuilders and CT Homes. Connect with Than on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @ThanMerrill.

Email Than Merrill.

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