10 Things You Can’t Do If You Want to SELL Your Michigan Home

Don’t Do It

10. Try to sell “By Owner.” Sorry, I am not just saying this because my livelihood is in selling homes. If you want to sell your home, you need to be where the buyers are. Since about 90% of sales in Metro Detroit involve real estate agents, that is clearly where the buyers are. Additionally, many of the small 10% of non-Realtor transactions are between family members and known parties, making the odds for selling on your own even lower. Transferees coming in to this market always work with a Realtor.

9. Defer maintenence items. If something is broken, FIX IT. Period. Buyers today have lots to chose from and they don’t want your problems.

8. Leave “updates” like removing gold flocked wallpaper to the buyer so that they can “put in what they want.” In many price ranges, older homes are competing against nearby new construction that shows very well. Your gold flocked wallpaper will be laughed at during the showing and the “pottery barn perfect” home down the street will get the offer

7. Listen to your neighbors when they tell you to price your home a little higher. Clearly they want to protect their investment and you don’t want to “sell cheap” but if property values are falling then that is the market.

6. Hire your mom’s best friend Sally to represent you. If Sally tells you she does not know anything about the local market because she lives and works in Monroe, trust her judgment and hire someone who knows what they are doing.

5. Leave your Star Trek action figure collection set up in the den. Highly personal items are a distraction for home buyers. As much as you may love that collection, you’ll love it even more in your new home. You want them to remember your house, not Dr. Spock.

4. Ask your real estate agent to cut his commission. Sorry, I know that sounds self serving too, but think about it. Right now there is a surplus of homes for sale. Most listing agents have the highest level of inventory they have ever had. Many agents are turning away sellers. A Realtor’s costs for selling a home right now have increased as we have to advertise more (longer) and work harder on each transaction. If your agent agrees to a reduction in his or her commission, how hard do you think he is going to work at selling your home. And if he cannot justify his own commission do you think he will be the best negotiator when an offer comes in?

3. Make showings inconvenient for the buyer. Sorry, but every showing right now is more valuable than your family dinner. Pack up the kids and head over to Salvatore Scallopini’s or something. Don’t refuse a showing because, in all likelihood, that buyer will never come back and you have just missed your one opportunity to have him see your home. Selling a home is inconvenient.

2. Hire an agent without a strong marketing plan. Buyers are looking on the web. Can you find your agent on the web? If not, do you think buyers can find your home? Read our “Dear Mr. & Mrs. Seller” series for many other thoughts on marketing a home successfully.

And finally, the most important of all:

1. “Test the market” “Tell them to bring offers” Pricing is critical in this market. You will miss showings if you are not in the right price range. Buyers won’t write offers if they are not seeing your home because it is priced above the range they are looking. We’ve been successful getting quick offers on homes that were priced just slightly below the competition. Our sellers netted more than their neighbors who still have for sale signs in their yards months later because their home was priced a bit too high. This is not a market for testing. What you ‘want’ or ‘need’ out of a house, unfortunately, is irrelevant to a buyer.

Sounds like tough love, but there are lots of things the right agent can do to help you position your home successfully against the competition. In many market segments we have more than 2 years inventory that you will be competing against. The details matter. Good advice and implementation of a good marketing strategy will help get your home sold. Be informed and prepared and you will be a Seller not a homeowner with a “for sale” sign in the yard. The difference is huge.

[tags]michigan homes for sale, oakland county homes for sale, selling a home[/tags]


  1. says

    All great advice Maureen.

    Though on point #5, I think you perhaps underestimate the benefits of a single well placed Jean-Luc Picard figurine. Damn that man is sexy.

  2. says

    Athol, you are cracking me up.

    Tony, your mom told me she is getting tired of it and she wants you to move it back in to your room. Sorry, I could not resist.

  3. says

    You should market this list. I can see it now… mugs, wall plaques, embroidered into blankets. Agents from all over the world will pay big bucks to be surrounded by that kind of wisdom. That post, my friend, is the real estate gospel!
    Feel better soon… I miss you!

  4. says

    Maureen ~ good advice to sellers who actually want to sell. It always amazes me how some sellers think their home is somehow “different” and they don’t have to live by the rules. The rules work and cannot be ignored, at least not if you want a sale. Now if the seller’s just trying to “test the market” that’s another story.

  5. says

    ..well…I kind of like inconvienent showings – it sort of give me justification to open the medicine cabinets.

    But serious. a state makreting plan should be #1 on your list – I mean. it’s really close…

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Stay tuned for more irreverence.


  6. says

    These are all excellant, especially #10 I have a friend thats trying to sell his home for sale by owner. Its a brand new house, just built, its a 3 bedroom 2 bath and its priced way below its value in my opinion and he hasnt had any offers or anyone to see the house. There is another home for sale in my subdivision with a realtor and they are getting a ton of drive buys and showing requests. The price is way to high 2 bed 1 bath really small and that house will close in a couple months.

    If your a seller. HIGHER A REALTOR.

  7. says

    Maureen: This is right on. Especially number 1 – Testing the waters. No matter what area you live in now is not the time to be testing the water.

  8. says

    Maureen – I love your articles with tips for sellers – it’s that time of year when people are thinking of selling – I wish they could all read this list first!

  9. says

    Maureen – A great list. My personal nightmare is the seller who wants to test the market. Not only do they miss the first couple weeks of activity and give the impression of “something’s wrong with that house”, but it wears ME out every time I ask the seller to reduce the price! When we were presenting offers over list price, real estate agents were accused of wanting a higher commission. Now, when we are suggesting decreases in list price, I don’t hear any similar comments about my commission being lower if the price is lower! It’s a one sided world for sure!

    Bonnie Erickson’s last blog post..Financial Market Confusion Helps Bad Guys

  10. says


    I am actually seeing some upward pressure on real estate commissions. As fewer sales take place, sellers seem willing to pay more. Just an observation.

    Yes, testing is no fun for anyone. It ends up hurting the seller more than they realize.

  11. says

    I agree with #7. A property I own was located near a dead end. That area was later developed and the last homes in my neighborhood became the first homes of the new neighborhood.

    The newer homes sported panelled subzeros, trough sinks in the kitchen, granite everything, in-wall vacuums, pull out trash compactors (selling kitchens, you can guess), rough stone heated floors, and all of this with small back deck areas, damp basements (!) and small bedrooms.

    The neighbors in my development immediately started redoing their kitchens, with granite everything, etc. I guess they wanted to keep up with the value of the newer homes built on the new ancillary street. I think it will work. I didn’t redo my kitchen, I see no need to rip out what I had, just to keep up.

  12. says

    I agree with your points. My frustration is with the agents and potential buyers. We have had several things broken during showings, copious amounts of mud tracked not just on my wood floors, but on white carpet, driving on the wet grass and leaving their trash on kitchen counters or on the deck. Believe me, if we hadn’t been relocated for my husband’s job, we would take it off the market. What happened to common courtesy and good manners. We average a showing a day and I dread walking back in each time.

  13. Sherry says

    I agree with Kathi. What happened to common courtesy? I had the same experience in my home when listed for sale and I took it off the market. People who arent even interested find the need to turn all of your lights on, track in debris from every door, and even break things. I had a prescription of Vicadin stolen from my medicine cabinet. Really? What are the agents doing while showing the house? Is there no monitoring of what people are doing.

  14. Chris says

    My agent scheduled the final walk-through just before the closing. As we were leaving, one of the other condo co-owners approached me and asked me if I was looking for a place. I told her I was ready to close. When I was looking for a condo, there were six units on the market (none foreclosure or short sale) from $42.9K to $92.5K. Guess which one I bought. This lady had the $92.5K one. The listing showed lots of pictures outside, but none inside, even though it said it had be updated in 2006.

    She bought the condo for $92K in 2006. She’s had the condo on the market for six months, has not decluttered (has her aunt’s furniture and hers in a 906 sq ft condo), and says she was willing to look at all offers, but also told me she’s not willing to take half what she paid for it. She said she’d wait a few years for the market to come back up. The lady is retired and her health is starting to fail. Is she really going to be alive when “the market is back up”? This is Livonia.

    She wouldn’t have wanted my offer. I could only afford to pay half of what she paid. I was a cash buyer. If I could buy a condo with cash, who would I take out a mortgage to pay more for the same layout condo in the same complex? There’s nothing wrong with the condo I bought. It was clean and in good condition. The seller’s stuff was already out.

    What’s going to happen: She’s either going to end up in a nursing home or dead, and her kids will have to deal with it. And they will “give away” all the furniture (or throw it out) and will sell it cheap so they can be done with it. Only the market might be $30K by then. If she doesn’t want to sell and she wants to appease her kids “to try,” she’s not fooling anyone, but at least declutter …

    Sorry for the rant.

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