Most recent first-time home sellers think they made one of these 4 mistakes — and they think it cost them

Rookie mistakes: Zillow survey reveals four common regrets of recent first-time sellers

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A new Zillow® survey finds that 84% of Americans who sold their home for the first time in the past two years wish they had done at least one thing differently — and 87% think doing something differently would have helped get them a higher sale price. If you’re thinking about listing your home for sale, steer clear of these rookie mistakes to get top dollar for your home.

Regret No. 1: Pricing incorrectly

The No. 1 recent first-time seller regret is asking too low of a listing price for their home (39%). During the height of the pandemic, some homes were selling at sky-high prices, leaving some sellers wishing they had listed their homes for more. 

Today, the market is very different. Listing your home for too high of a price could cause it to sit on the market longer. The median time on the market is now 73 days, but well-priced listings only take 31 days to find a buyer. A high list price might also result in having to cut the asking price down the road. In January, nearly one-quarter of listings had a price cut (22%); that’s 10 percentage points higher than last winter. Pricing your home correctly is a must; nearly 75% of real estate agents believe pricing is the most critical thing sellers need to get right in a less frenzied housing market

“This spring’s sellers are more likely to regret pricing their home too high,” says Zillow senior economist Nicole Bachaud. “The price their neighbor commanded a year ago may no longer be realistic.”

To avoid this regret: Get good advice. Says Bachaud, “Home sellers need to adjust their expectations if they want to avoid having their home linger on the market. It’s more important than ever for sellers to rely on the advice of a great local agent who understands their neighborhood and has a winning pricing strategy.”

Find an expert agent who knows your local market by using Zillow’s agent finder.

Regret No. 2: Ignoring online curb appeal

Eighty-seven percent of the first-time sellers surveyed think that there was something that could have helped them get a higher sale price for their home. Nearly 40% believe better listing photos could have boosted their bottom line, while 25% think a virtual tour could have upped their selling price. 

To avoid this regret: Don’t neglect your home’s online “curb appeal.” To better display a home’s best features for online home shoppers, Zillow offers a listing media package that includes high-resolution photography as well as drone footage. A 3D virtual tour or an interactive floor plan also go a long way toward portraying a house to its fullest potential. These tech tools can really pay off; on Zillow, homes with a virtual 3D Home tour or interactive floor plan receive 69% more page views and 80% more saves.

Regret No. 3: Bad timing

One-quarter of recent first-time home sellers (25%) wish they had listed their home at a different time. The ideal time to sell your home doesn’t always align with what is best in relation to the housing market, but if you have the flexibility to choose when to sell your home, do it in April, suggests Zillow research.

One of the biggest stressors of selling your home is timing it with the purchase of a new one. More than one-third of recent first-time sellers (36%) wish they had known how long the selling process would take. 

To avoid this regret: Explore all of your options. A recently announced program allows home sellers who start their journey on Zillow to simultaneously request both a cash offer from Opendoor and an estimate of what their home could sell for on the open market with a local Zillow Premier Agent partner. (The program is now available for sellers in Atlanta, Raleigh, Houston, Dallas and Phoenix, and will be coming soon to additional markets nationwide.) 

Regret No. 4: Skimping on repairs

With a smaller pool of buyers this spring home shopping season, sellers need to spruce up their homes to compete. More than one-quarter of recent first-time sellers think they could have gotten a higher sale price for their home if they had invested in more home improvements and repairs. Roughly two-thirds (65%) of recent sellers took on at least two home improvement projects to prepare their home for sale. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed believe the projects they completed helped to sell their home. 

To avoid this regret: Think strategically about your return on investment before diving into repairs and renovations. “The right projects can pay off,” says Zillow home trends expert Amanda Pendleton. “Landscaping, interior painting and carpet cleaning are the most commonly completed seller projects for good reason. They boost online curb appeal and send a powerful signal to a buyer that a home is well-maintained.”

Related: Visit Zillow’s seller’s guide for more information and resources.