In the Know

Michael B. Bell shares common mistakes when selling a home
By Luke Netzley
Photo by Chris Mortenson

One of the most important decisions someone can make is to move from their home to somewhere new. A house is the haven waiting patiently after a long day, a place to host friends or even raise a family. Though selling a house can be an exciting process for buyer, seller and agent, many of the practices that residential real estate brokers have accepted as industry standards have been found to actually hurt the homeowner’s chances of selling their house.

In his book “Seller Mistakes: What You Were Never Told About Selling Your Home and Why It Should Matter to You,” Pasadena-based residential real estate broker Michael B. Bell recounts key takeaways from his past 20 years as one of the most respected agents in the United States and outlines important steps homeowners and agents should take when looking to sell a house.

“It’s going to be a surprising read for people,” Bell explains. “There are real estate customs that are ingrained in the public’s mind, that you have to do certain things to sell a house. Unfortunately, most of those are continuously promoted by our industry because those customs benefit the Realtor more than the seller.”

Born and raised in La Cañada, Bell was introduced to the real estate world as a young man buying and flipping homes with his grandfather. As his reputation and network grew, Bell formed his own firm and became the youngest practicing broker with Realtors in Pasadena.

Though he enjoyed early success as a broker in his late 20s, Bell found himself unhappy with many aspects of his work.

“In my journey, there were things that I didn’t like about the industry,” Bell says. “There were things that the industry told us we needed to do, and when I started looking at the data with my real-world experience, I realized that a lot of it was not helpful to the homeowner. It actually had huge benefits for the real estate agent, and we are trained in our industry to use each client as an opportunity.”

In contrast to much of the industry, Bell’s mantra was to work for the seller’s benefit, placing the client’s needs above his own. He went on to successfully handle nearly $500 million in sales as a top producer at Sotheby’s International Realty in Pasadena and be named in the top 0.1% of agents in the country by the Wall Street Journal, all while building strong relationships and lifelong friendships within his community.

Bell found that by prioritizing the seller’s needs, he became more successful.

Backed by over two decades of personal experience as well as statistics from the National Association of Realtors and California Association of Realtors, Bell shared his findings in his book, which hit No. 3 on the Wall Street Journal’s bestseller list in September, in the hopes of helping real estate agents and sellers around the world. 

One of the most damaging mistakes that Bell mentions in his book is finding an agent to sell a home. According to the National Association of Realtors, 75% of all sellers don’t interview more than one agent to sell their homes.

“You should always interview at least three agents,” Bell says. “Only 10% of sellers interview three or more agents, and 75% of all sellers don’t use the same agent on their next transaction. Why? It’s because there were mistakes that were made, and they’ve moved on to somebody else. That’s really the basis of the book.”

Another core message within the book is the recognition and utilization of the internet’s ability to attract a multitude of buyers in a short amount of time. According to NAR statistics, over 90% of buyers are going online to search for a new home. By targeting audiences who search online, agents can avoid putting unnecessary time and effort into strategies that are largely outdated, ineffective and potentially dangerous for the homeowner, such as “For Sale” signs and open houses.

“What a lot of Realtors know but a lot of homeowners don’t know is that open houses are incredibly dangerous,” Bell explains, saying that open houses can put homes at risk of theft. “Crazy things happen at open houses that nobody really wants to talk about, but open houses are a great source of leads for Realtors, because guess who I get to meet? The neighbors. I get to use your front room to market myself.”

In the case of the “For Sale” sign, according to NAR data, a sign’s success rate is only 5% for buyers between 29 and 38 years old, the largest buyer of real estate’s demographic, and drops to only 2% or buyers under 29 years old. 

By bringing together a complete and digestible list of common mistakes that can be made when selling a home, Bell is seeking to educate agents and sellers alike while helping homeowners not just find an agent that best suits their needs but also ensure that the agent’s process directly benefits the seller at every stage of the sale.

“Nationwide, the industry average is that 15% to 20% of all homes don’t sell when they’re put on the market,” Bell says. “To think that we all push the same buttons and a price just happens is foolhardy. The skill level of the agent and what they do is really important.”

In addition to being a successful Realtor, Bell is an engaged leader in his community. He and his family organize two food drives a year, with proceeds donated to Pasadena nonprofits — Friends In Deed and Foothill Unity Center. A former Eagle Scout, Bell works with the San Gabriel Valley Council of Boy Scouts of America as a merit badge counselor for nine merit badges. He also participates in Realtors Read Across Pasadena, where local agents visit classrooms and libraries in the Pasadena Unified School District and read to children in kindergarten to fifth grade during the annual Read Across Pasadena.

“Seller Mistakes: What You Were Never Told About Selling Your Home and Why It Should Matter to You” 

by Michael B. Bell is available on Kindle for $4.95,
hardcover for $19.95 and paperback for $14.95 at

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