Recently updated on August 22nd, 2023 at 07:27 pm
Selling a house can be a surprisingly expensive project. If you own a house worth $260,000 — a typical value for houses in the US in November 2020, according to Zillow — you could end up paying upwards of $30,000 in expenses when you sell your property.
The prospect of forking over more than 10% of your total sale price for various fees and services is no minor matter. But how much does it cost to sell a house? Where do they come from? And more importantly, is there anything you can do to cut down on them? Let’s look at some of the most common expenses that sellers may incur.
Do You Want To Sell A Home And Save On Commissions?
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- Sell It Yourself With Our Flat Fee MLS Listings
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Home Selling Costs Breakdown
When you’re selling a house, it can help to know what expenses to plan for so you won’t be hit with sticker shock at the end of the sale. Plus, you’ll be in a position to make informed decisions about which of these expenses are necessary and which can be reduced or eliminated.
Typical costs for sellers may include real estate agent commissions, home repairs or renovations, staging, inspections, and various closing costs. We’ll discuss each of these in more detail.
Real Estate Agent Commissions (~5-7% of Sale Price)
If you’re using a realtor to sell your home, he or she will typically charge a portion of the sale price as payment for their services. Sellers usually pay the commission for their own real estate agent as well as the buyer’s, which together can add up to 5-7% of the sale price. In the case of a $260,000 home, that’s up to $18,200.
At that price, you might be wondering if it’s worth paying for a real estate agent at all. But realtors provide incredibly valuable services for homeowners who are looking to sell. They can save you a tremendous amount of time and hassle by showing your home to possible buyers, maintaining your listing, taking care of necessary documentation, and offering expert advice. A skilled real estate agent can also negotiate for more money than you’d be able to earn on your own.
Most sellers choose to work with a realtor despite the cost because they can help make the sale a lot easier for you. To cut down on this expense, you can try negotiating a lower commission rate with your real estate agent. They might be willing to cut you a deal, particularly if you live in a strong housing market or you expect your home to sell for a higher-than-average price.
Home Staging (~1% of Sale Price)
Sprucing up your house before selling can make it more attractive for prospective buyers. By some estimates, staged homes typically sell 88% faster and for a 20% higher price than homes that aren’t staged. So it could be well worth investing in some new flooring, updated furniture, or decorative touches to help your home look its best for showings.
While not all sellers stage their homes, staging can help highlight your house’s best features, make a strong impression on possible buyers, and maximize your selling price. According to Investopedia, some of the key rooms to consider staging include your:
- Living room
- Master bedroom
- Yard and patio
The cost of staging your house depends on how many updates are needed and how you go about getting the work done. You can hire a professional stager to rearrange your furniture and decor, clear out clutter, and remove personal touches from your space so that your buyers can envision themselves living there. Although their services can run you several thousand dollars, you might recoup that cost when you sell your house at a higher price.
To save money, you can also do the staging yourself — but you may still end up spending a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on new furniture, appliances, and decorations, all of which can increase the value of your home. If you don’t want to spend the money on these items, at the very least, make sure your space is clean, tidy, and fresh-smelling before showings begin.
Pre-Sale Home Inspection (~$500-$800)
You can choose to have your house inspected before selling, but it’s entirely up to you. Buyers usually bring in an inspector before finalizing the purchase, so you are not required to have your own inspection done first. However, some sellers like to cover all of their bases and learn about any potential problems ahead of time.
A pre-sale inspection could reveal that your roof, HVAC, plumbing, or other essential features need significant repairs. If your house does have issues such as these, you have the option to get them fixed early so that they don’t hinder the sale from moving forward — or worse, scare away potential buyers.
Major Repairs (varies)
Repairs can become a major factor when determining how much it costs to sell a house. If your or the buyer’s inspection turns up some major problems, you’ll need to pay to have those fixed. A newer house might need few or no repairs, but older places usually need at least a little bit of fixing up. Unfortunately, this expense usually falls into the “unavoidable” category, and the work could cost you from around $4,000 to $20,000, depending on what repairs are needed.
But maybe you’re lucky, and your home doesn’t need any major repairs. Even then, you might choose to renovate rooms such as your kitchen or bathrooms, landscape your yard, or give the exterior a makeover. Although large-scale renovations can be quite pricey, they can significantly boost your home’s value on the market.
The price you might pay for renovations on your house depends on your square footage, the type of house you have, and how many rooms you’d like to have upgraded. Home Advisor estimates that the average cost to renovate a 2000-square-foot house is about $50,000, but could range from $20,000-$120,000.
Ultimately, only you can decide whether you want to do a major remodel on your home. If you have a renovation project in mind, take a look at your budget and decide how much you’re willing to spend versus how much you anticipate your home’s value increasing after the work is completed. Check with your realtor to get a sense of how much value this upgrade would add to your house before deciding to move forward with it.We Negotiated Discounts With Great Agents. Find One In Your Area.
Should You Consider an As-Is Sale?
If you are unwilling or unable to take on the expense of major repairs on your house, you could decide to list your house “as-is.” Selling your home this way makes it clear to buyers that the house is for sale in its current condition and that you won’t be paying for any repairs.
The biggest upside of selling as-is? You won’t incur the expenses of pricey upgrades or renovations. You can potentially get your house on the market more quickly, too, since you don’t have to invest time in making repairs. Plus, it’ll save you the hassle of having to negotiate with the buyer on possible concessions.
On the flip side, though, if your house needs repairs, it won’t be worth as much, and you won’t be able to ask for as high of a selling price. You might also receive fewer offers, so it could take longer to sell. Still, selling your home as-is can be a viable solution if you want to make the sale as simple and easy as possible.
Cosmetic Repairs (Varies)
Compared with big repairs and renovation projects, cosmetic work is usually a much more minor expense but can still freshen up the vibe in your house. Cosmetic repairs can encompass anything from painting your walls or changing your light fixtures or carpet to upgrading your kitchen cabinets and countertops.
While some of these repairs can cost a few thousand dollars, others are relatively inexpensive and easy to do yourself.
Painting is a perfect DIY project for a weekend day — it can be as simple as going to your local hardware store, picking up paint and basic supplies, and then spending a few hours working in one or two rooms.
You could do your own deep cleaning of the whole house, or hire a professional cleaner for about $200-$400. Having windows or mirrors cleaned can also go a long way towards making your house more inviting for potential buyers.
There’s no rule saying that you have to invest in cosmetic repairs before selling, but many of them are simple ways to potentially improve your house’s value without having to spend a lot of money.
Closing Costs (~1-3% of Sale Price but really varies for each seller)
While closing costs usually fall on the buyer’s shoulders, you can potentially speed up the process of selling your house and getting the money you’re owed if you agree to pay some or all of these expenses.
In booming markets where buyers are already competing for scarce housing options, it might not be necessary or in your interest to pay for these costs. But if you expect to have fewer potential buyers, offering to cover closing expenses could attract more bids and possibly help your house sell more quickly. In addition, the increased competition could get you a higher price to offset your additional expense.
Closing costs include all of the taxes, fees, and other expenses due on closing day — such as property taxes, title insurance, seller concessions, and HOA fees. Let’s outline some of the most common ones you might pay for when selling your home.
Local Transfer Tax (Varies)
When a property owner transfers a real estate title to someone else, the new owner pays a transfer tax to the local state, county, or municipality. The amount owed will depend on where you live; in some states, you’ll pay a percentage of the sale price (possibly up to 5%), while other areas charge a flat rate. A handful of states have no transfer tax.
The amount could vary considerably — between zero and tens of thousands of dollars — so if you are considering paying this closing cost for your buyer, make sure to research your state’s laws to get an idea of how much you can expect to pay.
Attorney Fees ($500-$1,000)
Real estate attorneys are legally required to supervise closings in some states. In other areas, homebuyers can choose to hire an attorney for legal support throughout the purchasing process.
In either case, if your buyer uses an attorney’s services, their fees — usually $500-$1,000 — are considered a closing cost, and you may end up footing the bill.
Recording Fees (varies)
Anytime a piece of real estate changes hands, the local government documents the sale for public record. The buyer will typically pay a recording fee to register the transaction with the county where it took place.
Recording fees vary by county but usually range from $20-$250. This expense is fairly minor compared with other closing costs that you might pay.
Remaining Mortgage Balance (varies)
Once you sell your house, you’ll need to pay back any remaining amount that you owe on your mortgage. How much you owe depends on the amount of your loan and your current equity.
When you go to pay off your mortgage, anticipate paying a little more than the payoff balance from your loan statement. You may need to factor in prorated interest or a prepayment penalty if either of those apply. Check with your loan servicer to find out exactly how much you’ll be expected to pay.
Seller Concessions (~1-3%)
As part of the negotiations during the sale, your buyer might ask you to pay other expenses for them. For example, if an inspection shows that repairs are needed, assuming you aren’t selling the house as-is, you may either have to pay for the repairs or lower the selling price to persuade the buyer to close on your home.
While you may or may not need to make concessions in your sale, if you do make them, they could cost up to 1-3% of your sale price.We Negotiated Discounts With Great Real Estate Agents. Find One In Your Area.
Moving Costs (~1-2% of Sale Price)
Moving your furniture and belongings to your new home can be expensive. How much you’ll pay depends on factors such as how far away you’re going, how many items you need to transport, what time of year you want to move, and whether you’ll hire movers or do it all yourself.
Not surprisingly, long-distance moves can be especially pricey. Regardless of whether you’re renting a moving truck or hiring movers, you’ll end up paying for the extra mileage. Unfortunately, the only way to cut down on this expense is to move locally rather than far away, which may or may not be a viable option for you.
Moving Your Belongings
You’ll also pay more when you have a lot of household items that need to be moved — you’ll either need to spend extra on renting a bigger moving truck or pay professional movers for more hours of their time. Or, you may have to pay to keep some of your things in storage. Regardless, cutting down on excess belongings before you move can save you a lot of time and money.
To get rid of unwanted items, you may want to hold a garage sale — while you probably won’t bring in a ton of cash from selling old stuff, you should at least get a little pocket change. If you don’t want to mess with holding a sale, you can simply dispose of what you don’t need. You could pay for a rollaway dumpster, recycle or repurpose unwanted belongings, or hire someone to haul everything off to the dump.
Moving Trucks and Movers
The timing of your move can also hugely impact the cost. Movers and trucks are typically in high demand during the summer months, so their rates can be much steeper than at other times of the year. If possible, plan your move during the non-peak season and you’ll be able to minimize your costs.
Finally, there is the question of whether you’ll hire professional help for your move. Movers can make your move much easier and less stressful, but they come at a price: they usually charge $25 to $50 an hour, and depending on the size of your house, their fees could easily add up to $700-$2000 or more.
You could potentially cut down on your expenses by choosing a DIY move. It may be more work for you and your family, and you’ll still have to rent a truck and pay for your mileage and gas. You may also need to pick up moving supplies such as boxes, tape, packing materials, surface covers, and padding. But at the very least, you won’t be paying for the labor of moving.
Because there are so many factors that affect your moving costs, it can be hard to tell exactly how much you should plan on spending. We estimate that it could be 1-2% of the sale price of your home. If in doubt, you can always request quotes for movers, truck rentals, or other services based on the specific details of your move.
Buyers Home Warranty ($350-$1000)
To entice a potential buyer to purchase your home, you might consider offering to pay for a home warranty on their behalf. Warranties can help pay for expenses such as repairing or replacing appliances, plumbing, electrical work, and HVAC.
You have a couple of options here. You can protect your buyer from being slapped with unexpected repair bills right away with a warranty for the time leading up to your closing. Or, if you want to give them an even better deal, you could pay for a one or two-year warranty. While you don’t have to offer a warranty as part of the purchase, it could help an undecided buyer make up their mind.
Capital Gains Tax (Varies and Not Always Applicable)
You should only owe a capital gains tax if you were able to sell your home for a higher price than you paid to buy it. Whatever amount of profit you made from the sale is considered a capital gain, and it’s treated similarly to income for federal tax purposes.
That being said, you might be eligible for a tax break of up to $250,000 (if you’re single) or $500,000 (if you’re married) as long as you lived in the house for at least two out of the past five years. You also cannot have used the tax exemption within the previous two years. Consult an accountant or tax professional to learn whether you should anticipate paying a capital gains tax.
Reducing Your Home Selling Costs
There are an awful lot of expenses associated with selling your house, and unfortunately, many of them are unavoidable. However, savvy sellers can take steps to cut down on these costs, making it easier to pay off prior mortgages and put some extra money into savings. Here are some of our favorite ways to sell your home as inexpensively as possible.
DIY Home Repairs
If you don’t mind putting in a little elbow grease, doing certain home repairs yourself can cut your costs way down. There are plenty of things you can do to fix up your house without paying for a professional to do the work. Some easy DIY projects may include:
- Interior painting
- Fixing minor issues with pipes or toilets
- Spackling over holes in drywall
- Replacing faucets
- Cleaning gutters
- Sealing windows or doors
- Grouting tiles
Discount Real Estate Agents
If you’d like to use a realtor’s services but are leery of the cost, consider working with a discount real estate agent. These professionals offer fewer services than a typical realtor — in some cases, they won’t do much more than list your house on the market. However, they’ll take a much lower commission of your sale price, sometimes even as low as 1%.
Not sure you need a realtor’s help with selling your home? You could consider listing your house as For Sale by Owner (FSBO). You won’t get any of the services that a real estate agent could offer, so selling your home this way can be challenging and time-consuming — but you won’t have to pay thousands of dollars for a real estate agent’s commission. However, if your buyer is working with a realtor, you could still end up paying their fees.
Flat Fee MLS
If you decide to go the FSBO route, you can pay a flat fee to list your home on a local multiple listing service (MLS) — a service that realtors use to list and share properties. Using an MLS can get your home visibility on big real estate sites such as Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow, which are very important sites when selling online.
We put together the video below for you to watch that shows you everything you need to know about how to list your house on the MLS without a Realtor.
iBuyers and We Buy Houses Companies
Another independent option for sellers is to sell to a company that buys houses. With these services, you can learn the market value of your home and receive cash offers from instant real estate buyers (iBuyers) such as OpenDoor, Zillow Offers, and Knock.
When selling to an investor company, you don’t have to worry about staging, repairs, or negotiating with potential buyers — you just might not get as high of a price as you would from a traditional sale.
Efficient Moving Tips
There are many ways to reduce your moving costs, some of which we’ve already discussed. Here are a few more ideas for saving some cash:
- Collecting and saving old moving boxes
- Borrowing packing materials from others
- Asking for moving help from family and friends
- Comparing quotes if hiring professional movers
- Looking for deals on moving truck or storage unit rentals
How much does it cost to sell a house? The answer varies. Although it can be costly, it doesn’t necessarily have to be as costly as it could be — with a little bit of knowledge and preparation, you’ll be able to cut down on or eliminate many of these expenses. That means more money for you and your family’s needs.