Selling a house can be expensive, but as they say, sometimes you have to spend money to make money. And while real estate agent commission costs are the biggest part of what you stand to pay, there are other costs to be aware of too. In our experience, all told, sellers can pay roughly 8-10% of the home price in closing costs – but your experience may vary slightly to the greater or lesser side. So on a $300,000 house for example, you could expect to pay about $30,000, but there are ways to make that less expensive, as discussed below.
Costs for preparing a home to sell
Hire a house cleaner to do a deep clean, beyond what you would normally do. You’ll also want to have the carpets, floors, and baseboards professionally cleaned and the windows washed.
Staging your home can be accomplished in many different ways, but you should at least declutter, move extra furniture out of the way, and get rid of your personal belongings. The person buying your house doesn’t want to feel you in the house, they want to picture themselves in it.
This is your buyer’s first impression, so make it look great. Add plants, trim the foliage and lawn, shovel the snow or rake the leaves, if needed, and add outside lights where necessary.
Are any home improvements or repairs factored into the cost of selling the house?
Home improvements and repair issues are the main reasons why pending home sales fall through prior to closing.
For home improvements, update your old appliances, etc., where possible so everything is new and up to date, if you haven’t already. Also upgrade to things buyers want in your area now, like for example, a gas fireplace or plantation shutters. Consult your agent if you’re not sure what those items might be.
For home repairs, pre-inspect your home for damaged features, broken appliances, and spaces that need to be refreshed. You’ll know ahead of time about any major issues that need to be addressed, which can help with negotiation with future buyers. The total cost of repairs will vary, based on the condition of your home. Decide what you can do yourself and where you’ll need to hire professional help – get quotes from multiple contractors to determine cost effectiveness.
Negotiating the sale costs
Real estate commissions
Once you’ve moved past the initial steps of making your house ready to sell, your next step is getting an offer from a prospective buyer. After you’ve accepted the offer, you’re in the next phase of the selling process, which usually involves some back and forth negotiation between your agent and the buyer’s agent.
Working with a real estate agent means they handle the selling legwork for you, such as arranging tours, scheduling paperwork, updating your listing, and arranging things like photography of the home and marketing. This saves you time, but these services aren’t free. Traditional realtors will charge you 2.5 to 3% commission of the sale price of the house for these services. Full service, discount brokerages will charge you significantly less for the same services. For example, Trelora charges a low flat fee, which is about $12,500 less than typical commissions on an average home.
A concession means you’ve agreed to pay certain costs for the buyer – average concessions run from 1-2% of the sale price of the house, but this can vary, in order to make the deal easier to close. On a $300,000 home, that will cost you $3,000-$6,000. For example, buyers might ask for help with inspection fees, processing fees, or to make updates to an older home – these could be post-inspection repairs or other items. Another way for the seller to sweeten the deal is with initial set-up and purchase of a home warranty for the buyer. Sellers can also use these concessions as a bargaining tool in a competitive buyer’s market, but in a seller’s market, concessions are not typically as easy to come by for the buyer.
Closing costs are a number of different fees that are paid by both buyers and sellers at the close of a real estate transaction. Sellers typically pay between 1% and 3% on average of the sale price of the home at closing. If you’re hoping to sell your home for $300,000, you could potentially pay $3,000 to $9,000 in closing costs.
Closing costs are usually lower for the seller because there are fewer fees involved. Some of those costs include mortgage payoff, property tax, and transfer taxes. Also give a mind to capital gains taxes hitting your income after you close.
Mortgage payoff and property tax
If you’re still paying a mortgage on your home, you’ll need to pay the balance of your mortgage off at closing, prorated to the date of sale. Check with your mortgage company to see if you have a prepayment penalty too.
By the same token, you’re responsible for the property taxes on your home up until the day of closing, so you’ll be prorated to the date of sale for this as well.
Capital gains and transfer taxes
If you’ve lived in the home for at least two of the last five years, you’ll get a tax break on the profit you make on the sale, up to $250,000 if you’re single or married filing separately, or $500,000 if you’re married, filing jointly. If you’re profiting more than the set amount, or because you’ve lived in the home for less than two years, you may be subject to capital gains tax on your home. Make sure to ask your tax professional about subtracting the costs of preparing the home for sale from your profits to assist with this.
Transfer tax is what you pay when shifting real estate from one person to another. The amount you pay depends on where the sale takes place, as state costs vary.
Other closing costs paid by the seller
Sellers are generally required to pay for a title insurance policy for buyers, which protects their interest in the home if there are issues with a disputed title or outstanding liens. Costs can be in the $1,000-$4,000 range, and come out of your net profits on the deal on closing. This is a function of the home price – more expensive homes have more expensive policies.
Buyers and sellers typically split the cost of escrow services, a third-party company that handles the disbursement of funds in the sale, and can also include extra line items for office expenses, notary services, etc.
Similar to property taxes, if you live in a community with a Homeowner’s Association (HOA), you’ll also be required to pay your dues, prorated up to the close date. There also may be a fee for the transfer of ownership.
If you use the services of an attorney in your transaction, you’ll have to pay them on closing too. Attorneys are required to oversee closings in these areas: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Moving and Home Overlap
It’s up to you to move before the closing or right after. If you’re doing it yourself, it will obviously cost you much less money, however probably it will cost you much more time in packing and transporting. If you use a mover, know that movers charge more for longer distance moves and to transport heavy or bulky items like big furniture pieces, pianos, etc. Seasonal pricing also affects moving costs too, depending on when more people are moving more frequently – i.e. less people move in winter compared to summer, and since demand is lower in the cooler months, it will be cheaper to move then.
If you have many things that need to be thrown away, you may need to pay for either a portable dumpster that can be picked up, or to have someone else haul those items away. And then on top of these things, you may need to pay deposits for electric, gas, water and trash collection at your new home.
Home overlap costs
There’s typically some sort of a transition period between selling your current home and moving into a new one. If you’ve already closed on a new place before selling your current one, it’s possible that you’ll pay mortgages, utility costs, HOA fees, property taxes and homeowners insurance for two houses at once. For example, you should leave your utilities on while your house is on the market for showings and open houses. But shut them off the date you vacate the house, so you can avoid unnecessary payments. Your final utility bills for your current house should be prorated as of the date of sale.
If you haven’t closed on a new place, you’ll need to budget for temporary living arrangements. You’ll also need to pay to have your furniture and other belongings stored until you can settle permanently. And pay for moving a second time too.
Transition costs from moving to home overlap typically add up to about 1-2% of the sale price, assuming a transition period of one month. Again on a home sales price of $300,000, that’s roughly $3,000-$6,000.
One more thing
In closing, yes, selling a house is expensive, but there are a couple of big ways you can save money too. As we mentioned before, traditional realtors will charge you 2.5 to 3% commission of the sale price of the house you are selling. Trelora provides the same service as traditional realtors but charges a low flat fee, which is about $12,500 less than typical commissions on an average home. And if you’re looking to save additional funds on title insurance and escrow fees too, consider Signloc, which has some of the lowest rates in the business.