Selling a house can be expensive, but as they say, sometimes you have to spend money to make money. 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, sellers pay roughly 8-10% of the home price in closing costs. But this can vary dependent on your specific situation. For example, when selling a $300,000 house, you can expect to pay about $30,000. There are ways to make this process less expensive for sellers, it just takes a little search.
Costs of preparing a home to sell
Hire a cleaning service to do a deep clean, beyond what you would normally do. Don’t forget the carpets, floors, and baseboards. Consider having the windows washed as well.
There are a variety of ways to stage your home, but decluttering is a great place to start. Move extra furniture out of the way, and put personal belongings away. Typically the person buying your house doesn’t want to feel you in the house, they want to picture themselves there.
Your yard is a buyer’s first impression, so it’s important to make it look great. Many don’t consider landscaping in the cost to sell a house, but this is a great way to add curb appeal to your home. At the very least, consider adding plants and trim the foliage and lawn. Dependent on the season, shovel the snow or rake the leaves, and add outside lights where necessary.
What repairs are factored into the cost of selling a house?
Home improvements and repair issues are the main reasons why pending home sales fall through prior to closing.
For home improvements, start by updating old appliances to ensure everything is in working order. Also, understand what buyers are looking for in your area, for example, a wood burning stove or plantation shutters. Consult your agent if you’re not sure what those items might be.
It’s important to consider repair expenses in the cost to sell a house. Start by pre-inspecting your home for damaged features, broken appliances, and spaces that need to be refreshed. This way, you’re aware of any major issues that need to be addressed. In turn, this can help in negotiating 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, be sure to get quotes from multiple contractors to determine cost effectiveness.
Negotiating the Cost to Sell a House
Real estate commissions
Once you’ve moved past the initial steps in making your house ready to sell, the next step is getting an offer from a prospective buyer. After you’ve accepted the offer, comes the next phase of the selling process. This 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. This includes 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 and need to be considered in the cost to sell a house. Traditional realtors will charge you 2.5 to 3% commission of the home’s sale price for these services. Full service, flat fee 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. However, this can vary in order to make the deal easier to close. On a $300,000 home, sellers pay $3,000-$6,000 in concessions. 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.
You may already be aware that closing costs make up a large part of the cost to sell a home. 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. This is in addition to what you’re paying a traditional real estate agent to handle the sale of your home.
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.
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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.
With that, 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. This is 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 Expenses to Note
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 at closing. This is a function of the home price, which means more expensive homes have more expensive policies.
A third-party company handles the disbursement of funds in the sale, and can also include extra line items for office expenses, notary services, etc. Buyers and sellers typically split the cost of escrow services.
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. Note that there may be a fee for the transfer of ownership as well.
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, 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 included in the cost to sell a house, and will 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
The cost to sell a house can be expensive, but there are a couple of big ways you can save money too. Traditional realtors will charge you 2.5 to 3% commission of the sale price of the house you are selling. Trelora, modern discount real estate, 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.