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How much money do you keep when you sell your home?

How much money do you keep when you sell your home
Dean Mitchell/Getty Images
How much money do you keep when you sell your home
Dean Mitchell/Getty Images

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The real estate market has been incredibly hot in recent years. 2021 alone saw more than 6.9 million home sales in the U.S., and many say that it’s a great time to think about selling.

If you’re a homeowner and are considering selling your house, you might be expecting a huge payday. However, there are many costs associated with selling your home. Things like Realtor fees are ones that people expect, but there are lots of others you may not think about. The full amount doesn’t go right into your pocket — in fact, all in all, you might only see 60 to 70 percent of the home’s value when you sell.

Average costs to sell a home

Whenever you sell a home, the old adage that it takes money to make money holds true.

The first thing you’ll want to do is hire a real estate agent to help you with the process. They can give you advice to help you prepare your home for sale and organize showings for potential buyers. Your agent will also help you throughout the process of receiving offers, comparing them and going through with closing. Of course, an agent must be compensated for their services, which is one of the largest costs related to selling your home. Typically, agents get a percentage of the home’s purchase price when a sale closes.

Some of the other things you’ll do to prepare your home for sale will also cost money. If you own a home worth $500,000, for example, these are some of the costs that you can expect to pay.

Expense Cost Profit
Realtor commission 6% or $30,000 $470,000
Prep work $1,450 $468,550
Pre-listing inspection $375 $468,175
Repairs $500 $467,675
Mortgage payoff $150,000 $317,675
Closing costs $3,500 $314,175
Remaining bills on property $1,000 $313,175
Moving expenses $1,650 $311,525
Storage $500 $311,025

Agent commission

One of the biggest costs that homeowners pay when selling a home is agent commission. Most transactions involve two agents: one employed by the buyer and one employed by the seller. Typically, the commission amount is paid by the seller and split between the two agents.

According to Redfin, the average real estate commission is between 5 and 6 percent of the home’s price. That means that you’ll have to pay $5,000 to $6,000 for every $100,000 of your home’s sale price. You may be able to negotiate a lower commission, however. Agents may be more likely to accept a lower rate when the home is expected to sell quickly, the local market is strong or the home price is relatively high.

Many homesellers try to avoid paying commission by listing their home as for-sale-by-owner (FSBO). If you do that, be prepared to assume the duties of a real estate agent, including showing the place to prospective buyers, negotiating and taking care of the transfer of title. Just 11 percent of home sales were FSBO sales in the last year, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Prep work

To get the best price for your home, you want to make sure it’s appealing to buyers. Consider hiring a home stager to make sure the interior of the home looks its best. According to NAR, 28 percent of seller’s agents said they staged homes before listing.

Stagers know how to enhance a home’s best features while minimizing its worst ones. They rearrange furniture and accessories, and may even repurpose a room in a way you wouldn’t have imagined. Staging costs an average of $1,608, according to data from HomeAdvisor — but it can boost the sale price of your home by 0.75 percent, which is a large amount for valuable homes.

Curb appeal is also important, so some basic landscaping can be worth doing as well.

Pre-listing inspection

While getting your home inspected before listing it for sale is optional, it can still be a good idea. If you learn about issues and fix them before putting your home on the market, that reduces the odds of a sale falling through if a buyer’s inspector finds problems.

The inspection can cost around $400. Keep in mind that if your inspection reveals material defects with your home, you may have a responsibility to disclose them to a buyer, depending on your state’s laws for disclosure requirements. However, that upfront investment can help avoid costs down the road if you fix the issues before a buyer finds them.

Repairs

If you’ve lived in your home for a while, there are probably some issues that you’ve ignored or learned to live with. Before you sell your home, you might want to repair that leaky faucet or squeaky floorboard, for example. Alternatively, you can offer concessions to buyers, essentially giving them cash to put toward paying for the repairs. This option might be easier to do, but will likely cost more overall.

If the buyer’s home inspector finds major problems, such as a damaged roof or bad plumbing, you might have to pay to fix those issues in order to close the deal. Big repairs can really set you back financially, so be prepared for them before you decide to sell, especially if you expect problems will be revealed during a home inspection.

According to SoFi, these are some of the most common repair costs that homeowners face.

Repair Cost
Foundation issues $10,000+
Electrical systems $2,000 – $6,000
Roof repair $300 – $2,000
Roof replacement $5,397 – $11,035
Water heater $579 – $1,300
Water damage $1,181 – $4,938
Leaky pipes $300 – $2,500
Septic systems $1,702 – $9,500
HVAC $577 – $12,500
Mold $2,218
Termite damage $565 – $8,000

Mortgage payoff

How much it will cost to pay off your mortgage depends entirely on your outstanding balance. You’ll have to cover the remainder of your loan out of the proceeds of the sale.

For example, if you owe $400,000 on your mortgage and sell your home for $500,000, you’ll have to give at least $400,000 right back to the lender. You’ll likely have to add prorated interest you’ve accrued to the total balance, too.

Some mortgages come with a prepayment penalty that you’ll also have to pay when selling your home. Check your loan documents or contact your lender to find out if your loan includes this condition. If there are any liens on your home, or you have a home equity loan or HELOC, you’ll also have to pay those off when selling.

Closing costs

In a real estate transaction, many closing costs are the buyer’s responsibility. But there are closing costs for sellers, as well.

Don’t be surprised if you are asked to foot the bill for some of the buyer’s costs, too, especially if it’s a buyer’s market. Some of these costs may include homeowners association fees, property taxes, attorney fees, transfer taxes and title insurance. You also may be asked to pay an escrow fee, a brokerage fee and a courier fee. Many closing fees are negotiable, though, and it’s unlikely that a seller will be responsible for all of them. Still, it helps to be prepared.

Some common closing costs include:

Closing cost Average cost
Attorney fees $950 – $1,500
Title insurance $1,000
Recording fees $125
Escrow fees 1% of the home’s value

Remaining bills on the property

When you sell your home, you’ll have to pay any outstanding bills related to the property. These fees will depend on your home — for example, if you aren’t in a homeowners’ association, you won’t have to worry about HOA fees.

You can expect to pay bills like:

  • Utility bills
  • HOA fees
  • Property taxes
  • Capital gains tax

If you sell your home for more than you paid to buy it, you may owe the IRS capital gains on your profits. For example, if you buy a house for $400,000 and sell it for $600,000, you may owe taxes on that $200,000.

The good news is, many homeowners are eligible to exclude up to $250,000 of profit (or $500,000 for married couples filing jointly) from their main home from taxes, as long as they haven’t used the tax break on another home sale within the past two years. The tax break applies if it was your primary home for at least two out of the previous five years.

Don’t forget about state taxes. Each state has its own rules for capital gains taxes and home sales, so ask a tax professional about how your state’s taxes work.

Moving expenses and storage

Selling your home is only one part of the equation. You also have to move all your belongings out of your old home, and into your new one. Moving costs money, whether you do it on your own or hire a moving company to handle it for you.

Hiring a moving service for a local move costs $1,000 on average, according to Moving.com, while long-distance moves can cost closer to $5,000. On the other hand, if you want to put in the effort yourself, you can save a lot on moving costs. If you can enlist friends for the cost of some pizza and drinks, you’ll have a lot less work to do. And renting a U-Haul can cost as little as $40 plus $1.59 per mile.

If you don’t already have a new home lined up when you sell, you may also need to store your things for a while, until you move into your new home. Storage facilities charge between $100 and $300 per month, according to Move.org, with larger units costing more. However, long-term leases can save you a bit of money.

Lost time

There are lots of costs that remain the seller’s responsibility until the sale closes and the buyers take ownership. For example, you’ll have to keep paying taxes and utilities even if you are no longer living in the home. These holding costs can add up significantly if your home sits on the market for a long time, or if closing is delayed.

Bottom line

Even if your home sells for significantly more than you bought it for, it’s important to remember that there are lots of costs associated with selling. The fees you pay will depend on your specific situation. A little planning, preparation and budgeting can help ensure that more money stays in your pocket after the sale.

Written by
TJ Porter
Contributing writer
TJ Porter is a contributing writer for Bankrate. TJ writes about a range of subjects, from budgeting tips to bank account reviews.
Edited by
Senior real estate editor