A shortage of homes for sale in the U.S. gives sellers the advantage in most housing markets. But many sellers don’t realize that this transaction likely will cost them thousands of dollars.
How much does it cost to sell a house?
Real estate commissions and other fees can consume up to 10 percent of the sale price of the home. Some expenses are negotiable and fluctuate with the real estate market. But sellers should expect to foot all or part of the bill for numerous costs to sell a house.
Here’s an overview of the various costs to sell a house.
Realtor’s commission fees
The real estate commission is usually the biggest fee a seller pays — 5 percent to 6 percent of the sale price. So, if you sell your house for $250,000, you could end up paying $15,000 in commissions. The commission is split between the seller’s real estate agent and the buyer’s agent. In the majority (77 percent) of cases, the seller bears this cost, according to a 2018 report from the National Association of Realtors.
You may be able to negotiate a lower commission. Real estate agents are 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 homeowners try to avoid these high fees 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, hiring a lawyer to draw up the contract, and taking care of the transfer of title. Just 7 percent of home sales in 2018 were FSBO sales, according to NAR.
If you’re thinking about selling your home, it’s likely there are things you could do to enhance the appeal of your place and potentially raise its value. If you’ve been putting off sprucing up the exterior of your property, painting the inside, or repairing a staircase or a leaky faucet, now’s the time to make those changes.
“Getting the home ready to be sold can require minor cosmetic work, like painting and decluttering, or major upgrades,” says Jorge Guerra, chairman-elect of the Miami Association of Realtors in Florida. “Sometimes a new kitchen and bathroom can raise the value a significant amount.”
Also, if the buyer’s home inspector finds 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 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.
Pre-sale home inspection
A presale home inspection is strictly optional, and it could cost around $400 or more. So why would you pay for one? Some sellers make the investment because they want to find out about any structural or mechanical problems with the house before a potential buyer comes in with his or her home inspector.
Getting a pre-sale inspection allows you to make major repairs ahead of time, removing any possibility of a buyer demanding them later or asking you to lower the price. Discuss with your real estate agent whether a pre-sale home inspection is recommended. Keep in mind that if your inspection reveals material defects with your home, you’ll have a responsibility to disclose them to a buyer, depending on your state’s laws for disclosure requirements.
Buyers like to envision what a house could look like after they move in. If you’re a seller, it’s worthwhile to spring for cosmetic repairs, like fresh, neutral paint and new flooring. Improving curb appeal with fresh plants or flowers can really appeal to buyers without costing too much, says Grant Lopez, chairman of the San Antonio Board of Realtors in Texas.
Twenty-eight percent of seller’s agents said they staged all homes before listing, spending a median amount of $400, according to a 2019 NAR report.
“Staging is usually helpful when the home is vacant. Realtors use the furniture to show the possibility of what that space can be,” Guerra says.“Depending on the furniture and the price of the house, (staging) can be very costly.”
Hiring a professional to stage your home might pay off. Stagers do what’s necessary to enhance a home’s best features while minimizing its worst attributes, and help prospective buyers imagine themselves living there. They rearrange furniture and accessories, declutter and depersonalize the home. They may even repurpose a room in a way you wouldn’t have imagined.
The cost of a professional stager varies according to the size of the home, the extent of the work, the length of time the house is on the market and other factors. Expect to spend several hundred dollars, at minimum, and possibly thousands if you need a professional stager.
If you plan to move out before you sell your home, you’ll want to continue to pay for water and electricity. A home without air conditioning/heat and lighting can be difficult to show to buyers.
Your current bills will give you an idea how much it will cost each month to leave on the utilities until a new buyer moves in.
The proceeds of your home sale will be used to pay off your mortgage, but it’s likely that the payoff amount on your mortgage statement is a little less than what you actually owe.
You’ll likely have to add prorated interest you’ve accrued to the total balance. Additionally, you might have to pay a fee if there’s a prepayment penalty associated with your mortgage. Check your loan documents or contact your current lender to find out if your loan includes this condition.
Selling one house and buying another? Use a calculator to determine how much house you can afford.
Closing costs and additional fees
While the closing costs to sell a house are typically the responsibility of the buyer, don’t be surprised if you are asked to foot the bill, especially if you are trying to sell your home in a buyer’s market (one which has a lot of homes for sale).
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. Altogether, closing costs can range from 2 to 4 percent of the home’s sales price.
“Sellers sometimes forget to budget for a title policy, which ensures that the title is free and clear,” Lopez says. It is usually included in the closing costs, but you may be able to negotiate who pays it.
In fact, many of these fees are negotiable, and it’s unlikely that a seller will be responsible for all of them. Still, it helps to be prepared.
Capital gains tax
Don’t forget to consider taxes. When you sell a home for more than you paid for it, that counts as a capital gain and might need to be reported on your federal tax return.
The good news is, many homeowners are eligible to exclude up to $250,000 of profit ($500,000 for married couples filing jointly) of their main home from tax, 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.
Sellers also need to remember property taxes, which are dependent on if they are escrowing into their mortgage, Lopez says. Property taxes are usually paid in advance. The seller should pay the prorated share of property tax up to the closing date, with the money placed in escrow.
However, if you’re selling your home and have already paid taxes for the year, you may actually get a rebate at closing. The buyer will reimburse the seller for the portion of taxes already paid that apply after the closing date.