Selling a home in Massachusetts
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If you’re thinking about selling your home in Massachusetts, you’ve picked a good time: New listings for single-family houses and condos have been steadily declining here, according to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. That means every new property listed will capture attention from buyers. Some areas in the Boston metro region are especially promising for sellers. For example, Redfin data shows that median sale prices in Holliston jumped to $749,900 in July — a 21.4 percent increase over the past year — and the typical home spends just 13 days on the market.
Putting your house on the market doesn’t automatically translate to a massive profit, though. As buyers deal with the stress of rising mortgage rates, you’ll need a thoughtful sales strategy. Read on for a rundown of what you should consider and how much you’ll have to pay to sell your house in Massachusetts.
Are you ready to sell?
Is it time to sell, or are you better off waiting? The answer depends on your personal circumstances: how much cash you’ll need to cover the cost of living in your new location, when you will be ready to move and whether you plan to use the money from the sale to cover your next purchase. While you will enjoy the upsides of the seller’s market now, be aware of the potential headaches that await you as a buyer.
Preparing to sell
Is it worth upgrading your home before you sell?
If you’re thinking about investing in a big renovation project, keep in mind that it could cost a pile of money and take a long time — supply chain issues and labor shortages are impacting the remodeling industry. You run the risk of letting the current seller’s market in Massachusetts slip by while you wait for a contractor to rip up your kitchen floor, and you likely won’t make back the full cost. Rather than delay your sale, it’s smarter to consider quick and inexpensive ways to boost property value instead.
What should you repair before selling your home?
One of the best ways to figure out what you need to fix before you try to sell your home is a pre-listing inspection. Essentially, you’ll hire a home inspector to identify any issues that could impact your ultimate sale price. As you think about what to repair versus what not to fix, you can also take a simple approach: Are there any glaring issues that would turn you off as a buyer? Put those at the top of your priority list. They will be worth the investment.
Should you pay to stage your home?
Staging your home can go a long way when it comes time to show it to buyers. Data from Home Advisor shows that staged homes spend considerably less time on the market and tend to sell for 20 percent more than homes that aren’t staged. But that doesn’t mean staging is a must. If you have the interior-designer touch, your home might look open-house-ready. If you’ve already moved out and the place is totally empty, it’s probably worth thinking about furniture rentals to help prospective buyers envision how the home can come to life. Ask a real estate agent for a professional opinion on whether you should shell out the cash for staging.
When is the best time to sell a house in Massachusetts?
The best time to sell a house is typically whenever it will sell the fastest. A listing that gathers dust gives prospective buyers a chance to wonder if something is wrong with the property. In Massachusetts, homes tend to spend the fewest days on the market at the beginning of the summer (17 days in June 2022), while they spend the longest amount of time in the most brutal stretch of winter (27 days in February 2022), according to Redfin data. It makes sense: Who wants to go tour homes in the middle of a New England blizzard?
Finding a local Massachusetts real estate agent
As you think about when to list your home in Massachusetts, it’s equally important to think about who should help you list it. With the right real estate agent on your team, you will have someone who knows how to do the heavy lifting of creating an attractive listing, coordinating showings and inspiring prospective buyers to submit offers. You’ll need to pay a commission fee — typically 3 percent to your agent and 3 percent to the buyer’s agent — but think of it as an investment instead of a cost. A study from the National Association of Realtors revealed that agent-assisted sales have historically commanded around 18 percent more than FSBO (For Sale By Owner) listings.
Price your home competitively
Your agent will be instrumental in developing your pricing strategy. While you can take steps on your own to estimate what your house is worth, a good real estate agent will walk you through comps and create a comparative market analysis to understand what buyers have recently paid for properties similar to yours. The initial price tag will drive interest, both in terms of attracting online traffic to the listing and drawing crowds at open houses. And if you play your cards right, you might actually get more. Homes in Massachusetts have been selling for 105 percent of their list price: That means a $600,000 listing may wind up closing closer to $630,000.
Documents and disclosures in Massachusetts
As a seller, Massachusetts law requires that you share just two pieces of information: whether the home has lead paint in it and whether it uses a septic system. That’s really it, and it’s a notable difference from most other states, which require sellers to complete a disclosure form. If the buyer asks you a specific question, though, you must be honest. For example, if you know there have been problems with the plumbing in the bathroom and the buyer asks about it, you must tell the truth.
If you live in a property that belongs to a homeowners association, be ready to hand over documents detailing the association’s financial health and the bylaws that a buyer will need to follow.
Need to sell your home fast?
While homes in Massachusetts are already selling very fast, you might have no time to spare. If so, consider these quick-closing options. And don’t forget to add some quick curb appeal — the more welcoming your home looks to buyers, the more inclined they will be to make an offer.
- Sell to an iBuyer: Companies like Opendoor, Knock and Offerpad are iBuyers, which mean they will issue preliminary online offers almost instantly — usually within 24 hours. The big advantage with these companies is the ability to sell and close very quickly. However, the big downside is the money: While most properties in Massachusetts are selling for more than their list price, the iBuying route is likely to deliver much less.
- Sell for cash: If your house needs a lot of repairs or is otherwise less-than-desirable, you may want to look into companies that buy houses for cash. Some might be looking to spruce them up and flip them, and others might be interested in trying to rent them out.
- Sell as-is: You can still try to attract buyers, with the caveat that you aren’t willing to budge on anything. An as-is listing indicates that you will not negotiate with a buyer: what you see is what you get.
What to expect at the closing in Massachusetts
As a seller, you don’t have to physically be at the closing in Massachusetts. Your attorney can handle all the final legal obligations and hand over your keys to the buyer. You simply need to understand how much you have to pay to get the deal done.
Cost of selling a home in Massachusetts
The biggest line item on your list of expenses will be real estate commissions. Unless you have worked out a reduction in fees, you’ll probably pay 3 percent of the sale price to your agent, and you’re also on the hook for covering the buyer’s agent’s fee of 3 percent. So, 6 percent of your final price is immediately out the door. On a $500,000 sale, that’s $30,000.
Seller’s closing costs
In addition to real estate commissions, consider these common seller’s closing costs.
- Title insurance: While it’s customary for sellers to cover the cost of title insurance in many states, there isn’t a law or set standard in Massachusetts. The cost varies, but for reference, one prominent title company would charge around $2,000 for a title insurance policy on a $550,000 property. With that in mind, consider asking the buyer to pay for this expense to lower your closing costs.
- Transfer taxes: The seller usually covers the cost of real estate transfer taxes in Massachusetts at the rate of $2.28 for every $500 of value. On a $600,000 sale, that adds up to $2,736.
- Seller concessions: If the buyer uncovers any problems with the home, be prepared for a request for concessions. This involves a seller covering a portion of the buyer’s closing costs to make up for the cost of repairs. However, you don’t have to agree to do so.
- Attorney fees: Your legal fees will vary based on your attorney’s rate and the amount of time that he or she needs to put in to complete the deal. To be safe, estimate around $1,500 for this fee.
One last caveat: While hiring movers isn’t a closing cost, it is an essential expense to consider. If you’re moving close by in Massachusetts, you’ll likely pay around $1,600. If you’re moving thousands of miles away, be prepared for a much bigger fee — $6,000 or more.
Take the first step
Ready to get moving on moving out of your home in Massachusetts? Set up some interviews with at least three different real estate agents, and ask them lots of questions to get a sense of how they will approach your business and work to maximize your profit potential. Think of it like a job interview — because it is.
The requirements for a home seller in Massachusetts are fairly minimal: You have to inform buyers about the presence of any lead paint and whether the home operates on a septic system. Selling a home is a complex process, though, so it’s smart to hire a real estate agent and attorney to help you get all the details right.
You aren’t required by law to hire a real estate attorney in Massachusetts, but it’s a smart decision to make sure your interests are protected. Selling a home involves a huge amount of money, so paying an extra couple thousand for the assurance of legal protection is worth it.
You will pay real estate transfer taxes on the sale of your home in Massachusetts. Across the state, these are priced at $2.28 for every $500 of value. You may also need to pay a portion of your property taxes at closing, depending on the timing of the sale.
Homes in Massachusetts sell fairly quickly. The typical home spends 17 days on the market. If you want to get to contract even faster, you can price it to sell (meaning you’ll set the list price below comps in the area), or you can consider selling it to an iBuyer. These companies typically make offers in less than 24 hours.
There isn’t a standard practice when it comes to paying for title insurance in Massachusetts, and there is no law stipulating that either party needs to pay for the expense. This can be part of your negotiation, or you can consider splitting the cost with the buyer.
In 2021, the average closing costs added up to $7,964 in Massachusetts (not including Realtor fees), according to data from ClosingCorp. However, that figure includes a number of expenses that fall on the buyer’s shoulders. To estimate your closing costs when selling a home in Massachusetts, plan for 6 percent of the sales price for real estate agents. Then, calculate your transfer taxes, which are $2.28 for every $500 of value. On a $600,000 sale, that comes out to $36,000 for real estate commissions and $2,736 for transfer taxes — a total of $38,736. Keep in mind that you may pay other fees depending on the county and the contract with the buyer.