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If you’re thinking about selling your Pennsylvania home, you’ve picked a good time. The state’s housing market is currently tilted heavily in favor of sellers, according to data from the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors. With available inventory at 3.2 months worth, buyers have slim pickings. That shortage has helped fuel higher prices, too: The state’s median sale price was just over $219,000 in July 2022, a 10.6 percent increase from the same time just one year earlier.
However, selling your home here won’t necessarily be easy. Read on for everything you need to know about getting your listing ready, maximizing your home’s value and budgeting for the costs of selling a house in Pennsylvania.
Are you ready to sell?
Selling a home comes with a big question: Where are you going next? As you try to determine whether to sell now or wait, you’ll need to think about the challenges you may face as a buyer. Use Bankrate’s cost of living calculator to get a sense of what kind of lifestyle your income will be able to afford you in any of the new places you’re thinking about.
Additionally, consider what your space needs will be in a new home. If you’re downsizing, you may be in good shape. If you’re looking for a similar-sized property, though, keep in mind that housing prices have been increasing everywhere since the onset of the pandemic. So, if you’re trying to sell your house while buying another, you’ll need a solid plan in place. What will you do if your current home sells before you find a new one? Are you willing to pay extra costs for a short-term rental, or to ask the buyer to let you stay longer? And what if you find your new dream home but still don’t have a buyer lined up?
Once you have these questions answered, it’s time to get ready to sell.
Preparing to sell
Your home in Pennsylvania may have worked for you and your family, but what will prospective buyers think? Ask yourself these three questions before you list.
1. Is it worth upgrading your home before you sell?
If you’re thinking about making a major renovation in the hopes of selling for more money, think twice: Even the best home improvements don’t recover their full costs at resale. For example, if you spend around $28,000 on a kitchen remodel, you can only expect to recover around $20,000 when you sell, according to Remodeling magazine. With that in mind, it’s better to consider some cheap fixes that can increase the value of your home instead.
2. What should you repair before you sell?
Think about a prospective buyer walking through your home. Are there obvious issues that might turn off someone who has to pay a hefty price tag to make it their own? Peeling paint, evidence of a water leak, cracked floorboards — these are all issues that are worth addressing before you welcome buyers inside. However, you don’t have to make everything perfect. Some problems, like old windows or an outdated refrigerator, for example, fall under the category of what not to fix before you sell your home.
3. Should you stage your home?
Staging your home is kind of like dressing up for a date: First impressions are everything. So, if your house is very cluttered — say you’ve lived there for 20 years and accumulated way too much stuff — or if you’ve already moved and it’s completely empty, paying to stage your home can make a huge difference. The cost varies based on what you need, but it can result in every seller’s hope: fetching a higher price. In 2021, staged homes sold for around $40,000 more than their list price, according to figures from the Real Estate Staging Association.
When is the best time to sell a house in Pennsylvania?
According to data from Redfin, early summer has been the best time to sell a house in Pennsylvania for the past two years. In June of 2021, homes spent just 22 days on the market, and in June of 2022, the number was down to 20. During Pennsylvania winters, homes tend to spend a lot longer on the market due to a decrease in buyer activity.
Find a local Pennsylvania real estate agent
While data can help you estimate the best time to sell a house, it isn’t a process that’s easy to do on your own. That’s why it’s smart to find a real estate agent who understands your specific local market. After all, Pennsylvania is huge, and looking at statewide figures won’t help you with the nuances of selling in Pittsburgh versus Harrisburg. As you go about finding an agent to work with, here are two key things to keep in mind.
First, dual agency is permitted here, which means that an agent is legally allowed to represent both you and someone who wants to buy your property. However, if that’s the case, you don’t have to agree to it. You’ll be asked to give your consent in writing if you’re OK with it.
Second, an agent’s expertise isn’t free. Realtor fees typically run 3 percent of the purchase price to your agent and another 3 percent to the buyer’s agent, and as the seller, you pay both of them. That’s a lot of money, but an agent will likely net you a significantly higher price than you’d get if you tried to sell on your own. The latest data from the National Association of Realtors showed that owners who sold without an agent sold for an average of $260,000, while owners who worked with agents typically fetched $318,000. Agent fees aren’t set in stone, either. You can always ask agents if they’re willing to slash their fee — they may be willing, especially on a higher-priced property.
One important note if you’re selling in the Philly area: Be sure to ask your agent about attracting buyers from the nearby suburbs in Delaware and New Jersey, as well as in-state buyers. The metro area is competitive, and you want an agent who can entice buyers to the PA side of the border.
Price your home competitively
Choosing an asking price isn’t simply about finding one magic buyer who loves your home so much that he or she will pay anything to get the keys. Most agents will tell you that a smart pricing strategy will attract as many potential buyers as possible.
That involves a few important steps. Start by doing some preliminary online research to estimate what your house is worth. Then, look at comps in the area of properties that are similar to yours to see what they recently sold for — this will provide a more accurate understanding of the current local market. And finally, consider the pulse of the broader economy. While it’s still a seller’s market in Pennsylvania, there are some national trends to factor in, including an uptick in home purchase cancellations this summer. Buyers are dealing with higher mortgage rates, and economic uncertainties are creating some major worries. So, price your home with the hope of getting a deal done.
Documents and disclosures in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law requires every seller to complete a property disclosure statement. It’s a fairly standard form, and you have to share all the information you know about any defects that could impact the value of the property — water leaks, termite damage, electrical problems and more.
If the property is part of a condo or a co-op, you’ll also need to share a range of documents about the building, the homeowners association and bylaws that a buyer will have to follow as a resident.
Need to sell your home fast?
If you’re on a tight timeline, you might not be willing to wait. Luckily, there are a few ways to get to closing a lot faster than a traditional sale.
- iBuyers: Companies like Opendoor and Offerpad have made iBuying — issuing instant offers based on the home’s address — an attractive route for some sellers. However, the biggest names in iBuying don’t currently buy homes in Pennsylvania. Instead, you might be able to look into services like eXp’s Express Offers program, which aims to get multiple investors interested in submitting an offer for your property. Keep in mind that these offers will likely be lower than what you’d see on the open market.
- Sell for cash: You can also look into options to sell your home for cash to a real estate investing company. This is often a good route for a home that needs a lot of repairs that you can’t afford — or you simply don’t want — to make. It’s also good if you just need the cash quick and don’t mind a little less, as long as it’s a lot faster.
- Add curb appeal: Paint the front door, power wash the driveway and plant some new flowers. Buyers that feel welcomed are more likely to make an offer, and there are plenty of ways to add curb appeal that will catch the eye of prospective buyers. You can do these yourself, no contractor required, in just a couple of days.
When the sale is ready to close, you need to be ready to pay. You’re selling your house to make a profit, of course, but there are costs to get there. The biggest piece of a seller’s closing costs is the commission you need to hand over to the real estate agents involved in the transaction. This typically comes to about 6 percent of the sale price, and it falls on your shoulders; the buyer doesn’t pay real estate fees.
Closing costs in Pennsylvania
After taking 6 percent off the top for Realtor fees, here’s a rundown of some other line items in your closing budget. And don’t forget to budget for moving fees — while paying movers isn’t a closing cost, it is a necessary expense (unless you’re exceptionally strong and have very generous friends). The cost to move can be somewhat nominal if you’re staying in the area, but if you’re moving outside of Pennsylvania, that distance can translate to a much higher price.
- Transfer taxes: Many states, including Pennsylvania, charge you to transfer ownership of your property to a new owner. Here, there is a 1 percent real estate transfer tax at the state level and another 1 percent tax at the local level. The cost is usually split between seller and buyer. So, budget for 1 percent of your purchase price as a starting point, and be sure to ask your agent about additional fees you may need to pay. For example, in Pittsburgh, there is an additional 3 percent transfer tax, which can take a serious bite out of your net proceeds.
- Seller concessions: If the buyer’s home inspection uncovers any problems, be prepared for a request to cover some of their closing costs. These are called concessions, and while you don’t have to say yes, they are a standard part of many real estate transactions.
- Attorney fees: You aren’t required to hire a real estate attorney to sell a home in Pennsylvania. But you probably should: It’s always smart to have a legal expert on your side for such a complex and big-ticket transaction. The attorney fees are a cost worth paying.
- Title insurance: There is one bit of good news: The buyer is usually responsible for paying for title insurance in Pennsylvania. While sellers in a lot of places around the U.S. shoulder that cost, you likely won’t need to here.
Take the first step
Ready to put your Pennsylvania home on the market? Get the process moving by setting up interviews with a few different real estate agents. Treat it like you’re hiring for a job — a really important one that is worth big money to them — and ask plenty of questions to understand how each would help you maximize your home’s profit potential.
You are not legally required to hire a real estate attorney when you’re selling a house in Pennsylvania. However, it’s smart to consider having one by your side. Real estate contracts are complex, and a lot of money is at stake — paying a lawyer to make sure your interests are protected is a good investment.
Pennsylvania’s MLS service does not include an as-is field for sellers to check. However, you can still indicate that your property is for sale in what is typically considered as-is condition. This is simply a disclaimer to buyers that you are not going to pay to fix any problems. However, you still have to complete the state’s property disclosure form, and you must be honest about any defects that you are aware of in the home. Keep in mind that this typically tips off prospective buyers to the fact that there are issues with the home, and the need for extra work will likely lead to lower offers.
Yes — sellers in all states must pay at least some closing costs, Pennsylvania included. You’ll need to budget for real estate fees (typically 3 percent of the purchase price to each agent involved in the transaction), and you will also have to pay your portion of the state’s real estate transfer taxes. In Pennsylvania, there is usually a 1 percent tax to the state and another 1 percent to the local municipality. This cost is usually divided between the seller and the buyer. So, on a $220,000 sale, you would pay about $2,200 of transfer taxes (and the buyer would pay the other $2,200). However, in some places, like the city of Pittsburgh, this figure can be much higher.