If you’re thinking about selling your house in Seattle right now, here’s a bit of bad news: You may have waited too long. A recent report from Redfin showed that Seattle’s housing market is cooling at a faster rate than anywhere else in the country. As buyers worry about the costs of higher mortgage rates and homes sit on the market longer, the market may feel like a gray day in the Pacific Northwest.

However, everything in real estate is relative, and the last two years of pandemic-fueled price appreciation have been great for homeowners. If you own property in the Seattle metro area, you’re still sitting on a very valuable asset. With major tech companies and corporate giants like Amazon and Starbucks heavily invested here, Seattle is an attractive place to call home — and there simply aren’t enough homes available to keep up with demand. Plus, selling now might be smarter than waiting any longer, as experts predict a slowdown for the 2023 housing market.

Read on for everything you need to know to navigate the quickly changing market in the Emerald City.

Things to consider when selling your house in Seattle

What kind of shape is your home in?

If you were buying your house, what would you think about its current condition? Remember that buyers are handing over a huge chunk of cash to call Seattle home, so they won’t want a property with a bunch of visible damage. However, that doesn’t mean you have to fix everything, and you certainly don’t need to make a major investment in a big renovation. Instead, do your best to clean things up with a fresh coat of paint, some extra love for the landscaping and some other cheap and easy ways to boost value. If your home is in really rough shape, consider listing it as-is to provide an upfront disclaimer that repairs will be the buyer’s responsibility.

How fast do you need to sell?

In December 2022, 38.8 percent of listings in Seattle went to contract within 30 days, according to data from the Madrona Group. That’s a strong market, but it’s nowhere near the level of competition that Seattle listings saw during the peak of the pandemic. If you’re on a tight timeline and need to sell in a hurry, consider trying to sell your house for cash. Whether you find an individual with deep pockets or one of the many real estate investment companies that buy homes for cash, this can help accelerate the path to closing by skipping all the hurdles of mortgage financing and loan underwriting.

What’s the market like in your specific area?

While Seattle has a fairly small geographical footprint, real estate activity can still look very different from one neighborhood to the next. While median prices are still increasing year-over-year in places like Beacon Hill, Queen Anne and Magnolia, prices have actually been falling in Belltown and Downtown. So, while data from the entire metro area is useful, you’ll want to pay closer attention to the for-sale signs on your own block to get a sense of what to expect when you list.

How much will all this cost?

Closing costs in Seattle aren’t cheap. In fact, Washington state is the fifth most expensive place in the country when it comes to the typical expenses to close a real estate deal, according to data from ClosingCorp. In 2021, closing costs on a typical Washington sale added up to $13,927, and the bulk of these fees fall on the seller’s shoulders.

Here’s a rundown of some of the common fees you’ll need to pay as a Seattle seller:

  • Realtor fees: Real estate commissions will likely be the biggest chunk of your budget as a seller, in Seattle and everywhere. If the agents involved charge the standard 6 percent cut — 3 percent to each — you would pay $48,000 in fees on an $800,000 sale.
  • Excise taxes: Sellers are responsible for paying the REET, or real estate excise tax, in Washington. The state rate ranges from 1.1 percent of the sale price on a property valued at $500,000 or less to 3 percent on homes that sell for more than $3 million. In the city of Seattle, you’ll pay an additional 0.5 percent for a local excise tax.
  • Title insurance: Most sellers will cover the cost of a new owner’s title insurance policy. For reference, the cost of a standard ALTA policy on a property that sells for $800,000 would be $1,668.
  • Unpaid property taxes: If you have any outstanding property tax obligations, you’ll need to take care of those before the deal can close.
  • Attorney fees: You don’t technically have to hire a real estate attorney when you’re selling a house in Washington, but you definitely should. This will be one of the biggest transactions of your life, so it’s smart to have a legal expert vet the details and verify the contract.
  • Concessions: Sellers sometimes wind up paying for some of the buyer’s closing costs, too. If a home inspection identifies any necessary repairs and/or issues that the buyer would inherit, such as a furnace that needs replacing, be prepared to negotiate concession requests.

Preparing your home for sale in Seattle

Before you list your home, you’ll want to put your best foot forward to immediately impress prospective buyers. A home staging service can help get the place ready for prime time. How much you’ll pay for staging depends on the amount of work needed and whether you need to rent furniture to fill empty rooms.

Make sure you complete the Washington state seller’s disclosure form, too, which you’ll need to share with a buyer within five days after entering into a purchase agreement. And if your property is part of a homeowners association, request copies of past meeting minutes, financial documentations and bylaws, as any buyer will want to review all of this information.

Selling your house with or without a Realtor

Should you try to save some cash by selling your house on your own in Seattle? It might be tempting to try to reduce those commission fees, but in reality, it’ll probably cost you. A recent report from the National Association of Realtors shows that owners who took the “for sale by owner” route typically received nearly $100,000 less for their homes than sellers who worked with an agent. Instead of trying to handle the sale on your own, try negotiating a lower commission rate. For example, if you can get an agent to agree to a 2.5 percent fee instead of 3 percent, and you sell your home for $800,000, you’ll save $4,000.

The right real estate agent won’t just save you money. He or she will be able to share expertise about picking the right photos for your listing, writing a compelling description to attract buyers, scheduling open houses and evaluating offers, too.

Pricing your home to sell

While there are plenty of ways to estimate what your house is worth, the best way to get a feel for an appropriate pricing strategy is to review comps of homes similar to yours that have recently sold nearby. Your agent will help you balance both sides of a pricing strategy — not setting it too low and leaving cash on the table, and not setting it too high and then being forced to drop the price. According to data from Redfin, more than 20 percent of listings in Seattle had price drops in December. Keep that in mind as you come up with the magic number to attach to your listing.

Getting to closing day

Once you accept an offer, your work isn’t done yet. Contracts sometimes fall through, especially if buyers have issues with rising mortgage rates and economic uncertainty. With that in mind, make sure you do everything you can to stay on the path to closing and avoid giving a buyer a reason to back out of the contract. That means responding to contract revisions quickly and being willing to consider concession requests.

Once closing day arrives, your lawyer can do most of the work, making sure all closing-cost funds are transferred and verifying that the purchase agreement is official. Then, the rest of the greenbacks from your Emerald City sale are yours. Congrats on the deal, and enjoy your next chapter — whether you’ll be living like royalty at a new address in King County or packing up for a new adventure in a new city.