Are you thinking about selling your home? Whether you are sizing up, sizing down, or moving out of town, it’s important to be aware of the typical and often standard costs to selling a house. It’s helpful, for example, to know which costs are unavoidable and the likely dollar amounts they may cost. It’s also good to know which costs you may be able to avoid and which ones may be negotiable, either before or during close. In the end, like every home seller, you want to know how much money you can expect to walk away with at close. Understanding more about the costs to sell your home can help you better calculate your likely proceeds.
Set Your Expectations
The current seller’s market may provide potential advantages as a home seller, including more power at the negotiating table on selling costs; nevertheless, you should anticipate that about 10% of the selling price may go to commissions and various fees. Simply having that percentage in mind can help you set good expectations around likely net proceeds from a home sale.
Once you have contracted with a real estate agent, be sure you also take advantage of their expertise. Talk with your agent about the following eight costs and take an active approach in the selling process. Your agent is a pro and there to walk you through this big step in your life.
Listing Agent Commission
The first cost to expect if you sell your home is the payment to your agent in the form of a commission for the work they do. Your agent’s work includes marketing your home and all that entails, listing your home on the multiple listings service (MLS), fielding calls, reviewing offers with you, negotiating with buyers, scheduling inspections, managing the transaction, and much more.
Typically, the commission for the agent’s work is 6% of the cost of the sale of your house. Bear in mind, though, that the commission will also be split between your agent and the buyer’s agent and it may not be an even split between them. Additionally, the lenders for both you and the buyer will also take their fees out of the commission.
To determine what 6% means to you as the home seller, use the example of a $300K closing price for a home--the agent’s commission would be $18,000. Once you and your agent decide on the right price for your home, subtract 6% from that price in your mind to set your expectation about final proceeds right from the beginning.
Note: All examples in this article will use the same closing price of $300,000.
Home staging costs
You may think your stuff is great—and it is—but it may not help you sell your home. Your agent may suggest you stage your home using furniture that is not your own. That’s because “on average, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more than non-staged homes,” according to Realtor.com.
However, staging can be costly. The same article stated, “the average cost for most stagers is $300 to $600 for an initial design consultation, and $500 to $600 per month per staged room.” You need to consider the square footage of your home when you calculate the potential cost. Weigh that against factors such as how quickly homes are currently selling in your area, rooms that may not need staging, and any added storage cost for your own stuff. Your agent can help you with these and help you determine whether staging will be cost-positive for you.
Home Inspection Cost
Typically, the buyer or buyer’s agent schedules a home inspection and the cost is included in the buyer’s closing costs. How much the fee will be depends on the square footage of a home, but fees range between $200 and $500 for a basic inspection. As a seller, you can be at your home at the time of the inspection, but if you would like to be prepared ahead of time and perhaps avoid any costly surprise repairs you may have to make, you can also order a home inspection report before you’re ready to sell.
As a seller, be prepared to fix certain problems if a home inspection discovers them. These typically can include safety standard and building code violations, structural problems, and plumbing or roofing leaks. If you have followed the 1 percent rule as a homeowner—setting aside 1% of your home’s value each year to a savings fund for home maintenance—you can use those funds to repair any big problems that could arise when it’s time to sell.
Often, certain home repairs are negotiable and your agent can help with these details. In a seller's market, you also may have more negotiating power on paying for repairs.
Most home sellers are also buying their next home. If that’s you, it’s a good idea to estimate the cost to rent back or lease your former home for a period of time, before you can move. Most agents recommend estimating 1% of the closing price for transition or overlap costs. Using our example of $300K house, estimate $3,000 for this cost.
You know how much you owe on your existing mortgage, so the payoff amount obviously is specific to your loan. In addition to paying off your mortgage, find out if you will have any other payments to factor into this cost. These can include a pre-payment penalty, missed payments, late fees, or any interest that accrues after your expected payoff date. Do your homework early in the closing process to avoid these sorts of surprises at close.
While not required in every state, your agent will know whether you can avoid the closing services and/or the presence of an attorney to sell a home where you live. Your agent can also be a good resource if you need a real estate attorney recommendation. Typically, most attorneys charge either a flat fee or an hourly rate, but expect the bill to range between $500 and $1,500 for a straightforward real estate transaction.
You can expect to spend an additional 2% of your home’s price on this expense, or approximately $6,000 on our example $300K home sale.
Seller’s closing costs tend to be fixed and include items such as title search and insurance, property or deed transfer taxes, recording fees, and outstanding liens on the property. You’ll also pay remaining property taxes and a negotiated proportion of any outstanding utility bills.