How much does it cost to sell a house? The truth is, how much you’ll pay to sell your home depends on a number of factors. For example, using a realtor to market and manage your home sale can be rather expensive — real estate agent commissions can total 5% to 6% of the sale price, all of which is generally paid for by the seller, not the buyer. But if you sell it on your own? Do things the right way, and your costs may be minimal.
Other factors that can affect the cost of selling a home include property taxes, neighborhood fees, repairs you need to make, and even the time of year. If you plan on selling any time soon, it’s crucial to factor these and other costs into the equation.
Common Costs Associated with Selling a Home
While every home sale is different, and laws and customs vary by state, most real estate transactions incur the same types of costs and fees just about everywhere. Generally speaking, pricier homes simply incur proportionally higher expenses across the board in each of these categories. Here are the most common expenses to plan for when selling your home:
Real Estate Agent Commissions
This is the biggie when it comes to selling your home. A seller can expect to fork over up to 6% of their home’s sale price in real estate commissions, according to Realtor.com. That percentage is typically split between the buyer’s and seller’s agents, then divvied up between their respective brokers.
That means that on the sale of a $300,000 home, real estate commissions alone can eat up as much as $18,000 of the sale.
Obviously, this is a fee you’ll want to negotiate down if you can — and more and more sellers are able to do just that. A recent study by online real estate brokerage Redfin found that 60% of people who sold a home in the past year received some kind of discount on their commissions, while 37% of buyers received a discount or other rebate of at least $500 on their agent’s portion of the commission.
There are a few possible reasons real estate agents are more likely to take a lower commission these days. For starters, available housing inventory is low across the country, and agents must compete fiercely for that dwindling business. Meanwhile, online brokerages such as Redfin and Owners.com, which offer high-powered web tools and the services of local agents at a discount to traditional realtors, have grown more popular.
With Redfin, sellers pay a lower 1.5% commission, while buyers also receive a rebate. With Owners.com, sellers can choose between a few different packages based on the level of service they want — there’s even a bare-bones free option — to save on the 2.5% to 3% they would typically owe a seller’s agent.
“In the traditional real estate model, a seller’s agent typically charges 5% to 6% commission on the asking price of a home, with half of the commission paid to the buyer’s agent,” says Steve Udelson, president of Owners.com. “Considering the average price of an existing home, according to the National Association of Realtors, is $244,100, a seller using Owners.com would keep more than $6,000 in their pocket,” Udelson says.
Alternatively, you can skip using an agent altogether and market your home on your own. In a popular area with lots of traffic, an old-fashioned yard sign may do the trick, and you can advertise your home on free sites such as Craigslist. Just remember, you’ll need to take on the responsibilities of a realtor when you sell your home by yourself, including some heavyweight tasks like hiring a lawyer to draw up the contract, negotiating with buyers or their agents, and arranging the title paperwork and transfer.
If your home is in perfect shape and move-in ready, you may not need to complete any repairs before you sell. Chances are, however, you may need to take care of some basic updates to boost the home’s curb appeal and secure the best price. That might mean a fresh coat of paint throughout, repairing a crack in the ceiling, or finally fixing that loose railing on the stairs.
In addition to any repairs you make to improve the resale value of your home, you might be liable for even more repairs once a sale is underway. Your buyer will likely have a home inspection, and they can ask you to repair any major faults as a condition of the sale. While you can’t always predict these repairs or their costs, you should keep your mind – and your wallet – open to the possibility of some additional outlay.
When you sell your home, you’ll use the profits of the sale to pay off your old home loan first. While the concept is fairly cut and dry, the amount you’ll pay may not be the amount listed on your last mortgage statement. Because interest accrues daily, you’ll owe the principal of your loan the amount of prorated interest you’ve accrued until the day of your closing. If your mortgage has a prepayment penalty (it probably doesn’t, but always check), you’ll need factor it into the equation as well.
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Neighborhood Fees and Additional Taxes
If your neighborhood has a homeowner’s association, expect to pay a prorated share of your annual or monthly HOA fees. On the flip side, if you have already prepaid your HOA fees for the year, you may be returned a portion of your payment at closing, or choose to allow that amount to carry over into the new buyer’s term.
Other fees can vary. In some states, you may also be charged a local transfer tax of 0.01% to 2% of your sales price to transfer your home’s title.
If you earn a considerable income on the sale of your home, you can also expect to pay capital gains taxes as well. If the profit from your home exceeds $250,000 for singles of $500,000 for married couples filing jointly, you’ll owe capital gains taxes on any amount over those caps per the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). But if your home sale nets a profit less than those amounts, you can keep those profits tax-free provided you lived in your home for two out of the previous five years before selling.
This is where the time of year comes into play, and where things get tricky. First of all, the fact that property taxes are sometimes payed in arrears means you may need to pay extra to bring your property taxes up-to-date for your buyer.
In addition to that, you usually need to pay a prorated amount of property taxes until the day your home sale closes. If you just paid your taxes, you might owe next to nothing. If your next tax bill is far away, however, it could easily be thousands of dollars.
Title insurance, which protects the buyer in case there are problems with the home’s title or ownership history, is often the buyer’s responsibility, but in some cases the seller may offer or be required to pay for it. Title insurance usually runs between $500 and $1,000. If a lien is discovered on your home before the closing date, you’ll also need to pay that off before you can sell.
While a home warranty is usually optional, buying one for potential buyers can help you sell your home. While the terms of these warranties vary, they tend to cover the major components of your home and promise repair or replacement for new buyers. Most of the time, home warranties last one year but may be renewed for an additional cost.
The price of a home warranty can depend on the sales price of your home, but you should generally expect to pay about $300 to $500 for this benefit.
Buyer’s Closing Costs
In a buyer’s market, a seller could be asked to cover part or all of the buyer’s closing costs to sweeten the deal. Usually, these costs add up to around 2% to 5% of the cost of the home and can include mortgage fees, appraisal costs, and additional professional services.
The Bottom Line
Before you sell your home, you should know which fees to expect. By arming yourself with information, you can emerge from your home’s closing with an eye on the future – and hopefully, more money in your pocket.
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Have you ever sold a home before? Were you surprised by the costs of selling?