A shortage of homes for sale in the U.S. gives sellers the advantage in most housing markets. But many sellers don't realize that getting rid of their house likely will cost them thousands of dollars.
Real estate commissions and other fees can eat up about 10 percent of the sale price of the home. Some expenses are negotiable and fluctuate with the real estate market. But sellers should expect to pay part of the costs in the transaction and avoid sticker shock at closing time.
Here are the major costs of selling a house.
The real estate commission is usually the biggest fee a seller pays – 5 percent to 6 percent of the sale price. So, if you sell your house for $250,000, you could end up paying $15,000 in commissions. The commission is split between the seller's real estate agent and the buyer's agent.
Many homeowners try to avoid these high fees by offering their home as for-sale-by-owner (FSBO). If you do that, be prepared to assume the duties of a real estate agent, including showing the place to prospective buyers, negotiating, hiring a lawyer to draw up the contract, and taking care of the transfer of title.
If you're thinking about selling your home, it's likely there are a few things you could do to enhance the appeal of your place and maybe raise its value. If you've been putting off sprucing up the exterior of your property, painting the inside, repairing a staircase or a leaky faucet, now's the time to make those changes.
Also, if the buyer's home inspector finds problems, such as a leaky roof or bad plumbing, you might have to pay to fix those, as well.
Big repairs can set you back financially, so be prepared for them before you decide to sell, especially if you expect a problem with your home passing inspection.
Staging the home
Buyers like to have a clear picture of what the house could look like after they move in.
Hiring a professional to stage your home might pay off. Stagers do what's necessary to enhance a home's best features, downplay its worst features and help prospective buyers imagine themselves living there. They rearrange furniture and accessories, declutter and depersonalize the home. They may even repurpose a room in a way you never would have imagined.
The cost of a professional stager varies according to the size of the home, the extent of the work, the length of time the house is on the market and other factors. Expect to spend several hundred dollars, at minimum, and possibly thousands if you need a professional stager.
Keeping the water and AC on
If you plan to move out before you sell your home, you'll want to continue to pay for water and electricity. A home without air conditioning/heat and lighting can be very difficult to show to buyers.
Your current bills will give you an idea how much it will cost each month to leave on the utilities until a new buyer takes over.
The proceeds of your home sale will be used to pay off your mortgage, but it's likely that the payoff amount on your mortgage statement is a little less than what you actually owe.
You'll likely have to add prorated interest you've accrued to the total balance. Additionally, your lender may penalize you if you have a prepayment penalty associated with your mortgage.
Selling one house and buying another? Use our calculator to determine how much house you can afford.
Closing costs and additional fees
While the closing costs to sell a house are typically the responsibility of the buyer, don't be surprised if you are asked to foot the bill, especially if you are trying to sell your home in a buyer's market (one which has a lot of homes for sale).
Some of these costs may include homeowners association fees, property taxes, attorney fees, transfer taxes and title insurance. You also may be asked to pay an escrow fee, a brokerage fee and a courier fee. Altogether, closing costs can range from 2 to 4 percent of the selling price.
Many of these fees are negotiable, and it's unlikely that a seller will be responsible for all of these. Still, it helps to be prepared.