Breaking Down the Costs of Home Sales
The cost of selling a home varies due to several factors including location, upgrades, repairs, closing costs, new home costs, agent commissions and the most overlooked, your time.
It’s hard to put an exact number on the cost but you should be prepared to spend on average about 10% of the home’s sale price throughout the process not counting the agent commission or the time cost involved from home showings all the way to closing and relocation.
For example, if you sold your house for $315,000 (the median price in 2019 for homes), you could be looking at paying a total of as much as $50,000 before it’s over. In most cases, your agent’s commission is the biggest of all the seller fees you will pay. (More on this later.)
Below you will find some of the key elements that factor into the total cost of selling your home.
Table of Contents
Three Major Cost Factors of Selling a Home
Listing your home is a big step, so you want to make sure the property is show ready before putting it on the market. There are three major costs to consider before listing your home.
#1: Maintenance & Repairs
One of the most important factors in determining home’s value, sale price and cycle length is the overall condition of the home. Since the goal is often to sell at the highest possible figure, it’s a good idea to conduct your own inspection before getting an appraisal.
Walking through your home and making note of needed repairs and maintenance as well as determining which things you can fix yourself before the pros come in is one way to help ensure you reduce the number of concessions made during closing. It also helps drive up the value of your home.
Try to look for obvious things like broken appliances, missing shingles, bent gutters, foundation cracks, water damage and more. Even if you’re a handy DIYer, it’s best to request multiple quotes from professional service providers and contractors for major repair work. Several tiny things can add up to a really big problem and even cause a closing to fail if not handled appropriately.
#2: Upgrades & Renovations
It’s true: kitchens and baths are usually known to make or break a sale. The challenge is to figure out which upgrades will give you the biggest return on your financial investment as well as fit within your time frame.
The truth is even a small renovation can cost a large chunk of money. While the NAR Remodeling 2018 Cost vs. Value Report states that 81.1% recoup the cost at the sale, it may make more sense for you to avoid the cost of a full remodel in favor of a simple facelift. It’s the difference between replacing your kitchen cabinets and painting them. Both ad value, but one is far less labor and cost intensive.
When determining which upgrades will make the cut, don’t forget to step outside and look over your landscaping. Your home’s curb appeal can greatly impact your sale price, especially since so many buyers conduct their initial search online and rely on pictures to give them a good first impression.
Landscaping can be pretty costly, but a little goes a long way. Simple things like mowing, planting flower beds and adding mulch can turn an eyesore into a warm invitation for very little money, compared to something like reseeding the entire lawn.
Overall landscaping should cost less than 1% of your overall seller fees but should not be ignored or overlooked.
#3: Buyer Staging
One of the quickest ways to lose potential buyers is to think your belongings do not impact your ability to sell. The National Association of Realtors states that over 32% of seller’s agents see a 1-5% increase in the dollar amount of buyer offers as a result of staging. With the median cost of staging only around $675, it is definitely a cost worth the investment.
Staging your home can also benefit you during your move out phase. Buyers need to be able to envision themselves and their belongings in your home. By removing and storing your personal items, deep cleaning surfaces (especially carpets) and adding a few carefully selected decor items, buyers can focus on the selling features. You will also have less work to do after closing, to move into your new home.
Choosing an Agent to Work With
After you do all of the presale prep work needed on your home, it’s time to begin the listing process by choosing an agent to work with in obtaining purchase offers. Here are some things to expect during the entire sales process.
Understanding How Commissions Work
It is reasonable to expect to pay up to as much as 6% of the sale price, to your listing agent. So, for a $250,000 home, you should expect to pay as much as $15,000 in commissions which is typically split between your agent and your buyer’s agent.
If you’re thinking about saving costs by not hiring an agent, be aware that you will likely still end up paying at least a 3% commission if your buyer is represented by an agent, which accounts for about 87% of buyers.
Commission costs are almost a guaranteed expense but one you shouldn’t necessarily try to avoid. A seller agent not only saves you time, but covers the majority of the actual work involved with selling a home including setting up open houses and walkthroughs, posting and updating your listing online, handling all the paperwork and sometimes even arranging for photography and staging to increase the sale value.
Prepare for seller concessions
Sometimes you have to bargain with buyers to get them to close the deal. The average is about 2% of the sale price. This often means agreeing to cover some of the additional costs they would incur during the closing process. Some examples of this include:
- Closing costs
- Processing fees
- And sometimes, the cost of certain repairs
Buyers may ask for concessions due to a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with simply getting a lower purchase price. They may not have enough cash on hand to cover the closing or to make important repairs and updates. The amount they can ask for is also dependent on the type loan they are approved for. A Conventional loan bases their limit on the size of the buyer’s down payment and ranges from 3-9%. Loans through government programs like FHA and the VA have their own caps, 6% and 4% respectively.
What Happens After You Find a Buyer
After you find a buyer, you must accept their offer and move into the negotiation and closing phase of the selling process. There are several costs that you need to be prepared to cover.
Preparing for the closing
As a seller, your closing costs and fees will typically be lower than those of the buyer but still can add up to about 3% of the sale price on top of your agent commissions. So, if your home sells for $300,000, your closing costs could cost up to $9000.
This cost covers things like:
- Property taxes
- Transfer taxes
- Closing agent fees
If your mortgage isn’t already paid off, that will need to happen before you can transfer the taxes and officially close on the sale. If there is a gap in the amount of the purchase price and the mortgage payoff, you will be responsible for covering the difference including 2-4% of potential interest penalties incurred for paying your loan off early, depending on your loan.
To finalize the sale you will need to have the title transferred to the buyer’s name. The price ranges from $0 up to 5% of the sale price, depending on the county and state the home is located in. The NAR breaks it down by state HERE.
Offering a home warranty
Offering a home warranty is an optional cost and is typically less than $1000. Your homeowners insurance is not the same thing. Some sellers offer to purchase a warranty during the closing period. Others opt for a year or two of coverage after closing to cover maintenance, repairs and updates for by the buyer such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC systems and appliances.
While it’s not a requirement, it is definitely a selling point advantage you want to consider and may lessen the amount of concessions you are asked to make.
The cost of relocation
Once the sale is officially closed, you need to prepare for the costs of relocating to your new home. For most people there is a gap between closing and moving into your new house. When you move, before or after the closing, is your choice. Both options have costs that you need to consider.
You want to be aware that you could end up paying mortgages, utilities, taxes and other fees for two properties at the same time which can add up fast. If you don’t have a new home at the time of closing, you will still need to consider the costs of temporary housing (like deposits) and storage for your belongings.
You also want to get quotes for from moving companies if you don’t plan on renting a truck and moving your items yourself. The cost of movers depends on how large the house is and the distance between the homes. Professional movers can be pricey starting at as much as $700 in some locations.
Some companies handle the entire process A-Z including packing, moving and unpacking, taking a ton of the stress out of the move.
If you plan to handle the move on your own, you can still expect to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for packing supplies and truck rental, depending on the number of miles travelled. It may sound like a lot, but data suggests that it averages out to about 1% of the total sale price. For a $300,000 home that is about $3000, give or take.
While you may encounter some additional fees during your home selling process, it’s safe to expect to pay at least 10% on your sale price on top of agent commissions. Carefully go through the list of fees above and consult with professionals to get realistic quotes for things in question. Add up the ones that apply to you to get a more realistic idea of your selling costs and future purchase power.
Keep in mind, the costs mentioned above will vary greatly depending on circumstances but you should be better prepared for less surprises during the process of selling your home.