Table of contents
- Realtor’s commissions
- Staging and home preparation costs
- Seller concessions
- Repair costs
- Home ownership and overlap costs
- Closing costs
- Low appraisals: a risk to be aware of
If you’ve never sold a home before, you can think of the costs similarly to staying at a hotel. When you book the hotel, there’s a listed price for your room, but you know that’s not actually what you’re going to pay. There are additional costs like taxes and resort fees, so you don’t know the final bill until you’re checking out.
Selling a house is just like this: you’ll know your realtor’s commission upfront, but it can be hard to estimate the cost of all your expenses until you’re closing with a buyer. That’s why many people mistakenly think selling a home costs 5% to 6% – because they’re only taking into account average commission fees. In reality, the average total cost of selling a home is about 10% of the sale price.
Here are the hidden costs of selling a home that you might not know about and estimates of how much you’ll pay:
Realtor’s commissions (5-6%)
In a traditional real estate sale, the seller pays the commission fees of both their own agent (the “listing agent”) and the buyer’s agent. The total commission fees is typically about 5% to 6% of the sale price, which is often split evenly between the listing agent and the buyer’s agent.
Even if you’re planning to save money by selling your home on your own, you’ll likely still need to pay a commission fee of about 3% to the buyer’s agent. According to the National Association of Realtors, 88% of buyers have an agent, so it’s unlikely a fee you can avoid.
Staging and home preparation costs (1%)
To sell your home, you must get it “show ready,” or presentable enough for buyers to make an offer. Paying to stage your home isn’t required, but it’s common and often recommended.
According to a study by the National Association of Realtors, 77% of buyer’s agents said staging made it easier for buyers to visualize a property as their future home, and 38% of seller’s agents said they stage all homes prior to listing them.
At a minimum, you’ll need to clean and declutter your house and pay storage fees for the furniture you’ll need to hide away while your home is on the market. It’s also likely you’ll invest in cosmetic touch-ups like fresh paint and new carpet. If you have eclectic or outdated furniture or live in an area where there’s a lot of competition, hiring a professional stager may be recommended. The cost of staging varies based on factors like the size of your home and whether you need to rent furniture, but all in all, you can expect to spend about 1% of your total sale price on prepping your home for listing.
Seller concessions (1.5% to 2%)
It’s common for buyers to ask sellers to pay for costs on their behalfs such as inspection fees, processing fees, transfer taxes, and more. Buyers usually ask for these concessions when they have enough cash for their down payment but not enough for their closing costs. The maximum amount of seller concessions a buyer can ask for is determined by the type of loan the buyer is using.
For a conventional loan, the maximum a buyer using a conventional loan can ask for is 3% to 9%, depending on the size of the down payment. For FHA and USDA loans it’s about 6%. Our analysis of home sale data indicates that when buyers in Phoenix, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Atlanta do ask for concessions, they ask for about 1.5% to 2% of the home’s sales price.
Repair costs (determined based on inspection)
After you’ve agreed to an offer, your buyer will get your home inspected for any defects. Most homes that have been lived in will have some needed work just from normal wear and tear. Usually, the buyer will either ask you to make the repairs yourself or ask for a credit equal to the expected cost of making the repairs.
If the buyer wants you to make the repairs, be sure to schedule the time and cost required for your moving timeline and budget. If they want credits instead, be prepared to deduct this cost directly from the net cash you’ll make on your home sale.
Either way, it’s helpful to think about the cost of repairs up front and to have a sense of how much you might need to invest. Across the thousands of homes we’ve sold at Opendoor, we’ve seen repair asks ranging from a few hundred dollars for touch ups, to over $15,000 for foundation cracks, roof repairs, or resurfacing a pool.
Home ownership and overlap costs (1%)
One of the most overlooked expenses when selling a home is the cost of housing during the transition period from your old home to your new. If you’re like most people, you’ll need to sell your old home before you can buy a new one to have the cash for a down payment. Timelines almost never align perfectly so you may need to set aside funds to either stay in a hotel and store your belongings, get a short-term rental, or negotiate a lease-back during the months it can take to search for and close on a new home.
Even if you are able to move into your new home before selling the old one, be prepared to pay holding costs for the days you still own your old home like property taxes, mortgage payments, HOA fees, utilities, and insurance. Our analysis of industry data suggests these costs typically add up to about 1% of the sale price assuming a transition period of one and a half months.
Closing costs (1%)
When the sale is nearly complete, you’re left with one last fee: closing costs. Closing costs cover items like title insurance, escrow fees, and HOA transfer fees. They can range from 1% to 3% based on the different fees and legal requirements for each state and municipality.
Low appraisals: a risk to be aware of
One potential hidden cost of selling your home is a low appraisal. Imagine you’ve signed with a buyer to sell your home. It’s a great price, you’re feeling good, your new home is all lined up, and you’re ready to move! Then, your home appraises for below the sale price. What do you do?
The first thing you should try is an appraisal rebuttal. A knowledgeable agent can help you through this. Unfortunately, rebutting an appraisal usually won’t help much. So what can you do next?
You’ll want to negotiate with the buyer for one for one of the following:
- The buyer makes up the price difference in cash. If the appraisal is close, you may be able to get the buyer to come to the table with more cash. In our experience, this rarely works because most people buy the nicest home they can afford.
- You and the buyer split the difference. If your buyer has more money available than they needed for the down payment, this is a great option. Unfortunately, many buyers don’t have that cash on hand and are already putting as much as they can into the down payment.
- You eat the price difference. Appraisals vary by more than 5%, so this could be a big chunk out of your pocket. We’ve experienced this issue ourselves when reselling some homes we’ve purchased, and there was nothing we could do about it.
- You lose the contract with your buyer and re-list your home. For big appraisal differences, this is the best option. It doesn’t guarantee the next buyer will lead to a better appraisal, but you have a chance. Unfortunately if you were expecting to buy a home, you may need to walk away.
For most of us, our home is the most valuable thing we own. It’s important to maximize our proceeds when selling it because it determines how much we can spend on our next home and how much our mortgage payments will be for years to come.
So remember: don’t focus solely on commission.
Be sure to sit down and calculate how much you’ll spend on all the fees listed above – so you will be able to determine the true cost of selling your home. This will help you figure out your net proceeds or the amount of cash you’ll end up with in your pocket after subtracting all the expenses of the sale from the total sale price.
By Tiffany Chi
Related guides and blog articles
→ How to sell a house
→ How to prepare your house for sale
→ When is the best time to sell a house
→ How to increase your home value
→ How to sell and buy a house at the same time
→ Impact of interest rates on home ownership
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