Estimating Seller Costs
Buying & Selling

Estimating the True Cost of Selling Your Home


You know that everything has its price, but did you realize that it actually costs money to sell your home? A lot of first-time sellers don’t, and that leaves them unprepared. 

Let’s face it: When you sell your home, you’ve got a use for every dollar you can get. Even if you’re making a profit on your home, you probably have plans for that money, whether it’s going into a downpayment on your next home or into your retirement fund. 

The problem is that you don’t get to keep every dollar from the house sale. Some of it — up to roughly 10% of the overall sale price — will probably go to other expenses.

Ready to sort out what’s going to take the biggest bite out of your home sale proceeds? Here’s what you need to know:


Prep Work Costs

A “For Sale” sign in your front yard and your realtor’s listing may get people to look at your home, but it won’t sell if they don’t like what they see. Most homes aren’t really sold “as-is,” so much as “as-it-could-be.” It often takes a little bit of cash to get a house ready to show to potential buyers. 

Before you ever get an offer on your home, you’ll probably need to invest in:

  • Sprucing up your landscaping: Curb appeal is essential when you want to make a good first impression, so you may need some new mulch, paving stones, plants and shrubs.
  • Outside maintenance: Before you sell, it’s time to clean out the gutters and do any small outside repairs to your home. Look for missing soffits and anything that looks weather-damaged and old and buy replacements.
  • Indoor cleaning: Buyers don’t want a home that looks “lived in.” It’s up to the seller to make a home look as sparkling clean and brand-new as possible — no matter its actual age. Unless you’re prepared to do it all alone, it may be time to call a service.
  • Organization: You want your home to be fairly empty so that buyers get a better sense of its space and charm (instead of your style). That means emptying closets, clearing out the attic and basement, and either renting a dumpster to get rid of stuff or renting a storage unit to hold it (or both).
  • Repainting: Those ultra-modern red walls may be perfect for your aesthetic, but “relocation beige” or some other neutral is the go-to when it comes to wall paint when you’re trying to sell. Otherwise, a lot of buyers won’t be able to see themselves in your space.
  • Miscellaneous repairs: How high your costs are in this area likely depends on the state of your home. If you’ve been ignoring that “honey-do” list for a while, you may have a lot of little repairs that need doing, from broken door handles to that pesky leak in the kitchen. All of that will likely need to be fixed before a sale.
  • Pet boarding: It’s tough to sell a home with a pet in residence. Some buyers can’t see past the fur that’s recently been shed on the floor, and it can be hard to corral your dogs into the car to get them out of the way for a showing. 

What happens if you decide that you don’t want to worry about (or invest money) into any of these things? You’ll probably eventually sell your home anyhow, but it may take a lot longer and you can generally expect the offering price to reflect the home’s state of disrepair. 


Agent Commissions

When most people think about the cost of selling a home, this is usually what they focus on because it’s a large chunk of money that comes off the top of their sale.

It is true that you can expect the realtor to take about a 6% commission on the home’s sale price, so does that mean you should consider selling your house on your own? Not hardly. Eschewing a real estate agent for your sale is usually “penny-wise and pound-foolish,” so to speak. Homes sold without an agent’s assistance bring in, on average, about $65,000 less than homes sold with an agent’s help.

What are you getting for your money? Real estate agents know how to price a home appropriately, which can keep your house from stagnating on the market. They also have access to advertising tools that laypeople don’t have, which gets your home the widest level of exposure to potential buyers. They’re also responsible for bringing attention to your sale through open house events. Finally, they can help negotiate a sale and make sure that every step of the closing process is correct — which takes a lot of work off your hands.


Other Expenses

Here’s where estimating your selling costs can get tricky. Every home sale comes with some kind of additional expenses, but “how much” and “what for” can vary quite a bit. You may be asked to pay part of the buyer’s closing costs or “points” to make the sale, for example, which happens often when it’s a buyer’s market — but not so much when sellers have the upper hand. You may also have some old liens on the property that need to be paid off, property taxes that are due and a home warranty to provide. Then, of course, when the sale is done, you also have moving costs — and that’s another chunk of change out of your pocket.


Confused? Worried that you won’t have enough left over from your sale to afford your next place? Helping you understand what’s ahead is just one of the many things a realtor will help you with when you get started. Sitting down with an agent can ease a lot of your worries and make it easier to see the whole picture.