7 Hidden Costs of Selling Your Home (and How Much You Should Expect to Pay for Each)

Most sellers pay thousands of dollars before and after listing their homes on the market, say real estate agents.

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Gearing up to sell your home is exciting—and chances are, you'll walk away with a profit. It's not just dollars in the bank, though. From giving your real estate agent their cut to staging the house and making fixes pre- and mid-sale, you'll run into a number of hidden costs when selling your home.

Generally speaking, by the time the ink's finally dry on closing day you will have likely spent between 5 to 10 percent of the home's sale price in agent commissions, closing fees, repairs and renovations, staging, and beyond. So if your home sells for $400,000, you may end up covering $20,000 to $40,000 in expenses. Outlier scenarios exist, of course, but this is a good rule of thumb. We've compiled a handy list of common hidden costs to account for so you can go into the process without surprises.

Pre-Listing Inspections

Having your home inspected prior to listing is a critical part of the selling process. "Inspecting your home before you list it is the very best investment you can make," says Tracy McLaughlin, a California-based real estate agent. "It not only tells you and your agent what might result in relation to deferred maintenance or unanticipated need for repairs, but also allows you to make a full disclosure for liability reasons post-closing."

Inspection costs vary depending on your property size and whether environmental inspections are required—in California, a typical list of inspections covers everything from general home, pest, and roof to sewer, fireplace/chimney, and pool—but McLaughlin says to budget for anywhere between $2,000 to $10,000 for this expense.

Home Preparation

Unless you're selling your home as-is, it's a good idea to make your house look its best with some minor updates and fixes. This includes tasks like repainting or touching up paint, removing stains from floors or replacing carpet, swapping light fixtures, and general deep cleaning, says McLaughlin says. Lightly tending to your landscaping can help boost curb appeal, as well.

Your real estate agent can give you an idea of what updates will add the most value. Depending on how much prep work you do, and whether you hire out, you can expect to spend anywhere from $500 to thousands of dollars.

Agent Commission

The seller is typically responsible for covering both the buyer and listing agent fees. At 5 to 6 percent of the sale price—roughly 2 to 3 percent to each agent—this is easily the largest hidden cost of selling a home. "While some people think that's a big price to pay, a good agent is imperative to ensure that you are protected when selling your home," says Kelly Edwards, a real estate agent and interior designer. "Not only are the agents representing the client's best interest, but they're also negotiating behind the scenes, coordinating inspections and appraisals, handling all the closing paperwork, and making sure everything runs smoothly."

Staging and Photography

It might be tempting to skimp on this expense, but in a tough market, great staging and flattering photographs can make the difference between a quick sale and a house that sits. "I always encourage my clients to consider a stager and professional photography to get the biggest return on their investment," Edwards says. "It's worth the money in the long run." Generally speaking, this can run anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on the size of your house and your location. Some real estate agents include this in their services.

Unexpected Repairs

Once a buyer puts an offer on your house, you'll negotiate contingencies. This almost always involves a home inspection, which is paid for by the buyer. "If the inspections return with findings of minor and major issues on the property, the seller has the choice to repair these issues," says Jamie Giarratana, a Silicon Valley realtor.

These repairs range from minor issues, such as a leaky faucet or loose toilet, to bigger problems, such as roof maintenance or a plumbing repair. Often, the buyer will request you make at least a handful of these repairs and—depending on your real estate agent's advice—you'll end up covering some of these costs to ensure a smooth close. It's a good idea to set aside 1 to 2 percent of the home cost to cover these expenses.

Move-Out Costs

Whether you clear out your home prior to listing or post-sale, you'll need to account for move-out costs. "Most of my sellers move out completely—either to their new homes or to a short-term solution so we can prepare the home accordingly," McLaughlin says. "That move, including renting storage units, the cost of moving with labor and trucks, and a new apartment or home to move into while selling can obviously vary, but should be considered." Expect to pay several thousand dollars for movers, a storage unit, and potentially a rental home.

Transfer Tax

A transfer tax is collected by the government when the property is sold to a new owner, and it's imposed by the city and/or county. Some cities and states don't have transfer taxes, but many do. For those that do, the cost varies depending on your location and ranges from 1 to 5 percent of the home's total sale price.

"In some cities, it's the buyer's responsibility, while in others, the sellers are responsible," says Edwards. "It's important to check on this before you go into escrow and decide who will take care of it through thoughtful negotiations. You'd hate to get stuck with a hefty tax bill that you didn't anticipate at closing."

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