There are a host of fees, commissions and costs involved in selling your home, some of which are optional, such as how much you will invest in remodeling or fixing up your home before the sale. But most you have no voice in—you simply have to pay them.
Here are the most common costs and a few tips on containing them.
- Improvements, remodeling. There are some things you can before putting your house on the market that will most likely add value to your home. Updating your kitchen and/or bathrooms, adding new central air/heating, or a new deck will usually pay for themselves—and then some. Wet bars, swimming pools or garage conversions may return less because they are specialty additions. You could put in new cabinets, built-in appliances, wallpaper or flooring, but some buyers will not share your tastes and may want to make those color/style choices themselves. However, anything that's in ill repair, such as a rickety fence or a leaking water heater, should be tended to or you'll lose negotiating points. Many home-improvement expenses, by the way, are tax-deductible if you have to report a capital gain. Keep thorough records for your tax preparer.
- Agent fees. This can be a big-ticket item. Sales commissions vary depending on sale price, location and the vibrancy of the market, but they are often negotiable—but only at the time you sign a contract with your agent. Don’t expect to dicker when you’ve got an offer in hand. If you don't travel the agent route, know you'll be responsible for the listing, advertising, signage, showing, negotiation, etc. What's your time worth?
- Legal expenses. Even if you're not going the for-sale-by-owner route, you should probably hire an attorney to examine the sales contract and assist with closing, which can be complicated.
- Closing costs. Most of these are the responsibility of the buyer, but you can expect to pay the property taxes and insurance up to the date of the closing, even if they're not due yet. You're also likely to incur some expense in guaranteeing clear title and state fees on the deed. Also, some buyers will ask the seller for help with other closing costs as part of the negotiations, especially in higher-cost homes.
- Prepayment penalty. Depending on your mortgage agreement, you may be assessed prepayment penalties if you pay off the mortgage early. Examine your mortgage agreement to find out.
- Moving costs. Though these costs are not directly associated with selling, you're obviously moving somewhere, and you'll probably need a truck and movers, unless friends or family members are up to the task. At the very least, you'll need to invest in packing supplies, and ideally, an ad for a garage sale, so you won't have to haul all that stuff with you. Or, take leftover items to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. You can get a receipt for donated goods that is tax-deductible.
Being prepared for the costs of selling your home can help keep you from becoming frustrated or surprised just at the time you’ve got a lot of other things on your plate. Do a little pre-planning and you’ll be much happier.