Iffy Hidden Costs: What Sellers Need to Know

If you’re like many homeowners, your home is one of your prized possessions. If the selling value of your home is around $300,000, usually a traditional real estate agent would charge around a 6% sale commission. That sums up to $18,000. But when it comes to selling a house in the American market, there’s more to just paying agent commission. There are a lot more hidden costs involved in selling your home than you can ever imagine. 

From making your house market-ready to unexpected complications, this could cost you an arm and a leg. In simpler words, these hidden costs could turn out to be a rather expensive affair for you. 

According to Zillow’s research, two-thirds of sellers faced a surprise of thousands of dollars. Selling a home in this competitive market sure isn’t as simple a deal as accepting the offer and pocketing the money. Another observation made by Zillow was the approximate selling cost which comes to $20,851, while other real estate experts have to say that you’ll pay 10% of the amount as extra overheads of the closing costs. 

Now, this may differ from one state to another. While a typical seller in California would spend an average of $25,000 to unload their home, a Florida-based seller would spend close to $30,000. 

To avoid unsettling surprises and help you get top dollar, scroll through to read and make a list of 3 iffy hidden costs that a seller needs to know. But before that, let’s understand what exactly does ‘hidden costs for sellers’ means. 

  1. WHAT ARE HIDDEN COSTS?
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On the day of handing over the keys to the new owner, you’ll pay the agent’s commission along with other little fees and taxes. These comprise staging, inspection, repairs, survey costs, seller’s concessions, vacant house fees, closing costs, and many more. 

Many smart sellers avoid these costs by opting for the ‘For Sale By Owner’ route and list their homes on various multiple listing service websites. If you opt for this route, you may still have to pay a typical 3% buyer’s agent commission. 

A happy medium would be to work with a flat fee agent who charges you one-time fees which is lesser and affordable than a traditional real estate agent. 

  1. WHY ARE THESE COSTS HIDDEN?

Well, this question would arise in your mind. To simplify this, these costs are divided into two categories – unexpected costs and unjustified costs. Now unexpected costs, as the name goes, are something that isn’t in our control. Those are expenses that you have to incur when selling your house. On the other hand, the unjustified cost is a fancy term to exploit or rather take advantage of a buyer who is new to the selling process. 

Now let us understand which expense falls in which category. 

i) Unexpected costs: 

One of the best examples of this type of expense could be Escrow Fees. To avoid any conflicts between the seller and buyer, an escrow company acts as a mediator in real estate transactions. As a neutral third party, an escrow company facilitates the home selling and buying process. 

The escrow officer makes sure that the closing process goes smoothly and everyone gets paid what they’re owed. This includes the officer himself who typically gets around 1% to 2% of what the home costs. In case things don’t materialize, the escrow company will hold the money and deduct a percentage of the closing cost. Now, this is an unexpected expense since both parties were on the same page until a discrepancy or misunderstanding took place. 

Another ideal example of this is property tax. Ideally, the buyer looks into the property tax of the seller and gets a fair idea of what he has to pay. In case of any revisions from the state, this unexpected expense of rising property taxes is something that needs to be borne. 

ii) Unjustified costs: 

These are the secondary costs that are not included in the final closing cost of your house. Every homeowner has to bear the smallest of expenses such as printing charges, overnight charges, courier charges, processing fees, and many more. 

Usually, traditional real estate agents are observed to add these unjustified expenses that are created to take undue advantage of sellers who are unfamiliar with the process. 


KEY TAKEAWAYS

TYPE OF HIDDEN COSTS
UNEXPECTED COSTSUNJUSTIFIED COSTS
Escrow Agent FeesPrinting charges
Fluctuating Property TaxCourier charges
Last-minute repairsProcessing fees
Moving costsOvernight charges

  1. WHICH ARE THESE HIDDEN COSTS? 

We did mention in brief these costs and the reason behind them. Let’s get into detail about which are these hidden costs a seller should be aware of to avoid any last-minute surprises. 

i) Real Estate Commissions: 

On the contrary, when you take charge of your sale and list your home on a for sale by owner website, you pay half the commission and save $6,000 to the buyer’s agent. As per CNBC, here’s what America’s real estate price map looks like: 

U.S. average: $11,790 (based on a median home value of $196,500). The typical commission is 6 percent, according to Zillow.

Priciest city: San Francisco, where the average cost is $50,592 (based on a median home value of $843,200)

Cheapest city: Cleveland, where the average cost is $7,944 (based on a median home value of $132,400) 

ii) Home Staging:

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Home staging involves decluttering a room, paint it (if required), supplying aesthetic furniture and draperies – basically styling and designing a space beautifully for the buyer to visualize it as per their taste. Most interior designers offer professional staging as one of their services. 

As per Realtor.com, a staged house sells 88% faster than a regular one. CNBC helps understand the staging costs across the country:

U.S. average: $1,208

Priciest city: Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, where the average cost is $2,590

Cheapest city: Riverside, California, where the average cost is $253

iii) Repair & Maintenance:

You’ll come across two different types of repairs when you’re selling the house. The first ones are which you’d want to make to entice potential buyers. Just like staging, making essential repairs before listing your home on the market is an important part of attracting potential buyers. These comprise major fixation such as a 20-year old roof or remodeling the kitchen or painting the house or more such cheap yet needed repairs to make sure your house is in a sellable and a brand new condition. 

The second type falls under the “buyer’s request” category. After the buyer has inspected the home and when you’ve accepted their offer, they may request some repairs. It could be as petty as knocking a nail on the wall or as major as fixing the water leak. Although you can straight up deny or negotiate, it is best to cooperate with the buyer to ensure the deal doesn’t fall off.

iii) Transfer Tax:

Charged to the seller for transferring the property from the old owner to the new one, transfer tax differs depending on the city, county and state. A one-time fee imposed by the state or local authority to change the name of the owner from the old one to the new owner, the transfer tax is charged based on the property. 

These taxes are recurring in nature and are imposed on properties as a source of revenue for the local government. 

On a valuation of $500,000, here are some transfer tax figures charged across different regions: 

  • Colorado – $50
  • North Carolina – $1,000
  • New York – $2,000
  • Florida – $3,500

4. PLAN WELL & BE PREPARED

By knowing what hidden costs await you when selling your home means you’re ahead of the game. Planning well in advance means you’re prepared for the worst by having additional money for any last-minute repairs and hoping for the best by smoothly cracking a great deal. You can save all of these hidden costs when you work with a flat-fee agent or when you list on multiple listing websites as for sale by owner. 

Not only this opens the door to gain higher profits but also helps you gain more control over your sale. Want to know what should be your house’s ideal closing cost? Click here to get your answers.