It Costs the Average American $15,000 to Sell Their House – Here’s Why

how much does it cost to sell a house

Every homeowner says the expenses never end once you buy a house. And a new study from Zillow shows that’s true even when you’re trying to get rid of it.

The study reported that “U.S. homeowners can expect to spend more than $15,000” to sell the median home. Since 63 percent of sellers are going through the process for the first time, I thought the topic merited further exploration.

How much does it cost to sell a house? Is there any way to reduce the expenses? Keep reading to find out.

How much it costs to sell a house

Unfortunately, the simple math of “selling price minus remaining mortgage” doesn’t equal how much you’ll walk away with.

“Many sellers can be initially surprised by costs associated with selling a home,” said Alyssa Frudakis, a realtor in the Tampa, Florida, area.

In addition to any outstanding property taxes, utility bills, or HOA dues, you’ll often have to pay the following, according to

  • Realtor commission: The biggest cost involved in the buying or selling process is always the responsibility of the seller. It’s typically six percent of the sales price, split between the buyer’s and seller’s agents.
  • Loan payoff: You’ll have to pay your remaining mortgage as well as potentially prorated interest or a prepayment penalty.
  • Other costs: You’ll also have to pay transfer taxes, title insurance fees, and attorney fees.

“In most cases, expenses are paid from the proceeds of the sale and do not require a seller to pay out of pocket – unless there’s a mortgage deficit,” explained Frudakis.

Frudakis also noted that licensed real estate agents “can negotiate more favorable contract terms for sellers, such as structuring the purchase and sale agreement so the buyers are responsible for paying some of the closing fees – like title expenses and doc stamps on the deed.”

But before you get to that point, you’ll likely have home-prep costs too. Sellers can expect to spend more than $2,650 on tasks like staging, carpet cleaning, interior painting, lawn care, and house cleaning, according to Zillow – not to mention decluttering.

“To prep our house for pictures and walk-throughs, we rented a storage unit and moved most of our unused and bulky items there,” said Kristin O’Connor, who recently sold her house in Albany, New York.

“We spent about $500 at U-Haul on packing supplies – which totally shocked me – and roughly $300 to rent a dumpster for larger items we didn’t need and couldn’t donate,” O’Connor recalled.

The 10 most expensive metro areas to sell a house

Like everything in real estate, the cost of selling a house varies depending on where you live. That’s because of different market values as well as state and municipal fees and regulations.

In San Francisco, for example, the median cost of selling your house is a whopping $55,105. In Cincinnati, it’s just over $10,000.

Curious if your city makes the list of the most expensive metro areas to sell a house? Check out the chart below.

Image credit: Zillow

3 ways to lower the cost of selling your house

Want to lower the cost of selling your house? Here are three tactics you can try.

1. Negotiate a lower commission

Pretty much everything in real estate is negotiable – even your agent’s commission.

“Sixty percent of people who sold a home in the past year said they got a discount on the commission they paid to their real estate agent,” according to an August 2016 Redfin survey. “The average discount was 41 percent off the typical commission.”

Although that number seems high, it never hurts to ask.

2. Don’t use a realtor

If you really don’t want to pay for a realtor’s commission, you can try to sell your house yourself.

You also can try to use an online service like Redfin, which charges a 4.5 percent listing fee (instead of the typical six percent). On a $250,000 home, it claims you can save $3,000 by selling through its platform.

Keep in mind, however, that full-service agents often pay for themselves. As Frudakis pointed out, “They can use their expertise to effectively market and stage your home, which can bring about a higher purchase price.”

3. Do home preparation yourself

Since getting your home ready for potential buyers is hard work, it sometimes makes sense to bring in professional help.

But “staging” can cost a lot of money: “$300 to $600 for an initial design consultation” and “$500 to $600 per month per room,” according to

If you want to save money, consider paying for a consultation with a home stager and then completing his or her recommendations yourself. Tasks like decluttering, cleaning, painting, landscaping, and displaying fresh flowers can make a big difference on a small budget.

Or ask your realtor for help. Frudakis, for example, includes professional photos and staging consults as part of her commission.

Selling your house can be a surprisingly expensive process. So before you put it on the market, make sure you’re prepared for the costs – and prepared to negotiate!

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Published in Big Money Decisions, Buy or Rent a Home,