Selling Your House May Cost You a Lot More Than You Think

While a lot of pixels are burned giving home buyers advice on what to look for, how to negotiate and what to do when you lose out to a higher bid, not so much advice is available to home sellers beyond the time-honored stuff about finding a reputable agent, staging the house for sale and sitting back while the offers roll in.

If only. Sellers have lots of decisions to make. Do you list with an agent? Do you want to sell it by yourself and save the sales commissions to agents? Do you want to sell it directly to an internet buyer like Opendoor or Zillow? And that’s just the beginning. If you do sell your house, then what? Do you have another house to move to immediately?

The experts at Realtor.com have offered a list of five questions to consider before you decide to sell your home. These questions are not the obvious ones and may be overlooked, especially if this is your first try at selling your home.

Can you afford to sell your home?

Unless you get incredibly lucky and stumble upon a buyer who makes you an offer you can’t refuse, selling a house costs money. Even if you don’t pay your own real estate agent to list your house, if the buyer does use an agent, that person gets a share of the full commission. Other costs might include paying for professional photographs of the house ($500 to $1,000) for those all-important first online impressions. Curb-appeal (average cost around $3,200) may seem expensive but it can boost the sales price by as much as 12%. Staging the house (average cost $400) results in fast sales (88% faster on average) for more money, as much as 20% more. And these costs have to be paid before you sell or even list the house. Closing costs of around 2% are typically deducted from the sales cost, but they still reduce the amount of cash going into your pocket.

Selling a house for $300,000 through an agent could result in commissions and closing costs of about 8% ($24,000) plus average expenses of around $3,500 to $4,000 for those other items.

What do you need to disclose about the home you’re selling?

The short answer to this question is, “Everything you know.” State laws vary, but all states require at least some disclosures. In general, what do you know about the physical condition (foundation cracks, for example), dangerous materials (asbestos, mold, lead paint), or anything else that may make a material difference to a buyer? Check out a list of 10 things that can kill the sale of your house.

Do you need to hire a home inspector?

There is no requirement for a seller to get a professional inspection. Most buyers will include an inspection contingency along with their offer. Sellers may choose to have an inspector comb through their house to help them identify things that may need to be fixed or disclosed. This costs about $200 to $500, according to Realtor.com.

What areas of the home will sellers look at the hardest?

Like curb appeal, another first impression a buyer gets is delivered by your home’s entryway. After that, the living room, kitchen and master bedroom tend to get the most scrutiny. Surprisingly, perhaps, a Realtor.com survey revealed that nearly a third of buyers said the garage was one of the most important rooms in the house.

What must you leave behind when you sell and what can you take with you?

If the chandelier over the dining room table is a family heirloom, for example, the seller must specify in the conveyance documents that the chandelier is not included in the sale. Otherwise, anything bolted or nailed to the walls and ceilings must stay. Realtor.com recommends that you label such items as soon as the house goes on the market.

Buying a home is a different story. While increasing home values may discourage some potential buyers, owning a home does not have to break the bank — even in many urban markets, which are traditionally more expensive. These are the cities where it’s easiest to buy a house for less than $100K.