Home sellers in the United States spend an average of $20,851 to sell their homes, according to Zillow and Thumbtack's 2019 Hidden Costs of Selling analysis. This includes closing costs as well as improvements and other projects made when people are preparing their homes for sale.
More than half of today's sellers are doing so for the first time, and the costs associated with the process may come as an unwelcome surprise. Zillow and Thumbtack identified several common – but often overlooked – expenses to inform sellers as they prepare to list their homes this spring.
The majority (79 percent) of sellers complete at least one home improvement project before putting the home on the market, which tends to pay off. Sellers who make improvements to their homes are more likely to sell for more than their asking price than those who don't – 22 percent versus 16 percent, according to the Zillow's earlier Consumer Housing Trends Report.
Sellers who hire professional help for common home prep projects tend to spend, based on a national average, $6,570 on improvements like interior and exterior painting, staging, and carpet cleaning, as well as local moving costs to their new home.
Closing costs are another big expense for home sellers, including agent commissions and transfer or sales taxes. Nationally, these can add up to $14,281, on average, but because they are based on the home's sale price, sellers in the nation's priciest markets pay much more. In the San Jose metro, sellers pay $76,015 on average in closing costs, the highest of metros analyzed. By comparison, sellers in Cleveland spend the least - $9,046.
Preparing a home for sale is just one of the things that can be stressful for sellers. Other challenges for sellers are timing the sale with the purchase of a new home, and selling it within the desired time frame. And with some of the hottest markets cooling off, buyers are able to be more selective as they look for a new home, meaning sellers may have to do more to get their homes sale ready.
"Selling is often a complicated process that can sometimes require extensive prep work in order to put your best foot forward for a successful sale," said Skylar Olsen, Zillow's director of economic research. "It also comes with huge transaction costs that aren't necessarily top of mind to someone who hasn't sold a home in a while or never has had the pleasure. Selling was hard even in the sellers' market of recent years, and it's going to get harder as markets soften."