We're a mostly stay-put nation: Nearly half of American homeowners 50 and older have been in the same residence for 20-plus years. Which means that when it finally comes time to move on, you should be prepared for some sticker shock. Selling a home costs a lot of money, often as much as 10 percent of the sales price. But you can reduce that with a little negotiating, planning and do-it-yourself taskwork. Here's the lowdown.
As far as fees go, these haven't changed much. The seller is typically responsible for paying commissions to both the listing agent and the buyer's agent. These will total 5 percent to 6 percent of a home's selling price, usually split equally between the agents. On a $300,000 home, for example, that means $15,000 to $18,000.
How to show your home's best side
Make a good first impression
- Paint the front door a bright, cheery color.
- Weed and mulch all beds.
- Patch up bare spots in the lawn.
- Fill cracks in the driveway.
Let it shine
- Hire a cleaning service for a top-to-bottom scrub.
- Polish the stainless steel in your kitchen.
- Wash your windows.
- Open curtains and raise blinds and shades.
- Replace light bulbs as needed; turn them all on.
Spiff it up and clear it out
- Paint rooms, preferably in neutral tones.
- Declutter, declutter, declutter: Take half your books from shelves, half your art from walls and half your clothes from closets. Put it all in a rented storage locker.
- Depersonalize: Remove all family photos, religious artifacts and politically fraught displays.
- Thoroughly clean and organize the garage.
How to save. Ask. Nearly half of recent home sellers pushed for a lower commission — successfully so 55 percent of the time, according to estimates. You can often get a listing agent to lower her commission, for example, if you agree to use her as your buyer's agent when purchasing your next home.
If you're willing to tackle some of the work that goes into selling a home, hiring what's known as a hybrid broker can help you curb your agent fees. Hybrid brokers, such as Houzeo and Xome, offer à la carte services — like advising on a listing price or hosting open houses — instead of charging a percentage of the home's selling price. Houzeo, for example, charges $180 to produce professional photos and a video tour of your home.
You'll want to fix up your home before you put it on the market. Even a minor flaw, like a leaky faucet, can dissuade potential buyers from making an offer. Unfortunately, that means you could be facing some hefty bills. A common rule of thumb is to budget at least 1 percent of your home's value annually for maintenance (you may need to at least double that for an older home). If you've been procrastinating on basic fixes, your catch-up costs could be in the thousands.