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Selling your home is likely one of the largest financial transactions of your life — and with it can come some hefty expenses. While there are some fees and costs you can’t avoid, you’ll be surprised at how many ways there are to save when it comes to your home sale.
The most expensive costs that may come to mind are real estate fees or commissions — typically paid by the seller and amounting to 6% of your final selling price. But, starting with the decision of when to list, there are plenty of other tactics you can use to keep more of your profit in your pocket — and not leave money on the table.
1. Use the market to your advantage
You may be able to use a seller’s market to your advantage in more than just asking a higher price for your home. Having the upper hand and a shortage of homes on the market can also be used as leverage to ask for more — whether its lower real estate commissions, less closing fees, and asking for discounts on other services related to the sale of your home.
You can’t save money when you sell your home if you don’t understand the process. Understand all the steps of selling (and buying) and home so you have a complete view of everything involved. This includes everything from getting your home prepped for listing to your final closing date. Also, take a look at common mistakes to avoid when selling your home.
3. Understand the fees
Along with doing your research, understand the breakdown of any fees you may pay. Some — usually those related to filing paperwork with your local municipality — are non-negotiable, set costs. Others may be more flexible — such as home warranty costs, agent commissions, or staging fees.
4. Interview agents
Interview agents just as you would an employee — you don’t have to sign on with the first one you meet or just because your aunt recommended them. Different agents provide a variety of services — and with that comes a variety of fees and commissions. Lay out exactly what you need in an agent and use your past research to negotiate services and commission rates.
5. Be creative
Just because there’s a way things have always been done doesn’t mean they have to be done that way. Especially with the recent move to online communication and meetings, you may be able to streamline your home-selling process and thus, reduce costs. For example, instead of flying to your old home to complete the closing process, you can now sign everything electronically and conduct your closing via video conferencing.
6. Skip an agent
Since one of the largest slices of the pie removed from the seller’s profits of your home are real estate commissions, many sellers opt to go it alone and list their home as a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) or using a flat-fee MLS service. Although this can certainly come with some headaches, and FSBOs actually tend to sell for less and sit on the market longer overall, it may save you the typical 3% commission for a listing agent. Keep in mind, you may still need to pay the 3% to the buyer’s agent, so you may not save as much as you initially thought. You’ll also want to be sure to market heavily on sites like Zillow.
7. Negotiate your agent’s commission
In real estate, everything is negotiable — even your listing agent’s commission. You’ll especially have some wiggle room on commission in a seller’s market, as your home will likely sell easily for asking price or above with little work from your agent. The less work and time your agent sees themselves investing in your sale, the more likely they may be to agree to a lesser commission, saving you thousands. After all, they can quickly move on to another client.
8. Opt out of full-service
While you may opt for a traditional agent, you may be able to convince an agent to accept a lower commission percentage if you cut out a few of the services they provide. In a hot seller’s market, for example, you may not need a full marketing blitz — a listing on the local multiple listing service (MLS) and some strategically placed signs may be enough to entice buyers. Plus, you may be able to take your own photos or only need one open house — both of which decrease your agent’s workload.
9. Use a discount or flat-fee agent
Gone are the days when you had to choose between using an agent or listing your home as a FSBO. With the advancement of technology, discount agents and flat fee agents — such as those through Clever and Zillow — have popped up. These agents still provide full services to a seller but agree to do so at a discounted rate — as low as 1.5%. The agents find they can reach a greater volume of clients by using the technology, and thus, can charge a lower commission rate.
10. Do reasonable repairs prior to listing
It can be tempting to go overboard on repairs before putting your home on the market. But be thoughtful about the process and opt for the repairs most likely to generate a return on your money that will help your home sell more quickly or for a higher price.
HomeAdvisor can help by connecting you with top local professionals for any home repair project.
11. DIY repairs
You can save loads by performing repairs yourself — especially ones that don’t require much expertise, such as painting or landscaping. Labor can often be the greatest cost to performing repairs, so putting in some elbow grease yourself can definitely make a difference.
12. Choose the best way to make repairs after an inspection
If a buyer is requesting repairs as a result of their home inspection, you may have the option of hiring someone to do the repairs, doing the repairs yourself before your closing date, or giving a credit to account for the buyer doing the repairs at a later date. Which of those is the cheaper option — and if it’s even a viable one — depends greatly on the type of repair. But if it’s something you can do easily and safely do yourself, that may be your best route.
13. Sell as-is
One other option regarding repairs is to sell your home “as-is” — meaning you’re unwilling to make any repairs on the home after it’s listed, even if the buyer asks for them after an inspection. This may save you the cash needed to make those repairs — or avoid you needing to take out a personal loan to do so, but beware that this tactic works best in a seller’s market — otherwise, it will put off potential buyers.
14. Price it right
While pricing your home in its sweet spot may not save you money, it can greatly affect its final selling price and avoid you leaving money on the table. You may think you’ll be best served by listing your home at a higher price, but pricing it at market value — or even slightly below — can actually generate more interest. More interest translates to more competition, especially in a seller’s market, and a bidding war may help your home sell for well over the asking price.
15. Negotiate fees and closing costs
Not all fees can be negotiated, but some can. Your real estate commission is a great example of this. But even if you can’t negotiate paying less in fees, you may be able to negotiate with the buyer in paying all or some of the closing costs typically paid by you as the seller. However, you may only be able to pull this off in a hot seller’s market.
16. Keep an eye on your closing date
To avoid paying bills for two homes at one time, try lining up the closing date on your old home and your move into your new one as close as you can manage. Moving costs are often forgotten by buyers and sellers alike but tend to add up. For example, if you move into your new home two months prior to handing over the keys on your old one, you’ll pay double on your homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and utility bills for those two months — one for the old home and one for the new.
17. Avoid offering buyers more than needed
In buyer’s markets, you’ll see sellers offering things to sweeten the deal to a potential buyer. These things may include a pre-paid home warranty or the ability for them to back out after an inspection with no negative impact. In a seller’s market, there may be little need for these perks.
18. Find where to save big — and don’t sweat the small stuff
There are ways you can definitely save money initially by doing it yourself or cutting corners. That can work in your favor sometimes, but other times, it may lose you buyers, result in a lower selling price, or simply create headaches or unneeded stress for you. When trying to save money when selling your home, don’t skimp on everything — simply find the places you can save big (like an agent’s commission or doing some repairs yourself), but don’t worry about saving $20 here or there.
19. Be reasonable
Evaluate your personal situation, and be reasonable about what services you can forgo from an agent or what you can DIY. If you’re moving across the country with your family to start a new job, now may not be the right time to embark on all your own repairs or convince your agent you’ll run all the open houses if they accept a lower commission. Lower stress levels and feeling good about your sale are worth something, too.
20. Bottom Line: Don’t be afraid to ask
With all of the tactics listed here, it never hurts to ask. It can feel awkward to ask for a discount — whether from your real estate agent or other professionals — but trust us, it’s common practice in the real estate business. And you’ll never get one if you don’t ask.