Personal Finance

This is why you're losing $20,000 from your home's sales price

Key Points
  • Closing costs exceed $13,000 for the median-valued U.S. home.
  • Homeowners spend nearly $5,000 enhancing curb appeal — painting, gardening and cleaning, Zillow found.
  • Commissions, taxes and other expenses hit $80,000 for sellers in San Jose, California.l
Photo by Rolf Bruderer via Getty Images

If you were banking on a windfall from the sale of your home, get ready to lose nearly $20,000 in last-minute expenses as you close the deal.

A study from Zillow, a real estate website, and Thumbtack, a site that matches customers with local professionals, showed that the average homeowner spends $18,342 in additional costs associated with selling a home.

This includes closing costs — transfer taxes and commissions for real estate agents. These expenses are $13,357 for the median-valued U.S. home.

The median sales price for a home in the U.S. is $232,300, Zillow said.

The analysis excluded the other expenses you can expect to see at closing, including filing fees and the cost of title insurance.

"If you're planning to sell this year, try to take some time to research what costs you may be responsible for and how they could affect your profit," said Jeremy Wacksman, chief marketing officer at Zillow.

Here's a breakdown of the expenses you can expect to encounter as you sell your house.

Commissions to agents

A real estate agent, right, shows a home to a prospective buyer in Miami, Florida.
Getty Images

The payout to the agents representing you and your buyer makes up the lion's share of the additional costs related to selling your home.

Generally, sellers pay about 6 percent of the sales price in commissions. This amount is split between the agents representing the buyer and the homeowner.

This is also where you'll see the greatest variation across the country.

A typical seller in San Jose, Calif., will cough up $73,578 in agent commissions, bringing the total cost of selling a house to $81,507. That's because the median sales price of a home there is $1.04 million, Zillow found.

See below for an example of closing costs across the country. Click to enlarge.

Aim to get the most service out of your agent.

Sellers ranked "finding interested buyers" as the most valued service an agent can provide, followed by "guiding me through the overall selling process" and "leading contract negotiations," according to Zillow.

Least valued services include creating print ads of the home and promoting the listing on social networking sites.


Elena Ryabitskaya | Getty Images

Real estate transfer taxes, which are imposed by states and counties, account for a portion of closing expenses and are often covered by the seller.

These levies aren't always applicable. Indiana, for instance, has no transfer taxes. However, homeowners in Seattle can expect to spend $8,487 on these expenses.

Forget about trying to deduct transfer taxes when you file your tax return. These aren't deductible to the seller, but they do reduce the amount realized on the sale of the home.

If the buyer winds up paying the transfer tax, it's included in the cost basis of the property.

Overall, the calculus behind the tax benefits of homeownership is changing this year.

As of 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act placed a $10,000 cap on homeowners to claim state and local taxes, including property taxes.

Other changing tax breaks include the deduction for mortgage interest, which is now limited to loans of up to $750,000. That's down from $1 million.

Further, under the new law, you can only deduct the interest on a home equity loan or home equity line of credit if you're using the proceeds toward buying, building or substantially improving your home.

Previously, you were able to deduct the interest paid on loans of up to $100,000, regardless of how you used the money.

Curb appeal

Victor J. Blue | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Sometimes a fresh coat of paint, carpet cleaning and landscaping might be enough to attract the right buyer.

In addition to closing costs, sellers seeking professionals to help them prepare the home for sale spend an average of $4,985, Zillow found.

The cost of labor will vary sharply across the country: Homeowners in San Jose, Calif., pay an average of $6,580, while those in Dallas pay $3,720.

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