Selling Your Home
The Balance’s Guide to Selling Your Home
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you stage your home for a home sale?
If your budget allows, consider hiring a professional staging company to do it for you. It’s not cheap—you can spend up to $2,000 per month for a 2,000-square-foot home, according to some estimates. But it can also increase the amount a buyer offers by 1%-5%, according to an NAR survey. One way to save is to pay for a consultation with a professional, and then stage the home yourself, with your own furnishings. Next, make sure you cover the basics: clean, eliminate clutter and personal decoration, open the drapes, and turn up the lights.
Can you avoid capital gains on a home sale?
You can—up to a point. You can exclude the first $250,000 of capital gains from the sale of your home if you’re a single filer ($500,000 for joint filers). To be eligible the house must have been your primary residence for two out of the previous five years, and you must have been its owner for two of the previous five years, as well. Of course, the rules are complex, especially for inherited property and other situations; consult with a tax professional.
Can you sell a home without an agent?
You can sell a home without an agent, “For Sale by Owner (FSBO)”. Most homeowners who take this route do so to avoid paying agent commissions, which can be as high as 7% of the sales price. Unfortunately, according to the National Association of Realtors, homes sold via FSBO in 2021 fetched $58,000 less than those sold by agents, a figure far larger than the cost of commissions: Average agent-sold homes went for $318,000, which at 7%, would generate $22,260. Still, about 7% of homes sold in 2021 were FSBO, so it’s a viable option for many.
How much does it cost to sell a house?
Selling a home is a big undertaking, with lots of people involved. In general, sellers should expect to pay as much as 10% of the sales price once all the costs are added up. The largest cost will be agent commissions, which range between 5%-7%, with 6% the average. Other costs include staging and preparation, some closing costs (although most of those are borne by the buyer), and any post-inspection repairs or credits to the buyer.
A real estate appraisal establishes a property's market value—the likely sales price it would bring if offered in an open and competitive real estate market. Lenders require appraisals when buyers use their new homes as security for their mortgages.
Closing costs include payments to a variety of people and organizations for services during the homebuying process. Standard closing costs might range from 2%-5% of the home’s purchase price for the buyer, and 8% to 10% for the seller. But that depends on where you live, the property you’re selling, and more.
A Realtor can be a real estate agent, a broker-associate, a managing broker, or an exclusive buyer's agent, and this is just the beginning of the list. What sets them apart is that they must subscribe to the Realtor Code of Ethics for membership, and this includes 17 separate articles that contain various underlying Standards of Practice.
An encumbrance is any legal thing that burdens or restricts usage or transfer of a property. An encumbrance can be a mortgage, a lien (voluntary or involuntary), an easement, or a restriction limiting the transfer of a title. A property free-and-clear of any encumbrances is rare.
Earnest Money Deposit
Earnest money is a deposit a buyer gives to a home seller to show that the buyer is serious about purchasing the property. Also called a “good-faith deposit,” earnest money accompanies an offer to buy a house.
Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
A multiple listing service (MLS) is a database of broker-listed homes. Only real estate agents and other professional affiliates can access an MLS.
Purchase and Sale Agreement
A real estate purchase contract is a binding agreement, usually between two parties, for the transfer of a home or other property. The parties must both have the legal capacity to make the purchase, exchange, or other conveyance of the real property in question, and the contract is based on a legal consideration, which is whatever is being exchanged for the real estate.
Home staging is the art of presenting your home in a way that gives potential buyers that warm, fuzzy, I-want-to-live-here feeling. You can hire a professional stager, ask your agent to help stage, or stage your place yourself, but you'll almost certainly get more for your home if you address this issue.
Listing agents do what the name implies—they list a property for sale. They work for the seller and are also referred to as the "selling agent." It's their job to market the property and get it sold properly.
Contingencies reduce risks for homebuyers, and what is allowable varies from state to state. Your state might make a big deal out of a septic inspection, for example, because it could cost many thousands of dollars to replace a faulty septic system. However, many contingencies are common to every state.
A home inspection can help satisfy the buyer that the home you’re selling is well maintained and issue free. It can also uncover deficiencies, and if they are serious enough, may allow the buyer to back out of the deal. Short of that, the buyer may ask that you complete any necessary repairs, or credit the buyer the cost of doing them post sale.
National Association of Realtors. "2021 Profile of Home Staging," Page 16.
Internal Revenue Service. "Topic No. 701 Sale of Your Home."
National Association of Realtors. "2021 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers," Page 9.
Clever Real Estate. "Average Real Estate Commission Rates by State."
Zillow. "How Much Are Closing Costs for Sellers?"
National Association of Realtors. "Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association of Realtors."
National Association of Realtors. "Multiple Listing Service (MLS): What Is It."