You might hope that selling a home will leave more money in your pockets, but there are costs of selling a house that can make that difficult.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated August 01, 2019

Contrary to popular (or optimistic) belief, selling a house isn’t cheap—there’s a cost of selling a house, and it’s more than many people might expect. Most costs related to homeownership, including home remodeling costs, tend to be high. And while following a home selling checklist can make the process easier, it can’t always make it cheaper.

A recent analysis from real estate company Zillow and home improvement site Thumbtack calculates the cost of selling a house, and it’s a whopping $20,851, on average. More than two-thirds of those costs are transfer or sales taxes and agent commissions, but many of the fees and expenses that contribute to that cost can be surprising, especially for first-time home sellers.

So what makes up the cost of selling a house? Beyond closing costs—the taxes and agent commissions—it’s basic home prep. Even if a home doesn’t require a major renovation pre-sale, most home sellers paint, get the yard fixed up, and get the house and carpets cleaned. In some situations, potential buyers can even request that the seller pay for these projects as part of negotiations.

These little fixes don’t seem that major, but they really add up. The national average for basic home preparation costs, according to Zillow and Thumbtack’s 2019 Hidden Costs of Selling analysis, is $6,570. These costs include exterior painting ($2,600), home staging ($1,805), interior painting ($1,245), local moving ($475), full-service lawn care ($145), carpet cleaning ($140), and house cleaning ($160). These, combined with estimated closing costs (the national average is $14,281), contribute to the shockingly high cost of selling a house.

Costs vary by location, and home sellers can certainly take steps to minimize the costs of selling a home, but no home seller should expect to walk away from a sale without putting some of the money they received for the house toward those hidden costs.

Certain home improvement projects, such as adding a steam shower, can help sellers get more than asking price, and that extra money can go toward these costs. Another alternative is using a service capable of selling a house fast that also eliminates the need for sellers to pay closing costs, commissions, and home improvement costs. (These services do charge a certain percentage, though.)

In the end, there’s no real way to avoid some home-selling costs completely—and you thought the steps to buying a house were frustrating.