Watch Out, Wallet

New report reveals hidden costs Austinites pay when selling their home

New report reveals hidden costs Austinites pay when selling their home

House on top of money
Don't let these costs sneak up on you. Photo courtesy of AmCap

Just as smart homeowners pad their budgets when undertaking renovations, they should do the same when it's time to put their house on the market. Zillow and Thumbtack released a joint study that shows just how much is spent in "hidden costs" during a home's sale, and the results for Austin residents are pretty hefty. 

What's considered a hidden cost by the two sites? Closing costs and what you spend to get your home in sale-ready condition, including things such as painting, staging, house and carpet cleaning, lawn care and gardening, and local moving costs, plus all the labor if you don't do the work yourself.

"Even in the hottest housing markets in the country, selling a home takes time and costs money," says Jeremy Wacksman, Zillow's chief marketing officer. "From decluttering and staging to pre-inspections, agents and homeowners often spend months behind the scenes prepping a home — well before it's listed on the market. 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 or even budget for your next house."

Nationally, homeowners spend an average of $18,342 to sell their home. In Austin, it's more like $21,450. That large sum is largely due to ATX's pricey closing costs — the highest of any Texas city included in the report.

A seller here can expect to shell out around $16,890 for agent commissions and transfer or sales taxes, which are a percentage of the home's sales price. Since the median cost of an Austin home is currently $281,500, that helps explain the sticker shock. 

Austinites do pay less when it comes to home prep, however. While the national average is nearly five grand, sellers in the Capital City pay slightly less at $4,560.

Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth are both below the national average, with costs totaling $15,904 and $16,986, respectively. And DFW actually boasts the cheapest prep prices in the entire study at $3,720. 

The lowest hidden costs in Texas can be found in San Antonio, where sellers spend an average of $14,808. While Alamo City's estimated closing costs are also the lowest in the Lone Star State, the amount that owners spend to get their homes in top condition is not: $4,650, which is second only to Houston's $4,690.

Zillow and Thumbtack point out that around 61 percent of today's sellers have never sold a home before, but that 78 percent say they made at least one improvement before listing. 

In San Jose, California, deep-pocketed sellers are fixing things up to the tune of $6,580 and paying a whopping $74,927 in closing costs (the median home price there is $1.2 million). The resulting $81,507 in hidden costs looks especially high when compared to those of St. Louis, which come in at $13,010 overall.

“While there could be some initial sticker shock associated with the costs of selling a home, investing in home improvement projects like painting and home staging often proves to be very valuable in the long run," says Thumbtack economist Lucas Puente. "Homeowners starting to think about selling should take time to research and budget for the projects that can ultimately help sell their home faster and at a higher value."