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Why selling your house can cost you more than $18,000

If you're thinking about selling your house, plan ahead for extra costs that will take a chunk out of any profit you may make. 

The average American homeowner will spend $18,342 to sell their house, according to a new study by real estate research firm Zillow and Thumbtack, an online site matching local professionals to customers.          

The total includes average closing costs of $13,357 for a U.S. home of median value ($210,200, according to Zillow) and $4,985 on average for basic home preparation projects.         

These extra costs can vary widely from market to market.

Among the 35 largest metro areas examined in the study, San Jose had the highest total costs for selling a home, with an average of $81,507. Cleveland was the lowest at $12,986.          

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"Even in the hottest housing markets in the country, selling a home takes time and costs money," Jeremy Wacksman, Zillow’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement.          

Closing costs 

Sellers are generally responsible for closing costs, which include agent commissions and transfer or sales taxes.          

Commissions make up the biggest chunk of the closing costs, with sellers typically paying real estate agent commissions of about 6 percent of the sale price that is split between the buyer’s and the seller’s agents. 

The study used a 6 percent sales commission for the median home value in each area. 

While 6 percent is often standard, that percentage is not set in stone and can be negotiated with your agent depending on the level of service needed in selling your home.          

Real estate transfer rate taxes also vary widely. Among the top 35 cities, transfer taxes were as high as $8,487 in Seattle for a $476,800 median value home.          

Several cities had no transfer tax at all including Austin, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Portland, San Antonio and St. Louis.         

Home preparation costs 

Depending on the condition of your house, the costs of getting your home prepared for selling can also be substantial. 

"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," Wacksman said.         

The average cost of covering basic projects — painting, staging your home, carpet cleaning, lawn care and gardening, and local moving costs — was $4,985 for sellers who hire professional help, the study found.          

The analysis showed a range of an average high of $6,580 in San Jose and a low of $3,720 in Dallas. 

“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,” said Thumbtack economist Lucas Puente.          

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