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What does it cost to sell a house in New Jersey?

You may have a good idea of what your house is worth on the current market. But do you know how much you need to sell it for to break even or come out ahead?

The large majority of homeowners who put their house up for sale are first-time sellers. Are you aware of all the costs associated with selling your home?

 

7 hidden or surprising costs of selling your home

The costs fall into two categories: sale prep and closing costs. Here are some ballpark figures of costs that may apply if and when you put your house on the market.

  • Clean-up - Zillow.com says homeowners spend an average of $5,000 sprucing up their property for sale. This might be cosmetic (fresh paint, patching walls). It might be more extensive, such as roof/driveway/sidewalk repairs, landscaping, new window treatments or hauling away junk.

  • Staging - Many homeowners hire a professional to "stage" their home for market with furniture, artwork, accessories, lighting, flowers, fragrance and other tactics. While staging can add $1,000 to $5,000, Realtor.com says staged homes do sell quicker and for a higher price.

  • Sales commission - The standard commission of 6 percent adds up. On a typical $280,000 sale price in Middlesex County you would pay the real estate agent $17,000. For a median $350,000 sale in Somerset County, the commission would be $21,000. Sometimes this fee is negotiable, especially in a hot market or upscale neighborhood.

  • Transfer tax - The State of New Jersey charges sellers a transaction fee on home sales. This would add about $1,500 for our hypothetical Middlesex County home, and about $2,800 in Somerset County.

  • Attorney fees - Real estate lawyers can scout the dangers, negotiate terms and troubleshoot the transaction. They may charge by the hour, as a flat fee, or as a percentage of the sale price. Depending on the value and complexity of your transaction, legal fees commonly add $750  to $1,500.

  • Prepayment penalty - Depending on the terms in your mortgage contract, you may be subject to a fee for paying off your mortgage upon sale. The formula is based on the interest-only portion of your monthly payments. If your loan was at 5 percent, the penalty might be $6,000 on a $300,000 mortgage. Older mortgages are more likely to include an early payment penalty.

  • Miscellaneous closing costs - In New Jersey, buyers typically pay title insurance, but the seller may or may not have to pay for inspections, appraisals, county recording fees and other various closing expenses.

  • Lurking costs - The seller would be required to resolve liens or judgments against the property, any outstanding homeowner association fees, and a prorated portion of annual property taxes.

Legal counsel can save you money. Maybe a lot of money.

The average U.S. homeowner spends around $18,000 to sell their home, according to Zillow. Here in central New Jersey, those costs are probably more in the $20,000 to $40,000 range.

It's not quite true that "everything" is negotiable. Sellers are stuck with certain costs. But some expenses can be shifted to the buyer or reflected in the asking price. An attorney can advise on potential pitfalls and cost centers in the selling process. In conjunction with your real estate agent, this will help you determine a realistic listing price and your "bottom line" for the final sale. 

Legal representation in a real estate transaction can also protect against the deal falling through, which can be disastrous, especially if you are in the process of buying another property.

 

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