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The True Cost of Selling A House In The Bay Area

Updated: Jan 24, 2021

Victorian houses in San Francisco
Selling Your House in The Bay Area Is One of The Most Expensive Things You'll Ever Do

Selling your house in the San Francisco Bay Area is probably one of the most expensive things you'll ever do.

After you take into account:

  • Realtor commissions

  • Staging costs

  • Buyer requested repairs

  • Transfer taxes

  • And so much more we'll discuss

You'll realize you won't be walking away with as big a check as you thought.

Let's jump right into what the true costs are for selling your house in the Bay Area.

For the sake of simplicity, we will consider a house being sold for $500,000 in Alameda County to do our calculations.

Realtor Commissions

The single most expensive line item when selling your house in the Bay Area are those pricey realtor commissions.

Realtor commissions can be as high as 6%, with 3% going to the seller's agent, and the other 3% going to the buyer's agent.

On a $500,000 sale, that 6% adds up to a total of $30,000.

See what I mean when I said selling your house is one of the single most expensive things you can do?

We're still only on the first item of this list!

Running Total: $30,000

Staging Costs

Staging costs are often forgotten, but staging a house before listing it can help your sale tremendously.

Sellers have a few different options when it comes to staging. They can either:

  • Stage the house themselves.

  • Hire a staging consultant to give them a plan to follow.

  • Hire a full-service home staging professional.

We'll go with the cost of a full-service home staging professional for our example.

According to SFGate, professional home staging can cost between 1% to 2% of the listing price.

That‘s $5,000 to $10,000 for our $500,000 home example.

Running Total: $35,000 - $40,000

Repair, Remodel, And Maintenance Costs

Depending on your target buyer, you may have to pay a ton of money to repair, remodel, and maintain your property during the listing period.

Your target buyer can be one of two classes of people:

  1. An owner-occupant who will buy and live in the property. Owner-occupants will be picky and will more than likely ask you to do expensive repairs before closing.

  2. A professional home buyer (investor) like Contenza Properties who will buy the property in its as-is condition as an investment.

When your target buyer is an owner-occupant, if your house is out of date, it may benefit you to do some minor updates, such as fresh coats of paint, to help your listing stand out.

When an investor like Contenza buys your house, you do not have to worry about performing any repairs or remodeling work to the property since we buy houses as-is.

When we sold our first house, the buyers requested $7,000 worth of work be done before closing. So, we'll go with $7,000 here for our example.

Running Total: $42,000 - $47,000

Accumulated Property Taxes

If your property taxes are $5,000 a year, and you sell your house 6 months into the year, you're still responsible for 6 months worth of property taxes.

In Alameda County, the average effective property tax is .87% of the assessed property value.

Typically assessed values and market values are not the same.

Here's a screenshot and link to a house in Hayward that sold for $500,000.

Property Taxes for a $500,000 House in Hayward, California

You can see the assessed value is only $287,010, which is a little more than half of what it sold for.

According to Zillow, it's estimated taxes per year are $3,668, so we'll use this number for our example.

You'd still be on the hook for approximately $1,843 worth of property taxes if you sold your house mid-year. We'll round up to $2,000 to keep our numbers simple.

Running Total: $44,000 - $49,000

Repayment of an Existing Loan(s)

Repayment of any existing mortgage loans should go without saying, but we'll list it here anyway.

We won't calculate it into our final "Cost of selling a home" since it's not an additional charge.

The first thing to get paid off when selling your house is your mortgage.

In other words, when you sell your house for $500,000 but still owe $450,000, your loan gets paid back first, then you receive the difference minus any fees.

Any Property Liens

Are there any liens on the property? If so, these liens must be paid off in full before the house can sell.

Liens include, but are not limited to:

  • Mechanics Lien - Filed by contractors/laborers if you fail to pay them for the work they completed on your property.

  • Property Tax Lien - Can be filed if you do not pay your property taxes to the city and/or county.

  • Judgment Liens - Filed when an unsecured debt, such as credit card debt, is not paid back.

  • IRS Lien - Can be filed when IRS taxes are not paid.

  • Child Support Lien - Can be filed when child support payments are not made.

The good news is these liens can be cured by paying the debt, the bad news is they can be costly and can make it tricky to sell a property with one attached to it.

It's best to avoid having a lien put on your property altogether, but hey, sometimes life throws us a curveball!

Liens can vary significantly in terms of cost, and more often than not, most people don't have to worry about them. For that reason, we will not include them in our final calculation.

Bay Area County And City Transfer Taxes

We'll use Alameda County transfer taxes as an example.

Real estate county-level transfer taxes are standard across Alameda county at $1.10 per $1,000 of the sales price. However, each city can charge its own amount of transfer tax, and it can get pretty high!

For example, the city of Hayward will charge you $8.50 per thousand of the total sales price on top of the Alameda County $1.10 per thousand. That's a total of $9.60 transfer tax per thousand dollars.

Considering our $500,000 house example, you'd wind up paying $4,800 in transfer taxes.

Transfer taxes can typically be negotiated and split between buyer and seller.

Running Total: $48,800 - $53,800

Buyer Credits

Buyer credits are not an expense many sellers think of when trying to determine how much it'll cost to sell their house.

Buyer credits are any money buyers request to go towards their down payment or other associated closing costs.

We've paid up to $5,000 in buyer closing costs in the past, so we'll use $5,000 for our example.

Running Total: $53,800 - $58,800

Home Warranty

When you sell your house to an owner-occupant, the new buyers are most likely going to want a home warranty. Even if buyers don't explicitly ask for one, it's in your best interest to include a home warranty in your listing, as they can help your house sell faster.

Home warranties can cost up to $600 for premium coverage and will help the new owners fix any major systems, such as HVAC or plumbing, that start acting up after closing.

Running Total: $54,400 - $59,400

Opportunity Cost

The last cost we'll talk about is the opportunity cost. What exactly is an "opportunity cost?"

An opportunity cost is what you might miss out on because your house is languishing on the market and won't sell.

Let's say your dream home comes on the market, and you're dying to put in an offer, but you can't close on it until you sell your house.

You can try putting in an offer with a home sale contingency, but this will not guarantee you'll win the bid.

In hot real estate markets like the San Francisco Bay Area, your offer has to be as aggressive as possible to have a shot at winning.

Even though you're ready to buy, you may miss out on a great opportunity if you have to wait for your house to sell before you can buy the one you really want.

The Total Potential Cost To Selling Your House

Grand Total - $54,400 - $59,400

We did our best to provide an example of a home sale in Alameda county so you can get an idea of what it truly costs to sell a house in the Bay Area.

It's important to remember this is only an example. And the exact numbers for your property are likely to vary.

As you can see, it can cost you a lot of money to sell your house in the Bay Area.

Is there another way to sell where you can avoid some, and maybe even all of these costs?

Sell To A Professional Home Buyer Like Contenza

Selling your house in the Bay Area sure is expensive.

  • The realtor fees

  • Closing costs

  • Repairs and maintenance

And everything else we discussed really adds up.

If you want to cut back on the fees you have to pay, consider selling directly to a professional home buyer like Contenza Properties.

We will never ask you to do any repairs, staging, cleaning, or pay us any commissions.

We buy houses as-is, so you don't have to worry. Submit your information using our simple form below, and let's get started.


About the Author

Jordan Reid - Founder of Contenza Properties

Jordan Reid founded Contenza Properties in April of 2018 to help homeowners solve their real estate problems quickly.

Since then, Jordan has helped multiple homeowners facing difficult situations such as divorce, property liens, and unwanted property inheritance.

Jordan believes in putting people first, and numbers second, which helps him reach the best possible solutions for the homeowners he works with.

Currently, Jordan and his team at Contenza Properties offer their professional home buying services in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Knoxville, Tennessee.


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