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How much does it cost to sell a house in California?

Selling a house in California isn't cheap. Read on for an in-depth breakdown of some common home selling costs — and tips on how to avoid them.

Selling a house in California isn't cheap. Read on for an in-depth breakdown of some common home selling costs — and tips on how to avoid them.

Updated on March 3, 2020

Selling a house in California can be expensive. Between repairs, realtor commissions, closing costs, moving, and more, your total expenses can easily eat up 10% or more of your home's final sale price.

In this guide, we'll cover some of the most common expenses for California home sellers. We'll also offer up some tips and tricks that will help you save on home selling costs without sacrificing your final sale price!

Average cost to sell a house in California

If you sell your home for $549,671 (the average home value in California in 2019), you could end up paying upwards of $74,206 to make it happen.

While your actual out-of-pocket total will vary based on your situation, expect to pay 10% or more of your home's final sale price — that is, if you opt to do a standard listing with a traditional, full-service realtor.

>> LEARN about alternative, low-cost home selling options.

The chart below breaks down some of the most common expenses for home sellers in California, helping identify the most (and least) costly aspects of the home selling process.

Common expenses for home sellers in CaliforniaTypical % of sale priceEstimated cost*
Preparing your home for sale2-3%$10,993-$16,490
Realtor commission fees5-6%$27,484-$32,980
Buyer incentives1-3%$5,497-$16,490
Closing costs1-3%$5,497-$16,490
Relocation expenses1-2%$5,497-$10,993
Total10-17%$54,967-$93,444

*Based on a $549,671home — average home value in California in 2019, per Zillow Research data

Keep in mind these costs are highly variable — particularly the home prep and relocation expenses categories. Talk to your realtor for a more accurate and tailored estimate of your costs versus final sale price.

Home sale calculator: How much will I make selling my California house?

How much you walk away with at the end of your sale will depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • How you choose to go about selling your home (e.g., realtor, cash buyer, for sale by owner, etc.)
  • Which repairs, improvements, and listing preparations you choose to invest in
  • Whether you make any concessions or offer incentives to buyers
  • State and/or regional closing and tax-related expenses

Below is a quick overview of how these costs could break down for a $582,500 home (the average sale price in California in 2019), accounting for some variation in a few of the factors mentioned at the beginning of this section.

Type of expenseEstimated cost*% of sale price
Staging$5,8251%
Improvements and renovations$17,4753%
Realtor commission$32,0385.5%
Seller concessions$8,7381.5%
Closing costs$14,5632.5%
Relocation$11,6502%
Total$84,46314.5%
Total Proceeds$498,03785.5%

*Based on a $582,500 home — median sale price in California in 2019, per Redfin Data Center

If you owned 100% of your home, you'd be left with approximately $498,037 after closing; however, most people will have some of their mortgage left to pay off.

Ideally, your proceeds will cover your remaining balance, but if that balance doesn't include prorated interest — or your loan has a prepayment penalty for paying it off early — they may not be enough. In cases like these, you may have to write your lender a check.

Be sure to talk to your lender and look into the terms of your original loan before you sell your home to avoid any nasty surprises.

Home selling costs: an in-depth breakdown

Preparing your home for sale: 2-3%

Common pre-listing expensesTypical % of sale priceEstimated cost*
Home Improvements/CleaningVariable — expect min. of ~1%~$5,497
Landscaping~1% of sale price~$5,497
Staging~0.3% of sale price~$1,649
Total2-3% $10,993-$16,490

*Based on a $549,671 home — average home value in California in 2019, per Zillow Research data

Unless you're planning to sell your California house “as-is” or to a cash buyer, you'll need to spend some money to get your home market-ready to attract qualified buyers.

These costs will vary considerably depending on factors like:

  • The age and condition of your home
  • Your home's size and layout
  • The level of demand or competition for homes in your neighborhood
  • Your yard's size and layout
  • Which repairs/improvements your realtor thinks matter most to local buyers
  • Etc.

At minimum, you'll want to invest in some basic pre-listing improvements — e.g., interior repainting; carpet cleaning/replacement; professional cleaning service; a handyman to make minor repairs; etc. Refer to the table below for rough cost estimates for a few of the most common pre-listing expenses.

Type of expenseAverage project cost (national)*
Home staging$1,101
Cleaning service$167
Carpet cleaning$176
Handyman$389
Interior repaint$1,780
Landscaping (installing)$3,240

*National averages from HomeAdvisor's TrueCost Guide 2020

If you're considering any bigger projects, it's best to discuss with your realtor before pulling the trigger. Unless you fully understand the cost versus resale value of each project you take on, you could easily end up in the red.

For example, it's well-known that kitchens are top considerations for most home buyers. According to Remodeling's 2020 Cost vs Value Report, in California, a minor kitchen remodel costs $26,150 on average, but the resale value is only $22,657 — meaning you only stand to recoup about 86.6% of your initial investment. Depending on your situation, it may make more sense to leave your kitchen as it is and let the buyer handle the updating, if they feel so inclined.

Realtor commission fees in California: 5-6%

Breakdown of realtor commission fees in CaliforniaTypical % of sale priceEstimated cost*
Listing fee2.5-3%$13,742-$16,490
Buyer's agent fee2.5-3%$13,742-$16,490
Total5-6% $27,484-$32,980

*Based on a $549,671 home — average home value in California in 2019, per Zillow Research data

In a standard real estate transaction — one involving traditional, full-service listing and buyer's agents — you (the seller) will likely be on the hook for the full commission fee. The average real estate commission in California is between 5-6% of the home's final selling price and is typically split between the two agents handling the sale.

Based on the median home value in California in 2019, that comes to roughly $30,232 — potentially more than half of your total home selling expenses!

Negotiations and buyer incentives: ~1-3%

Common buyer incentivesTypical % of sale priceEstimated cost*
Seller concessions~1.5-2%**$8,245-$10,993
Paying for buyer's home warranty<1%$300 to $600
Total1.5-3%$8,245-$16,490

*Based on a $549,671 home — average home value in California in 2019, per Zillow Research data
**According to Opendoor as of March 2020

Once you've listed your California home and accepted an offer, it's time to start negotiating. Depending on your property and demand in your area, you may choose to offer incentives or make concessions to keep the buyer motivated and ensure the deal goes through.

When a seller makes a concession, that means they've agreed to pay specific costs — e.g., help with inspection fees, certain closing costs, repair credits, etc. — on the buyer's behalf to sweeten the deal. It's worth noting that buyers will likely have limits on how much they can request based on their loan type. On average, seller concessions range between 1.5-2%, but some loan types allow for up to 9%.

Another commonly offered (but totally optional) incentive is paying for a buyer's home warranty. Unlike homeowner's insurance, these policies cover repair or replacement if a major appliance or home system (electrical, plumbing, HVAC, etc.) breaks within the first 1-2 years following the sale. Home warranties typically cost between $300 and $600.

Closing costs: ~1-3%

Common closing costs for sellers in CaliforniaTypical % of sale priceEstimated cost*
Title insurance~0.5%**$2,748
Loan payoff (and early payoff fee, if applicable)VariableVariable
Outstanding bills, taxes, feesVariableVariable
Transfer taxes (learn more)0.11%***$605
Recording feeUp to $10***$10
Attorney fee<1%**$150-$500
Total~1-3%$5,497-$16,490

*Based on a $549,671 home — average home value in California in 2019, per Zillow Research data
**According to Realtor.com
***Based on latest available data from National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)

Closing costs are a blanket term for the various fees and expenses (not including realtor commission) paid by both parties at the close of a real estate transaction.

While the buyers will typically be responsible for the lion's share, sellers should expect to pay between 1-3% of the home's final sale price at closing. Based on the average home value in California of $549,671, that roughly translates to $5,497-$16,490.

The above list represents common closing costs that are typically the seller's responsibility; however, in a real estate transaction, the question of “who pays what” is up for negotiation and will depend on the circumstances of the sale. Talk to your realtor at the outset to get a sense of how much you should expect to pay come closing time.

>> READ the in-depth guide to closing costs here!

Moving expenses: ~1-2%

Common moving expensesTypical cost* — local moveTypical cost* — long-distance move**
Packing supplies$500 to $630$500 to $630
Moving$1,250$4,890
Overlap and carrying costsVariable (~1%)Variable (~1%)
Total$1,750+$5,390+

*2-3 bedroom move of approximately 7,500 lbs, per Moving.com 2020
**Long-distance move is based on distance of 1,000 miles

Many people forget to factor in moving costs when calculating their home sale profits. But depending on factors like the distance of your move, the extent of your DIY ethos, and how much stuff you have, these expenses can really add up.

Moreover, don't forget to account for potential overlap periods. If there's a gap between when you move out of your current home and close on your new one, you may need to pay for a storage space and/or temporary housing. Or you may have to pay carrying costs (e.g., utilities, HOA fees, property taxes, etc.) on two properties at once in the reverse scenario.

3 tips to maximize profits on the sale of your California home

1. Time your sale to get top dollar for your California home

When you choose to sell your home can have a huge influence on how much you end up receiving.

For instance, in Los Angeles, you're likely to see the highest sale prices in the months of March, April, and May as 36.6%, 37.2%, and 37.8% of homes sell above list price in those months, respectively. In San Francisco, February, March, and April are your best bets with a whopping 72.4%, 73.3%, and 72.7% of homes selling above list price.

Knowing when to sell your home is critical if you want to earn top dollar. As with all things in real estate, location is a main factor, which is why having an experienced real estate agent to help you can be a huge benefit.

>> LEARN when is the best time to sell a house in California?

2. Negotiate like a pro

You need to know how to negotiate or have a real estate agent who's great at negotiating on your behalf if you're going to end up with the best possible outcome of your home sale. It's often tempting to agree to keep the peace and seem amenable, but it's critical to consider how those concessions will affect your bottom line.

Working with your real estate agent can be helpful as they can let you know whether or not making certain concessions is a good idea.

3. List with a low-commission real estate agent

Realtor commission fees are a huge expense for California home sellers, often making up 50% or more of their total home selling costs. In other words, finding a way to save on commission is one of the best ways to increase your profit margins.

You can negotiate commission rates on your own, but the easiest option by far is to find a low-commission real estate agent through Clever. These are full-service, local realtors who usually charge full commission, but we send them a high volume of new business in exchange for pre-negotiated, discounted rates.

The result? You could save up to 33% on realtor fees. On a $549,671 home — the average home value in California in 2019 — that could mean $10,993 more in your pocket after closing.

>> LEARN about Clever's free service and read reviews from real home sellers!

Cost-saving home selling options in California

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Jamie Ayers

Jamie is the Director of Content at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you with top real estate agents and helps you save thousands on commission. In the past, Jamie has managed columns for clients in a variety of leading business publications, including Forbes, Inc., CEO World, Entrepreneur, and more. At Clever, Jamie's primary goal is to provide home sellers, buyers, and investors with the information they need to successfully navigate the ins and outs of the real estate industry.

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