Hidden Costs of Selling a Home

Buying a new house can be complicated. Finding the right balance between your budget and a desirable location, or a turnkey home and a renovation dream, can feel like winning the lottery for some homeowners. Of course, deciding what house elements to change over time can be tricky too. The home upgrades you may want and the ones guaranteed to boost your resale value aren’t always the same.

Additionally, selling your home means deciding whether to hire an agent or facilitating the transaction yourself, staging the property or leaving it as is, and even deciding how much your home might be worth to prospective buyers. Then there are the unexpected expenses.

For a look at the hidden costs of selling your home, we surveyed 781 homeowners and 22 real estate experts about the experience. Read on as we break down the average cost of the most popular renovations, how often people get their desired asking price, and how often homeowners take their agents’ advice when listing and selling their property.

Key Insights

What should homeowners do for their home before putting it on the market? What renovations should be considered? What areas of the house should be focused on? What specifically should homeowners do in those areas of focus?

According to experts helping clients list and sell their homes, before putting your home on the market, move out if possible—at the very least, though, ensure the property is completely void of personal artifacts.

Other popular expert recommendations included:

  • Replace lightbulbs for a brighter, more welcoming atmosphere in the home.
  • Hire a professional to assess the value of your property and uncover any hidden damages.
  • The kitchen and bathroom should be a priority when renovating.
  • New appliances should be considered a bare minimum.
  • The front yard makes a huge statement, so focus on making yours look as presentable as possible.

Calculating dollars and cents

Many major home renovations don’t come cheap, and if you’re already planning to sell, taking on more projects can be a big gamble. You might expect that an updated kitchen or master bathroom will make your house more appealing, but it may not be appealing enough to cover the renovation expenses.

According to the real estate experts surveyed, the kitchen and bathroom were the best rooms to renovate. As one told us, homes that featured white kitchens in their Facebook advertisements got 40 percent more clicks than anything else. Still, remodeling your kitchen can be a huge expense, and the average price of upgrading certain home aspects can be even pricier depending on where you live.

While the national average for installing new kitchen cabinets was $668, homeowners could expect to pay over 16 percent more in Chicago ($775) and over 15 percent more in Los Angeles ($772). Painting your kitchen cabinets, installing a quartz countertop, and installing an engineered hardwood floor were also more expensive than the national average in some cities including Los Angeles, Denver, and Orlando. While completing all the projects suggested by our experts would cost nearly $20,000 on average, you might expect to pay over $23,000 living in Los Angeles and over $23,000 living in Los Angeles.

At the appropriate price

Percentage received over or under the desired price for home

Despite the details that go into selling a home, the most important is often how much to list it for once your renovations are done. While homeowners don’t want to overprice their property for fear of driving away potential buyers, if you undervalue your home, you may leave cash on the table after it hits the market.

While taking on new home improvement projects with the intent to sell can be risky, homeowners who added additional construction to their home averaged 21 percent more than their desired price, followed by those with multiple bedroom renovations (nearly 15 percent) and multiple bathroom renovations (over 14 percent). In some cases, home upgrades may be necessary to attract buyers and stand out against the competition. Homeowners doing kitchen renovations sold for 8 percent higher than their desired amount.

Heeding their advice

Percentage of homeowners who did each agent-recommended project

You don’t need a real estate agent to list your home for sale. Of course, just because you can facilitate your own home sale doesn’t mean you should. “For sale by owner” transactions have plenty of challenges, including inaccurately assessing the value of your home, underestimating the importance of marketing, and struggling to take a critical approach to your property.

Hiring an agent to facilitate your sale doesn’t always mean you’ll take their advice, though. Homeowners were typically more inclined to perform updates to the kitchen, bathroom, landscaping, and home interior than agents recommended. In contrast, real estate agents more commonly recommended their clients consider working on multiple bedrooms, painting the home exterior, and adding new construction to the property. Research shows agent-assisted homes typically sell for $60,000 more than “for sale by owner” properties—and nearly $90,000 more than when the homeowner sold the house to someone they knew.

The expert advice you need

When it comes to selling your home, expert advice can be just as important as the advice you got when buying it. Real estate experts revealed their favorite tips and tricks for making a property seem more attractive to prospective buyers, including some inexpensive examples of ways clients can help position their property.

In the same way a real estate agent can help you make the best decisions, our Porch home professionals provide the same expertise for your home improvement to-do list. Whether you’re planning on moving out or just moving in, our Porch Home Assistant will connect you with local experts for everything from electrical work to window installation. No project is too big or small for our Porch professionals, so why wait? Visit us at Porch to get your project started today.

Methodology and limitations

To collect the data presented above, a variety of methods were used. Data on what homeowners did to prepare their house for sale and how much over or under the asking price they received came from a survey. The survey was run using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service. The respondents were made up of 398 men, 383 women, 94 baby boomers, 218 Gen Xers, 454 millennials, and 15 people from a generation outside those.

Data on the average cost of a project for each of the 10 cities presented was provided by Porch. The advice listed in the “expert advice” section was aggregated from HARO. The size references for each project are as follows: install 3 kitchen cabinets, paint 330 sq ft of kitchen cabinets, install 30 sq ft of quartz countertop, install 300 sq ft of engineered wood floor, paint 219 sq ft bedroom, hang 1 exterior door, install 3,050 sq ft of sod, and install 2300 sq ft of asphalt shingle roof.

To qualify for the survey, respondents had to have sold a home in the last five years to avoid skewing data by including the years when the U.S. was in a recession. All survey data rely on self-reporting, which can be host to issues like telescoping and exaggeration. An attention check was used to ensure respondents answered intentionally instead of at random.


Fair use statement

Are your readers looking for expert advice on buying or selling a home? Help point them in the right direction by sharing the results of our interviews and survey data. This research is freely available for any noncommercial use with the inclusion of a link back to this page for source accreditation.

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