Boston area ranked sixth-most expensive place in US to sell a home

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Homeowners in metro Boston could shell out $34,034 to sell their property. Andy Dean/

When it comes to the cost of selling your home, metro Boston is the sixth most expensive in the nation and first on the East Coast, according to a tally by

Sellers in the Boston area could shell out $34,034, according to the real estate website. Slightly more than 60 percent of sellers have never sold a home before, according to Zillow, so these costs may come as quite a surprise.

In conjunction with Thumbtack, a website that links consumers and service providers, Zillow looked at 35 metro areas across the country to determine the most expensive places to sell a home. It’s no surprise that it costs more here than in much of the country.

The average homeowner in the United States spends $18,342 when selling, according to the study. San Jose has the highest seller costs ($81,507), followed by San Francisco ($63,087), Los Angeles ($44,251), Seattle ($43,555), and San Diego ($40,379).

It’s important to be aware of these expenses before you list, said Skylar Olsen, senior economist at Zillow. 

The study looked at two costs: closing and prep.

Closing costs 

When it comes to this expense, there are two big-ticket items to take into account, Olsen said.

“The first one is agent commission,” Olsen said. “We are assuming you will pay 6 percent of the value of your home.”

Of that 6 percent, she said, 3 percent goes to the buyer’s agent, and the seller’s agent gets 3 percent. These numbers are sometimes negotiable, however.

According to Zillow, the median home value in metro Boston is $442,600. This means that the combined agent commissions come to $26,556. In comparison, the median home value in the United States is $209,100, meaning the commissions would be much lower, a total of $12,546.

“The other big-ticket item is the transfer tax rate,” she said. “Think of it as a tax on the sale of your home. It varies greatly state to state.”

In Boston, this tax rate is pretty standard, she said, coming in at 0.456 percent of the value of the home. This means the transfer tax amount for a median-valued home in metro Boston is $2,018.

There are also numerous small costs that are very hard to measure or know locally, Olsen added.

  • The estimated total closing costs for a median-valued home in metro Boston: $28,547
  • In the United States: $13,357

Prep costs

Along with the mandatory closing costs, there will also be optional expenditures that could help you sell.

Thumbtack looked at how much it costs in each metro area for carpet cleaning, interior and exterior painting, lawn care, gardening, staging, house cleaning, and a local move. Thumbtack identified these prep costs as popular among sellers to improve the value and appeal of their home.

Talking to a local agent could be helpful to determine whether you should have any of this work done, Olsen said. “Think about painting,” she said. “Sometimes it’s almost not about making sure the color is right, but demonstrating that house has been well maintained.”

Which of these prep costs you choose to do also depends on the local market.

“In a very hot market where there are a lot of buyers bidding on homes, you don’t want to automatically decide ‘I am going to update my bath and kitchen,’ ” Olsen said. “Those are things that when you do them you are applying your personal taste, which might not be the taste of the buyer.”

It helps to research what your potential return on investment would be.

  • The estimated total prep costs for metro Boston: $5,460
  • In the United States: $4,985

It’s a seller’s market

Olsen emphasized that despite being in a seller’s market, homeowners need to plan before they list their property.

“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. “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. If you’re planning to sell this year, try to take some time to research what costs you may be responsible for and how they could affect your profit or even budget for your next house.”

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