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How to Sell a Home When Budgets are Tight

trying to sell a house on a budget

Can sellers get the price they want when selling a home on a budget? Absolutely! If the house is in great shape, upfront expenses to sell are nothing. If the home needs sprucing up, knowing how to prioritize improvements boosts the return on the investment.   

Real estate agents hear these questions most often from sellers on a budget: 

  1. How much will we have to pay at closing?  
  2. Which repairs do we have to make before putting our house on the market? 
  3. What can we do to improve our home without spending a lot of money?  

Another question also comes up: If we put our house up for sale by owner, will we walk away with more money? Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time can help prepare sellers to get the most for their money.  

Do Sellers Save Money with For Sale by Owner Deals?

Most sellers on a tight budget toy with the idea of putting their home on the market for sale by owner (FSBO). True, they will not have to pay a seller’s agent commission—usually about 3% of the sale price. However, if the buyer has a real estate agent, the sellers need to pay their commission of 3% of the sale price.  

For example, when a real estate agent sells a home for $300,000, the homeowners pay a seller’s agent commission of $9,000. While for sale by owner sellers think they are saving a tidy sum in commission, they could be losing a significant amount of money on the sale of their home because they priced it too low or negotiated away too much of their equity.  

Research by the National Association of Realtors found homes listed for sale by owner sold for a median price of $260,000 nationally in 2021. Homes listed with real estate agents sold for a median price of $318,000. 


The real estate agents at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties recommend listing your home with a professional to get what you want from the sale of your home. We have a wealth of experience helping sellers on a budget prepare their homes for successful sales.

How Much Does It Cost to Sell a Home?

It has been an exciting time to sell a house in the St. Louis area for several years. The median sale price of a single-family home increased to $285,000 in May 2022, up 3.6% from a year ago. About 6% fewer homes are for sale in St. Louis this year than last year at this time. 

Despite the higher prices for homes and likelihood of a quick sale, some people who are thinking of selling their house have held off. Some are waiting because they are unsure about selling a home on a budget. Sellers usually do not have to pay anything until closing time, when they are receiving the proceeds from the sale. Some sellers choose to make improvements to their home before listing it.

Image by nomadsoulphotos at Canva.com

Compete With Other Homes for Sale While on a Budget

When it is a seller’s market, as it is now, some homeowners think they can sell their house as-is and still get the sales price they want. Selling a house as-is does save money and cuts down on time-consuming prep work. However, sellers who do not prepare their house for sale usually end up selling their home for much less than if they had invested some time and money into improving its appeal.  

Instead of selling your home as-is, follow these steps to compete with other homes for sale: 

  1. Find a real estate agent to help you get the best price while selling on a budget. Real estate professionals know how to price the house right, find potential buyers, and make sure the sales process goes smoothly.
  2. Declutter and deep clean your house. Some sellers rent storage units then move furniture, sports equipment, and other things cluttering the house and garage into it until the house sells. Homes in pristine condition sell best, so consider hiring professionals to come in and deep clean the house.  
  3. Have the home inspected. Missouri does not require disclosure of repairs needed, but it is in your best interest to get an inspection and disclose any serious issues. On the other hand, Illinois does require disclosure of any material defect a seller knows about.  
  4. Get estimates for repairs needed. When a house needs a major repair, the seller will be expected to fix it before the sale or drop the sales price. Thus, it pays off to be prepared when selling a house on a budget. Most sellers set the price of the house to reflect the repairs needed and disclose them. Also, when you know how much the repairs will cost, you will negotiate better.  
  5. Make improvements strategically. Talk to your real estate agent about what will give you the greatest return on your investment. Does updating your kitchen appliances pay off? What about painting the walls, planting flowers, or putting in new carpeting? 
  6. Fix minor problems. Buyers notice cracked tiles, holes in the walls, leaky faucets, and doors that do not close properly. These little things may give buyers the impression the home has not been cared for and strike it from their list of possibilities.  
  7. Improve the curb appeal. Painting the front door, planting flowers, and putting a wreath on the door all improve a home’s curb appeal. Some sellers hire a landscaper to clean up the lawn and add shrubs, plants, and flowers. And make sure visitors can see the house numbers from the street.  

Consider one more way to speed up the sale of a home when budgets are tight: staging. To stage a home, create a space where buyers can envision themselves. Remove personal touches like family photos, unique artwork, and unusual furnishings. Then, rent neutral furniture, area rugs, and art, or pick up items at a thrift store. Paint the walls neutral colors. Staging a house almost always results in faster sales and higher selling prices. 

What to Know About Closing Costs When Selling a Home on a Budget

All sellers incur expenses called closing costs when the sale of their home is finished. Sellers pay closing costs from the money they receive from the sale-- usually pay 8-10% of the house’s sale price. Buyers typically pay 2-5% of the sales price for closing costs.  

Closing costs for sellers include taxes, insurance, and the real estate agent’s sales commission. The fees differ depending upon where you live. The breakdown of closing costs includes: 

  • Agents’ commissions. In most cases, about 6% of the sellers’ closing costs are commissions to their listing agent and the buyer’s agent’s commission. Each receives 3% of the house’s final sales price. 
  • Escrow fee. This fee covers banking and office expenses related to the sale. It is usually about 1% of the sale price. Buyers and sellers normally split the escrow fee. 
  • Prorated property taxes. Sellers must pay property taxes for the time they owned the home during the year they sold it. These taxes are due at closing. 
  • Prorated HOA fees. Some Homeowners Associations require payment of dues for the number of days the seller lived in the home.  
  • Sellers in Illinois must pay a transfer tax which is .10% of the sale price in Metro East municipalities. Missouri does not have real estate transfer taxes. 

Other potential closing costs include prepayment penalties from mortgage companies and funds the seller advanced the buyer as an incentive to complete the sale.  

Cover Image by Todd Niemann by Canva.com

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