What is the True Cost of Selling a House?

By: Wendy Harris, NC REALTOR® and Broker

In North Carolina, the seller is responsible for paying commission per their agreement, as well as preparation of the deed and revenue stamps per the standard Offer to Purchase and Contract. REALTORS® refer to this as “CPR” because you can never have enough acronyms, and occasionally during a listing presentation, a less-informed seller may suddenly look like they are in need of CPR when their REALTOR® starts breaking these numbers down.

Seller Expenses

Let’s start with the easy stuff. Deed Preparation and Revenue Stamps will not break the bank in most cases, but there are other costs the seller may have to pay. Some of these “incidental” costs may include recording a power of attorney, wiring fees for loan payoffs, home warranty, etc.

You can also expect a buyer to ask for all or a portion of their closing expenses to be paid. This should, of course, be looked at with the whole picture of an Offer to Purchase. Some sellers feel as though they should never pay a penny of buyers’ closing expenses. However, our role as REALTORS® is to understand sellers’ beliefs and temper them with the realities of the current market. Is the end goal to not pay any of the buyers closing expenses? Or, is the end goal to sell the real estate to accomplish investment net, a particular timeline or other criteria? This is an important discussion to have with your REALTOR® during the listing presentation. There is no sense in waiting for the first offer to come in to begin to understand the negotiation process. This will only put you in catch up mode.


Because the seller is responsible for paying commission, some people assume this is also the reason sellers pay both sides of the commission in North Carolina.

It is not. There is no requirement from the state that instructs the seller to pay the buyer’s agent’s commission. Then why do we do it?

One reason is tradition. Appraisers prefer using homes in the REALTOR® Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for comparables because they are able to confirm the terms of the sale of each property. As REALTORS®, we confidentially report relevant sales information after closing. This information is vital for the present and future valuation of properties. If commissions are paid differently, then value adjustments will be needed.

Another reason sellers may find themselves responsible for commissions could be related to military markets in North Carolina. The Veterans Administration (VA), which backs the federal loans that military families primarily use to purchase homes, puts restrictions on who pays commissions. The VA will not allow a buyer to pay REALTOR® fees or commissions. Therefore, the responsibility falls on the seller. Because VA loans make up over 90 percent of owner occupied home purchases in these areas, a seller would be excluding a big chunk of potential buyers by stating they are not willing to pay the buyer side commission.

Talk with your REALTOR® about competitive commission rates that will attract buyers to your property. Please keep in mind that while commission is considered negotiable, often times the real estate company sets the commission rate, and individual agents do not have the ability to negotiate beyond the company policy. Also, in any commission negotiation, be mindful that the commission the seller pays is not usually the commission the REALTOR® representing them actually receives. Under some company policies, commission is paid to a firm, which then splits that commission or takes out fees from the REALTOR®.

Why use a REALTOR® in the sales transaction?

An interesting fact that consumers should research and confirm for themselves is that year after year studies conducted by the National Association of REALTORS® prove sellers get more money for their property when using a REALTOR® to represent their best interests in a transaction. If you are using a REALTOR®, they will be advocating for you and negotiating for you. Selling real estate is a large task that, if done correctly, should seem fairly simple. Selling real estate is a team effort, and the REALTOR® is there to protect their client’s assets and reduce their liabilities and risk. In fact, this makes for a great future discussion.


Wendy Harris is a Broker with Team Harris Real Estate in Fayetteville, N.C.

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