The Unexpected Costs of Buying and Selling a Home

The past forty-five days have been a whirlwind of events. We bought a house, packed our belongings, sold our place, and moved. Clearing out the old house was more difficult than I thought it would be. “I’m a minimalist,” I always tell myself, but the truckload of boxes we lugged suggest otherwise.

Reducing Moving Costs

While staging the house, we moved a bunch of stuff to my parent’s basement. As long as they were out of the house, I figured we could go back to retrieve them at a later point in time. The more boxes we piled there, the emptier our house seemed.

The moving company gave me a $3000 quote for the items that remained. To cut costs, I asked them to move only the big stuff. We hired them to transport the dressers, sofas, two oversized chairs, and a safe for $600.

I broke down the beds and other wooden furniture, and my husband and I began to move the rest ourselves. Luckily, our new house is only an hour away from the old one. We loaded the cars each day and transported them north. It didn’t seem too bad at first, but I quickly grew tired of endless days of packing and moving.

I called the movers and asked them to pick up the boxes we moved to my parent’s basement. For an extra $500, they agreed. When they finished, I presented each of them with $50 tips, which seemed generous for the amount of time they moved our belongings.

Unexpected Moving Costs

After providing the tips, they handed me a bill for $200 over the agreed-upon price. It seems the original estimate didn’t account for the hour-long drive to the new house, the forty-minute drive back and forth to my parent’s house, and the time to load and unload. I wasn’t happy about the extra $200, but I was pleased that I didn’t have to lug all of those boxes ourselves. 

Unfortunately, the crew dropped a box of expensive wine glasses while unloading. Worse yet, they didn’t tell me about it. I found broken glass outside on the front steps and later found the broken items buried under other boxes in the deepest corner of the room.

I didn’t pay for enhanced insurance, so the moving company said I was out of luck. Fragile items aren’t covered, and even if they were, insurance wouldn’t pay for replacement items. They pay by the pound.

A note to my future self: Move the fragile stuff myself. The truth is, I forgot all about those wine glasses. They were wedding gifts from long ago that we’ve rarely used.

Unexpected Repairs: The Dryer Breaks

A day before listing our house for sale, the dryer broke. It’s not particularly surprising. It’s a 30-year-old dryer that I’ve fixed a few times before. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the same problem we experienced in the past, and we didn’t want to take the time to look into it further.

The real estate agent suggested replacing the dryer, but appliances can be hard to order with the ongoing pandemic. Instead, we offered to provide a credit. Then the agent changed her mind and chose to list our house “as-is” with a non-working dryer. That was a win for us!

Unexpected Repairs: The Air Conditioner Stops Working

But the list of broken appliances didn’t end there. About a week before settlement, the air conditioner was intermittently turning off.

One minute it worked. The next, it didn’t. 

“Maybe it’s the thermostat,” my husband said. So off he went to buy a new one. It worked for a bit, then turned off again.

“Maybe it’s the breaker,” he said. After the fix, the same thing happened. It worked and then turned off again.

My husband climbed into the attic on the hottest day of the summer and found a clog and cleared it a bit. We could’ve left it that way, but instead, we hired an HVAC company the day before we moved to remove the remaining debris.

The technician signed us up for a yearly maintenance plan despite telling him we were leaving in a day. It’s been two weeks, and I’m still trying to cancel that.

 Unexpected Repairs: A Pendant Light Stops Working

We thought that would be the end of our troubles, but two days before moving out, a pendant light in our house went dark. I contacted the listing agent to see if this was an issue.

“Yes,” she said, “because the house must be in the same condition the buyers saw during inspection.” We had this problem once before, and just by luck, we hand a replacement LED bulb buried in a box we’d already packed. By some miracle, we found the box, but when I swapped it out, the light still wouldn’t work.

“What do I do now,” I asked the agent. “I don’t have time to order a new light and get it installed.”

“Write them a check,” she told me. So I did. Then I crossed my fingers that nothing else would go wrong.

Saving on Commissions

A few weeks ago, I wrote about negotiating closing costs before settlement. I saved thousands of dollars as a buyer, but could I trim costs as a seller too?

It turns out I could. Before listing the house, I asked the listing agent to waive the realtor admin fee. I also asked her to reduce the commission from 3% to 2.5%. Honestly, that’s the going rate in my area, so perhaps I should’ve asked her to lower it more.

I considered listing the house myself, but I chickened out at the last minute. A few years ago, my dad sold a place with the help of a real estate attorney. The buyer didn’t have an agent either, so he didn’t pay a single dollar of commissions.

Reducing commissions could’ve been an option with cheaper listing services that charge 1.5% or less, but I didn’t push further.

If I had to do it all over, I think I would’ve sold the house myself. A neighbor sold his for nearly $1,000,000 and saved 2.5%. I staged the house myself and even walked a few potential buyers through it. I should’ve taken the risk in this seller’s market and saved myself tens of thousands of dollars!

Negotiating Closing Costs

We negotiated closing costs before settlement and still paid $13,000 to close. Three days before closing, I reached out to the title company to ask for the settlement sheet. 

On the list of debits, I found an unexpected $380 fee from the title company. “Can you tell me what this is?” I asked.

“Oh, don’t worry,” the title agent responded, “I’ll just waive it.”

And just like that, I saved over $300.

The buyers of our old home paid over $30,000 in closing-related charges! As I looked over the settlement statement, I felt a little sick to my stomach. 

They overpaid for title services, a survey of the property, and a laundry list of other expenses. If you don’t do anything else when you buy a home, look over your settlement paperwork.

New Carpets, Paint, and Flooring

After moving and closing I thought we were finished with paying for stuff, but it seems the unexpected costs aren’t over just yet. During the final walk through of the house we noticed ground in dirt on the carpets that a cleaner can’t remove.

With the old furniture removed it’s clear our new place needs new carpets, flooring and paint. So that’s up next!

5 thoughts on “The Unexpected Costs of Buying and Selling a Home”

  1. Ugh- as if moving weren’t stressful enough, I hate that you had to deal with all those mishaps. You might have done better listing your house yourself, but it might have gone horribly wrong. Glad you’re moved in now!

  2. What an unfortunate set of events. It sounds like the money you saved on your old house will be spent on the new one. But think of it this way, you took control over the things you could and ended up saving on those expenses.
    As you saw with the buyers of your old home, most people would just go with the flow and end up overpaying.

    Now, in your new home, you’ve got some decor choices to make! Enjoy.

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