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Aleenah Ansari, right, with her fiancée in their home.
Courtesy of Aleenah Ansari
I recently went through the process of buying and selling a home at the same time.
It had been a long time coming, but the biggest factor was that my fiancée and I had outgrown our small apartment in Seattle, Washington, and were craving more space for our ever-growing collection of knickknacks, dedicated offices to work and run our businesses, and parking options for guests.
What I didn’t anticipate were the costs associated with buying a home and selling a home at the same time.
1. Closing costs for both sides
Closing costs vary for buyers, but these one-time charges usually involve some combination of broker, credit report, and appraisal fees.
You can also choose to get a home inspection, which we decided to forego since we were purchasing new construction that came with built-in warranties.
When buying, our closing costs were covered by flex cash, which was provided as an incentive by the seller. The main constraint was that we needed to put 10% down in order to get this flex cash, and it could only be used to cover closing costs and to buy down the interest rate.
Selling can also come with the costs, the biggest of which are the realtor’s commission that’s split between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. Considering I have no real estate experience myself, I was happy to pay this to ensure that an expert could put together the listing, coordinate showings, and help me navigate the staging process.
2. Cleaning and repair costs
In order to get my home on the market, one of the first expenses we encountered was for cleaning and repairing my old condo.
We did a lot of the cleaning ourselves, but hiring a professional cleaner focused on detailing made me feel confident that we had to cover all our bases — and cleaned all our baseboards — after living there for four and a half years. Plus, getting all the furniture out revealed some carpet stains and walls that we needed to repaint.
Selling our apartment also meant that we needed to do some last-minute repairs like fixing a slightly leaky faucet and replacing the flapper valve on one of our toilets, but we were able to handle that on our own thanks to the help of my fiancée’s dad.
3. Staging for buyers
Cleaning our apartment was only half the battle. We also had to stage it for the listing photos in the hopes of attracting buyers.
We debated if we wanted to physically stage our condo with furniture, which can help prospective buyers imagine how the space could be used. However, there was also merit in leaving it open so people could imagine their own furniture in the space: a spare bedroom may be better suited as an office, playroom, or exercise room depending on the person who wanted to call it home.
In the end, we opted for virtual staging, which enabled us to take photos that showed the potential of the space, and prospective buyers could still see the space as-is and decide how they wanted to use it. This was significantly more cost-effective than physically staging it, which often comes with a monthly rental fee and logistics around scheduling furniture delivery.
4. Moving and storage
After buying our current home, one of our biggest expenses was hiring a moving company and a storage unit to help us transition.
I had never hired a moving company before, but after doing a dozen trips in a small car just to move my belongings from one place to another in college, and renting a U-Haul van that I couldn’t drive myself, I promised myself that I’d outsource it next time. There was also the challenge of moving from a building with an elevator to a townhouse with stairs.
A big factor was cost versus value. Although it would have been cheaper to move myself, the peace of mind of not having to move my own bed and humongous couch couldn’t be overstated. Instead, I moved my belongings into boxes that we slowly moved into a storage unit, and the bulk of our large furniture pieces were left to experienced movers.
To get the best deal possible, I called a number of local companies with a list of the items I was moving, my preferred date and time, and the general plan for moving. I also learned that moving rates can vary depending on the day of the week. I was paying more to move on Sunday, but it was the best choice for us since we wanted to move shortly after our closing date and get our old place on the market as soon as possible.
Plus, it helped that we were still living in the same city and had an elevator in our old building, which made it easier to get things out. A combination of pricing estimates and recommendations from friends helped me pick the right option for me.
Ultimately, buying a new place was the best decision for us and this phase of our life. Amid all the costs, logistics, and moving trips, I’m glad to have more space to grow our businesses, host guests, and turn this house into a home.
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