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Why Selling Your House Furnished Can Cost You

Why Selling Your House Furnished Can Cost You

| By Ann Brenoff | Posted Jun 1st 2011 2:12PM ?

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When homeowners list their house for sale, they frequently consider trying to sell it furnished. After all, those Shaker chairs that worked perfectly in the old New England farmhouse are going to look downright wrong in the sleek new Florida contemporary. Worse yet, who wants the added hassle and expense of moving things they don't want anymore?

Don't do it, say realty and tax experts. Not only will listing your house furnished complicate your deal, it could also wind up costing you money.

Experts cite three main reasons why listing at a price that includes furnishings is a bad idea:

1. Real estate agents are paid a commission on the final sales price of the home.

If you're selling for $500,000 and pay a 6 percent commission, you'll owe the agents involved $30,000. If you throw in the furniture and the buyer agrees to pay you $525,000, you just boosted the agents' fee by $1,500.

A better solution: Hold a garage sale, advertise on Craigslist or simply call your local charity thrift store and get a nice tax deduction for your donation. Or you can negotiate the price of the furniture privately with your buyer; just keep it out of the escrow process.

2. Having a higher price tag may mean that the home won't appraise for enough.

Appraisers look at comparable recent sales of properties in your neighborhood to determine what yours is worth. If everyone else sold for $500,000, they won't agree your house is worth more because it's being sold furnished. Most likely they won't know -- and they certainly won't care. A mortgage is a home loan, not a furniture loan. If the appraisal comes in low as a result, that could jeopardize your buyer's financing.

3. Why pay capital gains on something you don't have to?

You can make up to $250,000 in profit on the sale of your primary residence if you're a single owner, double that if you're married, without having to pay
capital gains tax. If you exceed those amounts, you'll have to pony up. Why inflate the amount of tax you owe?

There are exceptions to the no-furnishings rule, of course. Architects like
Ed Niles frequently design furniture expressly for the homes they build. When that original seller lists the property, they often include the custom-built furnishings.

Even then, though, don't be surprised if some buyers thumb their nose at the offer. "Buyers like to do their own decorating," says
Melissa Oliver, Coldwell Banker, Los Angeles. "It helps them make the house their own."

By all means, adds Oliver, keep the furniture in the property while it's listed for sale. "Just don't make it part of the deal."


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