Selling Costs : Australian Property
It is possible to sell a house without the assistance of a real estate agent, and kits are available which will take you through the process. However, for most people, and certainly expatriates who don't have the advantage of being in the country, agency fees are a fact of life and the single largest cost of selling a house. Commissions are unregulated and are entirely a matter of negotiation between you and the agent – however, they typically range from 2% to 3%, and may be higher for low-value properties and lower for expensive houses.
In theory, you should interview a number of agents regarding the sale of your house with the level of commission an important consideration. From an expatriate's point of view, unless you can schedule home leave at the appropriate time or your partner is available to return to Australia, this approach is hard to achieve. Note that discussions around commission should go hand in hand with discussions regarding any marketing plan and specifically any advertising costs that the agent would like you to pay for.
If you are auctioning your property you will almost certainly be asked to pay for the advertising costs – these can be substantial, anything from $1,000 for a modest house to much more than $10,000 for an expensive house. Agent's view advertising as an essential part of the marketing campaign. Many will argue that it is unwise to skimp on advertising because it is an innate part of whipping up interest prior to an auction. You should test this desire to spend your money on advertising by linking it with agency commission costs and other selling costs in any appointment discussion.
You may also be asked to contribute to marketing costs if selling by private treaty – whether it is appropriate will depend on your particular circumstances – and again it should be considered as part of the total selling costs.
When you sell a property, and depending on the state or territory your house is located in (given the different state and territory requirements), you may be also responsible for paying the costs of:
- search fees - to check you can legally sell the property and to calculate any money owing, such as land tax, water and sewerage rates, and so on
- termite and pest certificates, which are compulsory in some states and territories
- mortgage discharge fees, if applicable
- conveyancing costs, if you use a solicitor or conveyancer, and
- if it applies, supplying the house's energy rating
Remember - FRCGW
From July 1, 2016 all Australian residential property sold by a non-resident or temporary resident valued over $2M was subject to foreign resident capital gains witholding tax (FRCGW) at a rate of 10%. From July 1, 2017 FRCGW now applies to all sales with a value of $750,000 or more, at an increased rate of 12.5%. Tax advice in advance of any sale by an expat or foreign investor is strongly recommended - particularly as exemptions may be available.