Any time you buy or refinance a house there’s a litany of expenses that go with it.
There are many “hands” in the soup that is a real estate transaction, and each one of them demands some money to do what they do.
If you’ve ever wondered what those charges mean, here’s some inspiration…
What Real Estate Closing Costs are Made Up Of
Here’s a not so well-kept secret: mortgage “lenders” aren’t direct lenders, but middlemen who arrange mortgages then sell them to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae. In the process, there’s a fee for nearly everything they do.
Here are the more typical ones:
Lender origination fee. This is the fee you will pay to your lender for handling your loan—your lender’s primary compensation. It is usually expressed as a percentage of your loan amount, and is typically one percent.
Loan discount fee. Borrowers will often decide to lower their interest rates, and can do so with a loan discount fee, also expressed as a percentage of the mortgage amount. The actual amount varies depending on how low you want the rate to be. This fee can—and usually is—zero, since it’s not usually worth the price of paying extra points for a lower rate.
Appraisal fee. This is the fee paid to the lender’s appraiser, who’s services are used to determine an objective value for the home. It’s usually anywhere from $200 to $500.
Credit report. This fee pays for the credit report and any credit supplements ordered by the lender in the process of making the loan. It’s usually a few dollars.
Flood certification fee. Every time a new loan is taken on a property, a lender must obtain a 100 year flood certification indicating if the property is located in a flood zone. If it is, you will need to obtain flood insurance. The fee for the certification is usually in the range of $20. (Flood insurance will be a separate cost if you need it. It’s a good idea to find out if your prospective home is in a flood area before you go through the buying process.)
Miscellaneous lender fees. These can include a host of minor fees, such as a tax service fee, wire transfer fee, appraisal review fee, mailing fees, all depending on the state you live in and the lender you’re working with.
In addition to lender fees, there are also title charges.
Any time a property changes hands, whether through purchase or refinance, evidence of a clear title must be produced. These are important because you and the bank don’t want any surprises and find out there’s a lien or even another owner attached to the property.
Here’s what it will cost you to make that happen.
Attorney fees. This will be the fee paid to the attorney for handling the loan closing and related documents. This will vary by location, and in some states the attorney function is handled by a title company, with a different set of fees.
Title search. Any new loan requires a title search to determine if there are any liens—recorded or otherwise—against the property. Typical charge for this is around $200.
Lender’s title insurance. There is a possibility that there will be a lien against a property that goes undetected in the title search. The lender will require that lender’s title insurance policy be taken to cover them in the event that happens. You will pay for it, and it will usually cost a few hundred dollars (but it can be more) and varies by location.
Owner’s title insurance. In the event of an unrecorded lien, the lender’s title policy will cover the lender, but you will have to wait until the lien is satisfied by the lender’s title insurance company if you want to sell the property or refinance it. That can take as long as a year. If you purchase an owner’s title insurance policy you won’t have to wait. The cost a couple of hundred dollars, its totally optional, but well worth having.
Miscellaneous title fees. Once again, here is where we see a wide range of small fees related to title and attorney expenses.
Have you ever heard of “hidden taxes?” You’ll find some of them on hidden right on your mortgage closing statement, in the various forms they take. Be aware that the range of charges here can vary substantially from one jurisdiction to another.
Recording fees. In order for a mortgage to be legal, it must be recorded at the county courthouse. Fees for this can range from a few dollars up to many hundreds, depending on the jurisdiction you live in.
City or county tax stamps. Cities and counties have all sorts of ways to raise money, and “mortgage stamps” are one of them. They can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand depending on where you live.
State tax stamps. Ditto all of the above, only these are paid to the state.
Any other fees required to be paid to government authorities in connection with a real estate transaction. You might see something here in connection with special recordings, such as a quitclaim deed to remove and ex-spouse from a title.
Technically speaking, these are not considered closing costs since they’re actually escrows established to make sure your taxes and insurance are paid on time. From a practical standpoint however, they will look and feel like closing costs, and you’ll pay them in the same way—at the closing table. For that reason, let’s add them to the discussion.
Hazard insurance reserves. Lenders typically require a paid up policy for one full year, plus the first few months. This enables them to make sure that the property is always fully insured. Hazard insurance (a.k.a., “homeowners insurance”) varies by location, so this charge can be a few hundred dollars, or a few thousand.
Mortgage insurance reserves. Lenders typically require that two or three months mortgage insurance premiums are collected in advance to ensure a smooth payment. This can vary depending on your monthly mortgage insurance premium.
Property tax reserves. Lenders will typically escrow anywhere from a couple of months to a year or more of property taxes. How much this will be depends entirely on taxes in your area and the collection frequency in your jurisdiction. No matter how it’s done, it’s usually equal to a few thousand dollars.
Reserves for special assessments. Sometimes municipalities or counties have special assessments for new sewage systems, road re-pavements and such, and will collect for these in advance. They’re fairly rare, but when they occur they can be substantial.
If your head is spinning from all these charges, it points to the moral of this story: real estate transactions—whether for purchases or refinances—aren’t cheap!
Hopefully this helps you better understand your real estate closing costs. It should also help you question any fees you don’t understand or think are being unfairly charged.