This is a question I get all the time. Most home buyers know and understand down payments, but many do not anticipate or understand closing costs. Closing costs are the cost of buying or selling a home. Both the seller and the buyer have their own closing costs to pay for. In San Diego, the typical home purchase has about 2% of the purchase price in closing costs associated with it.
So what are these costs made up of?
The list is inclusive of fees you may see, but it’s not likely that your loan will include all of the fees listed here.
- Application Fee: This fee covers the cost for the lender to process your application. Before submitting an application, ask your lender what this fee covers. It can often include things like a credit check for your credit score or appraisal as well. Not all lenders charge an application fee, and it can often be negotiated.
- Appraisal: This is paid to the appraisal company to confirm the fair market value of the home.
- Escrow Fee: This is paid to the title company, escrow company or attorney for conducting the closing. The title company or escrow oversees the closing as an independent party in your home purchase. Some states require a real estate attorney be present at every closing.
- Courier Fee: This covers the cost of transporting documents to complete the loan transaction as quickly as possible.
- FHA Up-Front Mortgage Insurance Premium (UPMIP): If you have an FHA loan, you’ll be required to pay the UPMIP of 1.75% of the base loan amount. You are also able to roll this into the cost of the loan if you prefer.
- Home Owners Association Transfer Fees: The Seller will pay for this transfer which will show that the dues are paid current, what the dues are, a copy of the association financial statements, minutes and notices. The buyer should review these documents to determine if the Association has enough reserves in place to avert future special assessments, check to see if there are special assessments, legal action, or any other items that might be of concern. Also included will be Association by-laws, rules and regulations and CC & Rs.
- Homeowners’ Insurance: This covers possible damages to your home. Your first year’s insurance is often paid at closing.
- Lender’s Policy Title Insurance: This is insurance to assure the lender that you own the home and the lender’s mortgage is a valid lien, and it protects the lender if there is a problem with the title. Similar to the title search, but always a separate line item.
- Loan Discount Points:“Points” are prepaid interest. One point is one percent of your loan amount. This is a lump sum payment that lowers your monthly payment for the life of your loan. This is an optional cost agreed upon with your lender
- Owner’s Policy Title Insurance: This is an insurance policy that protects you in the event someone challenges your ownership of the home. It is usually optional.
- Origination Fee: This covers the lender’s administrative costs. It’s usually about 1 percent of the total loan but you can sometimes find mortgages with no origination fee.
- Prepaid Interest:Most lenders will ask you to prepay any interest that will accrue between closing and the date of your first mortgage payment.
- Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): If you’re making a down payment that’s less than 20% of the home’s purchase price, chances are you’ll be required to pay PMI. If so, you may need to pay the first month’s PMI payment at closing.
- Property Tax: Typically, lenders will want any taxes due within 60 days of purchase by the loan servicer to be paid at closing.
- Recording Fees: A fee charged by your local recording office, usually city or county, for the recording of public land records.
- Transfer Taxes: This is the tax paid when the title passes from seller to buyer.
- VA Funding Fee: If you have a VA loan, you may be required to pay a VA funding fee at closing (or you can roll this fee into the cost of the loan if you prefer). This is a percentage of the loan amount that the VA assesses to fund the VA home loan program, however some borrowers are exempt from this fee. The percentage depends on your type of service and the amount of your down payment. Here is a breakdown of the cost of the VA funding fee and a complete list of allowed fees for VA loans.
Your lender will give you a Loan Estimate for your loan, which will include what the closing costs on your home will be, within three business days of receiving your completed loan application. But these are just an estimate, and many of the fees listed can change. If they do change, you may receive a revised Loan Estimate so there are no surprises along the way.
Often, many of the fees that make up closing costs are negotiable, and some are completely unnecessary, especially things such as high administrative, mailing or courier costs charged by your lender. Remember that you can shop around and you may be able to find other lenders who are willing to offer you a loan with lower fees at closing.
At least three business days before your closing, the lender should give you Closing Disclosure statement, which outlines closing fees. Compare this to your Loan Estimate and ask the lender to explain what each line item on your closing costs is and why it is needed. There are limitations on the amount a number of fees can increase from the Loan Estimate to the Closing Disclosure so there really shouldn’t be any surprises on closing day. But if there are, you can still walk away at closing.
How can home buyers avoid closing costs?
You can also avoid upfront fees on your loan by getting a no-closing cost mortgage, in which you don’t pay any of the closing costs when you close on the mortgage.
Typically, when a lender offers a deal like this, it does end up costing you in the long run: The lender may charge you a higher interest rate on the loan for not paying closing costs, or the lender may wrap the closing fees into the total mortgage owed, in which case you end up paying interest on the closing costs.
Finally, home buyers can negotiate with the seller over who pays these fees. Sometimes the seller will agree to assume the buyer’s closing fees.
To discuss how to negotiate to lower your closing costs, contact me at