HomebuyingWhat Are Closing Costs and How Much Are They?

What Are Closing Costs and How Much Are They?

Many first-time homebuyers have experienced this: after saving for years for a down payment, attending countless open houses, and applying for a mortgage, you finally put in an offer on your dream home.

But before you gladly sign the contract, alas, here come the closing costs.

Closing costs, sometimes as high as 5% of the purchase price, are a huge burden for many homebuyers. In this post, we will touch on every closing cost you would need to factor in when buying a home.

What Are Closing Costs

Closing costs refer to costs associated with the transfer of property ownership paid at closing. These costs often include appraisal fees, application fees, broker’s commission, title insurances, attorney fees, etc. Closing costs are typically 2% to 5% of the purchase price. 

Mortgage-Related Closing Costs

  • Application Fee: The application fee, also known as the “processing fee,” covers the costs for the lender to process your request for a mortgage. It often includes credit checks. The amount varies depending on the lender and you should always ask what the fee covers before submitting your loan application.
  • Attorney Fees: The attorney fees to your real estate attorney, who prepares and reviews the closing documents on your behalf. In some states, attorneys are required by law to be present at the closing of a real estate transaction. Rates vary depending on the location of the property and how many hours the attorney works for you.
  • Origination Fee: This covers the lender’s costs to set up a loan for you. Depending on the lender, sometimes it’s split into “underwriting fee” and “processing fee”. The underwriting fee involves the process of determining whether to approve you for a loan based on the risk level, whereas the processing fee covers other common administrative costs. The origination fee is typically between 0.5% and 1% of the total loan amount. So, if the purchase price is $500,000 and your loan amount is $400,000, you’d need to set aside an additional $4,000 to cover the origination fee. It is possible, however, to find mortgages with no origination fee.
  • Points: Points — discount points, loan points, or mortgage points — are paid in exchange for a lower interest rate. Essentially, by purchasing points, you pay more upfront, and lenders will lower your interest rate. Each point costs 1% of the loan and typically lowers the interest rate by 0.25%. For instance, if your total loan amount is $400,000 with an interest rate of 4%, each point costs you $4,000, and by paying $4,000, you can lower your interest rate to 3.75%.
  • Prepaid Interest: Sometimes it’s listed as “interim interest” in your Closing Disclosure. Prepaid interest covers interest accrued on the mortgage between the closing date and the first monthly payment due date.
  • Mortgage Broker Fee: You’d also have to pay a mortgage broker fee if you work with a mortgage broker. The commission ranges from 0.5% to 2.75% of the total loan amount.
  • Mortgage Insurance Fee: Your lender may require that you purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) if you put down less than 20%. PMI insures a lender in case the borrower defaults. This fee varies by lender.

Property-Related Closing Costs

  • Inspection: A home inspection is an in-depth examination of the quality and condition of a home. An inspection generally costs $200 to $500, and sometimes over $600, if you are purchasing a large property.
  • Appraisal Fee: This fee is charged by the appraiser to help the lender determine if the property is worth as much as the amount the homebuyer wants to borrow. Generally, given the nature of the appraisal, the lender schedules the appraisal, but the buyer is responsible for the cost. Depending on the home type and location, a home appraisal may cost between $200 and $700.
  • Homeowner’s Insurance: Your lender will likely ask you to have a homeowner’s insurance policy in place before closing. The premium varies based on the location of your property and the property value, and you should always shop around and compare different insurance providers before deciding.
  • Flood Insurance: You will need to purchase a flood insurance policy if your property is in a flood zone. Rates change by location, and you should check with the seller’s broker to see if it’s possible to take over the seller’s existing policy – this would save you a lot of time.

Title Fees

  • Title Search Fees: A title search is conducted before closing to make sure that the individual selling the home does own it. It also ensures there are no outstanding liens or claims against the property. A title search for a single-family home costs around $75 to $200 and can be a lot higher for large properties and buildings.
  • Lender’s Policy: A title insurance policy is often required by the lender. It protects the lender if someone claims ownership of the property after closing, or in case there are errors in the title search.
  • Owner’s Policy: A title insurance policy protects you if someone claims ownership of the home after it’s closed. Combined with the lender’s policy premium, title insurance usually costs 0.5% to 1% of the purchase price.
  • Endorsements: Often required by lenders, title endorsements provide additional coverage beyond the standard title insurance policy. The costs range from $75 to $200 and can be higher depending on the real property.
  • Recording Fees: Also known as government recording charges. When you buy a home, the county records the deed, mortgage, and other documents associated with the transaction in the public records. This fee varies by county, but it’s safe to set aside at least $200 for the recording fees.
  • Survey: This goes to a property survey company to verify all property lines and easements included in the property. The costs vary depending on where you are and who you hire for the job. Generally, you should budget $400 to $600 for a survey.

Other Closing Costs You May Encounter

Depending on which state you are in, you may be required to pay the following taxes at closing.

  • Mansion Tax: While 35 states and the District of Columbia levy transfer taxes on real estate transactions, only two states, New York and New Jersey, currently impose mansion taxes on high-value properties. Given the high real estate values, it’s not uncommon for buyers to pay mansion taxes in these two states. For instance,  in New York, there’s a 1% tax on home sales of and above $1 million and below $2 million, 1.25% for homes above $2 million, and 3.9% for homes above $25 million.
  • Mortgage Tax: Currently, seven states, including Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, impose mortgage recording taxes. The rates vary by state, so be sure to double-check and set aside cash accordingly to cover the costs.

Set aside additional cash for escrow

To make sure that you have enough cash to cover property taxes and homeowner’s insurance, your lender may establish an escrow account at closing. This account lasts throughout the lifetime of your loan, and while a portion of your monthly mortgage payment would go to this escrow account, your lender will likely ask you to put in additional cash at the time of closing.  

Closing Costs Sellers Should be Aware Of

  • Broker Fees: Sellers are responsible for the broker’s commission — usually 6% of the purchase price.
  • Transfer Taxes: A transfer tax is a type of tax imposed on change of ownership, or title transfer of a real estate property. The tax rates vary state-by-state and depending on where you are, sometimes the seller is responsible, and sometimes the buyer incurs the transfer tax.
  • Property Taxes: Sellers are responsible for any property taxes owed until the day of closing. So, if the closing is on June 30th, the seller would need to pay the prorated amount of real estate taxes covering January 1st through June 30th. However, if the taxes have been paid in full for the taxable year, the buyer will have to repay the seller for the portion of the year after the closing.

How Much Should I Set Aside for Closing Costs?

As a rule of thumb, you should set aside 5% of the purchase price to cover potential closing costs. If the home is $800,000, you should have $40,000 ready to go to ensure a smooth closing. Remember, any cash left after the closing can be put toward your principal. It’s always better to be over-prepared than not having enough money to seal the deal. 

Is it Possible to Cut Costs?

While closing costs and fees aren’t typically negotiable, there are ways to cut costs. Here’s some advice:

  • Get a Good Faith Estimate (GFE) at the beginning of your mortgage application process. That way you can compare closing costs from different lenders and opt for the best deal.
  • Review the Closing Disclosure (your final closing cost total) as soon as you get it. That way, if you see mistakes, you can let your lender know immediately and avoid overpaying or delaying the closing.
  • Ask your lender if they’re able to reduce or waive the application fee. Or, check if the application fees included costs for things like property appraisal or credit reporting. Itemize what’s included in your application fee to avoid getting charged separately for the same service.
  • Perhaps the seller will pay for some or all of the closing costs. Your real estate agent may be able to set this up, especially if the seller is eager to close. But keep in mind that sellers pay their own fees, too.
  • Get home and auto policies from the same insurance company. Doing so could lead to a  5% — or even a 15% — discount on the premium. Just make sure that the combined price is lower than the total of different coverages from two different companies.
  • You can also roll closing costs to your mortgage loan amount and, as a result, not owe any money at the closing table. However, that means a higher monthly mortgage payment, more interest over the life of your loan and leave you with less to spend on the fun stuff — i.e. a big screen TV or backyard jacuzzi.