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Understanding Closing Costs: Planning for the Financial Aspects of Homeownership

Tim McBratney, CMA,  Sr. Mortgage Advisor

July 10, 2023 — 7 min read

Understanding Closing Costs

When buying a home, it’s easy to hone in on the down payment and mortgage payments; however, it’s also important to acknowledge the complete financial picture.

Closing costs encompass fees and expenses associated with finalizing a real estate transaction, and by breaking down the key components—such as appraisal fees, title insurance, attorney fees, and lender fees—current and hopeful homeowners can better plan for the financial aspects of homeownership. Use the information and tips below to master the essentials and navigate the closing process and confidence and ease.

How Much Are Closing Costs for Buyers?

It’s hard to nail down specific numbers, as they will change depending on the home and the borrower; however, it is important to note that closing costs can substantially increase upfront expenses. On average, buyers can expect closing costs to range from about 2% to 6% of the loan amount. Let's put that into perspective:

If you're taking out a $300,000 home loan, you could be looking at anywhere between $6,000 and $18,000 in closing costs, in addition to your down payment.

The most financially savvy approach is to cover these costs out-of-pocket as a one-time expense. While it may be possible to roll them into your loan, keep in mind that this means paying interest on those costs over the life of your mortgage.

Additionally, be sure to explore whether your state, county, or city offers low-interest loan programs or grants specifically designed to assist first-time homebuyers with their closing costs.

What’s Included in Closing Costs for Buyers?

Appraisal Fees: One significant component of closing costs is appraisal fees. When purchasing a home, lenders typically require a property appraisal to determine its fair market value. Appraisal fees cover the cost of hiring a professional appraiser who assesses the property's worth. The exact amount of appraisal fees can vary depending on factors such as the size and location of the property.

Title Insurance: Title insurance is another important element of closing costs; it protects the buyer's ownership rights and provides coverage against any potential issues or disputes with the property's title. There are two types of title insurance policies: lender's policy and owner's policy. The cost of title insurance varies based on factors such as the property's value and the coverage amount.

Attorney Fees: In some cases, buyers may require legal representation during the home-buying process. Real estate attorneys provide valuable services such as reviewing contracts, conducting title searches, and facilitating the closing process. Attorney fees can vary depending on the complexity of the transaction and the services provided.

Lender Fees: Lender fees are charges imposed by the mortgage lender to cover administrative and processing expenses related to the loan. Common examples of lender fees include an origination fee, an underwriting fee, and loan a processing fee. Buyers should carefully review the loan estimate provided by their lender to understand the specific lender fees and their impact on the overall closing costs.

Understanding Closing Costs

Other Closing Costs to Consider: In addition, there are various other closing costs that buyers need to be aware of. These may include escrow fees, recording fees, and prepaid items such as property taxes, insurance premiums, and homeowners association (HOA) fees. The exact amount of these costs can vary depending on the location and individual circumstances.

Even for cash buyers, there are still closing costs to consider. While they may not include mortgage-related fees, cash buyers are responsible for covering expenses such as notary fees, property taxes, recording fees, and other local, county, and state fees.

Strategies to Help Buyers Budget for Closing Costs

To ensure a smooth financial transition into homeownership, it is vital for buyers to plan ahead and budget for closing costs. Here are some practical strategies to consider:

  1. Set up a dedicated savings account: Start saving for closing costs early on by setting up a separate savings account specifically for this purpose. Contribute to it regularly to build up the necessary funds.
  2. Research available grants or assistance programs: Some states, counties, and cities offer low-interest loan programs or grants to assist first-time homebuyers with closing costs. Take the time to explore these options and see if you qualify for any assistance programs.
  3. Sellers may pay for a portion or all of your closing cost: If the market dictates, the Seller may pay some or all of your closing cost. There is a limitation on how much the seller can pay based on the loan program you have applied for and the loan-to-value of your loan.

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  1. Incorporate closing costs into the overall budget: When budgeting for your home purchase, don't forget to account for closing costs. By including them in your overall budget, you can ensure you have enough funds available to cover these expenses.

What’s Included in Closing Costs for Sellers?

Sellers typically bear the brunt of expenses in real estate transactions, including commissions for both buyer and listing agents, transfer fees, and their own attorney costs; local regulations differ, but many aspects can be subject to negotiation through contracts. Check out these common closing costs for sellers:

  • Agent commissions (for both buyer's and seller's agents)
  • Transfer tax
  • Title insurance
  • Escrow and closing fees
  • Prorated property taxes
  • Homeowners Association (HOA) fees
  • Credits applied to closing costs
  • Attorney's fees
Understanding Closing Costs

How to Determine Your Closing Costs

One valuable tool to help estimate your closing costs is the Loan Estimate. This document, typically It includes important details such as the estimated interest rate, monthly mortgage payments, total closing costs, estimated costs of taxes and insurance, as well as any potential future changes to the interest and possible penalties.

Remember, receiving a Loan Estimate doesn't mean your loan is approved or denied—it simply outlines the terms your lender expects to offer if you decide to proceed. If you're ready to take the next steps, your lender may request additional information.

Once you've made your lender selection and discussed your loan options and gone through the loan approval process, the next step is receiving the multi-page Closing Disclosure (CD). It's important to note that your lender is required to provide the Closing Disclosure at least three business days before the scheduled closing date. The CD dives into the nitty-gritty of your mortgage, presenting all the essential information you need to know before the signing appointment. Here's what you can expect to find in your Closing Disclosure:

  • Final Interest Rate: The Closing Disclosure specifies the final interest rate for your mortgage. This allows you to understand the cost of borrowing and how it affects your monthly payments.
  • Monthly Mortgage Payments: Detailed in the CD are the exact figures for your monthly mortgage payments. This provides clarity on your financial obligations and helps you plan your budget accordingly.
  • Total Closing Costs: All the closing costs associated with your mortgage are itemized in the Closing Disclosure. This includes fees such as appraisal fees, title insurance, attorney fees, and other charges related to the loan and the purchase of the property.
  • Costs of Taxes and Insurance: The CD outlines the costs associated with property taxes and insurance, allowing you to prepare for these additional financial responsibilities beyond your mortgage payments.
  • Potential Future Changes to the Interest: If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, the Closing Disclosure will specify whether there is a potential for future changes to your interest rate. Understanding this information is crucial in planning for any potential adjustments to your monthly payments.
  • Applicable Prepayment Penalties: Certain loan agreements may include prepayment penalties, which are outlined in the Closing Disclosure. It's important to be aware of any penalties that may be incurred if you choose to pay off your loan early.

Ready to Make Your Move? Let’s Do It Together

No matter where you’re at in your homeownership journey, we’re here with information, tools, and resources to help you take a confident next step. Reach out today for a customized quote or click here to connect with your neighborhood Mortgage Advisor. Check out additional blog articles here.

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