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How Much Are Closing Costs? Plus: How To Reduce Closing Costs

January 4, 2019

Closing Costs

iStock/Weekend Images Inc.

How much are closing costs? These fees, paid to third parties to help facilitate the sale of a home, typically total 2% to 7% of the home’s purchase price. So on a $250,000 home, your closing costs would amount to anywhere from $5,000 to $17,500.

Now that you have a sense of the ballpark numbers, here’s everything home buyers and home sellers need to know about closing costs.

Who pays closing costs, and when?

Both buyers and sellers typically pitch in on closing costs, but buyers shoulder the lion’s share of the load (3% to 4% of the home’s price) compared with sellers (1% to 3%). And while some closing costs must be paid before the home is officially sold (e.g., the home inspection fee when the service is rendered), most are paid at the end when you close on the home and the keys exchange hands.

How much are closing costs for buyers?

Home buyers pay the majority of closing costs since many of these fees are associated with the mortgage.

“If you’re paying cash for a property, there are still a few closing costs, but they are significantly less,” says Cara Ameer, a Realtor® in Ponte Vedra, FL.

Here are some of the fees home buyers should brace themselves to pay:

  • A loan origination fee, which lenders charge for processing the paperwork for your loan.
  • A fee for running your credit report.
  • A fee for the underwriter, who assesses your credit worthiness.
  • A fee for the appraisal of the home you hope to own to make sure its value matches the size of the loan you want.
  • A fee for the home inspection, which checks the home for potential problems from cracks in the foundation to a leaky roof.
  • A fee for a title search to unearth any liens on the property that could interfere with your ownership of it.
  • A survey fee if it’s a single-family home or townhome (but not condos)
  • Taxes, also called stamp taxes, on the money you’ve borrowed for your home loan.

How much are closing costs for sellers?

Here are the closing costs that sellers are typically responsible for:

  • A closing fee, paid to the title company or attorney’s office where everyone meets to close on the home.
  • Taxes on the home sale.
  • A fee for an attorney, if the home seller has one.
  • A fee for transferring the title to the new owner.

 

While this doesn’t seem like much compared with what home buyers have to cough up, keep in mind that sellers typically pay all real estate agents’ commissions, which amount to 4% to 7% of the home’s sales price. So, no one sneaks through a home closing scot-free.

Why there’s no such thing as typical closing costs

The reason for the huge disparity in closing costs boils down to the fact that different states and municipalities have different legal requirements—and fees—for the sale of a home.

“If you live in a jurisdiction with high title insurance premiums and property transfer taxes, they can really add up,” says David Reiss, research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School. “New York City, for instance, has something called a mansion tax, which adds a 1% tax to sales that exceed $1 million. And then there are the surprise expenses that can crop up like so-called ‘flip taxes’ that condos charge sellers.”

Texas has the highest closing costs in the country, according to Bankrate.com. Nevada has the lowest.

How to estimate closing costs

To estimate your closing costs, plug your numbers into an online closing costs calculator, or ask your real estate agent, lender, or mortgage broker for a more accurate estimate. Then, at least three days before closing, the lender is required by federal law to send buyers a closing disclosure that outlines those costs once again. (Meanwhile sellers should receive similar documents from their real estate agent outlining their own costs.)

Word to the wise: “Before you close, make sure to review these documents to see if the numbers line up to what you were originally quoted,” says Ameer. Errors can and do creep in, and since you’re already ponying up so much cash, it pays, literally, to eyeball those numbers one last time before the big day.

How to reduce closing costs

While there’s no way for you to outright dodge closing costs, there are ways you can pay vastly less.

Some closing costs are negotiable: attorney fees, commission rates, recording costs, and messenger fees. Check your lender’s good-faith estimate (GFE) for an itemized list of fees. You can also use your GFE to comparison shop with other lenders.

Here are some ways to circumvent the added expenses:

1. Look for a loyalty program. Some banks offer help with their closing costs for buyers if they use the bank to finance their purchase. Bank of America, for instance, offers reduced origination fees for preferred reward members. It’s the bank’s way of offering a reward for being a customer.

2. Close at the end the month. One of the simplest ways to reduce closing costs for buyers is to schedule your closing at the end of the month. If you close at the beginning of the month, say March 6, you have to pay the per diem interest from the 5th to the 30th. But if you close on the 29th, you pay for only one day of interest.

3. Get the seller to pay. Most loans allow sellers to contribute up to 6% of the sale price to the buyer as a closing cost credit. It’s a way to seal the deal—and a tax-deductible expense for the seller. Don’t expect this to happen much in hot markets where inventory is scarce (which is almost everywhere these days).

4. Wrap the closing costs into the loan. You’re already borrowing probably hundreds of thousands of dollars—why not tack on a few thousand more? Lenders charge more for this, but if you don’t have the cash, it’s a way to get into the house with less cash upfront.

5. Join the army. Military members have closing-cost benefits that are often overlooked. Service members and veterans may qualify for funds to help them purchase a home. These benefits are not limited to the VA loan. The key is to do the necessary research to make sure you get everything you are entitled to. Visit usmhaf.org for more information.

6. Join a union. AFL-CIO members can get help purchasing or refinancing a home with closing-cost discounts and rebates from the Union Plus Mortgage program.

Chrystal Caruthers contributed to this post.

The post How Much Are Closing Costs? Plus: How To Reduce Closing Costs appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

6 Habits All Successful Home Buyers Have in Common

January 3, 2019

LightFieldStudios/iStock; realtor.com

Welcome to 2019! Resolving to eat more kale and take the stairs are fine resolutions. But if this is the year you vow to buy a home, we’d love to suggest a few new habits to help you get there.

Here’s a breakdown of home-buying habits to adopt now, especially if you hope to start looking once home-buying season is in full swing come spring. These behaviors are things you can do daily, weekly, monthly, or even just yearly. Taken together, they set you well on the path to homeownership with a minimum of pain and suffering.

1. Daily: Ditch an indulgence or two

Excuse us for stating the obvious—but saving for a down payment is vital to a successful house purchase. And buyers who can put down 20% don’t have to pay private mortgage insurance. Getting to that 20% down payment is a goal achieved by spending less.

Daily habits you may want to adopt now include eating out less often, cutting the cable bill, canceling (or downgrading) the gym membership, forgoing expensive coffee, and making your own lunch every day, says Patricia Vosburgh of NextHome Gulf to Bay in St. Petersburg, FL. And it’s not just about skipping $4 coffee—buyers shouldn’t make big purchases either.

“If you have an expensive car payment, consider selling the car or turning in the lease,” says Vosburgh. “Buy a beater car for the time being, or use public transportation.”

2. Weekly: Make deposits into a ‘home savings’ account

“When I was young and newly married, I couldn’t afford to buy an apartment or a house,” says New York City resident Charlotte Kullen. So she opened a designated “home savings” account, and she and her husband got into the habit of depositing a set weekly amount.

“Soon we had a tidy amount for a down payment,” says Kullen. To meet their goal sooner, Kullen kept her starter home aspirations modest, which enabled her to get approved easily by the bank.

3. Weekly: Start attending open houses

Getting into the habit of attending open houses will not only give you a feel for what homes are available, but seeing homes that could be yours will also help motivate you to save.

“And it will educate you on the market,” says Marie Bromberg, a sales agent with Compass in Brooklyn. “Every buyer at the back of their mind is thinking ‘Is now a good time to buy?’ Once you observe firsthand what houses are selling for what, it will help settle this question in your mind.”

4. Monthly: Do a trial run at homeownership

Owning a home is more than just coming up with a 20% down payment. You also have to be able to pay the mortgage and home maintenance costs.

“Think lawn care, general maintenance, replacing mechanicals, and unexpected repairs,” says Shawn Breyer of Atlanta’s Breyer Home Buyers.

To make sure you won’t max yourself out, test out the habit of saving as a homeowner. For one month, set aside the anticipated amount of your monthly housing expenses and what you’d need for an emergency fund. (A good rule of thumb is to save 10% of your mortgage amount every month for maintenance fees. So if your payment is $1,200, sock away $120.) Then see if you can live within your new budget.

This will allow you to test your lifestyle before committing to buying, says Nick Oliver, principal broker at New York’s HomeDax Real Estate. If you can’t live within the budget, you’ll know to opt for a smaller home.

5. Monthly: Pay all bills on time

To qualify for a mortgage at a reasonable interest rate, you’ll need a credit score that is in the 600s at the very least. The best way to keep your score high is to be in the habit of paying every single bill on time. Timely payments are especially important for auto loans and leases, since mortgage lenders look there first when checking reliability. Lest you forget, set bills on automatic payment.

Bills includes your rent, too. Remember, when you’re going into a home purchase, you sometimes need a referral from your landlord. Whether your rent check arrived on the first or the 15th of the month matters. And don’t forget about medical bills, which stay on your credit score for seven years if late or unpaid, says Dolly Hertz, licensed associate real estate broker at New York’s Engels & Volkers.

Finally, always pay down credit cards with any extra cash you have at the end of the month.

6. Yearly: Check your credit report

Do you even know what your credit score is, or even laid eyes on your credit report? If not—or if you haven’t done so recently—now’s the time to check.

To get a free copy of your credit score, go to CreditKarma.com. For your full credit report, available for free once a year, go to AnnualCreditReport.com. Who knows, there may be things on that report you weren’t aware of that are hurting your score—the only way to know and nip these problems in the bud is to check.

The post 6 Habits All Successful Home Buyers Have in Common appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Your Listing Is Turning Buyers Off! Here’s Why

November 29, 2018

The best way to get potential buyers through the door and interested in your home is with a stellar online listing. Photos of the house and a description of the property are standard fare, but not all listings do what they’re supposed to do. In fact, some might actually do more harm than good.

In many ways, trying to sell your home is like applying for a job, and your online listing is the resume or cover letter. If it’s not polished, you’ll never even get to the next phase.

So, what are the parts of a listing that can turn buyers off? Below are some of the worst offenses.

1. Lackluster (or non-existent) description

It can be hard to sum up your home in a couple of paragraphs. However, if you want to attract buyers, you’ll need to paint an inviting picture of the property.

“If it is a lakefront home, highlight the best parts of living on the lake; if it is an urban town, mention that you are within walking distance of top-rated restaurants,” says Cynthia Emerling, listing specialist at Finger Lakes Premier Properties in Canandaigua, NY.

Work with your real estate agent to pinpoint what buyers are looking for in your area, so you can mention it as early as possible in the listing description.

For example, Emerling’s company specializes in lakefront vacation homes, so “the views, the dock, and the topography of the land are all features that we highlight prominently.”

Also keep in mind that the online listing might initially show just a couple of lines of text, so make sure the most eye-catching information appears first.

2. Too much (or the wrong type of) information

Colorful listing photos or descriptions are sure to entice, but you have to be objective. Your favorite aspects of the home might not have the same effect on buyers.

“I had one seller that wanted to include photos of bunnies that lived in the backyard,” says Kris Lippi, real estate broker and owner of Get Listed Realty in Hartford, CT.

However, Lippi didn’t think that would necessarily be a selling point—and buyers might actually be concerned that the rabbits were destroying the lawn.

3. Amateur photographs

bad online listing
Photography equipment should never be showing in your listing photos!

Really Bad MLS Photos/Facebook

Your smartphone takes some really good photos, but that doesn’t mean they’re good enough to be used in your online listing.

“Everyone thinks they can take quality pictures with their smartphones and save a few dollars, but you only get one chance to impress potential buyers online,” says Robert Taylor, owner of The Real Estate Solutions Guy, a house-flipping company in Sacramento, CA.

That’s why it’s important to feature high-quality photographs shot by someone who has experience taking photos for online listings.

“A professional photographer will have the correct camera lenses, lighting, and angles to allow the entire room to be seen in a single photo,” Taylor says.

Jim Stevenson, a real estate agent at Realty One Group in Doylestown, PA, agrees that pictures taken by camera phone are no match for high-quality professional photos.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the infamous ‘real estate agent in a mirror’ shot,” Stevenson says. “When the photo quality is lacking, it sends a message that your home is low quality, too.”

4. Not staging your home

bad listing

By not staging a home, you’re missing out on the opportunity to show potential buyers how the space can be used.

realtor.com

While many buyers like to think of a new house as a blank canvas for their own furniture and design tastes, leaving the rooms completely devoid of furniture and art in the listing photos can hurt you in the long run. Buyers like to see the potential of the home, so staging is highly recommended.

“When a house is staged, you can get the sense of use and purpose for each space,” says Matt Morgus, a San Francisco-based real estate agent.

That’s especially important for houses with open floor plans.

“Open floor plans are extremely popular to home buyers in today’s market, but sometimes it’s hard to differentiate a space with no furniture,” Morgus says.

5. Too many days on the market

Buyers look closely at the listing price and days on the market (DOM) because this information can help them determine whether the house is priced too low or too high—and how much they should offer if they’re interested.

Because every real estate market is different, there isn’t a hard and fast number of days it takes for a listing to be considered stale. However, most real estate agents agree that it takes about 30 days on the market for a listing to lose its luster.

So how can you revive a stale listing? Additional marketing efforts like new photos or an added incentive (free tacos with purchase, anyone?) may help. But the most effective way to generate more buzz about your property is with a price adjustment.

“If you have been on the market for a while and activity has stalled, you should consider reducing the price,” Lippi advises. “Even if you reduce it by a small amount, it will show up in buyers’ emails again and appear online as a price correction, and this gets eyes on your listing.”

The best tactic, ultimately, is to price the house correctly the first time, so it doesn’t end up languishing on the market for a couple of weeks.

“An overpriced home will force a seller to drop the price of their home numerous times to reach the ‘sweet spot’ where buyers become interested in the listing,” says Breyer.

The post Your Listing Is Turning Buyers Off! Here’s Why appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.