Don’t Be Caught Surprised & Unprepared: Closing Costs

Closing costs add up to anywhere from 3% to 6% of the purchase price. This means if your home is $400,000 and your closing costs are 4%, you’ll owe $16,000 at closing.

Some examples of costs common during a closing:

  • Application fee — The application fee covers the cost of administering the transaction and handling the documentation. 
  • Appraisal fee — A licensed appraiser inspects the home to determine its worth. This appraisal fee typically costs a few hundred dollars. 
  • Credit report — As part of the due diligence to determine your credit worthiness and determine the interest rate for your loan, the lender will pull your credit report. This fee is rolled into your closing costs. 
  • Homeowner’s insurance — Homeowner’s insurance is typically required to protect the home from loss or damage. Up to one year’s worth of insurance is due at the closing. 
  • Private mortgage insurance (PMI) — PMI is designed to protect the lender in case you default on your loan. Until you own a certain percentage of the home, private mortgage insurance may be required by your lender. 
  • Property taxes — Depending on your location, you may be required to pre-pay 60, 90, or 180 days worth of property taxes when you close on your house.
  • Transfer tax — Typically a percentage of the sales price or fair market value of the house, this tax fee is collected and paid when the title passes from the seller to the buyer.
  • Underwriting fee — Also known as a loan origination fee, this fee is charged by the lender for preparing the mortgage loan. 
  • Title search services: A title search verifies the seller’s legal right to transfer the property to the buyer and flags and liens that may have to be cleared before the sale can be completed.
  • Real estate attorney’s fees: It’s customary and advisable (and mandatory, in some jurisdictions) for both buyer and seller to hire attorneys to review sales contracts before a home sale is completed. In more complicated sales—if a home is occupied by tenants at the time of the sale, for instance, or if the sale is contingent on the seller completing certain repairs or improvements—attorneys may play a more active role, crafting contract provisions to protect their client’s interests.
  • Agents’ sales commission: Real estate agents representing the buyer and seller typically split a commission of 5% to 6% of the sales price.

The Bottom Line: There are steps you can take to bring down your closing costs:

  • Schedule your closing at the end of the month. Part of your closing costs is prepaid interest charges on your mortgage for the remaining days of the calendar month. If you schedule your closing toward the end of the month, you’ll only pay these charges for a few days.
  • Ask the seller to cover some of the costs. In a buyer’s market, and/or if your seller is particularly eager to complete the sale, you can ask them to cover some of the closing costs.
  • Compare your loan estimate and your final closing disclosure form. Check for inconsistencies and new charges. If something doesn’t look right, bring it to the attention of your lender.
Share This Post

Refinancing Your Home

When you refinance, you get a new mortgage to pay off your existing mortgage. Refinancing works just like getting a mortgage to buy a house, but free from the stress of home buying and moving. As a homeowner, you will have the opportunity to choose among all the types of mortgages that are available to home buyers.

Refinancing your home allows you to change the terms of your mortgage to secure a lower monthly payment, rearrange the loan terms, consolidate debt, or even take some cash from your home’s equity to put towards renovations or bills.

Is it worth it? The general rule of thumb says that you’ll benefit from refinancing if the new rate is at least 1% lower than the rate you have. More to the point, consider whether the monthly savings is enough to make a positive change in your life, or whether the overall savings over the life of the loan will benefit you substantially.

Are there any good reasons NOT to refinance? Refinancing loans come with closing costs just like a regular mortgage. Freddie Mac suggests budgeting about $5,000 for closing costs. That will include appraisal fees, credit report fees, title services, lender origination/administration fees, survey fees, underwriting fees, and attorney costs.

If your closing costs are $5,000 and you save $500 per month on your new mortgage, it would take 10 months to break even. However, if you only saved $200 per month, your “break-even point” would be 25 months (just over two years). Stay in the home for less time than that, and you won’t truly be saving money long-term.

There are lenders that offer a “no-cost refinance” but it usually just means that the closing fees are being wrapped up into the amount of your loan.

Before you decide to refinance it’s important to understand how the process works and to evaluate the pros and cons of your individual situation. For example, many homeowners are surprised at the amount of documentation needed to get approved. And some people aren’t aware that there are some refinance options requiring very little paperwork.

The Bottom Line: During this era of economic uncertainty, refinancing your mortgage can give you some breathing room by lowering your monthly payments and/or saving you money over time. When you refinance, it means you’re essentially taking out a brand new loan on your property, often for the remainder that you owe. While refinancing sounds great on paper, it may not always put you in a better position. It’s best to weigh the pros and cons, taking your personal situation into account.

Share This Post

Home Upgrades You Should Skip

Don’t expect to recoup most of the money you put into home improvements when it comes time to sell. Do them for you and your family to enjoy because the truth is that some renovations can actually reduce the value of your home.

Here are a few of the most common home improvements that could possibly turn out to be mistakes. While they may add to the house’s appeal, they won’t add value. In some cases, they could even act as a detriment when the property goes on the market.

Swimming Pool

Even living in the hottest climates, a pool can seem like endless hours of entertainment. You can even picture yourself and all your friends and family enjoying a hot day poolside, but unfortunately potential homebuyers may not.  They are possibly thinking of the hours of upkeep, expensive costs and the dangerous liability a pool can add.

Eliminating Rooms

Enlarging a room, for example a master bedroom, by knocking down walls and combining a neighboring room is never a good idea unless you plan on living in the home forever. Even if the other bedrooms are small, you can expect to add 15% more onto your property value with each extra bedroom. Aside from square footage, the total number of bedrooms a home has is a primary driver of the sales price. Generally, people search for new homes based on the number of bedrooms they need.

Expensive landscaping

Upscale, professional landscaping won’t add value to your home. Instead keep your lawn well-maintained with trimmed and pruned bushes, shrubs and trees.

Having to hire a professional landscaping company for monthly upkeep may cause disinterest for buyers. Keep it simple with native plants that require little water and maintenance. Landscaping choices are a personal preference,and some buyers will inevitably see only the money required to keep that beautiful backyard well maintained.

Invisible Improvements

Pricey projects that make your house a better place to live, but that nobody else would notice or care about, like replacing plumbing or the HVAC unit. Most buyers just assume that these systems are in good working order. They will rarely pay extra just because they were recently installed. Necessary, not not showy, improvements, like new paint and carpet, don’t add value because buyers already expect these features to be in good condition. They don’t feel they should have to replace the wear and tear you caused while living there.

If any essential system (like the HVAC unit) needs to be replaced, you should certainly do it—but don’t expect to recover the cost by getting a higher price for your house.

Wall to Wall Carpeting

It so happens that home buyers cringe at a carpet upgrade. People are turning away from carpeting because of the dangerous chemicals used to process it, not to mention the fact that it’s considered an allergen hazard—a serious concern for many people, especially families with children.

Not only will you not recoup the cost of wall-to-wall carpeting, but—if carpet is the primary flooring throughout—it can actually lower the value of your home.

The Bottom Line: Renovations and improvements can improve your home but they come in many different forms. Certain upgrades are worth the investmen and others simply don’t add value when it’s time to sell. When making changes always keep in mind what will appeal to a future buyer when the time comes to sell your home. Before you jump into all the things you’d like to fix or renovate in your home, you need to do your due diligence. Reach out to your favorite Realtor and get her opinion.

Share This Post

Should You Sell Your House or Rent It Out?

If your home isn’t selling, you might be tempted to ask your Realtor if you should consider renting it out. While it is impossible to predict with perfect accuracy where your housing market is headed, your Realtor can help you to make an informed prediction. If your home’s value will increase in the next few years, so it would be a great idea to consider renting it out now and selling later. But, there are a lot of factors to consider.

  • How will you respond if your tenant says they can’t afford to pay the rent this month because of more pressing obligations?
  • Because of the economy, many homeowners can no longer make their mortgage payments. What percent of tenants do you think can no longer afford to pay their rent?
  • Have you interviewed a few experienced eviction attorneys in case a challenge does arise?
  • Have you talked to your insurance company about a possible increase in premiums as liability is greater in a non-owner-occupied home?
  • Will you allow pets? Cats? Dogs?
  • How will you actually collect the rent? By mail? In-person?
  • Repairs are part of being a landlord. Who will take tenant calls when necessary repairs arise?
  • Do you have a list of craftspeople readily available to handle these repairs?
  • How often will you do a physical inspection of the property?
  • Will you alert your current neighbors that you are renting the house?
  • How much time do you have? When you rent out your home, you still have obligations as an owner. You need to make sure that you’re able to meet your tenants’ needs, such as repairs or emergencies while following all landlord and tenant laws. It helps to contact an experienced lawyer to learn more about these laws, too.
  • Are you financially prepared? Can you cover the cost of the mortgage if a tenant misses rent or if the house sits unoccupied for a few months? What about the cost of emergency repairs?
  • How much do you need to charge? You may want to charge enough rent to cover the cost of your mortgage, taxes, and insurance. If it’s feasible, you might want to set a rent that can partially cover repairs and earn extra income. Make sure that you’re able to ask for enough to prevent it from costing you money — and ask a real estate agent about fair market values in your area. If your rent amount is above fair market value, you may not find a tenant.
  • Can you afford the upkeep? Before putting your house up for rent, make all the needed repairs. Take care of any other minor improvements that make the home presentable and allow you to get the rent amount you want.

The Bottom Line: There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to deciding whether to rent or sell your house. Meet with your Realtor and evaluate your unique situation and make the choice that’s right for your needs and your financial future

Share This Post