What are Prepaid Costs When Buying a Home? [Real Estate Insider]

Buying a home is more expensive than you might think. The largest cost you hear about is the down payment, but there are several other expenses that add up to quite a bit more. From taxes to insurance and fees, here are some of the prepaid costs you can expect to owe at or before closing day. 

Pre-Paid Costs for Buying a Home

Homeowner's Insurance

A mortgage originator will typically require a year's worth of mortgage insurance paid at closing. The premium is determined at a yearly rate, but most lenders will allow you to incorporate that payment into your monthly mortgage bill. 

Mortgage Interest

The creditor adds on the interest between the closing date and the amount due at your first payment at the end of the first full month. For example, if you close on the 15th of the month, you pre-pay the interest through the 30th (or 31st) at closing. Then, your next payment will include an entire month's worth of interest. Most people try to close at the end of the month to reduce the amount spent on interest at closing. However, there are some benefits to closing near the beginning of a month. Most lenders are busy at the end of the month, so if you close in the beginning and something goes wrong, the lenders might have more time and resources to solve the issue. 

Property Taxes

The buyer typically pays the remainder of the property taxes due that year at closing. So, a purchase earlier in the year may have to front more cash to cover the gap. Vice versa for a late-year purchase. However, this portion is negotiable depending on how the market is responding. Some sellers will offer to cover a percentage of the taxes to attract a potential buyer. 

Earnest Money

Someone will need to collect money when you make an offer on the house to prove you're serious about buying the home. Some real estate brokerages collect the earnest money shortly after you make the offer. Sometimes, they'll have you send it directly to the title company to hold in escrow. Regardless, your real estate agent should know where to take the money and how much you'll need send. 

The amount of earnest money typically depends on the size of the purchase. Most contracts require 1%-3% of the total value. For example, if you make an offer for $200,000, you can expect the earnest money due to be around $2,000. This check will be contributed to your down payment at closing, but it's helpful to know that you'll need to have this money accounted for when you make an offer. 

Down Payment

The biggest expense when buying a house is the down payment. Most lenders require at least 3.5% of the total loan up-front. This would be the case for an FHA mortgage. A conventional mortgage usually requires close to 5% with a good credit score. Some speciality loans, such as VA or USDA loans, might have 0% down options, but you typically have to pay a small percentage of the mortgage at closing. 

There are down payment assistance programs available to most home buyers who make less than the median income in their area. If you think you might struggle to save enough money for the required down payment, talk to your trusted lender to see what programs they offer. 

Mortgage Fees and Closing Costs

Mortgage Origination Fees

The mortgage originator charges a fee for processing the loan. All of the work they put into collecting paperwork and setting up the mortgage goes into the total costs due at closing. 

Title Fees and Insurance

The title company is responsible for providing information on the property and making sure there aren't any legal issues before the transaction occurs. Most title companies require the buyer to purchase title insurance to protect the buyer and the title company from legal action if an issue is discovered after the deal closes.

Sales Taxes and Fees

Federal, state, and local governments play a role in such a large exchange of property. As a result, there are sales taxes involved because the transaction is taking place between two parties. For example, most states charge between 2-5% at the state level, and local governments can add to that if desired. There may also be a local ordinance that a city or county employee inspects the property prior to change in ownership.

Other Expenses

Appraisal

Most mortgage companies will require an appraisal for the property for a few reasons. First, they want to make sure the amount of the loan would be protected and they could resell the property for a similar price if the loan is defaulted. Also, it provides valuable information about the property for the buyer, so they have a full understanding of the property they're purchasing. 

The average appraisal costs around $500. Depending on the area and demand for appraisals, it can range from $300 to $800 in the very expensive areas. The buyer is responsible for purchasing the appraisal, and the results will be available for review before the closing date. 

Inspection

Another expense that is meant to protect the buyer is a buyer's inspection. Private inspection companies will send out a professional to examine the property and look for any obvious or potential issues. The price of an inspection depends on the size of the property since the inspector is responsible for examining every inch. A standard inspection will cost $300-$400, and there are add-ons based on the situation. Most inspectors will recommend having a sewer professional examine the plumbing, which will cost a bit more. You can also request special inspections/treatments for termites, mold, and radon. Any of these additional services will cost more, and your inspector will tell you if they think it is necessary. 

Survey

Most real estate agents will recommend the buyer have a survey done on the property after making an offer. Surveys mark off the property lines and tell you if there are any potential encroachments or easements on the property. For example, most utility companies have an easement to enter your property to "read the meter" or perform routine maintenance.

A survey will also map out any unusual or unique attributes on the property. For example, some people own the road in front of their property and are responsible for maintenance. It could also reveal improvements done on the property over time and give dimension of different structures. A survey can cost anywhere from $150 for a basic drawing, or closer to $500 for a full-fledged service where they mark the boundaries and examine the structures. Talk to your real estate agent about what they think is necessary for your circumstances. 

Pre-Purchase repairs**

In rare circumstances, your lender might require repairs on the property before they fund the loan. If there are structural issues or hazardous conditions such as mold or radon, they can withhold the mortgage until the problems are resolved. Any repairs will fall on the responsibility of the buyer unless they can negotiate it into the contract with the seller. Beware of possible warning signs and ask your inspector to emphasize any structural or hazardous problems when they're examining the home. 

10/14/2021

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