Home buying isn't just about the mortgage. One of the most overlooked expenses is the slew of fees you pay to seal the deal. These expenses are called closing costs because you pay them in full when you "close" the sale. According to bankrate.com, the average closing costs for a $180,000 mortgage are about $2,800, not including state and local taxes. How much you pay depends on the type and size of the loan. Here's what you need to know:   

  • Plan to pay around 3 percent of your mortgage at the closing.
  • Lenders must give potential borrowers a worksheet that gives "good faith" estimates for the closing costs. While estimates offer wiggle room, make sure to study this document before closing day so you have a sense of what's in store. See a sample HUD settlement statement at hsh.com/hud1.html.
  • Focus on the origination fee. That's what the lender charges to do business. It's typically expressed as a "point," with one point equal to 1 percent of your mortgage. There's no reason this fee should change, so watch it closely.
  • Shop around for title insurance. The lender requires it (which can be as much as 1 percent of your loan) in case it turns out that after you buy a place, someone else has a claim on it. To get the best deal, do your own legwork rather than use the company your agent recommends (visit titleinsurance.com).
  • Ask your lender if you can add the closing costs to the mortgage. Let's say you have a $200,000 mortgage and face $6,000 in closing costs. If you take out a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage that charges 6.5 percent interest, your monthly mortgage costs would be $1,264. But if you roll in the closing costs, increasing your loan to $206,000, your monthly costs would be $1,302. You save having to find $6,000 in cash by paying $38 more a month.
  • With real estate markets cooling down, buyers have regained some leverage. Negotiate to have a seller contribute cash for your closing costs. How much the seller can legally kick in depends on your mortgage type; your lender can explain the rules.


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