The Functions of an Escrow

Buying or selling a home (or other piece of real property) usually involves the transfer of large sums of money. It is imperative that the transfer of these funds and related documents from one party to another be handled in a neutral, secure and knowledgeable manner. For the protection of buyer, seller and lender, the escrow process was developed.

As a buyer or seller, you want to be certain all conditions of sale have been met before property and money change hands. The technical definition of an escrow is a transaction where one party engaged in the sale, transfer or lease of real or personal property with another person delivers a written instrument, money or other items of value to a neutral third person, called an escrow agent or escrow holder. This third person holds the money or items for disbursement upon the happening of a specified event or the performance of a specified condition.

Simply stated, the escrow holder impartially carries out the written instructions given by the principals. This includes receiving funds and documents necessary to comply with those instructions, completing or obtaining required forms and handling final delivery of all items to the proper parties upon the successful completion of the escrow.

The escrow must be provided with the necessary information to close the transaction. This may include loan documents, tax statements, fire and other insurance policies, title insurance policies, terms of sale and any seller-assisted financing, and requests for payment for various services to be paid out of escrow funds.

If the transaction is dependent on arranging new financing, it is the buyer’s or the buyer’s agent’s responsibility to make the necessary arrangements. Documentation of the new loan agreement must be in the hands of the escrow holder before the transfer of property can take place. A real estate agent can help identify appropriate lending institutions.

When all the instructions in the escrow have been carried out, the closing can take place. At this time, all outstanding funds are collected and fees- such as title insurance premiums, real estate commissions, termite inspection charges- are paid. Title to the property is then transferred under the terms of the escrow instructions and appropriate title insurance is issued.

Payment of funds at the close of escrow should be in the form acceptable to the escrow, since out-of-town and personal checks can cause days of delay in processing the transaction.

The following items represent a typical list of what an escrow holder does and does not do:

THE ESCROW HOLDER:

  • serves as the neutral “stakeholder” and the communications link to all parties in the transaction;
  • prepares escrow instructions;
  • requests a preliminary title search to determine the present condition of title to the property;
  • requests a beneficiary’s statement if debt or obligation is to be taken over by the buyer;
  • complies with lender’s requirements, specified in the escrow agreement;
  • receives purchase funds from the buyer;
  • prepares or secures the deed or other documents related to escrow;
  • prorates taxes, interest, insurance and rents according to instructions;
  • secures releases of all contingencies or other conditions as imposed on any particular escrow;
  • records deeds and any other documents as instructed;
  • requests issuance of the title insurance policy;
  • closes escrow when all the instructions of buyer and seller have been carried out;
  • disburses funds as authorized by instructions, including charges for title insurance, recording fees, real estate commissions and loan payoffs;
  • prepares final statements for the parties accounting for the disposition of all funds deposited in escrow (these are useful in the preparation of tax returns).

THE ESCROW HOLDER DOES NOT:

  • offer legal advice;
  • negotiate the transaction;
  • offer investment advice.

Your local title company should be happy to provide additional information.

Article by CLTA

Title Insurance – Where Does Your Dollar Go?

Title Insurance: As a homebuyer, the term is probably familiar – but is it understood? What is your dollar actually paying for when you purchase a title policy?

Title Insurers, unlike property or casualty insurance companies, operate under the theory of risk elimination. Title companies spend a high percentage of their operating income each year collecting, storing, maintaining and analyzing official records for information that affects title to real property. Their technical experts are trained to identify the rights others may have in your property, such as recorded liens, legal actions, disputed interests, rights of way or other encumbrances on your title. Before closing your transaction, the title company will proceed to clear those encumbrances which you do not wish to assume.

This theory is different from that of most other insurance where, for example, rates and anticipated losses are based on actuarial studies and premiums are pooled on the assumption that a certain number of claims will be made. The distinction is important: title insurance premiums are paid to identify and eliminate potential risks and claims before they happen. Medical and casualty insurance premiums, for example, are paid to insure against an unpredictable future event, knowing that risks exist and claims will occur. Furthermore, title insurance involves a one-time premium, paid when you close the real estate transaction, while property, casualty and medical insurance require regular renewal premiums.

The goal of title companies is to conduct such a thorough search and evaluation of public records that no claims will ever arise. Of course, this is impossible — we live in an imperfect world, where human error and changing legal interpretations make 100% risk elimination impossible. When claims arise, professional claims personnel are assigned to handle them according to the terms of the title insurance policy.

As in all competitive business environments, rates vary from company to company, so you should make comparisons before deciding on a particular title company. Your real estate professional can help you do this. In addition, there are many helpful customer services provided by title companies which you and your real estate professional may find helpful to your transaction.

The issuance of a title insurance policy is highly labor-intensive. It is based upon the maintenance of a title plant, or library of title records, in many cases dating back over a hundred years. Each day, recorded documents affecting real property and property owners are posted to these title plants so that when a title search on a particular parcel is requested, the information is already organized for rapid and accurate retrieval. This investment in skilled personnel and advanced data processing represents a major part of the title insurance premium dollar.

Article by CLTA

Title Insurance Requirements for Insuring Trusts

In today’s world of busy probate courts and exorbitant death taxes, the living trust has become a common manner of holding title to real property. The following may help you understand a few of the requirements of the title insurance industry if title to property is conveyed to the trustee of a living trust.

What is a trust?

An agreement between a trustor and trustee for the trustee to hold title to and administer designated assets of the trustor for the use and benefit of one or more beneficiaries.

Can a trust itself acquire and convey interests in real property?

No. The trust is an arrangement between a trustee and the trustor. Only the trustee, on behalf of the trust, may own and convey any interest in real property. The trustee may only exercise the powers granted in the trust.

What will the title company require if a trustee holds the title to the property which is part of the trust?

A certification of trust containing the following information:

  1. Date of execution of the trust instrument,
  2. Identity of the trustor and trustee,
  3. Powers of the trustee,
  4. Identity of person with power to revoke trust, if any,
  5. Signature authority of the trustees,
  6. Manner in which title to the trust assets should be taken,
  7. Legal description of any interest in the property held by the trust, and
  8. A statement that the trust has not been revoked, modified, or amended in any manner which would cause the certification to be incorrect and that the certification is being signed by all currently acting trustees of the trust

My trust contains certain amounts of money to be given to various charities which is none of your business. Can I omit these pages?

Because many different provisions may be on the same page, the answer must be no — but if the title company requires a copy of the trust, it may accept a copy with those amounts blacked out.

If there is more than one trustee, can just one sign?

Maybe. The trust must specifically provide for less than all to sign.

Can the trustee give someone a power-of-attorney?

Only if the trust specifically provides for the appointment of an attorney-in-fact.

What will the title company require if all the trustees have died or are unwilling to act?

If the trustor is not able to do so, or the trust provisions prohibit the trustor from appointing a new trustee, the court may do so.

How does a notary acknowledge the signature of the trustee?

Title is vested in the trustee. Hence, if the trustee is an individual or a corporation, then the new general form of acknowledgment will be prepared to reflect the intrinsic nature of the trustee.

How would the deed to the trustee ordinarily be worded to transfer title to the trustee?

“John Doe and Mary Doe, as trustees of the Doe family trust, under declaration of trust dated January 1,1992.”

Are there any limitations on what a trustee may do?

Yes, the trustee is limited principally and most importantly by the provisions of the trust and, thus, may only act within the terms of the trust. The probate code contains general powers which, unless limited by the trust agreement, are sufficient for title insurers to rely on for sale, conveyance, and refinance purposes.

Article by CLTA

Title Insurance When Refinancing Your Loan

Lower interest rates have motivated you to refinance your home loan. The lower rate may save you a tremendous amount of money over the life of the loan, but you should also expect to pay the lender the typical closing costs associated with any new loan, including service fees, points, title insurance protection and other expenses.

Why do I need to purchase a new title insurance policy on a refinanced loan?

To the lender, a refinance loan is no different than any other home loan. So, your lender will want to insure that their new loan is protected by title insurance, just as the original lender required. Therefore, when you refinance you are buying a title policy to protect your lender.

Why does a Lender need title insurance?

Most lenders generate loans and then immediately sell those loans to secondary market investors, such as FannieMae.

FannieMae, in order to protect its security interest in the loan, requires title insurance coverage. Even those lenders who keep original loans in their portfolio are wise to get a lenders policy to protect their investment against title related defects.

When I purchased my home, didn’t I also buy a lender’s policy?

Perhaps. Who pays for the lender’s policy on a purchase loan varies regionally and by the terms of individual contracts.

However, even if you did buy a lender’s policy when you purchased your home, the lender’s policy remains in force only during the life of the loan that was insured. If you refinance, the old loan is paid off (the “life” of the loan expires) and a new loan is issued for which the lender will require a new title insurance policy.

What about my original title insurance policy?

When you bought your home, you purchased a Homeowners title policy. The Homeowners’ policy stays in force as long as you or your heirs own the home. When you refinance, your lender will often require that you purchase a new lender’s policy to protect their new security interest in the property. Thus, you are buying a policy to protect your lender, not a new Homeowner’s policy.

What could possibly have happened since I purchased my home which warrants a new lender’s policy?

Since the time that the original loan was made, you may have taken out a second trust deed on the house or had mechanic’s liens, child support liens or legal judgments recorded against you – events that could result in serious financial losses to an unprotected lender. Regardless if it has been only 6 months or less since you purchased or refinanced your home, a myriad of title defects could have occurred. While you may not have any title defects, many Homeowners do. The only way for a lender to adequately protect itself is to get a new lender’s policy each time you purchase or refinance your home.

Are there any discounts available for title insurance on a refinance transaction?

Yes. Title companies offer a refinance transaction discount or a short-term rate. Discounts may also be available if you use the same lender for your refinance loan and your original loan. Be sure to ask your title company how they can save you money.

Article by CLTA

Understanding Preliminary Reports

After months of searching, you’ve finally found it — your perfect dream home. But is it perfect?

Will you be purchasing more than just a beautiful home? Will you also be acquiring liens placed on the property by prior owners? Have documents been recorded that will restrict your use of the property?

The preliminary report will provide you with the opportunity, prior to purchase, to review matters affecting your property which will be excluded from coverage under your title insurance policy unless removed or eliminated before your purchase.

To help you better understand this often bewildering subject, the Land Title Association has answered some of the questions most commonly asked about preliminary reports.

What is a Preliminary Report?

A preliminary report is a report prepared prior to issuing a policy of title insurance that shows the ownership of a specific parcel of land, together with the liens and encumbrances thereon which will not be covered under a subsequent title insurance policy.

What role does a Preliminary Report play in the real estate process?

A preliminary report contains the conditions under which the title company will issue a particular type of title insurance policy.

The preliminary report lists, in advance of purchase, title defects, liens and encumbrances which would be excluded from coverage if the requested title insurance policy were to be issued as of the date of the preliminary report. The report may then be reviewed and discussed by the parties to a real estate transaction and their agents.

Thus, a preliminary report provides the opportunity to seek the removal of items referenced in the report which are objectionable to the buyer prior to purchase.

When and how is the Preliminary Report produced?

Shortly after escrow is opened, an order will be placed with the title company which will then begin the process involved in producing the report.

This process calls for the assembly and review of certain recorded matters relative to both the property and the parties to the transaction. Examples of recorded matters include a deed of trust recorded against the property or a lien recorded against the buyer or seller for an unpaid court award or unpaid taxes.

These recorded matters are listed numerically as “exceptions” in the preliminary report. They will remain exceptions from title insurance coverage unless eliminated or released prior to the transfer of title.

What should I look for when reading my Preliminary Report?

You will be interested, primarily, in the extent of your ownership rights. This means you will want to review the ownership interest in the property you will be buying as well as any claims, restrictions or interests of other people involving the property.

The report will note in a statement of vesting the degree, quantity, nature and extent of the owner’s interest in the real property. The most common form of interest is “fee simple” or “fee” which is the highest type of interest an owner can have in land.

Liens, restrictions and interests of others which are being excluded from coverage will be listed numerically as exceptions in the preliminary report. These may be claims by creditors who have liens or liens for payment of taxes or assessments. There may also be recorded restrictions which have been placed in a prior deed or contained in what are termed CC&Rs- covenants, conditions and restrictions. Finally, interests of third parties are not uncommon and may include easements given by a prior owner which limit your use of the property. When you buy property you may not wish to have these claims or restrictions on your property. Instead, you may want to clear the unwanted items prior to purchase.

In addition to the limitations noted above, a printed list of standard exceptions and exclusions listing items not covered by your title insurance policy may be attached as an exhibit item to your report. Unlike the numbered exclusions, which are specific to the property you are buying, these are standard exceptions and exclusions appearing in title insurance policies. The review of this section is important, as it sets forth matters which will not be covered under your title insurance policy, but which you may wish to investigate, such as governmental laws or regulations governing building and zoning.

Will the Preliminary Report disclose the complete condition of the title to a property?

No. It is important to note that the preliminary report is not a written representation as to the condition of title and may not list all liens, defects, and encumbrances affecting title to the land, but merely report the current ownership and matters that the title company will exclude from coverage if a title insurance policy should later be issued.

Is a Preliminary Report the same thing as title insurance?

Definitely not.

A preliminary report is an offer to insure, it is not a report of a complete history of recorded documents relating to the property. A preliminary report is a statement of terms and conditions of the offer to issue a title insurance policy, not a representation as to the condition of title.

These distinctions are important for the following reasons: first, no contract or liability exists until the title insurance policy is issued; second, the title insurance policy is issued to a particular insured person and others cannot claim the benefit of the policy.

Can I be protected against title risks prior to the close of the real estate transaction?

Yes, you can. Title companies can protect your interest through the issuance of “binders” and “commitments”.

A binder is an agreement to issue insurance giving temporary coverage until such time as a formal policy is issued. A commitment is a title insurer’s contractual obligation to insure title to real property once its stated requirements have been met.

Discuss with your title insurer the best means to protect your interests.

How do I go about clearing unwanted liens and encumbrances?

You will wish to carefully review the preliminary report. Should the title to the property be clouded, you and your agents will work with the seller and the seller’s agents to clear the unwanted liens and encumbrances prior to taking title.

Who can I turn to for further information regarding Preliminary Reports?

Your real estate agent and your attorney, should you choose to use one, will help explain the preliminary report to you. Your escrow and title company can also be helpful sources.

CONCLUSION

In a business which is directed at risk elimination, the efforts leading to the production of the preliminary report, which is designed to facilitate the issuance of a policy of title insurance, is perhaps the most important function undertaken.

Article by CLTA

Understanding Title Insurance

What is title insurance? Newspapers refer to it in the weekly real estate sections and you hear about it in conversations with real estate brokers. If you’ve purchased a home you may be familiar with the benefits of title insurance. However, if this is your first home, you may wonder, “Why do I need yet another insurance policy?” While a number of issues can be raised by that question, we will start with a general answer.

The purchase of a home is one of the most expensive and important purchases you will ever make. You and your mortgage lender will want to make sure the property is indeed yours and that no one else has any lien, claim or encumbrance on your property.

The Land Title Association, in the following pages, answers some questions frequently asked about an often misunderstood line of insurance – title insurance.

What is the difference between title insurance and casualty insurance?

Title insurers work to identify and eliminate risk before issuing a title insurance policy. Casualty insurers assume risks.

Casualty insurance companies realize that a certain number of losses will occur each year in a given category (auto, fire, etc.). The insurers collect premiums monthly or annually from the policy holders to establish reserve funds in order to pay for expected losses.

Title companies work in a very different manner. Title insurance will indemnify you against loss under the terms of your policy, but title companies work in advance of issuing your policy to identify and eliminate potential risks and therefore prevent losses caused by title defects that may have been created in the past.

Title insurance also differs from casualty insurance in that the greatest part of the title insurance premium dollar goes towards risk elimination. Title companies maintain title plants, which contain information regarding property transfers and liens reaching back many years. Maintaining these title plants, along with the searching and examining of title, is where most of your premium dollar goes.

Who needs title insurance?

Buyers and lenders in real estate transactions need title insurance. Both want to know that the property they are involved with is insured against certain title defects. Title companies provide this needed insurance coverage subject to the terms of the policy. The seller, buyer and lender all benefit from the insurance provided by title companies.

What does title insurance insure?

Title insurance offers protection against claims resulting from various defects (as set out in the policy) which may exist in the title to a specific parcel of real property, effective on the issue date of the policy. For example, a person might claim to have a deed or lease giving them ownership or the right to possess your property. Another person could claim to hold an easement giving them a right of access across your land. Yet another person may claim that they have a lien on your property securing the repayment of a debt. That property may be an empty lot or it may hold a 50-story office tower. Title companies work with all types of real property.

What types of policies are available?

Title companies routinely issue two types of policies: An “owner’s policy” which insures you, the Homebuyer, for as long as you and your heirs own the home; and a “lender’s” policy which insures the priority of the lender’s security interest over the claims that others may have in the property.

What protection am I obtaining with my title policy?

A title insurance policy contains provisions for the payment of the legal fees in defense of a claim against your property which is covered under your policy. It also contains provisions for indemnification against losses which result from a covered claim. A premium is paid at the close of a transaction. There are no continuing premiums due, as there are with other types of insurance.

What are my chances of ever using my title policy?

In essence, by acquiring your policy, you derive the important knowledge that recorded matters have been searched and examined so that title insurance covering your property can be issued. Because we are risk eliminators, the probability of exercising your right to make a claim is very low. However, claims against your property may not be valid, making the continuous protection of the policy all the more important. When a title company provides a legal defense against claims covered by your title insurance policy, the savings to you for that legal defense alone will greatly exceed the one-time premium.

What if I am buying property from someone I know?

You may not know the owner as well as you think you do. People undergo changes in their personal lives that may affect title to their property. People get divorced, change their wills, engage in transactions that limit the use of the property and have liens and judgments placed against them personally for various reasons.

There may also be matters affecting the property that are not obvious or known, even by the existing owner, which a title search and examination seeks to uncover as part of the process leading up to the issuance of the title insurance policy.

Just as you wouldn’t make an investment based on a phone call, you shouldn’t buy real property without assurances as to your title. Title insurance provides these assurances.

The process of risk identification and elimination performed by the title companies, prior to the issuance of a title policy, benefits all parties in the property transaction. It minimizes the chances that adverse claims might be raised, and by doing so reduces the number of claims that need to be defended or satisfied. This process keeps costs and expenses down for the title company and maintains the traditional low cost of title insurance.

Article by CLTA

Why Do You Need Title Insurance?

Title Insurance.

It’s a term we hear and see frequently – we see reference to it in the Sunday real estate section, in advertisements and in conversations with real estate brokers. If you’ve purchased a home before, you’re probably familiar with the benefits and procedures of title insurance. But if this is your first home, you may wonder, “Why do I need another insurance policy? It’s just one more bill to pay.”

The answer is simple: The purchase of a home is most likely one of the most expensive and important purchases you will ever make. You, and your mortgage lender, want to make sure that the property is indeed yours – lock, stock and barrel – and that no individual or government entity has any right, lien, claim to your property.

Title insurance companies are in business to make sure your rights and interests to the property are clear, that transfer of title takes place efficiently and correctly and that your interests as a homebuyer are protected to the maximum degree.

Title insurance companies provide services to buyers, sellers, real estate developers, builders, mortgage lenders and others who have an interest in a real estate transfer. Title companies routinely issue two types of policies – “owner’s”, which cover you, the homebuyer; and “lender’s”, which covers the bank, savings and loan or other lending institution over the life of the loan. Both are issued at the time of purchase for a modest, one-time premium.

Before issuing a policy, however, the title company performs an extensive search of relevant public records to determine if anyone other than you has an interest in the property. The search may be performed by title company personnel using either public records or more likely, information gathered, reorganized and indexed in the company’s title plant.

With such a thorough examination of records, any title problems usually can be found and cleared up prior to your purchase of the property. Once a title policy is issued, if for some reason any claim which is covered under your title policy is ever filed against your property, the title company will pay the legal fee involved in defense of your rights, as well as any covered loss arising from a valid claim. That protection, which is in effect as long as you or your heirs own the property, is yours for a one-time premium paid at the time of purchase.

The fact that title companies work to eliminate risks before they develop makes the title insurance decidedly different from other types of insurance you may have purchased. Most forms of insurance assume risks by providing financial protection through a pooling of risks for losses arising from an unforeseen event, say a fire, theft or accident. The purpose of title insurance, on the other hand, is to eliminate risks and prevent losses caused by defects in title that happened in the past. Risks are examined and mitigated before property changes hands.

This risk elimination has benefits to both you, the home buyer, and the title company: it minimizes the chances adverse claims might be raised, and by so doing reduces the number of claims that have to be defended or satisfied. This keeps costs down for the title company and your title premiums low.

Buying a home is a big step emotionally and financially. With title insurance you are assured that any valid claim against your property will be borne by the title company, and that the odds of a claim being filed are slim indeed.

Isn’t sleeping well at night, knowing your home is yours, reason enough for title insurance?

Article by CLTA

Adjustable Rate Mortgages – The PROS & CONS

Now that you know what an ARM is and how it works, you may be wondering what the advantages and disadvantages are. So let’s explore that issue.

Offering adjustable rates allows lenders to transfer part of the interest rate risk from themselves to the borrower. If you get a fixed rate mortgage and the interest rate then goes up, it costs the lender money. However, if you have an adjustable rate mortgage, as the interest rate goes up, so does your payment, thus compensating the lender. Adjustable rate mortgages are particularly useful when unpredictable interest rates make fixed rate loans hard to get.

One of the main advantages of an adjustable rate mortgage is that the initial interest rate is lower than that of a fixed rate mortgage. A lower rate means lower payments, which may help you qualify for a larger loan. This is an important detail if you expect your future earnings to rise. In this case, the ARM will allow you to qualify for a larger loan amount earlier rather than later.

However, this information should only be used with care. If you use an ARM to qualify for a larger loan amount than a fixed rate would allow you and the interest rate then rises drastically or your income doesn’t rise, you may not be able to afford the larger monthly payments, thus causing you to default on your loan.

A situation in which an adjustable rate mortgage makes sense would be if you are only going to keep the house for a short period of time. If you are only planning to own your house for only a few years, the risk of the interest rate rising goes down. This means that you will get a better rate with an ARM, making it a good choice. However, if you plan on staying in your home for a long period of time, a fixed rate may be a better option.

The lesson here is to have a plan. Know what your goals are in purchasing a home and plan for all eventualities. Do your research when shopping for an ARM and consider the worst-case scenario.

Adjustable Rate Mortgages

An adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) has an interest rate that fluctuates periodically. This is in contrast to a fixed rate mortgage, which always has the same interest rate.

Every ARM has basic components:

  1. An index
  2. A margin
  3. Adjustment Period
  4. An interest rate cap
  5. An initial interest rate

The Index

An ARM’s interest rate is tied to one of many economic indices, some examples of which are the 1-year constant maturity Treasury security, the Cost of Funds Index, or the London Interbank Offered Rate. Different indices move at different rates so know the characteristics of the index used for your ARM.

The Margin

The interest rate for your ARM will be calculated by adding a margin to the interest rate from the index. The margin is basically the markup charged by the lender that allows them to make a profit off of your loan, such as adding 2% to the index, where the 2% is the margin. The margin of your loan usually does not fluctuate.

The Adjustment Period

The Adjustment Period controls when and how often your interest rate changes. For example, if your ARM has an adjustment period of 1 year, your interest rate will be subject to change at the end of each year and your monthly mortgage payment will be recalculated to reflect this change.

The Interest Rate Cap

Interest rate caps are built into the loan to protect the borrower from drastic interest rate fluctuations. The caps limit how much the interest rate or monthly payment can change at the end of each adjustment period. An ARM can also have a cap for the life of the loan. For example, during the life of a loan, the interest rate can only be increased by 5%.

The Initial Interest Rate

The Initial Interest Rate is the interest rate that you start with at the beginning of your loan period. The length of time your loan stays at this rate is built into the loan. For example, you may stay at the initial interest rate for 1 year, 5 years, or another length of time depending on your specific mortgage. This type of ARM is generally referred to as a Hybrid ARM. The initial interest rate for an adjustable rate mortgage is generally lower than that of a fixed rate mortgage.

Closing Costs When Buying or Refinancing a Home

This is a detailed summary of costs you may have to pay when you buy or refinance your home. They are listed in the order that they should appear on a Good Faith Estimate you obtain from a mortgage lender. There are two broad categories of closing costs. Non-recurring closing costs are items that are paid once and you never pay again. Recurring closing costs are items you pay time and again over the course of home ownership, such as property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Some of the items that appear here do not traditionally appear on a lender’s Good Faith Estimate and lenders are not required to show all of these items.

Non-Recurring Closing Costs Associated with the Lender.

Loan Origination Fee – The loan origination fee is often referred to as points. One point is equal to one percent of the mortgage loan. As a rule, if you are willing to pay more in points, you will get a lower interest rate. On a VA or FHA loan, the loan origination fee is one point. Any additional points are called discount points.

Loan Discount – On a government loan, the loan origination fee is normally listed as one point or one percent of the loan. Any points in addition to the loan origination fee are called discount points. On a conventional loan, discount points are usually lumped in with the loan origination fee.

Appraisal Fee – Since your property serves as collateral for the mortgage, lenders want to be reasonably certain of the value and they require an appraisal. The appraisal looks to determine if the price you are paying for the home is justified by recent sales of comparable properties. The appraisal fee varies, depending on the value of the home and the difficulty involved in justifying value. Unique and more expensive homes usually have a higher appraisal fee. Appraisal fees on VA loans are higher than on conventional loans.

Credit Report – As part of the underwriting review, your mortgage lender will want to review your credit history. The cost of running the credit report can vary and is included in closing costs.

Lender’s Inspection Fee – You normally find this fee on new construction and is associated with what is called a 442 Inspection. Since the property is not finished when the initial appraisal is done, the 442 Inspection is done when the building is completed and verifies that construction is complete with carpeting and flooring installed.

Mortgage Broker Fee – About seventy percent of loans are originated through mortgage brokers and they will sometimes list your points in this area instead of the Loan Origination Fee category. They may also add any broker processing fees in this area so you clearly understand how much is being charged by the wholesale lender and how much is being charged by the broker. Wholesale lenders offer lower costs/rates to mortgage brokers than you can obtain directly, so you are not paying extra by going through a mortgage broker.

Tax Service Fee – During the life of your loan you will be making property tax payments, either on your own or through your impound account with the lender. Since property tax liens can sometimes take precedence over a first mortgage, it is in your lender’s interest to pay an independent service to monitor property tax payments.

Flood Certification Fee – Your lender must determine whether or not your property is located in a federally designated flood zone. This is a fee usually charged by an independent service to make that determination.

Flood Monitoring – From time to time flood zones are re-mapped. Some lenders charge this fee to maintain monitoring on whether this re-mapping affects your property.

Other Lender Fees

We put these in a separate category because they vary so much from lender to lender and cannot be associated directly with a cost of the loan. These fees generate income for the lenders and are used to offset the fixed costs of loan origination. The Processing Fee mentioned above can also fall into this category, but since it is listed higher on the Good Faith Estimate Form we did not also include it here. You will normally find some combination of these fees on your Good Faith Estimate.

Document Preparation – Before computers made it fairly easy for lenders to draw their own loan documents, they used to hire specialized document preparation firms for this function. This was the fee charged by those companies. Nowadays, lenders draw their own documents but this fee is charged on almost all loans.

Underwriting Fee – Once again, it is difficult to determine the exact cost of underwriting a loan since the underwriter is usually a paid staff member.

Administration Fee – If an Administration Fee is charged, you will probably find there is no Underwriting Fee. This is not always the case.

Appraisal Review Fee – Even though you will probably not see this fee on your Good Faith Estimate, it is charged occasionally. Some lenders routinely review appraisals as a quality control procedure, especially on higher valued properties.

Warehousing Fee – This is rarely charged and begins to border on the ridiculous. However, some lenders have a warehouse line of credit and add this as a charge to the borrower.

Items Required to be Paid in Advance

Pre-paid Interest – Mortgage loans are usually due on the first of each month. Since loans can close on any day, a certain amount of interest must be paid at closing to get the interest paid up to the first. For example, if you close on the twentieth, you will pay ten days of pre-paid interest.

Homeowner’s Insurance – This is the insurance you pay to cover possible damages to your home and other items. If you buy a home, you will normally pay the first year’s insurance when you close the transaction. If you are buying a condominium, your Homeowners’ Association Fees normally cover this insurance.

VA Funding Fee – On VA loans, the Veterans Administration charges a fee for guaranteeing your loan. The fee will be a percentage of the loan balance but the exact percentage will vary depending on whether you have used your VA eligibility in the past. Instead of actually paying this as an out-of-pocket expense, most veterans choose to finance it, so it gets added to the loan balance. This is why the loan balance on VA loans can be higher than the actual purchase amount.

Up Front Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP) – This is charged on FHA purchases of single-family residences (SFR’s) or Planned Unit Developments (PUDs). Like the VA Funding Fee it is normally added to the balance of the loan. Unlike a VA loan, the homebuyer must also pay a monthly mortgage insurance fee, too. This is why many lenders do not recommend FHA loans if the homebuyer can qualify for a conventional loan. Condominium purchases do not require the UFMIP.

Mortgage Insurance – Though it is rare nowadays, some first-time homebuyer programs still require the first year mortgage insurance premium to be paid in advance. Most mortgage insurance (when required) is simply paid monthly along with your mortgage payment. Mortgage insurance covers the lender and covers a portion of the losses in those cases where borrowers default on their loans.

Reserves Deposited with Lender

If you make a minimum down payment, you may be required to deposit funds into an impound account. Funds in this account are your funds, and the lender uses them to make the payments on your homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and mortgage insurance (whichever is applicable). Each month, in addition to your mortgage payment, you provide additional funds which are deposited into your impound account.

The lender’s goal is to always have sufficient funds to pay your bills as they come due. Sometimes impound accounts are not required, but borrowers request one voluntarily. A few lenders even offer to reduce your loan origination fee if you obtain an impound account. However, if you are disciplined about paying your bills and an impound account is not required, you can probably earn a better rate of return by putting the funds into a savings account. Impound accounts are sometimes referred to as escrow accounts.

Homeowners Insurance Impounds – your lender will divide your annual premium by twelve to come up with an estimated monthly amount for you to pay into your impound account. Since a lender is allowed to keep two months of reserves in your account, you will have to deposit two months into the impound account to start it up.

Property Tax Impounds – How much you will have to deposit towards taxes to start up your impound account varies according to when you close your real estate transaction. For example, you may close in November and property taxes are due in December. Your deposit would be higher than for someone closing in May.

Mortgage Insurance Impounds – When required, most lenders allow this to simply be paid monthly. However, you may be required to put two months’ worth of mortgage insurance as an initial deposit into your impound account.

Non-Recurring Closing Costs not associated with the Lender

Closing/Escrow/Settlement Fee – Methods of closing a real estate transaction vary from state to state, as do the fees.

Title Insurance – Title Insurance assures the homeowner that they have clear title to the property. The lender also requires it to insure that their new mortgage loan will be in first position. The costs vary depending on whether you are purchasing a home or refinancing.

Notary Fees – Most sets of loan documents have two or three forms that must be notarized. Usually your settlement or escrow agent will arrange for you to sign these forms at their office and will charge a notary fee.

Recording Fees – Certain documents get recorded with your local county recorder. Fees vary regionally.

Pest Inspection – This is also referred to as a Termite Inspection. This inspection tests not only for pest infestations, but also other items such as wood rot and water damage. If repairs are required, the amount to cover those repairs can vary. The seller will usually pay for the most serious repairs, but this is a negotiable item. Usually (not always) the pest inspection fee is paid by the seller of the home and is not normally reflected on the Good Faith Estimate.

Home Inspection – Since it is the homebuyer’s choice to obtain a home inspection or not, this cost is not usually reflected on a Good Faith Estimate. However, it is recommended. Keep in mind that the home inspector has a certain set of standards he uses when inspecting a home, and those standards may be higher than required by local building codes. An example is that an inspector may note there is no spark arrestor on a chimney but the local building code may not require it. This sometimes leads to conflicts between buyer and seller.

Home Warranty – This is also an optional item and not normally included on the Good Faith Estimate. A Home Warranty usually covers such items as the major appliances, should they break down within a specific time. Often this is paid by the seller.

Refinancing Associated Costs (but not charged by the new Lender)

Interest – When you close the transaction on your refinance, there will most likely be some outstanding interest due on the old loan. For example, if you close on August twentieth (and you made your last payment), you will have twenty days interest due on the old loan and ten days prepaid interest on the new loan. Your first payment on the new loan would not be until October 1st since you have already paid all of August’s interest when you closed the refinance transaction (since interest is paid in arrears, a September payment would have paid August’s interest, which has already been paid in closing).

Reconveyance Fee – This fee is charged by your existing lender when they “reconvey” their collateral interest in your property back to you through recording of a Reconveyance.

Demand Fee – Your existing lender may charge a fee for calculating payoff figures.

Sub-Escrow fee – Though it sounds like an escrow fee, this fee is actually charged by the Title Company. Assume it is an income-generating fee similar to some of the lender fees mentioned above.

Loan Tie-in Fee – Though it sounds like a lender fee, this cost is actually charged by the Escrow Company.

Homeowner’s Association Transfer Fee – If you are buying a condominium or a home with a Homeowner’s Association, the association often charges a fee to transfer all of their ownership documents to you.

Asking the Seller to Pay Closing Costs – Rules and Advice.

It has become common to ask the seller to pay some or all of the closing costs when you purchase a home. Essentially, this is financing your closing costs since you will probably pay a little bit more for the property than you would if you were paying your own costs.

Keep in mind a few simple rules. On conventional loans you can only ask the seller to pay non-recurring costs, not prepaid fees or items to be paid in advance. If you are putting ten percent down or more, the most the seller can contribute is six percent of the purchase price. If you are putting less down, the most the seller can contribute is three percent.

On VA loans, you can ask the seller to pay everything. This is called a “VA No-No”, meaning the buyer is making no down payment and paying no closing costs.

On FHA loans, the seller can pay almost any cost, but the buyer has to have a minimum three percent investment in the home/closing costs.

Most refinances include the closing costs and prepaids in the new loan amount, requiring little or no out-of-pocket expenses to close the deal.

If you didn’t get bored as you read through this, now you know everything (almost) about closing costs.