8/20/2012 2:15 PM ET|
Annoying homebuying fees to avoid
Credit report fees
Lenders have to pay for pulling your credit reports and scores. Your interest rate and terms will be based in part on what they find. But lenders typically pay less than what you would to buy your own reports and scores, since they get volume discounts.
Credit report fees "should be in the low two digits," Lewis said. When the lenders Bankrate surveyed charged separately for credit reports, the fees were typically under $25. If you're being charged much more, you should ask why. A higher fee may be justified if more than one borrower is on the loan (requiring that more credit reports be pulled), but a comparison with at least two other lenders' good-faith estimates will help you know if the fees are in line with what others are charging.
By the way, your credit scores won't be penalized for applying at different mortgage lenders, as long as you do so in a relatively short period. The credit scoring formula most mortgage lenders use, the FICO, lumps all mortgage-related inquiries together and counts them as one hit, as long as the inquiries are made within 45 days. Furthermore, the scoring formula ignores all inquiries made within the previous 30 days. Your best bet: Apply at different lenders on the same day, and make your decision shortly afterward, to minimize the impact on your scores.
Title insurance and related services
A title insurer researches your property to make sure there aren't any problems involving the deed. Then it provides an insurance policy that covers the cost of defending against any challenges to the title.
There are two kinds of title insurance: lender's policies, which protect the lender and are usually part of the mortgage deal, and owner's policies, which protect you and may not be required. Glink suggests you get both, but who pays for what can vary.
In some areas of the country, for example, it's customary for the seller to pay for most or all of the cost of the buyer's title insurance policy. In other areas, it's customary for the buyer to pay. If you're picking up the cost for both policies, the toll can be thousands of dollars.
Bankrate's survey showed that title costs averaged $993 in North Carolina but $2,811 in New York state.
You may be able to shop around for cheaper title insurance. In some states, tight regulation keeps the costs about the same, but it's still worth checking online title insurance quote sites.
Kristof did that on her refinance and wound up saving $787 by using a company named Entitle Direct rather than the title company her lender had proposed. When she recently purchased a new home, she saved an additional $1,267.
"It's extremely important to shop, no matter whether you're refinancing or selling a home," Kristof said. On her recent purchase, "the original quote was $3,645. The quote I got after 10 minutes of shopping: $2,378."
Even if shopping around doesn't land you big discounts, you may be able to get a break on the costs if you buy both lender's and owner's policies from the same company. Also, if you're refinancing rather than buying and have lived in the house for less than 10 years, ask for the "reissue rate," which should be lower.
Courier, postage and wire-transfer fees
That these fees even exist in an era of scanners, email and electronic funds transfers is kind of amazing, yet many lenders persist in charging them.
These fees do serve one important purpose. They can give you a quick idea of whether you're getting gouged.
A lender should be open to reducing or waiving these fees if they're being charged as part of the origination costs. If they're third-party fees, they should at least be reasonable and in line with what other lenders charge. Postage and courier costs typically average $55 to $75, the Bankrate survey found. If you're being charged $100 or more, that's a sign to start making a fuss.
Finally, to make sure there are no last-minute surprises, ask your lender to give you a form called a HUD-1 at least 24 hours before your loan is scheduled to close. This form lists all the fees you'll be charged and should closely match the good-faith estimate you were given at the start.
If not, start asking why. If you don't get good answers and the lender won't modify the fees, your greatest power lies in your readiness to say no.
"You have to be willing to walk away from a bad deal," Pizor said.
Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.
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