Costs of Buying & Owning Your Home

Costs of Buying a Home

Buying a home entails numerous upfront costs. Some are paid out-of-pocket after the seller accepts your purchase offer, while others are paid at closing.

Earnest Money

To show the seller you’re serious about buying the property, it’s customary to accompany your purchase offer with an “earnest money” check. Earnest money generally ranges from 1% to 3% of the home’s purchase price, depending on local market conditions and the seller’s preference. After accepting the offer, the seller deposits the earnest money funds into an escrow account, and the amount is credited against your closing costs.

Down Payment

Your down payment is the percentage of the home’s purchase price that you pay upfront, typically at closing. You need to specify a down payment amount in your purchase offer, though you can change it prior to closing if the seller agrees. Your down payment amount varies widely based on your credit profile, local market conditions, and the type of mortgage loan you’re approved for, but typically ranges from 3.5% (chiefly for FHA loans) to more than 20% of the purchase price.

Home Appraisal

To ensure that the offer price matches the actual value of the home, lenders require a home appraisal prior to approving the loan. Appraisal costs, typically $300 to $500, are paid during or before the appraisal.
Home Inspection. Licensed home inspectors are trained to find potential problems and defects that might not be apparent to an inexperienced buyer doing a casual walk-through. For this reason, buyers are strongly encouraged to get one, even though private lenders rarely make loan approval conditional on a completed home inspection. The cost is similar to the appraisal and is usually paid at the inspection.

Property Taxes

Since property owners pay property taxes upfront, usually in six-month increments, you need to compensate the seller for taxes paid on the period between the closing date and the end of the current tax period. This expense varies widely based on your local tax rate and the closing date. You could be responsible for nearly six months of property taxes, or practically none at all.

First Year’s Homeowners Insurance

Lenders require proof of homeowners insurance prior to closing. You almost always need to pay the first year’s premium upfront, either on the date you purchase the policy or at closing. Homeowners insurance costs vary based on the value, style, location, and contents of the home, as well as your credit score, policy deductible, and coverage limits.

Other Closing Costs

Appraisal, inspection, taxes, and insurance are just a few of the many line items bundled into your closing. Other closing costs include loan origination charges, credit report fee, flood certification fee, lender’s and owner’s title insurance, recording taxes, state and local transfer taxes, first month’s mortgage interest, and closing fee. As a rule of thumb, you can expect your total closing costs to range from 2% to 4% of the purchase price, with the ratio falling as the purchase price increases.

Depending on local real estate market conditions, general economic climate, and negotiations, the seller may agree to pay some or all of your closing costs.  Before making an offer, ask your agent whether it’s realistic to expect the seller to share or cover closing costs in your current market.

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