What are mortgage loan closing costs, and why do I pay them?

Home buyers, especially first time home buyers, commonly fail to understand all the costs involved in buying a home.  Everyone understands down payment, so no issues there. But mortgage loan closing costs are a whole different story.

I often hear potential home buyer comment that they thought they had saved enough for a down payment, only to be blind sided with mortgage loan closing costs.

WHAT ARE MORTGAGE CLOSING COSTS?

All mortgage loans have closing costs. They include appraisal, credit report, state taxes, title company fees, loan origination fees, state deed taxes, and more.  You also have what is known as pre-paid items, which include pro-rated property taxes on the house you are buying, and paying for the first years home owners insurance up-front.

Actual closing costs and pre-paid items can easily range from about 2% to 8% of the sale price of a home, depending on where you live, and the purchase price of the home.

Your Loan Officer will provide you with a detailed estimate of these closing costs based on the actual home once you pick it out, and can give you a good ballpark number during your initial loan review.

TIP: Anyone telling you closing costs are always a certain percentage is flat out simply wrong.

HOW TO PAY CLOSING COSTS

Yes, closing costs can really add up.  If you were planning on a 10% down payment, this means you really need 12% to 18% of the purchase price of the home.  Yikes.

The good news is, the mortgage industry understands this, and allows you to pay closing costs multiple ways.

Option 1) Pay cash out of pocket. Always the best move, but incredibly burdensome for most home buyer.

Option 2) Seller paid closing costs. You simply ask the seller to pay your closing costs for you when making your offer. Depending on the loan program you are using, the seller can pay between 2% and 6% of the purchase price in closing costs on your behalf. While this sounds free, because the ‘seller’ is paying them for you, the reality is the seller isn’t paying anything. Rather, this is a method of you rolling the closing costs into the loan itself.

For example, the seller is asking $200,000 for the home.  You offer $200,000 – but also ask the seller to pay $6,000 of your closing costs. If the seller agrees, many people think they just got free money.  The reality is the seller has accepted $194,000 in their pocket. So you could have bought the house for $194,000, and paid your own closing costs.  Instead you are buying the house for $200,000, and paying closing costs over time, versus out-of-pocket today.

It is a little more obvious to buyers that they are paying over time, when the same seller who wanted $200,000 refuses to budge, but you need closing costs rolled in to lessen your out-of-pocket burden. In this case, you’d restructure your offer to $206,000, and have the seller pay the $6,000 of closing costs.  The seller gets what they wanted, and you rolled closing costs into the loan, again paying over time instead of out-of-pocket today.

Option 3) Lender Paid Closing Costs (also known as Lender Credits). Under this option, the lender will reduce your actual real closing costs by increasing your interest rate. You can choose to increase your interest rate a tiny amount, for a tiny reduction in closing costs, all the way to completely eliminating all of your closing costs with a much higher interest rate.

This isn’t a good or bad option, rather it is a depends option. How much reduction do you need? Do you have all the closing costs money today? How much higher will the payment be?  How long will you live in the home?

TIP: ALL LENDERS HAVE ESSENTIALLY THE SAME TRUE CLOSING COSTS. When shopping lenders, many people will receive a closing cost quote lower than someone else, giving the illusion of a better deal. Many banks and lenders claims things like they give free appraisals, or never charge loan origination fees. No closing cost loans were all the rage a few years ago.

Little do many people realize that all these lenders are doing is increasing your loans interest rate to cover these items, but not telling you they are doing it. They don’t work for free, and someone has to pay the appraiser.  This lower closing cost ploy makes unsuspecting home buyers potentially pick a lender based on a perceived better deal, when in fact, it isn’t. You pay, you always pay. How do you choose to pay? Lower rate = higher costs.  Higher costs = lower rates.

Option 4) Any Combination. This is actually the most common way people pay closing costs. Many ask the seller to pay some, maybe increase the rate 1/8 or 1/4% to pay some, and maybe a little bit out-of-pocket to pay the rest.

CLOSING COSTS – THE BOTTOM LINE

It is very common for many home buyers through these options, to completely eliminate closing costs as an out-of-pocket expense, leaving them with just needing their down payment to buy the house.

So don’t ever let the fear of closing costs keep you from buying your dream home.

 


Finding the Best Mortgage Loan Officer

Minneapolis, MN:  Buying a home for most people is the largest financial transaction of your life. Finding the Best Mortgage Loan Officer  that is licensed, educated, experienced, professional and ethical is probably the most important decision you’ll make next to actually picking out that perfect dream home.

Most people these days pick their mortgage company one of three ways:

  1. Calling the bank where they have their checking account
  2. Going with whomever the Realtor suggests
  3. Online search (but usually only for the person quoting the lowest rate)

None of these in and of themselves are right or wrong, but here are some tips to know and understand:

First, understand that the mortgage company or bank that you choose in most cases has little to do with the success of your transaction. Essentially all mortgage lenders have and offer the same basic programs with the same underwriting guidelines. FHA loans for example are FHA loans no matter who you call, so in most cases, there is nothing special that one lender has over another.

Yet for others, there can be some differences, especially if you are on the edges in terms of loan approval. For example, a big bank with the stagecoach in their logo will not offer FHA loans over a 45% debt ratio, while some mortgage brokers (like us) will go to 50% debt-in-income ratio. This is a good example of why a mortgage broker may be a better choice, as they offer the products of multiple lenders, as opposed to just their own.

Using this one example, you may have lost out on your dream home simply because you chose the wrong lender.

Licensed Loan Officer Versus Simply Registered:

All mortgage Loan Officers must have a tracking / registration number known as an NMLS number. But having this number does NOT mean the Loan officer is licensed, or experienced.

Loan Officers at banks, credit unions, or mortgage lenders owned by a bank or credit unions can be, but are NOT required to be licensed in any way. Loan Officers at non-bank mortgage companies or brokers ARE REQUIRED to have an individual mortgage license.NMLS Consumer Access

You can check if your Loan officer is simply registered, or fully licensed by searching them on this public web site:  www.NMLSconsumerAccess.org.

At the bottom of the page, under licenses and registrations, there will either be one or more states listed, which means the person is licensed. If it indicates something similar to “Federal National Mortgage Originator”, this is a fancy name that means they are NOT licensed.

Being licensed versus simply registered does not automatically indicate if a Loan Officer is a good choice or not, but if one was doing the largest financial transaction of their life, I’d probably lien towards someone who has had to take schooling, pass state and federal testing, and is required to complete continuing education each year to be licensed, versus someone who didn’t have to do any of those things to simply be registered. Heck, even your hairdresser needs a license!

Using this example, you may have lost out on your dream home because of the the unlicensed, and inexperienced Loan Officer you chose.

Understanding Closing Costs and Interest Rates

Not only do most lenders only offer the same underlying loan products as everyone elsemortgage closing costs (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA Loans, VA Loans, USDA Loans), but they all have the same underlying closing costs,  get the money to lend you from the same source, and interest rates are based on the same bond market everyday.

This is why you’ll notice all standard rate quotes are almost identical. This is why you’ll notice all closing costs quotes are almost identical.

All lenders have the same actual closing costs; appraisal, credit report, state deed taxes, county recording fees, title company charges, underwriting, origination fees, etc.  However, how lenders charge them to you can vary, and this is tied directly to your interest rate.

For example,  assume your shopping, and one lender says your closing costs are $5,000, and the next says $3,500. The lower price sounds good, and that would be true if the rates were the same. But they almost never will be.

More overhead equals higher rates

Advertising and buildings are expensive. The previously mentioned “Quick” lender for example advertises all day everyday on all TV channels, and radio stations all across the country.  You can’t go anywhere on the internet without seeing one of their advertisements.

How much does all that cost?  Must be millions. You are foolih to think that higher cost isn’t passed along to you in terms of the interest rate they charge you.

Sames with the big lenders with branches everywhere, and paying hundreds of millions for stadium naming rights.

Lender Credits

Lender credits towards your closing cost is a tool lender use to lower your out-of-pocket closing costs up-front by slightly increasing your interest rate. Mortgage interest ratesBy doing this, the lender requires less initially because they make it up by collecting more in interest over time.

Some lenders start right out of the gate by saying they don’t charge origination, or maybe they will pretend to pay for things like your appraisal. Someone is paying those items, and it is always you.

Now there is nothing wrong with taking a slightly higher rate to lower costs today. We do it all the time. But just understand that you are still paying for those costs, just in a different way.

Look at this 30-yr fixed screen shot from today for a $200,000 loan. At 3.875%, lender would charge $750 in discount points to “buy” this lower rate, but at 4,125%, lenders would reduce your closing costs with a lender credit of $2,250. The monthly payment difference between the two rates is $29.00.

Internet Lenders

There is nothing an internet lender can offer you that the local mortgage lender down the street can’t offer. They do not have lower rates, they do not have lower closing costs. But there are many things the internet lender can’t offer.

One big item is local knowledge, and dedication to the community. Some kid working in a cube in Detroit, MI could care less about my back yard or Minneapolis, St Paul, MN.

I constantly get phone calls from people who started a mortgage application with a big internet lender, who is “Quick In” mortgage.  They complain about high pressure sales, lack of product knowledge, mandatory up-front fees, failed closings, and more.

I also get a lot of calls from people who filled out an inquiry form at places that “Lend from a Tree”. Funny and cute commercials about applying in your underwear, but this place isn’t even the lender.  Rather, they take your name, then sell it to as many real lenders as possible for around $40 a lead. You are then inundated with calls from all these lenders trying to one up the other with false and misleading promises to get you to use them.

Big out-state internet lenders also NEVER have the ability to offer any state of local first time home buyer, or down payment assistance programs.

Using this example, you may have lost out on your dream home because you picked an out-state internet lender who doesn’t offer all the loan products available in your area.

Realtor Referrals

In theory, a Real Estate Agent referral to a Loan officer should be something of value, but not always. This is essentially because there are two underlying types of referrals.

A referral because the Real Estate Agent has worked with the Loan Officer for a long time, and knows them to be a licensed, knowledgeable, experienced mortgage professional looking out for your best interests. This is a good referral.

A referral because the Loan Officer works for the same company, or otherwise is heavily influenced by the owners of the Real Estate Company to refer to a specific lender or internal Loan Officer simply because it makes someone else money regardless of the qualify of the Loan Officer.

While not automatically bad, the second type of referral is highly suspicious. Tips to this type of referral are that the Loan Officer works for the same company, they share office space, or if you have already told your Real Estate Agent you have a lender you are happy with, and they become pushy or start talking negatively about your choice to get you to go to their choice.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, your Loan Officer choice is important. Ask questions, get answers. Just because someone refers, they advertise a lot, or appear to be quoting a super low rate or closing cost doesn’t mean they are the best for you, or that you shouldn’t shop or get a second opinion.

Take the time to pick a great lender, just as you take the time to pick the perfect house.

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Joe Metzler is a Senior Mortgage Loan Officer for Minnesota based Mortgages Unlimited. He was named the 2014 Minnesota Loan Officer of the Year, and #98 of the Top 100 Loan Officers in the Nation for 2015 by Origination News. He provides Home Mortgage Loans in MN, WI, and SD. He can be reached at (651) 552-3681


De-Bunking 3 Mortgage Myths

I hear things all the time, that as a Minnesota Based Mortgage Loan Officer, drive me crazy.  Here are a few things that seem to be high on the need to be de-bunked list.

Myth #1 – Banks are not lending.
NOT TRUE:  We are very busy! Mortgage companies continue to see a record number of home buyers applying and qualifying for mortgage loans, and refinance loans are still popular with our current low mortgage ratesBAD credit loans are not available, so I suppose if you are a bad credit customer, yes, banks are not lending to you.

qualifyMyth #2 – APR & Interest Rates are the same thing / Shop by APR
NOT TRUE: The interest rate is the price you pay to borrow money. APR (annual percentage rate) includes other fees that you may have financed into your mortgage loan, like closing costs and mortgage insurance. Don’t be fooled when shopping for a mortgage. When the rate is below everyone else, you are likely paying higher closing costs and discount points to “buy” that rate. Paying discount points is a personal decision based current cash flow,  time in the property, loan-to-value, and more. Talk to your Minnesota mortgage lender to determine what financing options are best for your specific situation.

Myth #3 – You can be pre-approved for a mortgage without submitting documents.
NOTE TRUE: If you’ve been told you that are pre-approved for a mortgage loan, but you never sent W2’s, pay stubs, bank statements, etc to the lender, YOU ARE NOT PRE-APPROVED, regardless of what they tell you.

First Time Home Buyers, Get Pre-Approved BEFORE you talk to a Realtor
First Time Home Buyers, Get Pre-Approved BEFORE you talk to a Realtor


Mortgage Rates Change Little, Remain Near Record Lows

Mortgage Rates Change Little, Remain Near Record Lows

Minneapolis, MN:  Freddie Mac today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® , showing fixed mortgage rates declining or remaining the same from the previous week amid mixed economic data, and continuing to hover around their all-time record lows.

News Facts

  • 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.55 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending September 6, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.59 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.12 percent.
  • 15-year fixed rate mortgages this week averaged 2.86 percent with an average 0.6 point, the same as last week. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.33 percent.
  • 5-year adjustable mortgages (ARM) averaged 2.75 percent this week with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.78 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.96 percent.

Quotes
Attributed to Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac.

“Mortgage rates were little changed over the holiday week amid mixed economic data releases. Although consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in July, representing the largest gain in five months, the core price index was unchanged suggesting little threat of inflation. Consumer confidence picked up slightly in August according to the University of Michigan, but remained below this year’s peak in May. And the manufacturing industry contracted for the third consecutive month in August.”

Freddie Mac’s survey is the average of loans bought from lenders last week, including discount points. Applicants must pay all closing costs at these rates. No cost loan rates higher.

Follow this link to view today’s MN and WI mortgage interest rates.

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Mortgage closing costs up because of government rules

Closing costs have NOT gone down!

St Paul, MN:  Recent news releases from the government have been claiming that mortgage closing costs have gone down 7% due to new mandated government procedures that make it necessary for lenders to be more accurate when making estimates for borrower’s closing costs.

The spin masters are wrong on two fronts.

First, most lenders were already accurate in their initial closing cost disclosures, and the items that caused them to re-adjust their estimate later on are still there.  The only significant difference is the incredible burden of new paperwork, and disclosures that make absolutely no difference to the customer, or their bottom line.  For example, the old easy to read and understand one page Good Faith Estimate has been replaced with an incredible confusing three page Good Faith Estimate. The new form has been so badly received, that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is already working on a new form to replace the new form! Furthermore, re-disclosing forms for minor changes with mandatory wait times before a client can close on their loan has done more harm than good, and has significantly increased lender costs, turn times, and client frustration.

Secondly, due to the new rules, industry insiders have proven that closing costs have actually risen about $1200 per client.  Where the government spins it is that under the new rules, lenders are now forced to give home owners more “lender credits towards closing costs”. This sounds great, and it does actually lower the OUT-OF-POCKET average closing cost for many people. But, what is actually happening is that the client now has reduced options, and is being forced to pay more over time with a higher interest rate in exchange for those lender credit.

The bottom line?  Don’t be fooled by the spin. The government has mandated more rules, more paperwork, and less consumer choice all while claiming victory in reduced costs. The reality is it cost consumers significantly more in a higher mortgage interest rate over the length of the loan than they ever saved in initial closing costs.


Average closing costs by state

I’m not a big fan of this chart, but it shows the "average" closing costs by
state, and where each state ranks. My issue with the chart comes from multiple
front…  Regardless… take a peek.


Mortgage Market Guide – Closing Costs by State
.

The map and table are based on data from Bankrate. They rank the states from
most expensive closing costs to least expensive*. Bankrate surveyed one city in
49 states, two cities in California — Los Angeles and San Francisco — and the
District of Columbia.

 


Refinancing? Common mistakes to avoid

Mortgage Interest Rates are near historic lows. You want to refinance?
Common mistakes, and what NOT To Do

There are a lot of things “not to do”. I will point out only the 3 most common mistakes I see people make.

  1. Setting an unrealistic goal. I always get inquiries from people who say something like, “I have a 30 year fixed rate loan at 5.875% and I will refinance ONLY when rates get to 4.0% with no closing costs”. Sometimes I call people back and say, “Why 4%? why not 3% or 2%? They say, “Well rates are not going to go that low”. Right and they are unlikely to go to 4% with no closing costs also (“no closing cost” loans typically cost anywhere from 1/2% to .75% higher than the going interest rate) You should first succumb to the fact that once you can lower your rate with no out of pocket expense, you should probably refinance. Don’t draw unrealistic interest rate lines in the sand. They get blown away too easily.
  2. The “Once rates start dropping, they are going to continue to drop and I’m smart and I am going to lock when rates hit the bottom of the market” syndrome. It is very hard to guess the interest-rate cycle, and pretty hard to catch the bottom. Remember that rates can rise fairly quickly.
  3. “If the rate goes down just another 1/8th percent, then I’ll lock” This one just kills me! I see people lose all the time over this theory. If your current rate is 5.875% and today’s rate is 4.875%. LOCK & CLOSE! Most people have what I call “interest rate block”. They get a rate stuck in their head, and that is the rate they want, no matter what. Most people fail to realize (and most loan officers fail to show them), that the difference on the average loan over 1/8th a percent is usually less than $15 per month. If you can save $150 per month on your loan at today’s rate, why gamble? Why hold out for another $15 when the odds are against you?

Don’t get piggy. Work with us. Set a goal and lock when it gets there. Are we going to hit the bottom? Probably not. Are we going to save you money? Yes. If you can save money with no out of pocket costs, than you have nothing to lose. If you want to gamble go to Las Vegas. It’s a heck of a lot more fun. Apply Now

Extra Tricks to Save Money When Refinancing

The purpose of most refinance loans is simply to save money. The goal is to minimize your expense over the life of the loan or to minimize your monthly payment in the near future.

If you can swing it, don’t roll every cost of refinancing into your new loan. Most people escrow for taxes and insurance. If you do, your current lender must give you escrow refund within 30 days of paying off their loan. Your new lender, be it us or someone else, must take the equivalent amount of money (or more) at closing to start the new escrow account.

Remember that you always get to skip a month of payments. If you close June 5th, your first new payment is August 1st.

Knowing this, paying some of your closing costs out-of-pocket will save you even more money in the long run. Why roll in $4000 in closing costs, when you really only need to roll in $2000 ($1000 escrow refund + $1000 missed payment = $2000). Paying that $2000 over 30 years doesn’t make sense if you don’t have too.

On the other hand, some people love the fact that they didn’t pay anything out of pocket to refinance, got a nice escrow refund check, then got to miss a mortgage payment. They use the ‘extra’ money to pay bills, go on vacation, etc.

Picking a Lender & Closing Costs

Shopping for a home loan is confusing. No matter what we’re looking for — from cars to refrigerators’ — there’s a built-in element of confusion. Why? Lack of knowledge. An unfortunate rule of thumb is that the less we know about something we need to buy, the more we can expect to pay for it.

Shopping for a mortgage in Minneapolis, St Paul, Duluth, Rochester, Madison, Milwaukee, and throughout all of Minnesota and Wisconsin is complex at best — even for the savvy previous home owner. Daily rate changes, time-sensitive lock-in periods, points, lender’s fees… plus the emotional element of probably the largest financial deal any of us will ever make. Throw in to this already murky stew the ingredients of tricky internet mortgage rate advertising, commissions for every officer, agent and broker who ‘helps’ in your transaction, and the obscure differences between ‘rates’ and ‘fees.’ It’s no mystery that many buyers settle for a home loan that exceeds their monetary means out of sheer exasperation!

Please review our information on closing costs and “BAD Good Faith Estimates“. There is currently a large number of fly-by-night lenders doing some incredibly misleading rate & closing cost advertising. Remember, if it sounds too good, it probably is! Also check out my article “Best Rate or Lowest Cost” for more loan comparison information.

The Bottom Line
Remember, the first rule is that there are no rules. You should refinance if it makes sense for you. Every person & situation is different. What makes sense for one family, may not make sense for you. Call me today to discuss your wants, needs, and goals. Together we’ll determine if refinancing makes sense for YOU.

Click here for more information on the actual loan process.
Click here for
10 Tips to a Smooth Closing
Click here for
10 Mistakes to Avoid