What Does It Really Cost to Buy a Home?

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is an essential first step in your homebuying process. Your pre-approval enables you to make more informed decisions as you search for a home and gives you added credibility when you make an offer.

But before you rush to view the hottest listings, it’s crucial that you understand ALL of the costs associated with your new home purchase. There’s more to it than just paying off your loan! Whether you’re buying a home for the first time or could use a refresher, here’s what you need to know.

Sure, you know about down payments and closing costs, but what about earnest money? And where do those closing costs go, exactly? Here’s a quick look at those payments.

Down Payment: The amount you put down — typically ranging from 0% to 20%* — affects how much you end up borrowing, how much your monthly payments will be, and ultimately how much you pay in interest. In some cases, you may be able to use gift funds, and down payment assistance programs exist, as well.

Earnest Money: Sometimes called a “good faith deposit,” the earnest money is due once the seller has accepted your offer — so be sure you have it saved up and accessible before you start house hunting! The earnest money shows you’re serious about buying the home and is usually between 1% and 5%* of the purchase price. The funds are held in an escrow account until the transaction is finalized, at which point they will go toward your down payment or closing costs.

It is possible to lose your earnest money deposit if the sale doesn’t go through. Here are situations to avoid so you don’t lose that cash:

  • Not meeting deadlines. Your contract most likely outlines when certain milestones need to be met, such as completion of inspections or finalizing your loan. The seller can consider you in breach of contract and cancel the deal.

  • Agreeing that the deposit is nonrefundable in your contract. You’ll need to discuss this with your agent.

  • Waiving contingencies that protect your interest in the home.

  • Backing out of the deal for a reason not covered by your contingencies.

Closing Costs: A one-time payment due when you close your loan, these typically account for about 2% to 5%* of the purchase price, so it’s important to save for them ahead of time. Everyone’s closing costs vary slightly, but below are a few examples of what might be included:

You pay your monthly mortgage bill as one lump sum, but it actually has four parts: principal, interest, taxes, and insurance.

Taxes and insurance are typically held in an “escrow” or “impound” account and paid on your behalf by your servicer, although you can request not to have these funds held for you, depending on your loan type. The payments are reviewed yearly and adjusted as necessary. Having an escrow account is highly recommended, as it helps to ensure you’ll have the funds to pay your taxes and insurance on time.

Be sure you also save for:

*Down payment, earnest money, and closing cost amounts may differ, dependent upon the type of loan, your personal financial situation, and other factors. All loans are subject to credit and property approval. Certain restrictions may apply.

**Mortgage Insurance requirements vary by loan type. Contact your lender for more information.

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