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Ask Adam: The Upfront Costs of Home Buying

Editor’s Note: This periodic sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty. Please submit follow-up questions in the comments section or via email.

Question: We are thinking about purchasing our first home and are wondering if you can help us budget for the upfront costs of buying a home?

There are going to be some variables involved depending the size of the home, price and amount you plan to use as a down payment. That said, I’ll do my best to give you a general idea of the costs involved in purchasing a home in Arlington.

Different loan programs are available that require a down payment of 0%, 3.5%, 5%, 10% and 20% or more. You will need to discuss the different options available to you with a loan officer that you trust.

Your closing costs are likely to be between 2% and 3% of the purchase price.  Closing costs include:

  • lender fees
  • title fees and insurance
  • prepaid interest
  • prepaid insurance
  • prepaid property taxes
  • prepaid mortgage insurance (if applicable)
  • government recording and transfer charges
  • survey (if applicable)
  • association dues / reserves (if applicable)

If you negotiate a closing cost subsidy, it will go towards paying for the above mentioned closing costs.  Your lender should be able to provide you with a loan scenario worksheet that will itemize the closing costs and monthly costs for your individual situation.  There are also online closing cost calculators available, like this one from RGS Title. I recommend always consulting with your lender before negotiating a closing cost subsidy so that you are aware of any restrictions they may have.

By closing towards the end of the month, you can reduce the amount of prepaid interest collected at settlement.  You also have the option of purchasing owner’s title insurance or not.  Be sure to ask whether there is more than one type of policy. Many title companies present you with their “enhanced” policy by default, which may not be worth the extra money to you.

The lender may require you to pay the appraisal and application fee at the time you make application for your loan. Budget about $450 for these costs.

I highly recommend purchasing a home inspection. The cost of a home inspection ranges depending on the type, size and (sometimes) the cost of the home.  I recommend budgeting $300-600 for the home inspection. I honestly have no idea what the cost of the home has to do with the cost of a home inspection, but I have seen this come into play.

You may also want to purchase a radon inspection. The cost of a radon inspection is about $175. If you are not familiar with radon, the EPA publishes an online guide that you may find helpful.

The termite inspection is usually covered by the seller. If you decide to pay for your own termite inspection, the cost ranges from $35-$60.

Some real estate firm charge a transaction fee that can range from $250-$500. It’s a junk fee that goes to the real estate brokerage. Arbour Realty doesn’t charge a transaction (or similar) fee, but some of the other firms do so you should probably include it in your budget or negotiate it out of your costs. I recommend the latter.

Of course you should budget moving costs as well — whether that comes in the form of professional movers or pizza and beverages for your friends. If you buy a condo, they often charge a move-in fee that can range from $100-$200.

Painting, furnishing, decorating, housewarming party… are all personal preferences, but things you may want to take into consideration.

I hope this is helpful. You’re welcome to email me any specific questions you have about the cost of buying a home.  Please include in the comments anything I may have left out.

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