Let’s answer this question in chronological order. A buyer’s first out of pocket expense will be an earnest money deposit (or EMD). This represents some “skin in the game” from the buyer to the seller. Usually we are talking 0.5 percent to 1 percent of the sales price. The check is not given directly to the seller. It is either held by the seller’s title company or the real estate brokerage representing the seller. The EMD will be credited back to the buyer at closing and applied to closing costs and pre-paid expenses that are due. We will get to those in a minute.
Second, a buyer will need to pay for a series of home inspections, which can cost up to $1,000. For $1,000, a buyer will get to know their future home intimately. Inspections may include a whole house inspection, a termite inspection, a chimney inspection, a radon test — and, last but not least — a waste line inspection. In our experience, buyers who see inspections as an investment rather than an expense always get more value out of them. Our philosophy is that the more informed buyers are, the more comfortable they are with their purchase.
Once inspections are completed and both buyer and seller have agreed on the list of repair items, we arrive at step three: the appraisal. To arrange financing for a purchase, the lender will require an appraisal to make sure that the house is worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it. The buyer pays for the appraisal at the time that it is ordered (typically using a credit card). Most appraisals run about $400.
We are getting towards the end — just two steps to go.
Next, let’s talk about down payments. I know this feels like it should be at the beginning, but a buyer’s down payment is not collected until closing. Some of you may have heard about 100 percent financing options that are available. Sounds tempting, right? Well, those days are pretty much gone with two exceptions: VA loans (for those who have served in active military duty) and USDA loans (for rural purchases). That said, there are still great financing options available. The two most popular are FHA loans (which require a 3.5 percent minimum down payment) and Conventional loans (which require a 5 percent minimum down payment). Consult a competent loan officer on which product is best for your financial situation.
And, finally, a buyer will have closing costs and pre-paid expenses (taxes and insurance) due at closing. As an example, a buyer purchasing a $200,000 home would pay $4,000 to $4,500 in closing costs and pre-paid expenses. In our market, however, it is not atypical for a seller to cover some or even all of a buyer’s closing costs depending on the price range.