Lenders and brokers pull your credit report to see if you have a positive payment history. If they require a full residential mortgage credit report, that's more expensive because the credit reporting agency actually takes the time to call your creditors and verify the items on your credit report. Some lenders are not satisfied with a simpler credit report called a "tri-merge" that contains information from all three major credit bureaus and does not get manually verified. This is a fee that often gets padded. Since an outside company provides this service, ask for a receipt to verify the true cost and don't pay a penny more.
Tax Service Fee/Escrow Fee: $58-$89
Lenders like to make sure you are paying your property taxes, because if you're not, the county can seize your home and the lender won't get paid. Most lenders require you to send extra money along with your mortgage payments. The lender collects that money in an escrow account and then pays your property taxes for you. If you make a big down payment, you're allowed to pay your property taxes yourself. But the lender still hires an outside company to monitor whether you're paying your taxes. This fee covers that service. If you plan to pay your property taxes yourself, this fee should be at the lower end of the scale.
Appraisal Fee: $100-$500
Lenders require a professional appraisal so they will know if the home you are buying is worth the amount of money they are lending you. If you are refinancing, the lender may be satisfied with a "drive-by" appraisal, which is much less expensive. Either way, ask your broker or lender for a receipt showing which appraiser did the work and how much it actually cost. Don't pay an inflated fee.
Survey Fee: $0-$250 A survey is performed to make sure the boundaries of your property are clean and clear. Surveyors look for things like misplaced fences and shared driveways that may cloud property lines and cause a dispute. Lenders ask you to pay for a survey if you are buying a new home. If you are refinancing, they may be willing to "recertify" the existing survey at no cost. Surveys do not apply to condominiums, but watch out, because some lenders tack them on anyway. Once again, surveyors are outside companies. Demand receipts and don't allow upcharges.
Flood Certification Fee: $11-$25
If you are buying a single-family home, the lender will want to have a flood survey done to see if the house is in a flood zone. An outside company will review government charts to find out. If you are buying a condo on an upper floor, you should not have to pay for a flood certification, but beware, some lenders charge for it out of habit. This is another outside service for which you can get a receipt.
Hazard Insurance: $300-$600
Lenders require you to purchase at least fire insurance to protect the property since it's collateral for the loan. Most buyers choose to purchase full homeowner's insurance, which covers fires and other disasters. The lender must approve the insurance company you choose. Some brokers and lenders will try to sign you up for a full year's coverage, which can be difficult to afford at the same time as all these other closing costs. Ask questions. Most lenders are satisfied if you pre-pay two to four months of insurance.