How to Keep Your Closing Costs Low

As mortgage rates rise, so too do closing costs. Also against the home purchasing public is that new loan regulations and financial safeguards have caused bank costs to rise when they fund a mortgage loan, and the banks have understandably passed those costs on to the consumers to cover. In fact, mortgage closing costs rose 1.6% last year compared to what they were the year prior, and on average, home buyers paid $4,876 for closing costs. It can seem like there are a million fees you are responsible for! Besides, you did just save up a ton of money for a down payment. Now you have to worry about higher closing costs than you would have been asked to pay ten years ago!  
 
But did you know that you can take precautions to keep your closing costs low? It’s true. There are ways to limit what you are charged during closing time, and if you want to have the lowest closing costs available to you, regardless of the type of mortgage you get, you can follow this list below. You can get a great closing cost rate too! 
 
Before we get into what you can do to lower your closing costs, lets discuss what they are and how they work. All mortgage loans require that someone pay for the closing costs. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and the seller of your new home will pay them. Every now and then you can find a lender who will cover them, in a zero closing cost mortgage, but this is even more rare. 
 
There are two general types of closing costs. First, you have mortgage lender closing costs, which may include origination fees, discount points, underwriting fees, document preparation fees, title fees, attorney fees, prorated loan interest, lender fees, application fees, assumption fees, pre-paid interest, or title search fees. You may also pay a mortgage insurance application fee if your down payment is less than 20% of your loan total amount, as well as some upfront mortgage insurance costs in the same case.
 
The other type of closing costs are third party closing costs. These are paid to companies other than your lender, and they include appraisal costs, credit report fees, tax service fees, property taxes, annual assessments to your HOA (if any), home inspections, flood certifications, escrow fees, and title insurance. 
 
Lenders are required by law to provide you with a list of closing costs you are responsible for paying within three days of receiving your application for a mortgage loan. This list will be only an estimate of what you’ll pay, but it will give you a better idea of what to expect. 
 
Now that we’ve gone over what closing costs are and what they consist of, lets talk about how to keep them low when you buy your home! 
 
Negotiate with the Seller
This one can be tricky. There’s always room to negotiate when you buy a home, in many ways. You can negotiate the price of the home, or what the seller will provide or do for you if you buy. But you can also negotiate that the seller cover all closing costs if you buy, or lower the cost of the home to cover the closing costs you’ll have to pay. Be careful if you choose to go this route. If another potential buyer offers the same amount as you do, but does not ask that the seller cover closing costs, they’ll be the ones the seller strikes a deal with! 
 
A seller will also be more likely to agree to this type of negotiation if you have presented him or her with at least the asking price of the house as an offer. To keep things on the safe side, you may consider only asking the seller to pay half of the closing costs. Things may also swing in your favor on this front – if, for example, the home inspector finds issues with the home that will cost you money to fix, you may ask for the seller to cover closing costs as a concession for this. 
 
Negotiate with the Lender
Yes, you can do this too. Once you have your loan estimate, you can begin negotiating each fee on the list with your lender. If there are confusing or obscure fees, ask that they be removed. Request that you receive a closing disclosure form, which details your closing costs instead of just listing them. Compare your closing disclosure to your loan estimate and ask your lender to justify any discrepancies. This can make a big difference if there was anything there for you to catch! 
 
Don’t Overpay on Discount Points
These are an upfront fee paid at closing that allows a new homeowner access to a better mortgage rate than “market value”. They can also lower your APR. They are paid as a percentage of your loan. For example, one discount point covers 1% of your loan size. Sounds great, right? There’s a catch! If you aren’t planning to live in your new home for at least seven years, this is wasted money. Reduce your closing costs by paying the proper number of points for your particular situation – which may be zero. Remember, they’re tax deductible, but can’t be refunded once you commit to paying them. 
 
Another thing to be aware of when it comes to discount points is the interest rate environment. If you’re already buying in a low interest rate environment, you don’t need to pay for a ton of interest points to lower your interest rate even further. These points add up fast with one point being 1% of your loan value, and for each point you purchase, you’ll have to live in the home for longer if you want to break even. Consider both these two things when it comes to purchasing discount points and you may save a bundle come closing time! 
 
Lock Your Mortgage Rate at the Right Time
There is a lot to be said for the idea that the timing of locking your mortgage can be up to luck. If you do it right, you can lower your closing costs by nailing the right time frame. Rate locks are typically available in 15 day increments up to 60 days, and then in 15 or 30 day increments afterwards. The longer your rate lock, the more you’ll pay, meaning a 30 day mortgage lock is less expensive than a 60 day lock. 
 
The additional cost of a longer mortgage rate lock are paid at closing. See where we’re going with this? An extra 30 days on your rate lock may add up to 25 basis points (or 0.25%) to your mortgage rate! This doesn’t mean you should always choose the shortest rate lock time, though. If you don’t fund your loan during the originally agreed upon lock in window, you’ll be fined by your lender. You can, however, ask for a rate lock extension, which adds a little time onto your rate lock window. It usually works out that a 30 day rate lock window plus a 15 day extension is cheaper than a 45 day rate lock from the start. You can keep your closing costs a little lower by accurately choosing the best rate lock periods. 
 
Shop Around
This may sound obvious, but one way to ensure you have low closing costs from the very start is to shop around for the lender that offers the lowest closing costs. You can ask lenders to match closing costs offered elsewhere, and they may agree. There are some services included in closing costs that you are allowed to shop around for as well. These include the pest inspection fee, the survey fee, the title search, and others. You don’t have to go with the provider your lender suggests unless you have signed a document waiving your right to do so. You can try for a lower price on the same service elsewhere. You’ll be able to see your expected closing costs on your loan estimate. Use these numbers to help you shop around and find better deals, thus lowering your closing costs.
 
Evaluate Your Loan Estimate
Bet you didn’t know you were allowed to do this, did you? When you get your loan estimate, don’t just accept it as fact. Ask your lender to go through each and every single charge with you in person. Ask them what each fee covers and why it costs that much. By doing this, you can identify padded or extraneous fees. You may also see two fees with very similar names, implying that you’re being charged twice for the same thing. It happens! An example is being charged for both processing fees and underwriting fees. You must review your loan estimate carefully. By doing so, you could save yourself some money come closing time. 
 
Other Ways to Save
There are a few random other things you can do to lower closing costs. If your new home was recently appraised  (say in the last year), you can probably skip the cost of having it appraised again and waive this service. You can also save on title insurance by asking for a re-issue rate when you renew your title insurance for a refinance. 
 
Closing costs can seem daunting and stressful, but there are many things you can do to lower them. If you play your cards right, you’ll be thankful that you took the time to learn how to save a few dollars! 

Housing and Market Trends for 2020

As far as the housing market goes, there are different expectations and
forecasts each and every year. Some years it is a buyer’s market. Some years
it is a seller’s market. Some years, what happens matches the guesses of
mortgage specialists exactly. Some years, it surprises us all. 

Many people must consider the housing market – prospective buyers, real
estate brokers and experts, investors, fund managers, developers, property
companies, lenders, mortgage brokers, advisers, and consultants. Many say
that they have a feeling of unease as far as the housing market is
concerned. The reasons for this unease range from customer expectations
changing, preferences, policy changes and geopolitical uncertainty, and new,
modern business challenges such as labor shortages and cybersecurity issues.


But, thanks to CREA, (the Canadian Real Estate Association), we have some
idea of how the housing market will behave in the next year. But first, lets
talk about this year. 

In 2019, the housing market was surprising to many. Mortgage rates fell,
which was the opposite of what the market experts have predicted. Home
buyers found it to be exciting news. Sellers found some good news from this
as well, as it was easier to sell their homes. Brokers benefitted from being
able to make their customers happy with lower rates.  (However, some of the
expert’s predictions were correct! There was a short supply of homes and an
influx of too many buyers. In the last six months, mortgage rates have begun
to rise again.) 

With that being said, what do the market experts predict for 2020? Lets
discuss! 

In September of 2019, The CREA (Canadian Real Estate Association) has
officially released it’s 2019-2020 forecast for the housing market – and
it’s good news! CREA expects home sales to total near 463,000 by the end of
2019. This will represent a 1.2% increase from the close of 2018. In 2020,
the CREA predicts sales will climb even higher, expected to rise 4.4%
annually, to total 483,200 homes changing owners. 

This is partly thanks to measures taken in the 2019 Canadian federal budget.
To be called attention to is the First Time Home Buyer Incentive, a shared
equity program in which the federal government finances a portion of a home
purchase in exchange for an equity share of the home’s value, as well as
increasing the max RRSP withdrawal amount to $35K for the purchase of a
home. 

Also owed thanks for this good news is a strong economy as relates to
housing (especially outside of the Prairies and Newfoundland and Labrador).
Population and employment growth have been strong and increasingly
supportive. The unemployment rate remains very low. Expectations have become
that the Bank of Canada is unlikely to raise interest rates over the rest of
2019 and into 2020. Finally, stronger-than-expected housing market trends in
British Colombia and Ontario have played into CREA’s upward forecast as
well. These changes are forecasted to and meant to support a recovering
housing market.

The general level of national home sales activity in the end of 2019 and the
start of 2020 is expected to remain below levels recorded prior to the
implementation of the B-20 stress test. (What is this? It is a new set of
regulations, determining what homebuyers can afford under worst-case
scenarios as opposed to an ideal state.)

As far as pricing goes, CREA forecasts that the average selling price of a
home in 2020 will be $485,000, which is down 0.6% year-over-year, before it
rebounds by 0.9% to an average of $489,000 by the middle of 2020. Price
trends are expected to be more moderate and less extreme versions of those
in 2019. There will be small declines in British Columbia, Alberta,
Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador. There will be gains in all
other providences from Manitoba to the Maritimes! 

Home sales have improved more than expected in the last few months and there
are some signs that in the near future, home price declines in the Lower
Mainland of British Columbia and across the Prairies may be abating.
However, in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe region, prices are
re-accelerating. 

Also to be considered in 2020 are the new mortgage rules. If you’re
purchasing a home in a lower-priced city like Saskatoon or Charlottetown,
you may not feel much impact from the new regulations giving buyers a little
less purchasing power. However, if you buy in a more expensive area in 2020,
such as Toronto or Vancouver, every dollar will count. It may benefit your
family to buy a home outside the city, where dollars stretch further under
the new regulations. 

There is, of course, more to consider than just the housing market. 

Industrial real estate is one such field.  This particular market has been
very healthy, boasting a low national vacancy rate, a national availability
rate of just 3.1%, and tight conditions in Vancouver (with a national
availability rate of 2.1%) and the Greater Toronto area (with a national
availability rate of just 1.5%). Renting rates continue to be on the rise as
well. Ware housing and fulfillment remain the top prospects for development
in 2020 – even now, the industrial market is tight. 

Future development trends to watch out for include vertical warehouses and
fulfillment centers, requiring less space – so more can be built. Self
storage facilities are also expected to boom, as the average family home
size shrinks. 

Office buildings are rated fifth for development prospects in 2020. The
country’s continued gains in employment and quickly growing technology field
have been good news for the office sector. In the second quarter of 2019,
the national vacancy rate for office properties in the country was 10.5%. 

As the internet’s capabilities expand, more and more people do their
shopping online. This has hurt the retail real estate market – property
types like outlet malls are at the absolute bottom of the list of
development prospects in commercial real estate. However, the rise of
e-commerce doesn’t mean the end of physical stores . Retailers may have a
smaller footprint in the real estate market, but they do still make the
list. 

With all that being said, where should investors and developers focus in
2020? The best places to look are, as reported, Montreal, Toronto, and
Vancouver. But what type of real estate is the best this year? Warehousing
and fulfillment are, as discussed, at the top of that list. Also to be
considered are: 

Mid-price apartments, which has ranked third in best developing prospects
for 2020. Canadian families are looking for affordable housing options, and
sometimes that does not mean buying a single family home. Instead, they
search for their housing in the multi-family rental category to get their
money’s worth. Even as condo construction booms, this area of the market
continues to hold strong – In 2008, only 13,947 units were under
construction. In 2018, that number raised to 56,394. That’s a huge increase!


Transit oriented development must be considered as well. In Montreal, the
development of the Reseau express metropolitan project is expected to grow
the real estate development along it’s route by five billion dollars. As
public transportation grows, so too will the demand for housing near where
it’s routes are for easier access to transportation by the public. 

Data centers are an unexpected niche property type that has also made the
list of best developing prospects for 2020. They house key components of IT
infrastructure for many corporations, governments, and other organizations.
They require extremely specialized infrastructure as far as power
consumption, redundancy, and security is concerned. Global increase in
technology development has, understandably, raised need and interest in more
data centers. In fact, the data center section of the market boasted a
nearly 27% return in 2019! The positive demand (and growth of the internet)
certainly makes this a sector to watch in 2020.

Senior-only housing rounds out the best bets for investors and developers
for 2020. The demand for senior housing is high, and boasts a variety of
options for seniors wanting high levels of convenience, security, amenities,
and flexibility in their home lives. Despite the legal regulations and many
complexities that come with developing senior specific housing in this day
and age, this is still an area of the market to keep your eye on. After all,
we all grow old. 

Thankfully, real estate will continue to perform well. There are very few
cases of over or under supply in any market, developers continue to see
opportunities to grow on, positive trends are becoming more common and more
sustainable, and we have been able to pinpoint certain areas of the market
where focus should be placed for the future. 2019 surprised us all, but as
we shift our focus to the next year, we would be wise to remember the
forecasts of the market experts in regards to expected trends in the real
estate market in the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.