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What do I need to know about title and escrow fees?

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So you’ve finally hit that point of pride (and a little bit of nervousness): you’re headed to the title or escrow company and preparing to take official ownership of your new house. This will also be the day when both you and the seller are expected to pay closing costs, which are a bundle of separate charges that go to different entities for all the services associated with the purchase and sale of a property.

Here are a few questions and answers courtesy of the California Land Title Association:

Q: What services do closing costs cover?

A: Items including loan fees, advance payments such as property taxes and homeowners insurance, and appraisal fees.

Q: What should I expect to pay in closing costs?

A: While these will vary, expect to get an estimate after you submit your loan application. This is considered a good-faith estimate and is mandatory under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.

Q: Can I pay my closing costs in installments?

A: Uh, no.

Q: Can I pay closing costs with a personal check?

A: Nope. Try a cashier’s check issued by a California institution. Personal checks may either delay the process or be unacceptable to the title or escrow company.

Q: Must I by law buy title insurance when I buy or refinance a home?

A: There is no such law in California. However, nearly all lenders require title insurance for the face amount of their deed of trust in the case of both purchase and refinance.

Dreaming of San Francisco? Cece Blase offers local advice to San Francisco buyers, sellers and owners-- and feeds the dreams of those who wish they could live in Tony Bennett's 'City by the Bay.' Call 415-577-0809 or email cblase@paragon-re.com. www.ceceblase.com

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