Anyone who has ever bought or sold a home knows that an agreement between buyer and seller is only the beginning of an entirely new phase of the transaction process. During the contract-to-close period, much of the important paperwork is filed and the final pieces get lined up in order to seal the deal and allow the property to change hands. This phase of the transaction typically includes the attorney review process, the home inspection, the finalization of financing, and the closing itself.
It is during this final phase of the real estate transaction that sellers can expect to incur a number of costs that will need to be covered at the time closing. Generally called closing costs, these expenses can add up to a total cost of 2-3 percent of the total value of the home sale, on top of the broker’s commission and other associated transaction fees.
“Closing costs” is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of fees and costs that are paid by both buyers and sellers at the close of a home sale. The costs vary depending on the type of sale, the purchase price, and the geographic location of the property, but generally fall into a few predictable categories. These fees can be intimidating, but are typically deducted from the profits collected on the sales price, and are not paid out of pocket by sellers.
Curious about what closing costs sellers might expect to face? Below, we discuss some of the most common closing costs in Illinois and Wisconsin, including some approximate costs associated with each. Remember, closing costs can vary according to the size or complexity of a transaction — but knowing these categories upfront can help you prepare for closing and position yourself to expect the unexpected as you finalize your sale with the right team by your side.
For sellers, commissions make up the single largest line item in the closing cost ledger. The commission for the listing agent, as well as the “cooperating commission” — commonly known as the buyer’s commission — are deducted from the proceeds of the sale. These commissions can add up to as high as eight percent of the sale price, but generally average about four to six percent of the total sales price, which is split between the seller’s and buyer’s brokerages, and their agents.
Title Search and Title Insurance
A title search is an extensive records search performed to ensure that the title held by the seller is clear and that the seller actually holds the free and unencumbered right to sell the property. A title search provides the history of the property and the various transactions associated with it, including sales, liens, unpaid taxes, outstanding HOA debts, mineral or mining rights, or other encumbrances that affect what the seller actually has to sell. A title search typically costs around $350.
Owner’s title insurance protects the homebuyer in a real estate transaction, by offering financial protection against a wide range of title defects that might impact the property — including unpaid taxes, deed errors, forgery, fraud and lack of access to the property. Broadly speaking, it is standard practice for the seller to cover the owner’s title insurance costs as a show of good faith to the buyer, making it an important closing cost for homesellers to consider. The owner’s title insurance is typically a small percentage of the average home price and protects the buyer’s ownership of the property. Though it is a one-time fee at the time of closing, this policy protects the buyer for as long as they retain ownership of the property.
Another type of title insurance to be aware of is the lender’s policy. This is purchased by the buyer and helps assure the lender that their mortgage is enforceable and they will be able to foreclose on the property if the owner fails to make the loan payments.
In Illinois the parties to a sale customarily have their closing documents reviewed and negotiated by an attorney. Attorney fees can vary depending on the complexity of the sale, but many attorneys offer flat fee arrangements for home sales. Sellers should budget between $500 and $1,000 for fees and costs. While Wisconsin doesn’t require that parties to a real estate transaction have the documents reviewed by an attorney, it is good practice to do so, in order to manage the moving pieces and help ensure that the transaction is smooth and surprise-free.
Prorated Property Taxes
Sellers are typically required to offer some discount to the purchase price for taxes that have been accrued but not yet paid. In many Illinois counties, and in every county in Wisconsin, property taxes are paid in arrears. For example, in Cook County Illinois the prior year’s taxes are billed in two installments each year, with the first, due around March 1, comprising about 55% of the total tax owed. Depending on when the home is sold, the taxes that have been accrued but not yet paid may be substantial. Sellers must provide a credit for these estimated accrued but unpaid taxes that are owed at the time of sale. Other unpaid expenses may also be prorated, including utilities and homeowners’ association fees up to the date of closing.
Loan Prepayment Penalties
If the homeowner has a mortgage that will be paid back with the proceeds of the sale of the home, it is important to consider any prepayment penalties or early repayment fees that the lender may require. While these fees are generally nominal, prepayment penalty charges vary by lender, the amount of mortgage interest, and other factors.
An escrow company is a neutral third party who collects and manages the transfer of earnest money, closing documents, and other items. A seller should typically budget between $250 and $500 for escrow fees, depending on the price of the home and the circumstances of the sale.
State, County, and City Transfer Taxes and Stamps
An important closing cost for sellers to be aware of, transfer taxes — also called transfer stamps — are fees set by the state and/or local government that must be paid in order to transfer ownership from the seller to the buyer.
Transfer taxes are generally assessed as a percentage of either the sale price or the fair market value of the property that’s changing hands. State and municipal laws usually describe transfer tax as a set rate for every $500 or $1,000 of the property’s value.
As one example, Wisconsin’s state transfer tax is set at $3.00 per $1,000 of the property’s sale price. In Illinois, state transfer taxes are set at $0.75 per $500, with county transfer taxes at $0.25 per $500 in most counties, and additional taxes levied from municipality to municipality. For further reading, a list of transfer stamps in each municipality in Illinois is available here.
If the sale involves a home or townhome with its own lot number, the seller must provide a property survey prepared by a licensed surveyor. This survey will illustrate the size of the lot, boundaries, nearby streets, and other important information about the property. Sellers should expect to pay around $400-600 for the survey.
Every real estate transaction is unique, and sellers should be prepared for other costs that might not be obvious, including homeowners’ association transfer fees, or credits for the cost of repairs to the property.
Learn More from Your Trusted Title Insurance Company
Understanding closing costs is just one important consideration for sellers. We know that navigating any real estate transaction can feel daunting. That’s why we’ve got your back! Landtrust Title Services understands the complexities of selling a property, and we are here to support you every step of the way. We are equipped to fulfill all your title needs throughout the closing process to ensure a seamless process.
And when your attorney is partnered with Landtrust Title Services, you can rest assured that you’ll get a seasoned team of professionals who are there for you whenever you need them. Whether on the buyside or sellside, your attorney will work directly with our decision makers every step of the way. Plus we have on-staff attorneys that are here to help resolve more complex issues. With Landtrust, attorneys can ensure on-time closings, quick searches, easier online exams, and more underwriting flexibility.
Bottom line? At Landtrust Title Services it’s all about the relationship. Our empowered title services team encourages responsive underwriting and provides a single point of contact to keep your deal moving so it’s delivered on time, regardless of complexity. We partner with you, align with your goals, and provide a seamless process to ensure a smooth transaction.
If you have any questions about choosing a title insurance provider, working with a real estate attorney, or closing on the sale of your home contact Landtrust Title Services anytime at [email protected] or call 312.528.9210.