The Ultimate San Diego Bucket List | Restaurants, Attractions, Landmarks and More!

San Diego is home to a variety of cultural attractions, fabulous restaurants and bars, a staggering number of breweries, fantastic museums, and a vibrant arts scene. The list of things to explore in San Diego goes on and on. The weather is positively blissful year-round and the beaches are obscenely beautiful. What’s not to love? It’s tough to narrow down our San Diego bucket list, but these places definitely make the cut:

Stroll around Balboa Park

The beating heart of San Diego, Balboa Park is chock-full of local cultural attractions, charming boutique shops, and world-class museums. Covering over 1,000 acres of lush greenery, the park is the epicenter of the city’s culture and home to some absolute must-visit attractions.

It’s here that you’ll find the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Natural History Museum, the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center, and the San Diego Museum of Art. You could wander around for hours here and never grow bored. In the city where you can spend hours sitting in traffic, it’s nice to get out of your vehicle and stretch your legs.

Pro-tip: Consider buying the Balboa Park Explorer Pass if you want to visit multiple museums. It saves money and time.

Hike in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

If you love being outdoors – hiking and relaxing at the beach – a trip to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is in order. Spend the day climbing up challenging cliffs, gazing out at the sparkling blue water, or walking along leisurely seafront walking paths.

Torrey Pines is a slice of pure paradise. As you hike, you’ll notice tons of cool rock formations and patches of pine forest, in addition to unbeatable panoramic views. Just be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and water!

Try to surf

You can’t go to San Diego, Surf Capital USA, without trying your hand at riding the waves. That would be like going to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower or exploring Barcelona and never seeing the Sagrada Familia.

Book a lesson with a reputable surf school in advance—like Pacific Surf School or Mission Beach Surfing School—and get ready to hang ten with the best of them. Even if you can’t get up on your board, you’ll have a whole lot of fun trying.

Check out the nightlife in the Gaslamp Quarter

Thanks to the clusters of historic Victorian-era buildings in the Gaslamp Quarter, this area is as pretty as a postcard, and there’s so much to do that you’ll likely need at least a full day or two to experience everything. You’ll find every type of cuisine imaginable here, in addition to dozens of unique shops. The top restaurants on the Gaslamp Quarter should definitely be on your bucket list.

The Gaslamp Quarter is always buzzing on the weekends, and it’s the best place to be if you’re a nightlife-lover: Have a blast dancing at one of the many trendy clubs that line the streets, enjoy craft cocktails under the moonlight, or check out live music in one of any number of bars. Keep in mind that if you’re dining out in the Gaslamp Quarter, you’ll need to make a reservation well in advance—this is a very popular destination for fine dining.

Explore La Jolla Cove

Located just a quick 20 minutes from downtown San Diego, La Jolla Cove is simply gorgeous. Wander through Prospect Street to look at shops (don’t miss Warwick’s, which is the country’s oldest family-run bookstore!), pack a picnic and watch the sunset at Ellen Browning Scripps Park, and be sure to keep an eye out for the adorable La Jolla sea lions. For the adventurous souls out there, La Jolla is also one of the best places in the area for sea kayaking and snorkeling; La Jolla Kayak offers great guided experiences.

Watch a baseball game at Petco Park

One of the only stadiums in the States with a water view, Petco Park is the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon. Home to the San Diego Padres, this beloved ballpark also has fantastic food and craft brews (there are more than 40 types of local beer offered here alone!)—think hometown faves like Lucha Libre, Cardiff Market, and AleSmith—so be sure to come hungry and thirsty.

Enjoy a romantic evening at Sunset Cliffs

Perhaps the most aptly named cliffs ever, the Sunset Cliffs area is the place to be if you want to enjoy a truly romantic view when the sun goes down. This is easily one of the prettiest spots in the city, so we recommend packing the car snacks and drinks and coming here to catch a magnificent sunset with your sweetheart.

While decidedly not as popular as some other major cities in California, San Diego is just as charming—if not more so—than places like L.A. or San Francisco. In fact, we’d venture to say that, because it’s more of an off-the-beaten-path destination, San Diego has a distinctive charm and loveliness all its own.

Are you on the fence about making San Diego your next home? There are endless reasons to buy a home in San Diego. Contact our experts today to learn more about San Diego real estate!

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8 Reasons to Purchase Property in San Diego

San Diego is the mecca of craft beer, sunshine, and laid-back lifestyles. Who wouldn’t want to live in this gorgeous city? Few people who’ve been to San Diego need to be convinced of its grandeur—but in case you’ve never visited, or you’re on the fence about investing in real estate here, check out these eight reasons why you should purchase property in San Diego.

The Food Scene is Thriving

Considering San Diego’s proximity to Mexico, it’s no surprise that the Mexican cuisine here is simply delicious. From mouthwatering fish tacos, tangy ceviche, delectable mole and tender carnitas, there are so many authentic dishes to try. The selection of restaurants, hole-in-the-wall taco shops, and food trucks is infinite—no matter where you go, you’re guaranteed an amazing meal.

Apart from Mexican food, the rest of the food scene in San Diego is thrillingly diverse and trendy. The city is full of amazing, farm-fresh produce (the “farm-to-table” concept was pretty much invented here). This gives chefs access to some of the best seafood in the country and the best ingredients to create simple, yet extremely tasty fare like burgers and pizza.

The Sun is Always Shining

You just can’t beat the weather in San Diego. The temperature is consistently mild all year long (most days hover at around 70 degrees). The skies are perpetually blue and sunny, and everyone seems to always be in a great mood as a result. What’s not to love about that?

The Natural Scenery is Breathtaking. 

There are so many wonderful beaches, parks, lakes, nearby mountains, hiking and biking trails, and other scenic spots to explore in San Diego. In fact, it can be near-overwhelming. The raw natural beauty here is astounding—the glittering blue-green waters, pristine beaches, and rugged cliffs are certainly Instagram-worthy, to say the least.

Torrey Pines
Torrey Pines

An outdoors lifestyle is more than plausible as a resident of San Diego. From the spectacular sandstone formations at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to the incredible marine life at La Jolla Underwater Park, there are countless natural wonders to see here.

San Diego Real Estate is cheaper than other California cities. 

Compared to the outrageous housing prices, like in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, real estate prices tend to be far less expensive in San Diego. In fact, when compared to other coastal cities in America, housing costs also tend to be on the low end.

While it would be a stretch to say real estate is affordable in San Diego, it’s definitely cheaper than other California markets and other cool, coastal urban centers. If you’re in the market to purchase property in San Diego, look no further!

The Job Market is Booming.

San Diego is a hub of innovative companies, from craft breweries to healthcare organizations to biotech startups, and everything in between. As a result, the city has a relatively low unemployment rate—in fact, between 2010-2017, San Diego employers added 160,000 jobs to their payrolls. The job market in San Diego is off the charts. No matter what industry you’re in, it’s easy to find fulfilling employment opportunities here.

It’s Close to Great Weekend Getaway Spots. 

Sure, San Diego boasts plenty of great food, scenery, and culture on its own—but when you’re ready for a weekend road trip, there are dozens of cool towns, hikes, and other nearby attractions to check out. Just two hours northeast, Big Bear Mountain is a wonderful spot to enjoy skiing or snowboarding in the winter. Mexico is just a handful of miles away, and there are also dozens of great wineries, parks, and beaches in the area.

Find craft beer on every block.

Craft Beer in San Diego
Craft Beer in San Diego

Beer fans, take note: San Diego’s craft brew scene is unparalleled. There are so many taprooms, beer festivals, breweries (over 130 of them, in fact), and other beer hot spots here. You could spend months exploring (and drinking) and still have more to explore. Not to mention, navigating the city without a car, is convenient, plus you don’t have to worry about parking an SUV or designating a driver! Bonus: The wineries and vineyards here are world-class, as well. If you’re a fan of adult beverages, San Diego is definitely the place to be.

The Living is Easy. 

In a land where the sun is always shining, the beer is always flowing, and the surfers are always riding the waves, it’s not shocking that San Diego usually ranks as one of the country’s happiest cities. People are genuinely happy to live in such a unique, beautiful, sunny, and diverse place. In other words, the living is easy here—as it should be.


In short, packing up and moving to San Diego should be a no-brainer. Considering the multitude of perks that come with living here—the thriving food and craft beer scenes, incredible natural beauty, relatively affordable prices, and abundant, laid-back charm—investing in real estate in San Diego might just turn out to be the best decision you’ve ever made.

Where to Explore When you Move to San Diego

Laid-back, hip, and perpetually sunny, San Diego is a slice of beachy paradise—and a hotbed of wonderful culture, worldly cuisine, shopping, and nightlife. Apart from well-known attractions like the famed San Diego Zoo and the iconic Balboa Park, there are numerous art galleries, quirky-cool museums, and high-end eateries to discover. If you’ve just taken a leap and moved to the area, check out these top places to explore in San Diego!

Arts & Culture

San Diego is a city in which the arts, in all their forms, are widely beloved. From well-established museums to small-scale galleries, these are the top arts & culture experiences to have when you visit San Diego:

Visit world-class art museums.

San Diego Museum of Art
San Diego Museum of Art

Though Balboa Park is touristy, the San Diego Museum of Art and the Timken Museum of Art are must-see destinations for serious art lovers. The former attraction houses masterworks by Rembrandt and Jacques-Louis David, and the latter has works by dozens of popular American painters, from Georgia O’Keefe to Stuart Davis. Fight the crowds or go on a weekday; both museums are well worth it. Either way, you’ll avoid San Diego traffic, as Balboa Park is a highly walkable area. Park your car in a convenient lot and leave it for the day!

See Chicano murals.

In the neighborhood of Barrio Logan, you’ll find Chicano Park, which features the biggest collection of Chicano murals in the world (there are over 80 paintings on seven acres), as well as several art galleries and shops. Head here in the daytime to be able to appreciate the true vibrancy and beauty of the murals.

Stroll around an artsy neighborhood.

In North Park, art loving-travelers can experience an abundance of cool street art, in addition to galleries and studios, performance art spaces, and under-the-radar concert venues.

Dining & Drinks

Historically influenced by Mexican cuisine, the food scene in San Diego is thriving and growing all the time. The city is now home to a variety of farm-to-table restaurants, top French and Italian eateries, and some of the best fresh seafood in the country. And the drinking scene is diverse, as well. Take your pick from upscale oceanfront cocktail bars, neighborhood watering holes, and over 150 craft breweries.

Little Italy in San Diego

Little Italy in San Diego
Little Italy in San Diego

The best place to get an all-around feel for the local food & drink scene is the lively, cool Little Italy neighborhood, where you’ll find a plethora of awesome eateries, cool coffee shops, wine bars, craft brew pubs, and more. Stroll through the buzzing Mercato Farmers’ Market on a Saturday to sample fresh-baked bread, locally-made jams, farm-fresh produce, and other artisanal foods from over 175 farmers and vendors. This is the city’s biggest downtown market, and it’s definitely a local fave spot.

Also in Little Italy, James Coffee Co. is the perfect spot to enjoy handcrafted roasted coffee blends, Bottlecraft Beer Shop & Tasting Room has excellent local brews, and Craft & Commerce has tasty small plates (think grilled oysters, charred eggplant dip, and marinated olives) and craft cocktails. Even a drive down the main drag, India Street, is a great way to explore the area.

Here are three other can’t-miss San Diego food & drink experiences:

Check out a hip food market

At Liberty Public Market, a 25,000-square-foot public market in Point Loma’s Liberty Station, visitors can peruse a dazzling array of food and goods from 30 local chefs and artisans—there’s also live music every week, and a dog-friendly market patio every Sunday.

Sample the best tacos in the city. 

Best Tacos in San Diego
Best Tacos in San Diego

Craving tacos? Look no further than El Paisa Mexican Grill, easily one of the most beloved taquerias in the city—they make their own tortillas here, and you can pretty much get any type of taco you want.

Dine at a five-star French hotspot.

And for those who want to splurge on a decadent five-star meal during their trip? Make a reservation for Addison, a critically acclaimed Grand Del Mar resort with incredible dishes like langoustines with caviar and parsley and mussels with green curry, as well as a killer wine list.

The Outdoors

It’s near-impossible to go to San Diego and not spend some time at the beach—not only is the weather here perma-beautiful, but the city boasts over 70 miles of scenic coastline punctuated by pristine beaches, rugged cliffs, and gorgeous blue-green bays. Take a drive out to one of the many beaches. Although you can’t really go wrong with any of the beaches here, there are a few standout spots to check out:

La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove is the place to be if you want to try your hand at snorkeling or scuba diving—this tiny gem of a beach has crystal-clear waters and exciting marine life, like the bright orange Garibaldi fish.

Ocean Beach feels like 70s-era hippie California, with its barefoot surfers, funky beach communities, and collection of novelty and vintage shops. Head here if you’re into bohemian vibes, oceanfront live music, and boho-chic boutiques.

At Mission Beach, you’ll find over two miles of oceanfront boardwalk, tons of surf shops, and an old-school amusement park right on the water. In other words, it’s pretty much impossible to get bored at this bustling, action-packed beach.

Finally, although Coronado Beach is a bit touristy, it’s well worth a visit—with the postcard-perfect Hotel del Coronado, sparkling white sand, and the city skyline in the background, it’s the quintessential San Diego beach.

All in all, San Diego is chock-full of exciting culture, cuisine, and nightlife—and, not to mention, some of the most stunning beaches in the country. Whether you’re looking for the ideal romantic getaway, a great place to spend the weekend with friends, or the perfect family-friendly destination, San Diego has a little something for everyone.

Knowing Why You’re Selling

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If you know exactly why you are selling then it is easier for you to follow the right plan of action for getting what you want.

If you are a seller who needs to close a sale as quickly as possible, then you should know that getting the highest price possible is not one of your priorities. It does not mean that you won’t or cannot get the highest price, but it means that the price is not the deciding factor. A buyer who can give you a quick closing time will appeal much more to you than a buyer who can offer you more money but the negotiation and closing time drag on.

Image result for home offersIt’s always good to know how low you will go in terms of selling price. This will help to eliminate some of the offers that you find simply offensive or ridiculous. Even though you should consider all offers seriously and take into consideration the terms of each offer, sometimes, if you know the bottom line and are strict about it, you can save yourself time.

Once you know what your limits and reasons are, discuss them with your agent so that they can help you set your goals realistically. If you decide to list your home on your own, make sure you do research on the current market, and you get the proper advice you need in terms of legal issues, etc. The key is to be realistic and know what your goals are so they can be met.

Documenting Your Assets – Verifying Your Down Payment

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When buying a home, it is not enough to just come up with the money. With the exception of no asset verification loans, lenders want to verify where the money for your new home will be coming from. If you can document that the funds are coming from your personal savings, the lender is more confident of your strength as a borrower.

In addition, if you can verify that you have additional assets that are not needed for the down payment, it is important to document those, too. Additional assets are reserves you can draw upon during times of trouble, such as unemployment, medical emergencies, and similar occurrences. Additional assets can also help to document that you have a history of saving money, which makes you a more dependable borrower.

It is extremely important to completely document the paper trail of any funds you use for down payment and closing costs. The sections below provide guidance on both verifying assets and documenting them as a source of your down payment.

Checking, Savings, & Money Market Accounts

The quickest and easiest way to document funds in your bank account is to provide your lender with copies of your most recent bank statements. Most lenders request two months of bank statements, but some still ask for three. Some lenders still send a Verification of Deposit to your bank in order to determine your current bank balances and average balance for the last two months. However, that is the old way of doing business and most lenders nowadays prefer to have bank statements.

If the money you are using for the down payment and closing costs has been in the bank for the entire period covered by the bank statements, you’re fine. These are known as “seasoned funds.” However, if your statements show any large or unusual deposits, the lender will ask you to explain them and document their source.

Stocks, Bonds, Mutual Funds, etc.

Most of those who own stocks get a monthly or quarterly statement from their brokerage. You will need to supply statements for the most recent sixty or ninety days in order to document these assets.

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Though it is rare nowadays, some people actually have stock certificates instead of having a brokerage account. When this is the situation, make copies of the certificates and provide those copies to your lender. You might also want to supply tax records to indicate you have owned these stocks for some time.

 

If part of your down payment will come from the sale of stocks and investments, you will need to keep all documentation that applies to the sale. Provide these copies to your lender as well.

Gifts

Especially when buying a first home, some borrowers need help coming up with the down payment. This help should come in the form of a gift from a close family member. Lenders will require the donors to sign a special form called a gift letter. The gift letter states the relationship between the parties, the address of the purchased property, the amount of the gift, and sometimes the source of the funds used to make the gift. The gift letter also clearly states that the funds are a gift and not required to be repaid.

With most lenders, the donor will have to also provide evidence that they have the ability to make the gift. This can be in the form of a bank or stock statement to show they have the funds available. You should also make a copy of the check used to make the gift and keep a copy of the deposit receipt when you deposit the gift funds into your bank account or escrow.

401K or Retirement Accounts

It is important to provide documentation about your retirement accounts or 401K programs because this is another asset you could draw upon as reserves in case of a problem. It is also another way to show you have a savings history. Just provide a copy of your most recent statement to your lender. Image result for 401k

Many people use these accounts as a source of funds for their down payment, too. Some employers allow you to cash out a portion of the 401K and some allow you to borrow against it. Be sure to keep copies of all paperwork involving the transaction. If they cut you a check, be sure to make a photocopy of that, too, including any receipt for deposit into your personal bank account.

If you are borrowing against your 401K, some lenders will count this as an additional debt to go along with car payments, credit cards and other obligations. This may seem kind of silly because you are borrowing your own money, but from the lender’s viewpoint it is still a monthly obligation that you must come up with and should be taken into account. If you are tight on your debt-to-income ratios in qualifying for a home loan, this could be an important consideration. It may affect whether you choose to cash out the account and pay any tax penalty, or simply borrow against it.

Employers

Some companies provide down payment assistance for their employees. They may feel that Homeowners are more stable and reliable employees, or that providing down payment assistance fosters an environment of higher morale and loyalty to the firm. Just make copies of all the paperwork, including a copy of the check and the receipt when you deposit the funds into your personal bank account. It is important that these funds do not require repayment.

Savings Bonds

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If you have Savings Bonds, remember that they are also financial assets. Since you hold the actual bonds in your possession, the easiest and best way to verify them for your mortgage lender is to make photocopies of them. If you choose to cash them in for down payment or closing costs, you should do this at your local bank. Be sure to keep copies of the paperwork the bank provides because that will establish the current value of the bonds and show that you received their cash value.

Personal Property – Cars, Antiques, etc.

Personal property includes automobiles, vehicles, boats, furniture, collections, heirlooms, antiques, art, clothing, and practically everything you own except for real estate. The mortgage application asks you to estimate the value of these items.

The larger the loan amount, the more important it is for you to provide details on your personal property. This is because larger loans usually indicate larger incomes, and lenders check to see if your personal property matches your income. If it does not, this sends a red flag to the underwriter and they take a closer look at your application.

You are not required to document the value of personal property unless you intend to sell them to come up with your down payment.

Selling Personal Property

For those Homebuyers who do sell personal property in order to come up with their down payment, the verification process can be arduous. Lenders are much stricter about documenting this method of coming up with your source of funds.

Image result for selling your carSelling a car is perhaps the easiest to document. First, you need to photocopy the registration that shows you actually own the vehicle. You will have to provide a copy of the page in the “Blue Book” that shows your model and its value. Then you need to photocopy the bill of sale showing the transfer to another individual and a copy of the check used to purchase the vehicle. Do not get paid in cash because that makes it impossible to show you actually received the funds. Make a copy of the receipt when you deposit the funds into the bank.

Other types of personal property are more difficult because you have to show that you actually own the property and that it actually has the value that you sold it for. This is a little harder to do for most assets than it is for automobiles.

Records showing you purchased the property would be helpful. You could also provide an old inventory that documents ownership. To determine value, you may have to contract with an independent appraiser or a specialist who has the knowledge for that particular type of property.

If you cannot document the item’s value, the lender will not view the sale as an acceptable source of funds. Just like selling a car, you have to prove you own the item, make a copy of the bill of sale, copy the check used to purchase the item, and make a copy of your receipt when you deposit the funds into your bank.

Importance of a Home Inspection

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As a buyer, you are entitled to know exactly what you are getting. Don’t take anything for granted, not even what you see or what the seller or listing agent tell you. A professional home inspection is something you MUST do, whether you are buying an existing home or a new one. deal-breakers-home-inspection-1 An inspection is an opportunity to have an expert look closely at the property you are considering purchasing and getting both an oral and written opinion as to its condition.

Beforehand, make sure the report will be done by a professional organization, such as a local trade organization or a national trade organization such as ASHI (American Society of Home Inspection). Not only should you never skip an inspection, but also you should be present with the inspector during the inspection. This gives you a chance to ask questions about the property and get answers that are not biased. In addition, the oral comments are typically more revealing and detailed than what you will find on the written report. Once the inspection is complete, review the inspection report carefully.

Image result for home inspectionYou have to demand an inspection when you present your offer. It must be written in as a contingency. If you do not approve the inspection report, then do not buy the home. Most real estate contracts automatically provide an inspection contingency.

Closing Costs: Buying or Refinancing a Home

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This is a detailed summary of costs you may have to pay when you buy or refinance your home. They are listed in the order that they should appear on a Good Faith Estimate you obtain from a mortgage lender. There are two broad categories of closing costs. Non-recurring closing costs are items that are paid once and you never pay again. Recurring closing costs are items you pay time and again over the course of home ownership, such as property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Some of the items that appear here do not traditionally appear on a lender’s Good Faith Estimate and lenders are not required to show all of these items.

Non-Recurring Closing Costs Associated with the Lender.

Loan Origination Fee – The loan origination fee is often referred to as points. One point is equal to one percent of the mortgage loan. As a rule, if you are willing to pay more in points, you will get a lower interest rate. On a VA or FHA loan, the loan origination fee is one point. Any additional points are called discount points.

Loan Discount – On a government loan, the loan origination fee is normally listed as one point or one percent of the loan. Any points in addition to the loan origination fee are called discount points. On a conventional loan, discount points are usually lumped in with the loan origination fee.

Appraisal Fee – Since your property serves as collateral for the mortgage, lenders want to be reasonably certain of the value and they require an appraisal. The appraisal looks to determine if the price you are paying for the home is justified by recent sales of comparable properties. The appraisal fee varies, depending on the value of the home and the difficulty involved in justifying value. Unique and more expensive homes usually have a higher appraisal fee. Appraisal fees on VA loans are higher than on conventional loans.

Credit Report – As part of the underwriting review, your mortgage lender will want to review your credit history. The cost of running the credit report can vary and is included in closing costs.

Lender’s Inspection Fee – You normally find this fee on new construction and is associated with what is called a 442 Inspection. Since the property is not finished when the initial appraisal is done, the 442 Inspection is done when the building is completed and verifies that construction is complete with carpeting and flooring installed.

Mortgage Broker Fee – About seventy percent of loans are originated through mortgage brokers and they will sometimes list your points in this area instead of the Loan Origination Fee category. They may also add any broker processing fees in this area so you clearly understand how much is being charged by the wholesale lender and how much is being charged by the broker. Wholesale lenders offer lower costs/rates to mortgage brokers than you can obtain directly, so you are not paying extra by going through a mortgage broker.

Tax Service Fee – During the life of your loan you will be making property tax payments, either on your own or through your impound account with the lender. Since property tax liens can sometimes take precedence over a first mortgage, it is in your lender’s interest to pay an independent service to monitor property tax payments.

Flood Certification Fee – Your lender must determine whether or not your property is located in a federally designated flood zone. This is a fee usually charged by an independent service to make that determination.

Flood Monitoring – From time to time flood zones are re-mapped. Some lenders charge this fee to maintain monitoring on whether this re-mapping affects your property.

Other Lender Fees

We put these in a separate category because they vary so much from lender to lender and cannot be associated directly with a cost of the loan. These fees generate income for the lenders and are used to offset the fixed costs of loan origination. The Processing Fee mentioned above can also fall into this category, but since it is listed higher on the Good Faith Estimate Form we did not also include it here. You will normally find some combination of these fees on your Good Faith Estimate.

Document Preparation – Before computers made it fairly easy for lenders to draw their own loan documents, they used to hire specialized document preparation firms for this function. This was the fee charged by those companies. Nowadays, lenders draw their own documents but this fee is charged on almost all loans.

Underwriting Fee – Once again, it is difficult to determine the exact cost of underwriting a loan since the underwriter is usually a paid staff member.

Administration Fee – If an Administration Fee is charged, you will probably find there is no Underwriting Fee. This is not always the case.

Appraisal Review Fee – Even though you will probably not see this fee on your Good Faith Estimate, it is charged occasionally. Some lenders routinely review appraisals as a quality control procedure, especially on higher valued properties.

Warehousing Fee – This is rarely charged and begins to border on the ridiculous. However, some lenders have a warehouse line of credit and add this as a charge to the borrower.

Items Required to be Paid in Advance

Pre-paid Interest – Mortgage loans are usually due on the first of each month. Since loans can close on any day, a certain amount of interest must be paid at closing to get the interest paid up to the first. For example, if you close on the twentieth, you will pay ten days of pre-paid interest.

Homeowner’s Insurance – This is the insurance you pay to cover possible damages to your home and other items. If you buy a home, you will normally pay the first year’s insurance when you close the transaction. If you are buying a condominium, your Homeowners’ Association Fees normally cover this insurance.

VA Funding Fee – On VA loans, the Veterans Administration charges a fee for guaranteeing your loan. The fee will be a percentage of the loan balance but the exact percentage will vary depending on whether you have used your VA eligibility in the past. Instead of actually paying this as an out-of-pocket expense, most veterans choose to finance it, so it gets added to the loan balance. This is why the loan balance on VA loans can be higher than the actual purchase amount.

Up Front Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP) – This is charged on FHA purchases of single-family residences (SFR’s) or Planned Unit Developments (PUDs). Like the VA Funding Fee it is normally added to the balance of the loan. Unlike a VA loan, the homebuyer must also pay a monthly mortgage insurance fee, too. This is why many lenders do not recommend FHA loans if the homebuyer can qualify for a conventional loan. Condominium purchases do not require the UFMIP.

Mortgage Insurance – Though it is rare nowadays, some first-time homebuyer programs still require the first year mortgage insurance premium to be paid in advance. Most mortgage insurance (when required) is simply paid monthly along with your mortgage payment. Mortgage insurance covers the lender and covers a portion of the losses in those cases where borrowers default on their loans.

Reserves Deposited with Lender

If you make a minimum down payment, you may be required to deposit funds into an impound account. Funds in this account are your funds, and the lender uses them to make the payments on your homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and mortgage insurance (whichever is applicable). Each month, in addition to your mortgage payment, you provide additional funds which are deposited into your impound account.

The lender’s goal is to always have sufficient funds to pay your bills as they come due. Sometimes impound accounts are not required, but borrowers request one voluntarily. A few lenders even offer to reduce your loan origination fee if you obtain an impound account. However, if you are disciplined about paying your bills and an impound account is not required, you can probably earn a better rate of return by putting the funds into a savings account. Impound accounts are sometimes referred to as escrow accounts.

Homeowners Insurance Impounds – your lender will divide your annual premium by twelve to come up with an estimated monthly amount for you to pay into your impound account. Since a lender is allowed to keep two months of reserves in your account, you will have to deposit two months into the impound account to start it up.

Property Tax Impounds – How much you will have to deposit towards taxes to start up your impound account varies according to when you close your real estate transaction. For example, you may close in November and property taxes are due in December. Your deposit would be higher than for someone closing in May.

Mortgage Insurance Impounds – When required, most lenders allow this to simply be paid monthly. However, you may be required to put two months’ worth of mortgage insurance as an initial deposit into your impound account.

Non-Recurring Closing Costs not associated with the Lender

Closing/Escrow/Settlement Fee – Methods of closing a real estate transaction vary from state to state, as do the fees.

Title Insurance – Title Insurance assures the homeowner that they have clear title to the property. The lender also requires it to insure that their new mortgage loan will be in first position. The costs vary depending on whether you are purchasing a home or refinancing.

Notary Fees – Most sets of loan documents have two or three forms that must be notarized. Usually your settlement or escrow agent will arrange for you to sign these forms at their office and will charge a notary fee.

Recording Fees – Certain documents get recorded with your local county recorder. Fees vary regionally.

Pest Inspection – This is also referred to as a Termite Inspection. This inspection tests not only for pest infestations, but also other items such as wood rot and water damage. If repairs are required, the amount to cover those repairs can vary. The seller will usually pay for the most serious repairs, but this is a negotiable item. Usually (not always) the pest inspection fee is paid by the seller of the home and is not normally reflected on the Good Faith Estimate.

Home Inspection – Since it is the homebuyer’s choice to obtain a home inspection or not, this cost is not usually reflected on a Good Faith Estimate. However, it is recommended. Keep in mind that the home inspector has a certain set of standards he uses when inspecting a home, and those standards may be higher than required by local building codes. An example is that an inspector may note there is no spark arrestor on a chimney but the local building code may not require it. This sometimes leads to conflicts between buyer and seller.

Home Warranty – This is also an optional item and not normally included on the Good Faith Estimate. A Home Warranty usually covers such items as the major appliances, should they break down within a specific time. Often this is paid by the seller.

Refinancing Associated Costs (but not charged by the new Lender)

Interest – When you close the transaction on your refinance, there will most likely be some outstanding interest due on the old loan. For example, if you close on August twentieth (and you made your last payment), you will have twenty days interest due on the old loan and ten days prepaid interest on the new loan. Your first payment on the new loan would not be until October 1st since you have already paid all of August’s interest when you closed the refinance transaction (since interest is paid in arrears, a September payment would have paid August’s interest, which has already been paid in closing).

Reconveyance Fee – This fee is charged by your existing lender when they “reconvey” their collateral interest in your property back to you through recording of a Reconveyance.

Demand Fee – Your existing lender may charge a fee for calculating payoff figures.

Sub-Escrow fee – Though it sounds like an escrow fee, this fee is actually charged by the Title Company. Assume it is an income-generating fee similar to some of the lender fees mentioned above.

Loan Tie-in Fee – Though it sounds like a lender fee, this cost is actually charged by the Escrow Company.

Homeowner’s Association Transfer Fee – If you are buying a condominium or a home with a Homeowner’s Association, the association often charges a fee to transfer all of their ownership documents to you.

Asking the Seller to Pay Closing Costs – Rules and Advice.

It has become common to ask the seller to pay some or all of the closing costs when you purchase a home. Essentially, this is financing your closing costs since you will probably pay a little bit more for the property than you would if you were paying your own costs.

Keep in mind a few simple rules. On conventional loans you can only ask the seller to pay non-recurring costs, not prepaid fees or items to be paid in advance. If you are putting ten percent down or more, the most the seller can contribute is six percent of the purchase price. If you are putting less down, the most the seller can contribute is three percent.

On VA loans, you can ask the seller to pay everything. This is called a “VA No-No”, meaning the buyer is making no down payment and paying no closing costs.

On FHA loans, the seller can pay almost any cost, but the buyer has to have a minimum three percent investment in the home/closing costs.

Most refinances include the closing costs and prepaids in the new loan amount, requiring little or no out-of-pocket expenses to close the deal.

If you didn’t get bored as you read through this, now you know everything (almost) about closing costs.