When someone buys or sells a home there are fees charged to both the buyer and seller. The buyer pays most of the fees in my area (Northern VA-Washington DC), with the seller paying commissions and some other smaller fees. One of those fees is the seller settlement fee. This charge sometimes gets lost in the shuffle as the buyer fees dominate conversation in the transaction. Just the other day, I had a crazy transaction where the listing agent through a huge fit because he thought our seller settlement fee was frivolous and as a Title Company, we represent the buyer, so the buyer should pay it. Far from the truth! I still find it interesting how many Realtors still don’t understand the charges on a settlement statement or where it says in a purchase contract, who pays for what. In this blog, I want to go over the seller settlement statement and explain the charges so anyone selling a home knows what that charge means at closing.
Seller Settlement Fee Explained…
For anyone who has bought a home, you know that on top of buying Title Insurance, there are also charges for the settlement fee. That includes doing the title search, title binder, executing terms and conditions of the purchase contract, etc. If you have sold a home, there is also a settlement fee. As a neutral 3rd party to a real estate transaction, we represent the “Contract of Sale,” not the buyer or seller. We do work on behalf of both parties, but there is no direct representation. The charge for a seller settlement fee varies depending on where you are in the country but in my area, it ranges from $400-$600 approx. What does that include? Again, it varies on each state and market, but it usually includes:
- Executing terms and conditions of the purchase contract for the seller
- Ordering the payoff
- Tracking down any lien releases (those are fun)
- Following up to ensure the lender released the lien
- Conduct the closing for the seller
- Wire transfer of funds to the seller after closing
Again, there could be a couple of items added depending on what market you are in, but in essence, this is what we do in the seller settlement fee. What many don’t realize is tracking down liens and getting them released can in many instances be very time-consuming and take a lot of work. What if the Title Company that did the prior closing is out of business? What if the sellers can’t find their earlier paperwork? In reality, the fee we charge on the seller settlement fee is very reasonable vs the time and effort that is put in to get the seller to closing.
Other Things to Consider
In my real-life drama where the agent thought our fee was “frivolous,” we then had to deal with the real seller who after closing (where he netted $121K) asked for his money back because he also thought we represented the buyer and our fee was “made up.” I kindly told him we were not inclined to refund his money and explained again the fees and where the contract stated the seller pay for their settlement fee.
This is my opinion is a very understated and not talked about side of the Title business. A lot of work is completed on the seller side of the transaction when 90% of the fees are on the buyer side. Keep this in mind next time you ask your Title Company for a discount on seller fees. There are many things an escrow staff does to ensure the title is transferred to the buyer properly and things get to closing smoothly.
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