Junk Fees From Title, Escrow, and Attorneys

Junk-FeeLast two posts, I wrote about lender junk fees. Now as promised, today is about the unnecessary, bogus, and redundant fees that some settlement agents are tacking on. (The settlement agent is the neutral third party that handles the closing of the loan: signing and notarizing final documents, getting the Deed to the county to record, handling the disbursement of funds.)

The settlement agent can be a title company rep., an escrow agent (common in the West), or an attorney (common in the East). It is your choice, as a buyer or as a home owner refinancing.

Over the past seven years or so, more and more settlement agents are adding junk fees to their closing costs. It seems like they’ve said, “Hey, look at all these lender junk fees! Let’s see how I can pad my own profits by adding a few of my own.”

Then once one well-known company adds bogus fees, their competition sees it as a green light to jump on the bandwagon. It’s disgusting the way greed grows like a toxic black fungus.

Fortunately, there are good, ethical closing agents who do not charge extra for their services. I encourage you to choose these agents and help clean up the business by starving out the greedy ones. It is YOUR choice which settlement closing agent you use. (Per the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, Section 9)

To help you, here is my personal list of fee pet peeves.

 Unnecessary or Bogus Fees I Don’t Want to See From a Closing Agent (alphabetical order)

* Archive or filing fee (You shouldn’t pay extra for their filing system. That is part of being in business.)

* Courier or messenger fee (Getting the signed documents back to the lender is part of what the closing agent’s large fee should cover. Moreover, FedEx and UPS, the services most agents use now, charges about $40 to overnight documents, so they shouldn’t show a padded fee of $60 – $100, as they often do.)

* Document preparation fee (Preparing the closing Settlement Statement and a handful of other boiler plate forms is what their main big fee covers. Adding this is redundant and borders on dishonest, in my opinion.)

* Email or edoc fee (They don’t need to charge you $50 to $150 to receive the documents from the lender by email. That is part of their normal job.)

* Wire fee (While banks do charge a nominal fee to wire funds, none of the good settlement agents tack on this fee for their clients. They figure it is part of what their big fee covers.)

Fees that are not junk are title insurance, title search, endorsements, loan tie-in, or other reasonable and customary title fees.

Here is a copy from an actual closing statement from a loan in California, $625,000 loan:

Closing/Escrow Fee ESTIMATED $ 1,300.00
Notary Fee  $ 125.00
Lender’s Title Insurance ESTIMATED  $ 799.00
Endorsements $ 75.00
Courier / Messenger  $ 65.00
E-Doc Fee  $ 75.00
Loan Tie In Fee  $ 150.00

My Comments: Evidently, this escrow settlement agent doesn’t think $1,300 is enough to make for their services. They are adding a $65 courier/messenger fee and a $75 email fee. If I were that borrower, I would either insist that the extra $140 be waived or I would choose a different closing agent. In addition, if I did not require a notary to come out to me, because I would sign in the agent’s office during normal business hours, I would ask for the notary fee to be waived.

If you see another garbage fee, please send me a message via my Ask a Question page or comment on this post at the top right. If you would like to recommend or warn about a good or bad closing agent, please let me know, because I am keeping a list.

Let’s all do our part to clean up the mortgage industry — including the closing side — by giving our business to the good, ethical agents.

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21 responses

  1. Many of the settlement agencies that we’ve looked into seem to have an “all inclusive” fee, making it difficult to determine the specific cost of their junk fees. We were wondering what a fairly reasonable “all inclusive” fee would be in the Northeast, e.g., would the $1300 in your article’s estimate be outrageous if they hadn’t added on the obvious junk fees?

    1. The settlement fee charged by the title/escrow company depends mostly on the loan size. Secondly, it depends somewhat on the county and zip code. Without knowing your loan amount, it is impossible for me to comment on $1,300 except to say that I think it would reflect a large loan amount. You might try using the online fee calculator for First American, a competitively priced settlement agency. You will need to click on “all fees” in order to see the escrow/settlement fee. http://www.firstam.com/title/nh/resources/title-fee-calculator.html

  2. Kaushik R Vemareddy | Reply

    Carolyn,

    I have these fees

    Escrow fees: 1230
    Additional processing fee: 100
    Loan tie in fee: 250 (I have only one loan)
    Courier fee: 45
    Notary fee: 175

    I have requested for removal of loan tie in, notary & processing.
    This is the response I got from the agent for loan tie up fee

    “$250 loan tie in per loan package. All title companies charge it. It’s a loan package processing fee. Our fees are registered with the insurance commissioner.”

    1. Fees vary greatly from region to region and state to state. You don’t say which state you are in, but from the fees, I am guessing California. Many title companies in CA charge a loan tie-in fee. First American Title does not. So it is not true that “all companies charge it,” and you are welcome to tell them that First Am does not and that you don’t appreciate being given false information.

      Some companies that charge a notary fee will waive it if you go into their office during business hours so that they don’t have to hire a mobile notary. I think that is fair. Here in WA where I am, any title company that charges a notary fee is going to have a hard time getting business, because the great majority of them do not–even if the buyer needs a mobile notary!

      Just because their fees are registered with the insurance commissioner doesn’t mean they are low or fair fees. A company can register junk fees if they want to.

      As a reminder, you can mention that you will be leaving feedback about their company on social media sites such as Yelp and Google review. That might have some influence.

      Good luck and please stop back and let me know what the outcome is, because I am all for people getting rid of the JUNK!

      1. FIrst American charged me a New Loan Services Fee of $345 that’s same as Loan tie in fee, isn’t it?

      2. Is the First American representative telling you it is the same? I have not seen First Am charge that fee in the states where I close loans: CA and WA. I would need to know what other fees they had in order to comment further. Also, the title and escrow fees are based on the loan amount, which I do not know.

  3. Giulia C Lawrence | Reply

    Hi there! We received an initial Estimated Closing Statement from our Escrow company, and I noticed that they were taking the standard California 3 1/3% withholding for taxes. I decided that we would itemize instead, by filling out the necessary forms and having them re-run the Estimated Closing Statement. When I received the new ECS later the same day, I did see the $6900 savings on state taxes that I expected. However, under the Title Charges section, there was a new $500 fee that wasn’t there before, called PAD. What is that?? I’ve tried to Google it but nothing relevant came up. Thanks!

    1. You have a good question, Giulia. I will write a blog post about that in the near future.

      When it comes time to wire funds and close your loan, if escrow discovers that you are even one dollar short, they cannot close. Delaying the closing could be disastrous for buyers and sellers. Therefore, they often create a safety net or pad with extra money. Typically, it runs anywhere from $300 to $500. It is not a fee. It is money there just in case. After closing if none of the money was used, all $500 gets refunded to you. Or, whatever is left of the pad is refunded to you.

      Don’t worry, there are no scams or rip-offs with this practice.

      1. Giulia C Lawrence

        Thanks, Carolyn. It was just a bit suspicious to me that the fee appeared on the second Closing Statement, but not the first, and with no mention of the change from the Escrow company. I appreciate the clarification.

  4. There are two title fees in the closing costs, $700 for the “owner,” which I infer is the borrower who will become the new owner, and $850 for the lender.
    1) Why would it cost an additional $150 to insure the lender?
    2) This seems redundant; if the title is insured, why does the lender need title insurance too?
    3) I would suspect the lender is either self insuring and pocketing the $850 or subbing out the insurance and pocketing the $150 difference.
    This is in California

    1. In California, the current owner (the seller) pays the lender’s title insurance fee. This is the higher fee of the two, so that’s good for you.

      None of the title insurance fees go to the lender. All goes to the title company.

      I will make a blog post with more information, so please check back Monday or Tuesday.

  5. Why does the escrow fee get calculated based on purchase price? Is there more work for escrow when the price is higher? For example when purchasing a home $1.5MM vs $2.5MM. I’m in CA. Thanks

    1. That’s a great question, Cathy. With a refinance, many escrow companies charge a flat fee, not based on the loan amount or property value. So why should they charge more when it is a purchase loan?

      I have posed the question to several escrow companies, and I will post again when I receive a response. In the meantime, I suspect it is nothing more then “tradition.” They are charging more because they all do it, and therefore, they CAN. Wouldn’t it be great to see an escrow company get the competitive edge by offering a flat fee instead?

  6. Hi Carolyn,

    Thanks for this informative blog. I only wish I read it before my loan closed. I was kind of in a hurry and also did not know I could choose my own Escrow Agent. I bought a 2nd home, Condo, for $440,000 (paid 20% down) in California. Here are some of the fees I have doubts over:

    Archive Fee 25
    Email loan docs 100
    Endorsements 25
    Escrow Fee 1,250
    FTB Fee 45
    Lender’s Title Insurance 584
    Loan Tie in Fee 495
    Messenger/Fed Ex Fee 32
    Processing HOA 100
    Recording Service Fee 13
    Sub Escrow 63
    Notary Fees 40
    Recording Trust Deed 113

    I get the Escrow Fee, Title Insurance and Record Trust fees, but the rest looks very suspect. Should Loan Tie-In fee that high? Since the loan closed do Escrow ever refund after the fact?

    Thank you in advance,
    Steve

    1. Wow, what a boatload of garbage fees! I am so sorry that happened to you, Steve. If I had been your loan officer, I never would have let you pay all the junk fees, and I would have told you which escrow company in CA does not charge a loan tie-in fee at all. You had the legal right to say no. I am licensed to do loans in CA and WA.

      Once the loan is closed, you have no legal options. Chalk it up to a lesson learned and help educate your friends and associates. You can also warn others by writing a review on Yelp. My bestselling book, Mortgage Rip-Offs and Money Savers, is still largely relevant even though the Estimate Worksheet has replaced the Good Faith Estimate.

  7. Hi Carolyn,

    Thank you so much for this wonderful blog. We made an offer at for a home in Southern California and these are the fees that appeared in Section C of Loan Estimate. I assume most of these fees goes to the Escrow Company or are they fees charged by the Bank? Some seems way too high…

    Flood Certification Fee $20
    Tax Service Fee $85
    Title – AnnualTI/Escrow $1,350
    Title – Courier Service $600
    Title – Doc Prep $300
    Title – EDoc and Handling $200
    Title – Lender Coverage
    Title – Loan Tie-In Fee $500
    Title – Notary Fee $250
    Title – Overnight Fee $50
    Title – Processing Fee $400
    Title – Tax Certificate
    Title – Title Deed Prep $250
    Title – Wire Fee $30

    We just found out the seller’s wife owns the Escrow Company, if we change escrow company, who knows, they might cancel the deal, any suggestions would be wonderful.

    Thank you so much!!

    Warren

    1. Warren, you are correct. These just might be the highest and worst title/escrow fees I have ever seen! They are outrageous and unacceptable. For example:

      Courier Service: Should be 0 to $50. (Pays for Fed Ex or UPS)
      Doc Prep: Should be $0 to $100 max
      EDoc and Handling: Totally bogus and unacceptable! They are already charging Doc Prep, so this is redundant.
      Loan Tie-In Fee: $200 5o $250 is normal in CA. I have never seen $500!
      Notary: Should be $100 to $150.
      Overnight Fee: Redundant double-charge. They are already charging Courier. The courier needs to go away since they are charging FedEx or UPS Overnight Fee.
      Processing Fee: Bogus junk fee: needs to disappear.
      Title Deed Prep: Bogus, redundant double-charge!

      Federal Law says it is Buyer’s Choice, no exceptions! You have the legal right to change escrow companies, and there is nothing they can do to stop it — unless they want the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and the CA Attorney General breathing down their necks and leveling huge fines! Tell them you want to switch to First American Title and Escrow, and you will file a complaint with the CFPB if they try to stop you. Tell them you don’t appreciate being a victim of over-pricing and coercion.

      Let me know what happens, please. If they don’t cooperate, I want you to file a complaint with the CFPB, who will investigate.

  8. Jose Homes Erazo | Reply

    ” loan tie in fee ” so call fee , apply only when we have a junior Loan , but after the 80/20 Era ,,some escrow companies still contimueing charging this fee , with only one loan , this is really a junk fee

    1. Thank you for sharing that insight, Jose.

  9. Maria Cristina Chavez | Reply

    Hi Carolyn,

    My name is Maria and I am in the process of Refinancing my duplex in CA. I will be cashing but I am reading a lot of these post and websites that talk about the extra Title Fees and am a little scared to sign if these charges don’t make any sense to me.
    My loan amount is for 290k and these are my Fees:

    Title – Courier Fee $85
    Title – Doc Prep $125
    Title – Endorsements $100
    Title – Escrow Fee $800
    Title – Lenders Title Insurance $851
    Title – Notary Fee $175
    Title – Wire Fee $75

    I want to know if this seems at all reasonable?
    I want to save money on this Refi not waste it.

    Thank you,
    Maria Chavez

    1. Maria,
      You are wise to look at these fees, because there is a lot of extra “junk” there! As a home owner refinancing, it is your legal right to choose the title company, and you are also within your right to change companies as well.

      The fees I don’t like are courier, doc prep, and wire. That is an extra $285. In addition, not all title companies charge Endorsements. I suggest that you get a quote from First American Title and Escrow and Old Republic Title and Escrow. Do a Google search + your zip code to find a local office with phone number.

      Please write back and let me know how it goes.
      Carolyn

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