CFPB Launches Inquiry Into Rising Mortgage Closing Costs and Junk Fees

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has initiated a public inquiry into the mounting junk fees that are elevating mortgage closing costs. The bureau aims to uncover why these costs are increasing, who benefits from them, and how both borrower and lender expenses can be reduced.

From 2021 to 2023, median total loan costs for home mortgages surged by over 36%, according to a CFPB analysis. These rising costs strain household budgets and diminish families’ ability to afford down payments. They also challenge lenders, who either absorb the higher costs or pass them on to borrowers, limiting their ability to offer competitive mortgages.

“Junk fees and excessive closing costs can drain down payments and push up monthly mortgage costs,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “The CFPB is looking for ways to reduce anticompetitive fees that harm both homebuyers and lenders.”

When people take out mortgage loans to buy homes or access home equity, they face multiple fees. These include charges for credit reporting and title insurance. Even when disclosed, borrowers often have no control over these costs and must pay them. In 2022, median closing costs reached $6,000, eroding home equity and making homeownership less attainable.

Mortgage lenders also suffer from junk fees and high closing costs. For instance, the cost of a credit report has risen significantly in recent years. This increase can deter lenders from competing for every potential mortgage, as the fees drive up the cost of evaluating applicants.

Title insurance is another substantial fee at closing. Typically, borrowers pay for lender’s title insurance to protect against property issues affecting the lender. Consumers usually have limited opportunities to shop around for title insurance, reducing their bargaining power.

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The CFPB’s inquiry seeks input from the public, including borrowers and lenders, about how mortgage closing costs might be inflated and restricting the mortgage market. Specifically, the bureau wants information on several key areas:

Competition on Fees: The CFPB is interested in understanding the degree to which consumers or lenders apply competitive pressure on third-party closing costs. It also seeks to identify market barriers that limit competition.

Fee Setting and Profits:* The bureau wants to know who benefits from required services and whether lenders have oversight or leverage over third-party costs passed on to consumers.

Changing Fees and Consumer Impact: The CFPB requests information on which costs have increased the most in recent years and the reasons behind these increases, such as the rising costs of credit reports and scores. Additionally, the bureau seeks data on how closing costs impact housing affordability, access to homeownership, and home equity.

Unlocking the Path to Fairer Mortgage Costs

This inquiry carries significant implications. For one, addressing excessive fees could make homeownership more attainable by reducing upfront costs. Lower closing costs mean more money stays in the hands of homebuyers, potentially increasing their purchasing power and financial stability.

For lenders, reducing these costs could enhance their ability to compete for more mortgage applicants. Lower fees may allow smaller institutions to compete with larger ones, fostering a more competitive market and better options for consumers.

Moreover, transparency and fairness in closing costs can improve trust between consumers and financial institutions. If borrowers feel they are getting a fair deal, they are more likely to engage confidently in financial transactions, benefiting the overall market.

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In sum, the CFPB’s investigation into mortgage closing costs and junk fees is a crucial step towards creating a more equitable and efficient housing market. By seeking public input and scrutinizing these costs, the bureau aims to foster a fairer environment for both borrowers and lenders. This move could pave the way for more affordable homeownership and a healthier, more competitive mortgage market.

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