What Is a Recording Fee?

The term recording fee refers to an expense charged by a government agency for registering or recording the purchase or sale of a piece of real estate. The transaction is recorded so it becomes a matter of public record. Recording fees are generally charged by the county where the transaction takes place since it maintains records of all property purchases and sales. The amount of the recording fee varies from county to county.

Key Takeaways

  • A recording fee is an expense charged by a government agency for registering or recording the purchase or sale of a piece of real estate. 
  • Recording fees cover the costs of the services provided by the clerk or recording agency that must maintain complete official documents. 
  • Recording fees are paid for affidavits, leases, mortgages, corner certificates, uniform commercial code filings, changes of title, deeds, and others.

Understanding Recording Fees

The purchase and sale of real estate come with closing costs. These are expenses that buyers or sellers pay to complete the transaction. In some cases, both parties may agree to split the costs. Closing costs include expenses like appraisal fees, loan origination fees, title searches and insurance, surveys, taxes, and recording fees.

Counties record mortgages and other liens against a home or other piece of property along with its title. These government agencies generally charge a fee to do so. This is known as the recording fee. Counties charge a recording fee in order to make the information easily accessible to the general public by covering the costs of the services provided by the clerk or recording agency that must maintain complete and accurate copies of official documents. These documents may be used for legal and transactional purposes, such as when title searches are conducted as part of a sale.

In many instances, the buyer pays the recording fees for the new mortgage and deed to be entered into a legal record. The amount depends on the type and complexity of the real estate transaction. The recording fee for a deed may cost $12 in one county, while another county charges buyers $15. Costs may also vary depending on the size of the document. For instance, a land record instrument may have a $60 fee for the first page, then $5 for every subsequent page. Another agency may charge $84 for the first page and then $1 for every other page after that. The fees may also change over time as the agency and county deem necessary.

Documents that generally incur recording fees include affidavits, leases, mortgages, corner certificates, uniform commercial code filings, changes of title, deeds, registration of trade names, boundary surveys, powers of attorney (POAs), bills of sale, and other contracts. Depending on the jurisdiction and guidelines, transactions such as bank mergers may need to be documented with recording fees as well.

Special Considerations

The recordkeeping associated with recording fees is important for several reasons. It provides the general public with the means to access information about properties including who holds the title and, if applicable, any additional lienholders. Failing to record the transaction—by failing to pay the associated fees—can lead to a number of problems including possible disputes over ownership and trouble getting a mortgage. In fact, many banks will not finalize the paperwork for a mortgage until the recording fees are paid in full and the transaction is registered with the county.

Most banks will not finalize a mortgage until the transaction is recorded with the county.

While a lot of the process is now done online, many counties still haven't adopted or made use of electronic recordkeeping, which can make the entire process very time-consuming. These counties may require that documents be submitted in person or mailed directly to the agency. Some agencies may also prefer payments of recording fees to be made by check, charging additional fees when credit card payments are made.