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It might be harder to get a loan today, but it costs a little less to close one than it did a year ago because lenders are estimating closing costs better, according to the latest annual survey of closing costs by Bankrate.

The average cost to close on a mortgage in the United States dropped 7 percent over the past year to $3,754, according to Bankrate.com’s eighth annual closing costs survey, which was released today. Title insurance and other third-party fees fell 12 percent from 2011, while origination fees edged down one percent.

“This is the second year in which lenders are required to estimate third-party fees within 10 percent of the final cost. It seems like they’re getting more accurate, which helps explain the sharp decrease in these fees over the past year,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate.com’s senior financial analyst. “The main lesson of this survey for consumers is to shop around for at least three different estimates. While no one is going to move to a new state just because closing costs are lower, it’s important for people to realize that there is variation even within their neighborhood, and that they can save by being an educated consumer.”

For the third straight year, New York State has the nation’s most expensive closing costs at an average of $5,435. The next most expensive states are Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida and Oklahoma. The least expensive state is Missouri ($3,006 on average), which is joined by Kansas, Colorado, Iowa and Arkansas among the five cheapest states.

Bankrate surveyed up to 10 lenders in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia in June 2012. Researchers obtained online good faith estimates for a $200,000 mortgage to buy a single-family home with a 20 percent down payment. Costs include fees charged by lenders, as well as third-party fees for services such as appraisals and title insurance. The survey excludes taxes, property insurance, association fees, interest and other prepaid items.

For more information, visit www.realestateeconomywatch.com.