What Is A Conventional Home Loan?

Nothing compares to scrolling through listings until you find the home with the perfect garden, garage, and floors. Then comes the less fun part: figuring out how to finance your home purchase.

For the vast majority of people, acquiring a new home means taking out a mortgage, a loan for the part of the house cost that isn’t covered by the down payment.

U.S. homeownership hovers near 66%, and millennials continue to be the biggest share of buyers. What kind of loan do most go for? The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. But conventional loan requirements vary, and some may find that a government-sponsored loan is a better fit.

Let’s take a closer look at conventional loan requirements and the difference between FHA and conventional loans.

Conventional Mortgages Explained

Conventional mortgages are insured by private lenders, not a government agency, and are the most common type of home loan.

Then there are government-guaranteed home loans. FHA loans are more commonly used than VA loans (for service members, veterans, and eligible surviving spouses) and USDA loans (rural housing). Government loans are often easier to qualify for.

Taking out a conventional home loan means that you are making an agreement with a lender to pay back what you borrowed, with interest.

And unlike with an FHA loan, the government does not offer any assurances to the lender that you will pay back that loan. That’s why lenders look at things like your credit score and down payment when deciding whether to offer you a conventional mortgage and at what rate.

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Two Main Types of Conventional Loans

Fixed Rate

A conventional loan with a fixed interest rate is one in which the rate won’t change over the life of the loan. If you have a “fully amortized conventional loan,” your monthly principal and interest payment will stay the same each month.

Although fixed-rate loans can provide predictability when it comes to payments, they may initially have higher interest rates than adjustable-rate mortgages.

Fixed-rate conventional loans can be a great option for homebuyers during periods of low rates because they can lock in a rate and it won’t rise, even decades from now.

Adjustable Rate

Adjustable-rate mortgages have the same interest rate for a set period of time, and then the rate will adjust for the rest of the loan term.

The major upside to choosing an ARM is that the initial rate is usually set below prevailing interest rates and remains constant for six months to 10 years.

A 7/6 ARM of 30 years will have a fixed rate for the first seven years, and then the rate will adjust once every six months over the remaining 23 years. A 5/1 ARM will have a fixed rate for five years, followed by a variable rate that adjusts every year.

An ARM may be a good option if you’re not planning on staying in the home long term. The downside, of course, is that if you are, your interest rate could end up higher than you want it to be.

Most adjustable-rate conventional mortgages have limits on how much the interest rate can increase over time. These caps protect a borrower from facing an unexpectedly steep rate hike.

Conventional Home Loan Requirements

Conventional mortgage requirements vary by lender, but almost all private lenders will require you to have a cash down payment, a good credit score, and sufficient income to make the monthly payments.

Many lenders that offer conventional loans require that you have enough cash to make a decent down payment. Even if you can manage it, is 20% down always best? It might be more beneficial to put down less than 20% on your dream house.

You’ll also need to demonstrate a good credit history. For example, you’ll want to show that you make loan payments on time every month.

Each conventional loan lender sets its own requirements when it comes to credit scores, but generally, the higher your credit score, the easier it will be to secure a conventional mortgage at a competitive interest rate.

Most lenders will require you to show that you have a sufficient monthly income to meet the mortgage payments. They will also require information about your employment and bank accounts.

How Do FHA and Conventional Loans Differ?

One of the main differences between FHA loans and conventional loans is that the latter are not insured by a federal agency.

FHA loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration, so lenders take on less risk. If a borrower defaults, the FHA will help the lender recoup some of the lost costs.

FHA loans are easier to qualify for, and are geared toward lower- and middle-income homebuyers. They require at least 3.5% down.

Additionally, the loans are limited to a certain amount of money, depending on the geographic location of the house you’re buying. The lender administering the FHA loan can impose its own requirements as well.

An FHA loan can be a good option for a buyer with a lower credit score, but it also will require a more rigorous home appraisal and possibly a longer approval process than a conventional loan.

Conventional loans require private mortgage insurance if the down payment is less than 20%, but PMI will automatically terminate when the loan balance reaches 78% of the original value of the mortgaged property, unless the borrower asked to stop paying PMI once the balance reached 80% of the original property value.

FHA loans require mortgage insurance, no matter the down payment amount, and it cannot be canceled unless you refinance into a conventional loan.

The Takeaway

A conventional home loan and FHA loan differ in key ways, such as credit score requirements. If you’re ready to make your dream house a reality, you’ll want to size up your eligibility and your mortgage options.

SoFi offers fixed-rate home loans with as little as 5% down and terms of 10, 15, 20, and 30 years.

It takes just two minutes to get prequalified online.

SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


Source: sofi.com

7 Signs it’s Time for a Mortgage Refinance

Maybe you’ve considered refinancing your mortgage, but you’ve only dipped your toe in the exploratory waters. Is now the right time? Will rates stay low? Could they go lower?

It can be hard to know when to take the plunge.

Whether you purchased a home recently or bought a home years ago, you probably noticed that average mortgage rates continued to hover near historic lows in early 2021.

But as with any financial rate or data point, it is hard—if not impossible—to time the market or predict the future.

Homeowners often look to refinance when it could benefit them in some way, like with a lower monthly payment. Refinancing is the process of paying off a mortgage loan with new financing, ideally at a lower rate or with some other, more favorable, set of terms.

Here are seven signs that locking in a lower mortgage rate now could be the right move.

1. You Can Break Even Fairly Quickly

Refinancing a mortgage costs money—generally 2% to 5% of the principal amount. So if you are refinancing to save money, you’ll likely want to run numbers to be sure the math checks out.

To calculate the break-even point on a mortgage refinance—when savings exceed costs—do this:

1. Determine your monthly savings by subtracting your projected new monthly mortgage payment from your current monthly payment.
2. Find your tax rate (e.g., 22%) and subtract it from 1 for your after-tax rate.
3. Multiply monthly savings by the after-tax rate. This is your after-tax savings.
4. Take the total fees and closing costs of the new mortgage loan and divide that number by your monthly after-tax savings. This yields the number of months it will take to recover the costs of refinancing—or the break-even point.

For example, if you’re refinancing a $300,000, 30-year mortgage that has a fixed 6% rate to a new 4% rate, refinancing will reduce your original monthly payment from $1,799 to $1,432—a monthly savings of $367. Assuming a tax rate of 22%, the after-tax rate would be 0.78, which results in an after-tax savings of $286.26. If you have $12,000 in refinancing costs, it will take nearly 42 months to recoup the costs of refinancing ($12,000 / $286.26 = 41.9).

The length of time you intend to own the home can affect whether refinancing is worth the expense. You’ll want to run the calculations to make sure that you can break even on a timeline that works for you.

The rate and fees usually work in tandem. The lower the rate, the higher the cost. (“Buying down the rate” means paying an extra fee in the form of discount points. One point costs 1% of the mortgage amount.)

If you’re shopping, each mortgage lender you apply with is required to give you a loan estimate within three days of your application so you can compare terms and annual percentage rates. The APR, which includes the interest rate, points, and lender fees, reflects the true cost of borrowing.

2. You Can Reduce the Rate by at Least 0.5%

You may have heard conflicting ideas about when you should consider refinancing. The reason is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer; individual loan scenarios and goals differ.

One commonly espoused rule of thumb is that the home refinance rate should be a minimum of two percentage points lower than an existing mortgage’s rate. What may work for each individual depends on things like loan amount, interest rate, fees, and more.

However, the combination of larger mortgages and lenders offering lower closing cost options has changed that. For a large mortgage, even a change of 0.5% could result in significant savings, especially if the homeowner can avoid or minimize lender fees.

Maybe rates are low enough that you choose to take a higher rate with a no closing cost refi.

3. You Can Afford to Refinance to a 15-Year Mortgage

When you refinance a loan, you are getting an entirely new loan with new terms. Depending on your eligibility, it is possible to adjust aspects of your loan beyond the interest rate, such as the loan’s term or the type of loan (fixed vs. adjustable).

If you’re looking to save major money over the duration of your mortgage loan, you may want to consider a shorter term, such as 15 years. Shortening the term of your mortgage from 30 years to 15 years will likely cost you more monthly, but it could save thousands in interest over the life of the loan.

For example, a 30-year $1 million loan at a 7.5% interest rate would carry a monthly payment of approximately $6,992 and a total cost of around $1,517,172 over the life of the loan.

Refinancing to a 15-year mortgage with a 5.5% rate would result in a higher monthly payment, about $8,171, but the shorter maturity would result in total loan interest of around $470,750—an interest savings over the life of the loan of about $1,046,422 vs. the 30-year term.

One more perk: Lenders often charge a lower interest rate for a 15-year mortgage than for a 30-year home loan.

4. You’re Interested in Securing a Fixed Rate

Borrowers may take out an adjustable-rate mortgage because they may get a lower rate (at least initially) than on a fixed-rate mortgage for the same property. But just as the name states, the rate will adjust with market fluctuations.

Typically, ARMs for second mortgages such as home equity lines of credit are “pegged” to the prime rate, which generally moves in lockstep with the federal funds rate. First mortgage ARM rates are tied more closely to mortgage-backed securities or the 10-year Treasury note.

Even though ARM loans come with yearly and lifetime interest rate caps, if you believe that interest rates will move higher in the future and you plan to keep your loan for a while, you may want to consider a more stable fixed rate.

Refinancing to a fixed mortgage can protect your loan against rate increases in the future and provide the security of knowing how much you’ll be paying on your mortgage each month—no matter what the markets do.

5. You’re Considering an ARM

You may also be considering a move in the other direction—switching from a fixed-rate mortgage to an adjustable-rate mortgage. This could potentially make sense for someone with a 30-year fixed loan but who plans to leave their home much sooner.

For example, you could get a 7/1 ARM with a potential lower interest rate for the first seven years, and then the rate may change once a year, when up for review, as the market changes. If you plan to move on before higher rate changes, you could potentially save money.

It’s best to know exactly when the rate and payment will adjust, and how high. And it’s important to understand the loan’s margin, index, yearly and lifetime rate caps, and payments.

6. You’re Considering a Strategic Cash-Out Refi

In addition to updating the rate and terms of a mortgage loan, it may be possible to do a cash-out refinance, when you take out a new loan at a higher loan amount by tapping into available equity.

The lender will provide you with cash and in exchange will increase your loan amount, which will likely result in a higher monthly payment.

If you go this route, realize that you’re taking on more debt and using the equity you have built up in your home. Market value changes may result in a loss of home value and equity. Also, a mortgage loan is secured by your home, which means that the lender can seize the property if you are unable to make mortgage payments.

A cash-out refi may make sense if you use it as a tool to pay less interest on your overall debt load. Using the cash from the refinance to pay off debts carrying higher rates, like credit cards, could be a good move.

Depending on loan terms and other factors, a lower rate may allow for overall faster repayment of your other debts.

7. Your Financial Situation Has Improved

When putting together an offer for a mortgage, a lender will often take multiple aspects into consideration. One of those is prevailing interest rates. Another is your financial situation, like your credit history, credit score, income, and debt-to-income ratio.

The better your personal financial situation in the eyes of the lender, the more creditworthy you are—and the better the terms your loan offer could be.

Therefore, it may be possible to refinance your mortgage loan into better terms if your financial situation has improved since you took out the original loan, especially when paired with relatively low market rates.

The Takeaway

Is it time to refinance? Is the prospect of a lower interest rate or different loan term exciting? Locking in a lower rate now could help you achieve your long-term goals by freeing up cash for other stuff, like retirement or a big vacation.

Sometimes folks spend so much time sweating the small purchases (like the dang lattes) when really, it’s the big money moves—like refinancing—that can make the biggest difference over time.

If you’re interested in refinancing, you may want to look for a lender that’s offering competitive rates and great customer service.

That’s SoFi.

SoFi offers a regular mortgage refinance and a cash-out refinance.

Check your rate in two minutes.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


Source: sofi.com

Competing Against Multiple Offers on a House

For every piece of property on the real estate market, there could be anywhere from zero to infinite buyers who are hoping to call it home. OK, “infinite” is a stretch, but multiple-offer scenarios can be common when the race is on to purchase a new home.

Which house hunter comes out with keys in hand, however, depends on many circumstances.

Whether it’s a hot seller’s market or a slowly simmering buyer’s market, knowing how to handle a multiple-offer situation can help homebuyers beat out the competition.

Multiple Offers in a Seller’s Market

A seller’s market means the demand for houses is greater than the supply for sale, causing home prices to increase and often giving sellers a serious advantage.

It can get pretty competitive for those who need to buy a house, and multiple offers on a house become the new norm.

Seller’s markets and their state of multiple offers can happen for a few reasons:

•   More houses typically go up for sale during peak homebuying season in the summer, so seller’s markets are more common in the winter when inventory is low.
•   Cities that see steady population growth and increased job opportunities often experience a higher demand for housing, leading to multiple interested buyers making offers on limited inventory.
•   A decrease in interest rates could mean more people are able to qualify for mortgages, causing an uptick in homebuyers that might work to the seller’s advantage. More interested parties can mean more negotiation power.

Multiple Offers in a Buyer’s Market

In a buyer’s market, there’s a greater number of houses than buyers demanding them. In this case, homebuyers can be more selective about their terms, and sellers might have to compete with one another to be the most sought-after house on the block.

In a buyer’s market, house hunters typically have more negotiating power. The number of offers on the table is usually lower than in a seller’s market, and the winning bid is often lower than the listing price.

Are Buyers’ Agents Aware of Other Offers?

Unless house hunters are buying a house without an agent, there are certain cases where the buyer’s agent could be tipped off to other offers on the house.

A lot of it depends on the strategy of the sellers’ agent and whether it’s designed to stir up a bidding war with obscurity or transparency. Either way, the sellers and their agent could choose to:

•   Not disclose whether or not other buyers have made offers on the property.
•   Disclose the fact that there are other offers, but give no further transparency about how many or how much they’re offering.
•   Disclose the number of competing offers and their exact terms and/or amounts.

It’s up to the sellers and their agent to decide which strategy works best for their situation and, according to the National Association of Realtors® 2020 Code of Ethics & Standards of Practice, only with seller approval can an agent disclose the existence of other offers to potential buyers.

How Do Multiple Offers Affect a Home Appraisal?

After all that energy is expended trying to beat out other buyers, what happens in the event of an all-out bidding war? Some buyers may be tempted to keep increasing their offer to one-up the competition. Unfortunately, this could lead to drastically overpaying for the house.

In these cases, buyers can add an appraisal contingency to their offer, asserting that the appraised value of the property must meet or exceed the price they agreed to pay for it or they can walk away from the deal without losing their deposit.

But what about in competitive seller’s markets when making contingencies could mean losing the deal? In those cases, buyers might have to put down extra money to bridge the gap between what their lender is willing to give and what they offered.

How Can Buyers Beat Other Offers on a House?

There are a few things homebuyers can do to improve their odds of winning when there are multiple offers on a house, though certain tactics may vary based on the local real estate market or specific circumstances.

A Sizable Earnest Money Deposit

Earnest money is a deposit made to the sellers that serves as the buyers’ good faith gesture to purchase the house, typically while they work on getting their full financing in order.

The amount of the earnest money deposit generally ranges between 1% and 2% of the purchase price, but in hot housing markets, it could go up to 5% to 10% of the home’s sale price.

By offering on the higher end of the spectrum, homebuyers can beat out contenders who offer less attractive earnest money deposits.

Best and Final Offer

Going into a multiple-offer situation and expecting a negotiation can be tricky. It’s typically suggested that buyers go in with their strongest offer, one they can still live with if they lose to a contender—aka they know they gave it their all.

In some cases, sellers deliberately list the home for less than comparable sales in the area in an attempt to stir up a bidding war. By going in with their highest offers, buyers could end up paying what the house is actually worth while still winning the deal.

All-Cash Offer

By offering to pay cash upfront for the property, homebuyers effectively eliminate the need for third party (lender) involvement in the transaction.

This can be appealing to sellers who are looking to streamline the sale.

Waived Contingencies

Whether it’s offering the sellers extra time to move out, waiving the home inspection, or ensuring that their current residence is sold before making an offer, potential homebuyers can gain wiggle room when they start to waive contingencies.

Contingencies are conditions that must be met in order to close on a house. If they’re not met, the buyers can back out of the deal without losing their earnest money deposit.

By waiving certain contingencies, buyers show that they’re willing to take on a level of risk to close the deal. This can be appealing to some sellers.

Signs of Sincerity and Respect

Because many sellers have nostalgia for their home, buyers who show sincerity, respect, and sentiment may score extra points.

By writing a letter that lays out what they love about the home and engaging in positive interactions with the sellers and their agent, buyers can put themselves in a more favorable light that could lead to winning in a multiple-offer situation.

An Offer of Extra Time to Move

In some cases, sellers might appreciate (or even require) a bit of a buffer between the closing date and when they formally move out of the house.

By offering them a few extra days post-closing without asking for compensation, flexible buyers can get ahead of contenders who might have stricter buyer possession policies.

A Mortgage Pre-Approval Letter

Most offers are submitted with a lender-drafted letter that indicates the purchasers are pre-qualified for a loan.

A pre-approval letter can take it a step further by showing that the buyers are able to procure borrowed funds after deep financial, background, and credit history screening.

Pre-approval signifies to some sellers that the buyers can put their money where their mouth is, lessening the possibility of future financing falling through.

Kick-Starting the Homebuying Process

One way for house hunters to get a leg up in the homebuying process is by ensuring that their home loans are secured in advance.

With competitive rates, exclusive discounts, and help when you need it, SoFi mortgage loans make the first part of competing against multiple offers a whole lot easier.

Get a leg up and find your rate in two minutes.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


Source: sofi.com

When to Consider Paying off Your Mortgage Early

Maybe you saved up money over the past few years, got a hefty raise, or received an inheritance. Whatever the reason, you now have the means to pay off your mortgage early. Isn’t that the best move? It just depends.

It can be tempting to rush to pay off your home loan when you have the ability to, especially if you’ve struggled with debt management. And why wouldn’t you want to pay off your mortgage? Getting rid of debt could potentially increase cash flow.

When it comes to your mortgage loan, it all depends on your unique financial situation—there is no one right answer.

Why You May Not Want to Pay Your Mortgage Off Early

Here are a few reasons why many consider not paying their mortgage off early:

You have a reasonable interest rate on your mortgage loan. Unless you’ve reached all of your financial goals, it may not make the most sense to pay off your mortgage early when you have a competitive interest rate.

For example, if you are saving to send your child to college or you’re trying to rebuild your emergency fund after a home repair, those might take priority.

Paying off your mortgage loan early would deplete liquid savings. This could make it more challenging to handle financial emergencies.

You might face a prepayment penalty. Make sure to review your mortgage terms closely. Some lenders charge an early payoff penalty, usually a percentage of the principal balance at the time of payoff.

You might miss out on the mortgage tax deduction. For many people who itemize, having a mortgage helps push their itemized deductions higher than the standard deduction. It’s worth discussing the mortgage tax deduction with your accountant or other tax professional before you resolve to pay your mortgage off early.

When an Early Payoff May Make Sense

There are some situations when paying off a mortgage early might make more sense than waiting.

You’ve Met All of Your Financial Goals

If your emergency savings account is right where you feel it needs to be and you’re diligently contributing to your retirement accounts, you may feel like all of your financial boxes are checked right now.

If you’ve met all your other financial goals, then you may be in the clear to prepay your mortgage.

You’re Interested in Being 100% Debt-Free

Sometimes just the idea of having loan payments can be mentally taxing, even if you’re in a good place financially. Money is not just about numbers for many; it’s also about emotions.

So if paying off your mortgage loan early relieves anxiety because it’s helping you become debt-free, then that might be something to consider.

Of course, reflecting on why you want to become debt-free is important when thinking about paying your mortgage off. If, for example, it’s because you’re approaching retirement and will no longer be getting a steady paycheck, it might make sense to pay off your mortgage.

Ways to Pay Off a Mortgage Early or Faster

Let’s say that you’ve decided to prepay your mortgage because it’s the right financial move for you. How do you do it?

Lump sum. You could pay it off in a lump sum if you have that kind of cash lying around.

Extra payments. You could potentially pay more toward your mortgage each month, whether because you got a raise at work or because you’ve trimmed some fat in your budget that allows you to pay more toward the mortgage.

If you make higher payments or extra payments toward your mortgage, it could lead to paying off the loan faster than if you were just to make the set payment each month.

Refinancing. There is one more way you may be able to pay off your mortgage faster: refinancing.

Refinancing your mortgage means replacing your current mortgage with a new one, with terms that better suit your current needs.

It may make sense to refinance if you are going to get a significantly lower interest rate and/or change your loan term.

If you shorten your loan term from, say, 30 to 15 years, it may increase your monthly payments but in turn allow you to pay your mortgage off faster. Home loans with shorter terms often come with lower interest rates, too, so more of your monthly payments will be applied to the loan’s principal balance.

The Takeaway

Should you pay off your mortgage early? Maybe. What’s right for your neighbors or friends may not be right for you. If you’re trying to decide whether to refinance, consider your current lender’s terms and the new terms you could get. Then you can make an educated decision based on your financial picture.

Mortgage refinancing with SoFi means getting a competitive rate.

And finding your rate takes just two minutes.

Interested in refinancing your mortgage? Apply with SoFi today.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.


Source: sofi.com

Homeowners Insurance Coverage Options to Know

If you’re like many Americans, your home is the single largest purchase you’ll ever make–and one you likely can’t afford to replace if disaster strikes.

That’s why homeowners insurance can be a wise investment. This type of insurance will compensate you if an event covered under your policy damages or destroys your home or personal items.

It will also cover you in certain instances if you injure someone else or cause property damage.

Although having homeowners insurance isn’t required by law, mortgage lenders often require you to insure your home until you’ve paid the loan in full.

Choosing the right coverage for your home–and understanding exactly what is (and what isn’t) covered–can be confusing though.

Some policies cover more than others, and how much coverage you need will depend on your circumstances, as well as your risk tolerance.

Here’s what you need to know about the options available for protecting your home.

Recommended: What’s the Difference Between Homeowners Insurance and Title Insurance?

What Does Homeowners Insurance Typically Cover?

Most standard homeowners insurance policies include six different kinds of important coverage.

•  Dwelling: This covers the physical structure of the home itself, including its foundation, walls, and roof, as well as structures attached to the home such as a front porch.
•  Other structures on your property: This covers things that aren’t attached to the main home structure, like garages and fences.
•  Personal property: This includes personal items including clothing, furniture, and everything else that you put inside your home.
•  Additional living expenses: This provides funds to pay for temporary living expenses, such as hotel costs and restaurant meals, while your home is being repaired or rebuilt.
•  Liability coverage: This protects you against lawsuits and damages you or your family cause to other people or their property.
•  Medical coverage: This is offered to foot the bills incurred by somebody who is injured on your property, whether it’s your fault or theirs.

What Type of Events Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?

The most common type of homeowners insurance policy on the market is called HO-3 insurance.

This insurance includes coverage of 16 specifically named perils, but it may also offer “open peril” coverage, which means that anything that damages your dwelling that is not specifically excluded in the paperwork will be covered by the policy. (This coverage generally does not extend to your personal property, however.)

The 16 named perils typically include:

•  Fire or lightning
•  Windstorms or hail
•  Explosions
•  Riots
•  Damage caused by aircraft
•  Damage caused by vehicles
•  Smoke
•  Vandalism
•  Theft
•  Volcanic eruptions
•  Falling objects
•  Damage due to the weight of ice, snow or sleet
•  Water or steam overflow from plumbing, HVAC systems, internal sprinklers and other appliances
•  Damage due the “sudden and accidental tearing apart,cracking, burning, or bulging” of an HVAC, water-heating, or fire-protective system
•  Freezing of pipes and other household appliances
•  Damage due to a power surge

What Isn’t Covered by Homeowners Insurance?

Homeowners insurance typically covers most scenarios where a loss could occur. However, some events are generally excluded from policies. These often include:

•  Earthquakes, landslides and sinkholes
•  Infestations by birds, vermin, fungus or mold
•  Wear and tear or neglect
•  Nuclear hazard
•  Government action (including war)
•  Power failure

What if you live in a flood or hurricane area? Or an area with a history of earthquakes? You may want to consider a rider (which is supplementary coverage to an existing policy) for these or an extra policy for earthquake insurance or flood insurance.

Home insurance policies also typically set special limits on the amount of reimbursement you can receive in categories such as artwork, jewelry, appliances, tools, electronics, clothing, cash, and firearms.

If you own something particularly valuable, such as fine art painting or piece of expensive jewelry, you might want to purchase a rider that you will be reimbursed in full for it.

What Should I look for in a Homeowners Insurance Policy?

Homeowners insurance companies typically offer three different reimbursement models or levels of coverage.

Which one you choose can be an important decision. That’s because it will impact how you will be reimbursed in the event your home is damaged or burglarized, and also the cost of your premiums.

These are the most common homeowners policy options, listed from least to most costly.

Actual Cash Value

Actual cash value typically covers the cost of the house plus the value of your belongings after deducting depreciation (i.e., how much the items are currently worth, not how much you paid for them). If your five-year-old TV was stolen, for instance, you would not likely get reimbursed for the cost of a brand-new one.

Replacement Cost Value

Replacement value policies generally cover the actual cash value of your home and possessions without the deduction for depreciation, so you would likely be able to repair or rebuild your home and re-buy your possessions up to the original value.

Extended Replacement Cost Value

This coverage will typically pay out more than the original value of your home and belongings, up to a specified limit, if it actually costs more to fix your home and/or replace your possessions.

The limit can be a dollar amount or a percentage, such as 25% above your dwelling coverage amount. This gives you a cushion if rebuilding is more expensive than you expected.

Guaranteed Replacement Cost Value

Guaranteed Replacement Cost is the most comprehensive coverage. This inflation-buffer policy pays for whatever it costs to repair or rebuild your home and replace your possessions—even if it’s more than your policy limit.

This type of coverage can be ideal since you typically don’t need just enough insurance to cover the value of your home, you will likely need enough insurance to rebuild your home, preferably at current prices.

Understanding Homeowners Insurance Deductibles

Homeowners policies typically include an insurance deductible — the amount you’re required to cover before your insurer starts paying.

The deductible can be a flat dollar amount, such as $500 or $1,000. Or, it might be a percentage, such as 1 or 2 percent of the home’s insured value.

When you receive a claim check, an insurer typically subtracts your deductible amount from the total claim.

For instance, if you have a $1,000 deductible and your insurer approves a claim for $8,000 in repairs, the insurer would likely pay $7,000 and you would be responsible for the remaining $1,000.

Choosing a higher deductible will usually reduce your premium. However, you would likely have to shoulder more of the financial burden should you need to file a claim.

A lower deductible, on the other hand, means you might have a higher premium but your insurer would likely pick up a greater portion of the tab after an incident.

The Takeaway

Of the many types of insurance coverage out there on the market, homeowners insurance is one of the most important–it literally protects the roof over your head, which very well might also be your most valuable asset.

Homeowners insurance covers damage to your home and its contents. It also typically reimburses you for losses due to theft and pays out if visitors to your property are injured.

Your policy may also pay for living expenses, such as a hotel stay, if your home becomes uninhabitable.

In some cases, you can get additional policies or riders for events not covered by your regular home insurance, such as flooding, as well as extra coverage for any highly valuable possessions.

Because choosing the right homeowners insurance company and right amount of coverage can be overwhelming, SoFi has partnered with Lemonade to help bring customizable and affordable homeowners insurance to our members.

Prices start as low as $25 per month, and Lemonade gives back leftover money to charities of your choice.

Check out homeowners insurance options offered through SoFi Protect.

SoFi offers customers the opportunity to reach the following Insurance Agents:

Home & Renters: Lemonade Insurance Agency (LIA) is acting as the agent of Lemonade Insurance Company in selling this insurance policy, in which it receives compensation based on the premiums for the insurance policies it sells.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Source: sofi.com

Using Construction Loans for Homebuilding and Renovations

The idea of building a home that meets all your needs is something a lot of people fantasize about. Maybe you’re already a homeowner and the goal is an accessory dwelling unit—a granny flat, tiny house on a foundation, carriage house, garage apartment, or basement apartment.

Maybe you’ve found a fixer-upper on a perfect plot of land. Or maybe you’ve got a perfect piece of land, and all you need now is the house.

A construction loan could be just the ticket, though a borrower should be aware of the complications of these kinds of loans.

Here’s a look at construction loans and a couple of alternatives.

How Do Construction Loans Work?

When you buy a house, you can finance it with a mortgage. But when you build a house or do a major renovation, getting financing is trickier. Borrowing large sums of money can be difficult when there’s no collateral to guarantee the loan.

Construction loans finance the building of a new home or substantial renovations to a current home.

They are typically short-term, variable interest rate loans designed to cover the costs of land, plans, permits and fees, labor, materials, and closing costs. They also cover contingency reserves if construction goes over budget.

The lender probably will want to check out the builder in addition to vetting your financial situation.

Popular Home Construction Loan Options

‘Construction-to-Permanent’ Loans

Sometimes referred to as “single-close” loans, these are construction loans that convert to a mortgage once the construction is finished.

The borrower typically pays interest only during construction. When the loan is converted to a standard mortgage, the payments are sometimes recast.

The borrower saves money on closing costs by eliminating a second loan closing.

‘Construction-Only’ Loans

Also called a standalone construction loan, this loan must be paid off when the building is complete. You will need to apply for a mortgage if you don’t have the cash to do so.

Having separate construction and mortgage loans allows homeowners to shop for the best terms available when applying for each loan, but they will pay closing costs with each loan.

Renovation Construction Loans

These are specifically designed to cover the cost of substantial renovations (or the cost of improving a fixer-upper). The loans get folded into the mortgage once the project is complete.

Once you are approved for a construction loan, you are put on what’s called a “draw schedule,” based on your construction timeline. Funds will be disbursed directly to your builder to cover the cost of each stage of construction—usually after a lender representative pays a visit to make sure everything’s on schedule.

What Are the Requirements for a Construction Loan?

It’s typically harder to get a construction loan than it is to secure a mortgage. Some people even hire construction loan brokers to facilitate the process. Because your house or ADU isn’t built yet, there’s no collateral. And because there’s no collateral, lenders will want to see strong evidence that the home will be completed.

If it’s a renovation, the lender wants to see that the project will add to the value of the home. Check out SoFi’s Home Project Value Estimator to get an idea of how much value you could get in return for each renovation project.

In order to get approved, you’ll have to show your potential lender an overview of your financial profile, with plenty of documentation. They’ll typically want to see a debt-to-income ratio of 45% or lower and a high credit score.

For new construction projects, they’ll also want you to be able to make a down payment of up to 30%. And for construction-only loans, they may want to know what your repayment plan is—that is, whether you will pay in cash or refinance when the project is complete.

In addition, the lender will want a detailed plan, budget, and schedule for the construction. Some lenders will also need to approve your builder. Because the project will depend on the builder’s ability to complete the construction to specifications, your builder’s reputation may be crucial to getting a construction loan approved.

Lenders typically need to see a builder’s work history, proof of insurance, blueprints and specifications for the project, a materials list, and your signed construction contract.

What Are the Average Interest Rates and Terms?

Typically, construction loan rates rise and fall with the prime lending rate, but they tend to be higher than conventional mortgage rates.

The terms also vary. A construction-only loan usually must be paid off in one year or less, unless the homeowner obtains a mortgage to secure longer-term financing.

A construction-to-permanent loan will typically have a term of 15 to 30 years once it becomes a permanent mortgage. Again, though, the interest rate will usually be higher than a conventional loan because of the increased risk. The longer the term, the higher the rate tends to be.

Are There Alternatives to Construction Loans?

A lot of time and effort may go into securing a construction loan. It can be difficult to find lenders that offer competitive rates and to qualify for them—particularly if you don’t have a flawless credit history.

Plus, they tend to be complicated because it is often the builder who has to carry the loan.

If you are planning a small construction project or renovation, there are a few financing alternatives that might be easier to access and give you more flexibility.

Two are a personal loan and a cash-out refinance.

Personal Loans for Renovations

personal loan can fund a renovation project or supplement other construction financing. It can be much faster and easier to secure than a construction loan.

A home improvement loan also may cost less in interest than a construction loan, depending on your financial profile. And you can frequently choose a personal loan with a fixed interest rate.

Personal loans also offer potentially better terms. Instead of being required to pay off the loan as soon as the home is finished, you can opt for a longer repayment period.

The drawbacks? You won’t be able to roll your personal loan into a mortgage once your renovation or building project is finished.

And because the loan is disbursed all at once, you will have to parse out the money yourself, instead of depending on the lender to finance the build in stages.

Cash-Out Refinance for Construction Costs

A cash-out refinance is also a good financing tool, particularly if you have a lot of equity in your current home. With a cash-out refinance, you refinance your home for more than you owe and are given the difference in cash.

To use a cash-out refinance to cover the cost of construction, you can estimate your building or renovation expenses with this Home Improvement Cost Calculator and then refinance for that amount more than you owe on your home. Then you can put the additional cash from the refinance toward the building project.

Using one—or both—of these alternative financing tools may help you avoid some of the hassle and expense that come with construction loans.

The Takeaway

Planning a new home, granny flat, or substantial renovation? A construction loan may be the ticket, though these kinds of loans are usually harder to secure than mortgages, often carry a higher rate, and are typically short term. For smaller projects, a personal loan or cash-out refinance could be a good option.

Check out SoFi’s personal loan and cash-out refinancing options and get a rate quote within minutes.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.


Source: sofi.com

What is Mortgage Amortization?

If you’re looking into getting a mortgage for the first time, congratulations! You’re about to embark on a brave new adventure in adulthood. Like most adventures, it comes with some highs and some lows. One of the highs might be when you finally find the perfect home in your price range. As for the lows, one of them could well be trying to understand all the jargon that’s involved in buying a house.

Home-buying terminology can be somewhat intimidating. What’s the difference between prequalification and preapproval? Why are there so many different types of mortgage loans? What in the world is escrow? And what does amortized mean?

We’re going to answer that last question, quickly and painlessly. Basically, mortgage amortization just means that your mortgage loan payments will be spaced out over a set period of time (often 30 years) and will be calculated so that you always pay the same amount per month (if you have a fixed rate mortgage, not a variable rate mortgage).

That means that if you get a fixed rate mortgage and your first payment in your first month is $1,500, you know that you’ll pay $1,500 in the last month of your mortgage, years later. If you take out a variable rate mortgage, the amount you pay each month will change periodically as the market rate fluctuates.

Just because you’re paying the same amount for your fixed rate mortgage each month doesn’t mean that your payment is going toward the same things each month. In fact, your first mortgage payment will go primarily toward interest, and your last mortgage payment will go primarily toward the principal. Throughout the life of your loan, this balance paying off interest to paying off principal will gradually shift as more of your principal is paid off (and therefore generates less interest).

Why do People Choose Amortized Mortgages?

Mortgage amortization helps ensure that your obligations are predictable, which can make it easier for you to plan. If you take out a 30-year mortgage, then the amortization helps guarantee that in 30 years, you will have finished paying it off. For a fixed rate mortgage, amortization also keeps all your payments consistently the same amount, rather than different amounts that depend on how much your principal is.

How to Calculate Amortization Using Tables

In real life, even if you choose an amortized mortgage, you may never need to figure out your 30 years or so of payments yourself. But it’s useful to see what goes into the table or payments (they’re not arbitrary!) and understand how it’s populated. Calculating your amortized mortgage really puts you on the front lines of homebuying.

Let’s say you take out a $100,000 mortgage over 10 years at a 5% fixed interest rate. That means your monthly payment will be $1,061. You can then divide your interest rate by 12 equal monthly payments. That works out to 0.4166% of interest per month. And that, in turn, means that in the first month of your loan, you’ll pay around $417 toward interest and the remaining $644 toward your principal.

Next, to calculate the second month, you’ll need to deduct your monthly payment from the starting balance to get the ‘balance after payment’ for the chart. You’ll also need to put the $417 you paid in interest and $644 you paid toward the principal in the chart. Then you can repeat the calculation of your monthly interest and principal breakdown, and continue inputting until you finish completing the chart.

Date Starting Balance Interest Principal Balance after payment
Jan, 2021 $100,000 $417 $644 $99,356
Feb, 2021 $99,356 $414 $647 $98,709
Mar, 2021 $98,709 $411 $649 $98,060
Apr, 2021 $98,060 $409 $652 $97,408
May, 2021 $97,408 $406 $655 $96,753
Jun, 2021 $96,753 $403 $658 $96,096
Jul, 2021 $96,096 $400 $660 $95,435
Aug, 2021 $95,435 $398 $663 $94,772
Sep, 2021 $94,772 $395 $666 $94,107
Oct, 2021 $94,107 $392 $669 $93,438
Nov, 2021 $93,438 $389 $671 $92,767
Dec, 2021 $92,767 $387 $674 $92,093

How to Calculate Amortization Using a Calculator

So you can see that it’s not so much difficult to calculate your amortized payments as it is time-consuming. Fortunately, you can save yourself the trouble by using an online amortization calculator . All you have to do is input info about your mortgage, including the amount you’re borrowing, your term length, and the interest you’re paying, and the calculator will do the math for you.

What Are the Pros of an Amortized Mortgage?

•  You’ll slowly but surely pay off the principal of your home loan. With every month, you’ll get closer to owning your home outright!
•  It ensures that you pay a set amount for each payment over the life of your loan. With some loans you may end up paying more at the beginning or the end. A balloon mortgage, for example, requires you to pay interest charges monthly during the regular term. You then pay off large parts of the principal at the end of the loan period. (Thus, your payment literally balloons.)
•  You can often get better terms with an amortized loan. And you’ll save money in the long run by paying less interest over the life of your mortgage.

What Are the Cons of an Amortized Mortgage?

•  Amortized mortgages favor borrowers who are putting down a larger down payment. To qualify for a competitive interest rate, you’ll probably need to put down 10% (if not 20%).

•  You might not be able to qualify to borrow as much money via an amortized mortgage as you would through an alternative mortgage, such as an interest-only mortgage or a balloon mortgage.

Ready to apply for your first mortgage, but not sure where to start? Check out SoFi mortgages—and check your rates in just two minutes. SoFi offers mortgages with as little as 10% down on loans up to $3 million.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
HL18122 (SL18122)

Source: sofi.com

Preparing To Buy a House in 8 Simple Steps

In life there are some situations a person simply can’t prepare for, like locking the keys in a car full of groceries or having a head full of shampoo when the smoke alarm goes off. Luckily, purchasing a home doesn’t have to be one of those moments.

Buying a house is probably one of the biggest financial decisions many people will make in their lifetime, and the process can be lengthy and complex. From getting a bird’s-eye view of their overall financial picture to calculating housing costs and securing loan pre-approval, there are many actions for home buyers to take as they get ready to purchase a home.

With the right resources and a solid strategy, however, purchasing a house can be a smooth process.

8 Steps to Prepare for a Home Purchase

1. Determining Credit Score

A home buyer’s credit score can impact their ability to secure a mortgage loan with a desirable rate. It can also affect how much they’ll be required to pay as a down payment when it’s time to close.

In a recent report from the National Association of Realtors , home buyers who had debt said it hindered their ability to set aside funds for a down payment by a median of four years.

Credit score can be influenced by a variety of factors, from payment history to amount of debt (a.k.a. credit utilization ratio) to age of credit accounts, mix of credit accounts, and new credit inquiries.

Payment history is the main factor that affects a person’s credit score, accounting for 35% of an overall FICO® score. Missing a payment on any credit account—from unpaid student loans to credit cards, auto loans, and mortgages—can negatively impact a person’s credit score.

By making on-time payments, limiting the number of new inquiries on their credit file, and working to pay down outstanding balances, home buyers could potentially boost their credit score and qualify for a lower mortgage rate.

Is There a Credit Score “Sweet Spot?”

Many buyers wonder whether there’s a desired credit score range or “sweet spot” to obtain a mortgage. The 2020 Q1 Federal Reserve Report on Household Debt and Credit found that the median credit score of newly originating borrowers increased to 773 in the first quarter for mortgages—up 14 points from 2019.

That’s not necessarily to say a credit score of 773 is a must for securing a mortgage, but the difference between a credit score in the 600 range and one in the 700 range could amount to about half a percent less interest on a mortgage loan and add up to a lot of money over time.

Credit scores can also affect the amount of the down payment itself. Many mortgage lenders require at least 20% of the house’s sale price be put down, but might offer more flexibility if the buyer’s credit score is in the higher range. A lower credit score, on the other hand, could call for a larger down payment.

Whether home buyers have debt or not, checking credit reports is still a recommended first step to applying for a mortgage. Understanding the information on credit reports is invaluable in knowing whether time is needed to repair credit, which could potentially lead to a higher credit score and possibly lower mortgage loan rate.

2. Deciding how Much To Spend

Deciding how much to pay for a new home can be based on a variety of factors including expected and unexpected housing costs, up-front payments and closing costs, and how it all fits into the buyer’s overall budget.

Calculating Housing Costs

There are several housing costs for home purchasers to consider that might affect how much they can afford to offer for the house itself. The costs of ongoing fees like property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and interest—if the loan does not have a fixed rate—can all lead to an increase in the monthly mortgage payment.

Closing costs are fees associated with the final real estate transaction that go above and beyond the price of the property itself. These costs might include an origination fee paid to the bank or lender for their services in creating the loan (typically amounting to 0.5% to 1% of the mortgage), real estate attorney fees, escrow fees, title insurance fees, home inspection and appraisal fees and recording fees, to name a few. To get an idea on how this can impact your budget, use this home affordability calculator to estimate total purchase cost.

Last year, the average closing costs for a single-family property were $5,749 including taxes, and $3,339 excluding taxes, according to a recent report from ClosingCorp .

In addition to closing costs, expenses that potential home buyers might want to consider are repairs and updates they might want to make to a home, new furniture, moving costs, or even commuting costs.

Finally, unforeseen costs of a major life event like a layoff or the birth of a new child might not be the first expenses that come to mind, but some buyers could find themselves making a potential home buying mistake by not getting their finances in order to prepare for the unexpected.

Making a list of these estimated expenses can help home buyers calculate how much they can feasibly afford and create a budget that could help them avoid being overextended on housing costs, especially if they might be paying other debt or saving for other financial goals.

3. Saving for a Down Payment

Saving money for a house is one of the biggest financial goals many people will have in their lifetime. And how much they’re able to offer as a down payment can significantly impact the amount of their monthly mortgage payment.

A larger down payment can also be convincing to sellers who see it as evidence of solid finances, sometimes beating out other offers in a competitive housing market.

The average down payment on a house varies depending on the type of buyer, loan, location, and housing prices, but, according to Zillow’s 2019 Consumer Housing Trends Report , 56% of buyers put down less than the typical 20% down payment, 19% put down 20%, and 20% of home buyers put down more than 20%.

For first-time home buyers, 20% of the price of the home can seem like a daunting figure. Many buyers find that cutting spending on luxury or non-essential items and entertainment can help them save up the funds.

Other tactics could include getting gifts and loans from family members, applying for low-down-payment mortgages, withdrawing funds from retirement, or receiving assistance from state and local agencies.

For buyers who were also sellers, proceeds from another property could also fund the down payment.

4. Shopping for a Mortgage Lender

There are many mortgage lenders competing for the business of the 86% of home buyers who finance their home purchases. These lenders offer a variety of mortgages to apply for, with a few of the most common being conventional/fixed rate, adjustable rate, FHA loans, and VA loans.

Buyers might not realize they can—and should—shop around for a lender before selecting one to work with. Different lenders offer different variations in interest rates, terms, and closing costs, so it can be helpful to conduct adequate research before landing on a particular lender.

Mortgage lenders must provide a loan estimate within three business days of receiving a mortgage application. The form is standard—all lenders are required to use the same form, which makes it easier for the applicant to compare information from different lenders and make sure they are getting the best loan for their financial situation.

5. Getting Pre-Approved for a Loan

While it might seem like a bit of a nuance, getting prequalified for a loan versus pre-approved for a loan are two different things.

When a buyer is prequalified for a loan, their mortgage lender estimates—but does not guarantee—the loan rate, based on finances provided by the buyer.

When a buyer is pre-approved, the lender conducts a thorough investigation into their finances that includes income verification, assets, and credit rating. This pre-approval gives a guarantee to the buyer that they will be able to obtain the loan and breaks down exactly what the bank is willing to lend.

Having a pre-approval letter in hand can help some buyers get ahead by appealing to the seller as a serious intention of purchase and a lender’s guarantee to back that purchase up.

6. Finding the Right Real Estate Agent

According to the National Association of Realtors 2020 Generational Trends Report :

•  89% of all buyers purchased their homes through a real estate agent.
•  The primary method most used to find that agent was referral.
•  All generations of buyers continued to utilize a real estate agent as their top resource for helping them buy a home.

While the internet and popular real estate search websites have made it easier for home buyers to hunt for a house online, most buyers still solicit the help of a real estate agent to find the right home and negotiate the price and purchase.

Also, many realtors are experts in their particular housing market, so for buyers who are searching in a specific location, a real estate agent may be able to offer valuable insights that might not be revealed online.

7. Exploring Different Neighborhoods

By researching neighborhoods where they might want to purchase a property (both in-person and online), home buyers can get a better sense of what living in their future community could look like.

Many real estate websites provide comparable listings to help determine a reasonable offer amount in a given neighborhood.

Check out housing market
trends, hot neighborhoods,
and demographics by city.

They may also highlight nearby school ratings, price and tax history, commute times, and neighborhood stats like home value fluctuations or predictions, and walkability ratings.

All of this information can help paint a picture of life in the area a home buyer chooses to settle in. Doing a deep dive into a desired neighborhood can help inform a more realistic decision on where to buy a house.

8. Kicking off the House Hunt

Once the neighborhoods are whittled down, the loan is secured, the real estate agent has been signed, and the savings are set aside, the official house hunt can begin.

For 55% of buyers, the most difficult step in the home buying process was finding the right property. Some had to undergo a considerable process before making the final purchase, with most searching for 10 weeks and seeing a median of nine homes first.

With the help of a trusted real estate agent and a housing market with adequate inventory, most home buyers can begin to book showings, attend open houses, and formally put down an offer on a house they like.

In particularly “hot” markets, houses could receive several offers, so home buyers might want to be prepared to go through the bidding process with a few properties before they get to that glorious final sale.

Home buyers might wish they could snap their fingers and move into their dream house as quickly and painlessly as possible. While that is not realistic, SoFi can help simplify the mortgage loan process.

Without any hidden fees or prepayment penalties, a SoFi home loan could be the right option for many homebuyers. For questions about buying a home, SoFi offers home loan resources, guides, and tips to steer future homeowners through the process. There are a lot of steps, but managing them can be easier with a helping hand.

Learn more about how SoFi home loans make the mortgage process as quick and painless as possible.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’swebsite .
SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.


Source: sofi.com

How to Budget for Grad School Applications

By the time most people consider grad school, they’ve already had a taste of the real world – and a look at the price tag. Even those lucky enough to land a high-paying job right off the bat are likely still facing a mountain of student loans.

So when you decide to pile those loans even higher by attending grad school, it can be more than a little frustrating to find that even the application process comes with a cost. Here’s what to expect – and how to budget for it.

How to Estimate Grad School Application Expenses

Every grad school program will have its own set of fees and related expenses. Some programs will pay for a portion of an applicant’s fees while others won’t cover a single penny.

Application-related expenses include:

  • University application fees: Usually between $50 to $170
  • Entrance exams like the GRE, GMAT, LSAT or MCAT: Can range from $150 to $320
  • Travel expenses for in-person interviews: Can cost $0 (if local) to thousands (if out-of-town)
  • Professional clothes: Most students choose to wear a suit, dress or pantsuit to their grad school interview
  • Official transcript fees: Usually between $5 to $10

This list doesn’t include some region-specific expenses, like winter gear if you’re moving from California to New York for grad school, or a sturdy pair of rain boots if you’re moving to Seattle.

If you’re trying to budget ahead for these expenses, talk to grad students in similar programs, TAs and even your professors. Your undergrad advisor may also have suggestions on who to ask.

How to Save Money on Grad School Applications

The cost of applying to grad school can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Here are some ways to save money during the process:

Apply for a Fee Waiver

Many grad schools require that students take the GRE, which is like the SAT for prospective graduate students. The test costs $160 for students in the US, Puerto Rico and other US territories.

The company that administers the GRE provides a 50% off discount for students with demonstrated financial need. Applicants must have filled out the FAFSA and have an expected family contribution (EFC) of $2,500 or less. If you’re an independent student, then your EFC must be $3,000 or less.

If you need to take the test again, you’ll have to apply for the fee waiver again as well. Thankfully, many programs are dropping the GRE as a requirement.

Some grad schools also provide application fee waivers with similar requirements. This could save you hundreds of dollars, depending on how many schools and programs you apply to. Sometimes they’ll even offer a discount if you turn in your application early.

Other schools won’t waive the application fee, but may let you apply to multiple departments within the school while only paying for one application.

Ask About Travel Reimbursement

Graduate schools often require in-person interviews, but may sometimes reimburse travel expenses. This depends on the school and major. Some will book the travel for you, while others will ask that you book your own travel and submit receipts to be reimbursed later.

However, some schools will only reimburse applicants who are accepted to the program. Inquire about the travel reimbursement process before applying so you don’t get caught by surprise.

Contact Your Employer

If you’re already employed and plan to continue working while attending grad school, see if your company will pay for some of your expenses. Even if they don’t have a tuition reimbursement plan, they may be able to help with application and exam fees.

How to Pay for Grad School Application Expenses

You may need to use the following credit options to cover grad school application costs.

Open a 0% APR Credit Card

When Brad Zehr was applying to med school, he didn’t have any savings. His parents paid for part of his applications, but he relied on credit cards with 0% APR to fund the rest.

Students footing the bill for grad school application expenses should consider opening a credit card with a 0% APR offer for new purchases. These special credit card offers usually last between six to 24 months, at which point the regular APR kicks in.

During this promo period, you can charge transactions on the card and not owe interest – even if you can’t repay the balance all at once. If you don’t repay the balance before the promo period expires, however, you’ll owe interest on any remaining amount.

There are some downsides to opening a card with a 0% APR offer. Some credit cards charge deferred interest after the promo period, where any remaining balance triggers an interest charge for the entire transaction history. Even if you only have a $5 balance when the 0% offer ends, you’ll still be charged interest on all the transactions made since you opened the card. This could equal hundreds of dollars in interest.

If you miss a payment during the special promo period, the 0% rate may be revoked and replaced with a higher rate. To avoid this, set up autopay on the account and double-check each month that the payment went through.

If you don’t qualify for a 0% card on your own, your parents could open one and add you as an authorized user. This means you can use the card, but your parents will be legally responsible for the payments.

Take Out a Personal Loan

Students can apply for a personal loan to pay for grad school application expenses, but it may be hard to qualify without a cosigner. If your parents are willing to cosign, you’ll have a better chance of being approved for a personal loan.

Personal loans have a set term, usually between one to seven years, and a fixed interest rate, ranging from 6 to 36%.

Depending on your parents’ credit score, you may receive a relatively low-interest rate. Because the terms on a personal loan are longer than a 0% credit card offer, it may be less stressful to pay back the balance.

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Source: mint.intuit.com

Here’s How To Refinance A Mortgage (And Know If It’s Right For You)

Over the past decade, mortgage refinancing has grown in popularity. Not that big of a surprise, considering we’ve seen a sizable drop in mortgage rates during this time. At the height of the housing crisis in 2008, rates averaged about 6% for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage .

Currently, the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage is about 3.26% , which gives some folks the opportunity to save some serious moola by lowering their interest payments. If you signed on for a higher rate years ago or your financial situation has improved, refinancing is worth considering.

Refinancing a mortgage might not be right for every homeowner, but starting to look at rates and terms could be the first step to being able to save for other financial goals. Here’s everything you need to know about refinancing a mortgage from how to start the process, to figuring out if it’s right for you.

How much does it cost to refinance a mortgage?

Since you’re essentially applying for a new loan, there will most likely be fees if you choose to refinance. Because of this, it’s important to consider those costs compared to the potential savings. A good rule of thumb is to be certain you can recoup the cost of the refinance in two to three years—which means you shouldn’t have immediate plans to move.

Refinancing will generally cost from 3% to 6% of your loan’s principal value, though you should be sure to shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

There are helpful online calculators for determining approximate costs for a mortgage refinance. Of course, this is only an estimate and all lenders are different. The lender will provide final closing cost information alongside a quote for your new mortgage rate.
When you refinance, you also have to consider closing costs. Some lenders may not have origination fees, but instead charge the borrower a higher interest rate.

If you have a great borrowing history and a strong financial position, there are some lenders, like SoFi, that reward such borrowers by offering competitive rates and no hidden fees.

Mortgage RefinancingMortgage Refinancing

What are the steps in the mortgage refinancing process?

The first (and arguably most important) step is to determine what you want to get out of your mortgage loan refinance. There are several mortgage loan types, but “rate and term” and “cash out” are the two most common.

Just as the name implies, a “rate and term” refinance updates the interest rate, the term (or duration) of the loan, or both. You can also switch from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate and vice versa.

It is important to understand that not every refinance will save you money on interest. For example, if you extend the loan terms, you may end up paying more money over the course of your loan.

to boost your credit score. 1
2. Research your home’s approximate value. Check comparable sale prices—not just listing prices—in your neighborhood to get an idea of what your house is worth. If the value of your home has gone up significantly and improves your loan-to-value ratio (LTV), this will be helpful in securing the best refinancing rate.
3. Compare refinance rates online. Don’t forget to ask about all costs involved. Most financial institutions should be able to give you an estimate, but the accuracy can depend on how well you know your credit score and LTV ratio.
4. Get your paperwork together. The process will move faster if you have your pay stubs, bank statements, tax filings, and other pertinent financial information ready to go.
5. Have cash on hand. You may have to pay some up-front costs, like property taxes and insurance.
6. The lender will (mostly) take it from here. They will send an appraiser for a home inspection. After the loan documentation and appraisal are submitted, loan officers determine the interest rate and create the loan closing documents. The closing is then scheduled with the refinancing company, mortgage broker, and real estate attorney.

How long does a mortgage refinance take?

The process can take anywhere from 30 to 90 days, depending on your diligence, the complexity of the loan, and the efficiency of the lender or broker.

If you want the process to move fast, look for mortgage lenders who are looking to disrupt the traditional mortgage process by offering a more streamlined service and a better customer experience.

If you’re like most people, you’ve got a life to live and don’t want your mortgage refinance to drag on for months. Keep this in mind while looking for a lender to refinance with.

Ready to check out your mortgage refinance rates with a competitive lender that values your time? SoFi can give you a quote (that won’t affect your credit score! 2) in as little as two minutes.

1. Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website on credit.
2. To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.

SoFi Lending Corp. is licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law, license number 6054612. NMLS #1121636.
The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi Mortgages not available in all states. Products and terms may vary from those advertised on this site. See SoFi.com for details.


Source: sofi.com