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How Often Can You Refinance Your Home?

Other than possible lender-imposed waiting periods after a mortgage loan closes, you can refi as many times as your heart desires. But you’ll want to crunch numbers and think about more than interest rates.

Homeowners choose to refinance for a number of reasons: to lower monthly payments, take advantage of lower interest rates, get better terms, pay the loan off more quickly, or eliminate private mortgage insurance.

Refinancing involves paying off the current mortgage with a second loan that has (hopefully) better terms. Borrowers don’t have to stay with the same lender—it’s possible to shop around for the best deals, and lenders will compete for that business.

Mortgage rates seem to be constantly in flux, moving mostly in parallel with the federal interest rate. Both were on a downward trend throughout 2020, and mortgage rates rang in the new year at 2.67% for a 30-year fixed loan and 2.17% for a 15-year fixed loan.

Rates that low could mean the chance for homeowners to save significant money. But should a killer interest rate automatically trigger a refinance? Here are some things to consider before taking the plunge.

The Basics of Mortgage Refinancing

Because a homeowner who refinances is essentially taking out a new loan, the cost of acquiring the new loan must be compared with potential savings. It could take years to recoup the cost of refinancing.

As with the initial mortgage loan, a refinance requires a number of steps, including credit checks, underwriting, and possibly an appraisal.

Typically, however, many homeowners start with an online search for the rates they qualify for. (A low average mortgage rate doesn’t necessarily translate to an individual offer—creditworthiness, debt-to-income ratio, income, and other factors similar to what’s required for an initial mortgage will matter.)

The secret sauce that makes up a mortgage refinance rate might seem like a mystery right up there with how car sellers price their inventory, but there are some common factors that can affect your offer:

•  Credit score: As a general rule, higher credit scores translate to lower interest rates. A number of financial institutions will give account holders access to their credit scores for free, and a number of independent sites offer a free peek, too.
•  Loan term/type: Is the loan a 30-year fixed? A 15-year? Variable rate? The selected loan repayment terms are likely to affect the interest rate.
•  Down payment: A refinance doesn’t typically require cash upfront, as a first-time mortgage usually does, but any cash that can be put toward the value of a loan can help reduce payments.
•  Home value vs. loan amount: If a home loan is extra large (or extra small), interest rates could be higher. But generally speaking, the less the mortgage amount is compared with the value of the home, the lower the interest rates may be.
•  Points: Some refinance offers come with the option to take “points” in exchange for a lower interest rate. In simplest terms, points are discounts in the form of a fee that’s paid upfront in exchange for a lower interest rate.
•  Location, location, location: Where the property is physically located matters not only in its value but in the interest rate you might receive.

What Types of Refinance Loans Are Out There?

As with first-time home loans, consumers have a number of refinance mortgage options available to them. The two most common types involve either changing the terms of the original loan or taking out cash based on the home’s equity.

A rate-and-term refinance changes the interest rate, repayment term, or sometimes both at once. Homeowners might seek out this type of refinance loan when there’s a drop in interest rates, and it could save them money for both the short term and the life of the loan.

A cash-out refinance can also change the terms or interest rate, but it includes cash back to the homeowner based on the home’s equity.

Within those two basic types of refinance options, conventional mortgages from traditional lenders are the most common. But refinancing can also happen through a number of government programs.

Some, like USDA-backed loans , require the initial mortgage to be a part of the program as well, but others, such as the VA, have a VA-to-VA refinance loan called an interest rate reduction refinance loan and a non-VA loan to a VA-backed refinance , so it’s important to shop around to find the best option.

How Early Can I Refinance My Home?

If a home purchase comes with immediate equity—it was purchased as a foreclosure or short sale, for example—the temptation to cash out immediately with a refinance may be strong. The same could be true if interest rates fall dramatically soon after the ink is dry on a mortgage. Especially for conventional loans that are backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, it may be possible to refinance right away. Others may require a waiting period.

According to credit-reporting company Experian, for example, there can be a six-month waiting period for a cash-out refinance. Or, refinancing via government programs like the FHA streamline refinance or VA’s interest rate reduction refinance loan can require waiting periods of 210 days.

Lenders can require a waiting period (also called a “seasoning period”) until they refinance their own loans for a number of reasons, including insurance that the original loan is in good standing.

For a cash-out refinance, some lenders may also require that the home has at least 20% equity.

Questions to Ask Before You Refinance

As with other things in life, just because you can (refi) doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Before you jump on the refinance bandwagon, ask yourself these questions.

What Is the Goal?

The endgame of a mortgage refinance can help determine whether now is the right time. If a lower monthly payment is the goal, it can be wise to play around with a refinance calculator to see just how much a lower interest rate will help.

For years, it has been a general rule that a refinance should lower the interest rate by at least 2 percentage points to be worth it. Some lenders believe 1 percentage point is still beneficial (each percentage point amounts to roughly $100 a month in payment reduction), but anything less than that and the savings could be eaten up by closing costs.

What Is the Total Repayment Amount?

It’s important to remember that a lower monthly payment—even if it’s significantly less—doesn’t necessarily equal savings in the long run.

If a mortgage with 20 years remaining is refinanced to lower the monthly payment, for example, the most affordable option could be a 30-year mortgage. But is the lower monthly payment worth it if it will be around for 10 additional years?

Will I Need Cash to Close?

One of the biggest differences between a first-time mortgage and a refinance is the amount it costs to close the loan. Many times, closing costs for a refinance can be rolled into the loan, requiring no cash at the outset.

Closing costs typically come in at 2% to 5% of the loan amount, and although they can be rolled into the loan and paid off over time, that could mean the new monthly payment isn’t as low as planned.

One way to make sure the investment is worth the cost is to ask the lender for a break-even period.

SoFi offers a traditional refi and cash-out refi with competitive interest rates and no hidden fees.

Check your rate in just two minutes.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (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.
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.

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Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

Homeschooling has long been an option for parents looking to educate their children outside the traditional bounds of public and private schools. The movement gained momentum in the 1970s, when educational theorist John Holt argued that formal schools placed too much emphasis on rote learning.

Since then the number of homeschooled children has grown to 2.5 million, about 3% to 4% of the population of school-aged children. And it looks as if those numbers will continue to grow by an estimated 2% to 8% each year.

COVID-19 has turned traditional schooling on its head and increased interest in homeschooling. Many formal institutions have decided to switch to online learning to avoid the risk of spreading the virus through in-person instruction. As a result, more parents are wondering whether homeschooling is a good option for them.

While homeschooling methods can offer benefits, there are some downsides to consider as well. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of homeschooling that might help parents decide whether it’s the right path for them.

The Pros of Homeschooling

Creating a Unique Curriculum

Parents who wish to homeschool their kids have a lot of flexibility when it comes to the direction of their child’s learning. Depending on their child’s needs and interests, parents might choose to spend more time teaching their kids musical instruments, developing foreign language skills, or going on educational field trips.

Homeschooling can be a personalized curriculum that works best for a particular child, rather than trying to make that child fit into the confines of a pre-existing curriculum.

That said, rules for what a homeschool curriculum must cover vary by state, and states may require annual assessments to make sure children are on track.

Tailoring the Child’s Education to Their Needs

The traditional school day and curriculum functions on a relatively strict schedule. Each subject tends to be given the same amount of time. And teachers must move at a certain pace in order to make sure they cover everything the curriculum requires.

This one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t necessarily work for all learners. For example, while a child may be a whiz at math, they may need extra time learning to read.

Parents of homeschoolers can adjust schedules to make sure that kids are spending enough time on the subjects in which they need the most help, while avoiding lingering too long on subjects that come easily.

Some kids may have challenges learning in a traditional classroom setting with 20 other kids and multiple distractions. Maybe a child works best with long blocks of uninterrupted study, or maybe they work best in shorter blocks of time with short bursts of physical activity outside in between tasks.

Parents may learn that some subjects are best taught at certain times of day. For instance, maybe a child is most focused in the morning, making it a good time to cover more challenging subjects, saving easier tasks for the afternoon.

Cost Saving

Homeschooling may be a good option for parents who are dissatisfied with their local public schools but don’t want to pay for private school. On a moderate budget, homeschooling could cost $300 to $500 per child each year. That figure assumes that parents are taking some money saving measures, such as saving money on school supplies, buying used textbooks, renting or borrowing curricula, and leaning on the public library as a resource. But it also assumes they’ll be spending on a few extras like tutors as needed and extracurriculars like art classes.

On the other hand, the average private school tuition is more than $11,000 per year. Parents who can devote their time to teaching their kids at home have the opportunity to save a lot of money, especially if they are teaching multiple children at the same time.

The Cons of Homeschooling

Increased Workload

While there are plenty of benefits, it’s also important to weigh some factors that could be considered disadvantages of homeschooling. Chief among these is the sheer amount of time and effort it takes to homeschool a child.

In many ways, homeschooling is a full-time job, requiring careful planning each day to make sure kids are covering the necessary ground.

Depending on where parents live, adding the extracurriculars that can make sure a child has a well-rounded education can be difficult. Living in a rural area may make it difficult to find extracurricular classes outside the home or make frequent visits to a museum or experience other cultural activities in person.

Social Constraints

Traditional schools have a built-in social structure. Kids are gathered into one class and learn to interact with each other and work together. Some parents may fear their children won’t learn proper socialization if they are homeschooled.

While homeschoolers don’t necessarily have the same opportunities to socialize, there are still plenty of ways for parents to make sure their children are making friends and interacting with peers.

For example, parents may consider homeschooling co-ops, groups of families of homeschoolers that come together to go on field trips, work on life skills or do extracurriculars that traditional schools might offer, and homeschoolers might otherwise miss.

Opportunity Costs

Not only will parents be paying out-of-pocket for costs associated with homeschooling, there are also opportunity costs—the loss of a potential gain when choosing one alternative over another—to consider.

A parent who stays home to teach a child is usually not spending that time at work earning a salary. For many parents, this is a worthy sacrifice to ensure their child gets the education they need. But parents should consider opportunity cost when deciding whether homeschooling is an affordable option.

Researching Homeschooling Options

There are a wide variety of homeschooling options and resources available to parents, from fully developed private, online homeschool curricula to web-based public schools that allow students to follow a public school curriculum at home.

Some school districts may even allow kids to go to school part-time while completing some of their schoolwork at home, a compromise that some parents might feel is the best of both worlds.

When selecting a curriculum, look for the best options that meet you and your children’s needs, making sure that it aligns with the legal guidelines for your state and will meet your state’s evaluation standards.

Preparing for the School Year

Whether you choose to homeschool or stick with a traditional school setting, students will still need school supplies. Homeschoolers’ lists may look different than those from your neighborhood school, but looking for back-to-school sales will typically save parents money on these supplies.

Using a cash management account like SoFi Money® can be a great way to spend on back-to-school supplies—while saving and earning.

For parents who want to save ahead of time for school supplies, setting up a cash management account can be a good way to make sure the funds are there when they’re needed.

Ready to stock up on school supplies? Explore the benefits of SoFi Money®.



SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
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.

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7 Ways to Save Money on Commuting to Work

Commuting can be a major cost—in terms of finances, time and, for many, happiness. There are obvious hits on the wallet but also quiet ones that many drivers don’t pay attention to.

According to the Census Bureau, the average one-way commute is just over 26 minutes, which puts the round trip at almost one hour. The New York City metropolitan area has some of the longest commutes, at 36 minutes, and the San Francisco Bay Area stands at 32 minutes one way.

Shorter commute times tend to be found in the Midwest and plains states, with round trips in Fargo, North Dakota, and Dubuque, Iowa, clocking in at about half an hour.

If time is the most valuable commodity, there’s that to think about. A commute takes time that you don’t get to spend as you choose and is usually unpaid. But let’s talk about where the rubber meets the road: money.

How Much Does It Cost To Commute?

First, there’s there the per-mile cost of gasoline. Commuting to work is a major portion of all driving in the United States. But a hidden cost of driving is depreciation, a car’s loss in value over time. It’s the largest annual cost of car ownership, according to AAA, accounting for more than a third of the average annual cost. Add increased maintenance and repair costs of cars as they age and are driven more frequently.

AAA pegged maintenance and repair costs at almost 9 cents per mile and fuel costs at 11.6 cents per mile, meaning that beyond fixed costs of car ownership, a 15-mile one-way commute would cost about $6.18 a day and, at around 250 days of work a year, $1,545 annually, before expenses like auto depreciation, tolls, and insurance.

The easiest way to reduce these costs is to minimize or eliminate a commute to work.

Recommended: Average Commute Budget

1. Aiming for a ‘Remote First’ Culture

The easiest way to maximize working from home is to find a job at a company where it’s standard. While not in play at many companies, the “remote first” model is gaining adherents, especially in technology.

If your work makes it possible to work from home sometimes, you may want to try to make it a regular occurrence. That way you can more easily optimize your time spent in the office and save tasks best for home for the day you regularly work from home.

If you work from home regularly, it also means you can get better at it, from setting up a home office that truly works to figuring out how working at home can make you more productive than working in the office, not merely save you the time and money of a long commute—although that’s important, too.

Of course, the easiest way to save money commuting to work is not to do it at all. This not only spares the cost of gas, maintenance, subway tickets, or bus fare, but it also saves precious time.

The work-from-home trend had been growing in the run-up to 2020, but the pandemic amplified it massively. WFH will likely remain an option for a wider swath of workers going forward.

The money that would have been spent on a commute to work can be leveraged to hit other savings goals.

Recommended: Making Working From Home Actually Work

2. Living Closer to the Job

In normal times, over three-quarters of American commuters drive solo in their cars to work every day, roughly 115 million people. And, as noted, cars are expensive to buy, operate, and maintain, all the while depreciating. So one of the most obvious ways to reduce commute time is to make it so your car is less expensive.

There are roughly two ways to do this: Drive less or drive less expensively.

The easiest way to drive less is to live closer to work. While that may save money in gas and maintenance, it could end up being more expensive to live closer to work, especially in a large city. One of the main amenities people seek when deciding where to live is distance from their job. If you work near where a lot of other people work, trying to live near that job is likely to be pricey.

So how to make driving less expensive if you can’t reduce the amount of driving necessary to get work? Get someone else to drive, at least some of the time, or drive cheaply.

3. Giving Carpooling a Spin

About 9% of commuters carpool, according to estimates from the Brookings Institution based on census data. This means a shared ride to and from work, typically with someone who works in the same area or nearby.

Carpooling doesn’t magically get rid of the costs of commuting to work, but it can distribute them among riders or reduce them. Gas costs can be split, and maintenance costs can be reduced as the car is operated less frequently.

Even if you’re the one driving, you can often get access to high-occupancy-vehicle lanes, which means less time on the road and less time stalled in traffic.

4. Getting a Cheaper Car

Let’s say you have no choice about how far you have to drive and how frequently you have to do it. That may be a bummer, but it doesn’t mean you’re out of options for saving money. Some cars are cheaper to operate than others, and there are wide variations between them. Basically, smaller is better.

For new cars, according to AAA, a small sedan is the cheapest to own on an annual basis, coming in at a bit over $7,000, even less than hybrids and electric vehicles, whose yearly costs average $7,740 and $8,300, respectively.

From there it’s pretty predictable: Small SUVs and medium sedans cost an owner around $8,500 a year, while medium SUVs, large sedans, and pickups rack up more than $10,000 in annual costs. (AAA bases the costs on 15,000 miles driven annually.)

There are, of course, other ways to get around besides a car.

5. Taking Public Transportation

About 5% of commuters are straphangers, bus riders, and other transit users. While a mass-transit commute to work is not costless, it can certainly save money on a per-trip basis.

Even if you own a car, using mass transit (or driving to a transit stop) won’t spare you from insurance, the cost of a new car, or depreciation, but the costs of car ownership associated with actual driving—gas, maintenance, etc.—will go down.

The only downside is that the ability to commute to work by public transit is often largely determined by locale. Someone who works in an area with a public transit system that serves the office can choose to live somewhere with efficient access to that system.

This will likely be in or near a large city, where the share of commuters who use public transit is far higher than the 5% national average.

If you work in a city like New York, Chicago, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, or Baltimore, public transit might be an efficient commuting option.

And although public transit may not entirely remove the need for a car, it could make it so a household with two adults only needs a single car, vastly reducing the cost of car ownership.

Finally, some companies offer commuter benefits—pretax income to be spent on costs related to the commute.

6. Doing the Legwork

Often the most affordable way to get to work is without a car—that means by foot, bicycle, or some other non-internal-combustion vehicle. Biking may be impractical or stressful in many parts of the country.

Still, some commuters are up for the challenge. Cycling provides an aerobic workout and triggers the release of endorphins, builds muscle, and increases bone density, and has benefits that carry over to walking, standing, stair climbing, and endurance, Harvard Health points out.

Rolling road warriors may want to invest in a variety of gear, whose price tags are mitigated by a lack of car-related bills. Commuter gear basics and more are recommended on the website of the League of American Bicyclists, which advocates for connected communities, personal health, and environmental health.

7. Tracking Expenses

To reduce costs, commuters have to first get a handle on their spending, whether for gas, maintenance, or mass transit—or even coffees, snacks, and lunches on the job.

SoFi Money® allows tracking of all of those costs and more. The cash management account gives a digital peek at niches of spending and patterns.

And anyone who opens a SoFi Money® account unlocks the door to SoFi membership and all its perks.

Learn more about SoFi Money® today.



SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
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.

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How Does Housing Inventory Affect Buyers & Sellers?

For better or worse, the real estate market can fluctuate from year to year or even by season. For both buyers and sellers, housing inventory is a key factor to pay attention to. Whether the housing inventory is high or low can carry advantages or drawbacks.

Here’s how to gauge the local real estate market and navigate high and low housing inventory through the perspective of buyers vs. sellers.

What Is Housing Inventory?

An area’s housing inventory can be thought of as the current supply of properties for sale.

The housing inventory will increase or decrease according to the difference between the rate of new listings on the market and the number of closed sales or houses taken off the market for other reasons.

Although this calculation can be done at any time, it’s common practice to assess the balance at the end of the month. Comparing monthly figures can show if housing inventory is trending up, down, or staying relatively stable.

If there appears to be a rapid trend in either direction, it may signal the need to take quick action on a purchase or sale, or hold off for a while.

Even within a town or city, housing inventory can vary significantly. To better understand your local housing market trends, you can dig deeper into important indicators like average time on the market and average price of nearby homes or in your desired neighborhood.

High Housing Inventory

An area with a high housing inventory has more properties on the market than there are people looking to buy. This can also be referred to as a buyer’s market, since the larger selection of homes usually favors prospective buyers more than sellers.

These conditions may cause the price of homes to stagnate or, in more extreme cases, fall. Typically, the average property will also take longer to sell in this environment.

Still, different financial situations and unique property characteristics can influence the advantages or challenges associated with buying and selling during high housing inventory. Here are some considerations and tips for either situation.

If You’re a Buyer Amid High Housing Inventory

In many cases, shopping for a new home during high housing inventory is a favorable situation to be in.

If timelines and scheduling allow, buyers could benefit from seeing multiple properties before making an offer. High housing inventory means there are fewer buyers to compete with, so there’s less of a risk that homes will quickly get scooped up.

Knowledge is power when it comes to making an offer. Having viewed comparable houses in the area firsthand could help later at the negotiating table.

Other property details, such as price reductions and total days on the market, are potential indicators that sellers might be ready to accept an offer below asking price.

Although buyers can have a comparative edge when housing inventory is high, there is still a chance of multiple offers and bidding wars for well-priced homes.

If You’re a Seller Amid High Housing Inventory

Putting a property on the market in a location with high housing inventory may pose challenges and require more time to find the right buyer. However, there are several strategies at a seller’s disposal to unload a house without financial loss.

To stand out in a crowded field, it can help to address any persisting issues and accentuate your home’s best assets.

Parts of the property in need of common home repairs—the foundation, electrical system, HVAC system, and so on—could discourage potential buyers. Instead of accepting lower offers or other concessions, sellers may save more money by handling the repairs before putting the house on the market.

Making improvements can be helpful, too.

A kitchen reno is one thing, but doing a thorough cleaning and tidying up landscaping are easy fixes that could make a better impression on prospective buyers.

Decluttering is another way to enhance a house for showings and listing photos. It could also indicate a shorter turnaround for buyers eager to move quickly.

When all is said and done, setting an asking price that’s not too far above similar properties may be necessary to keep your property on buyers’ radar.

Low Housing Inventory

Also known as a seller’s market or a hot housing market, an area with low housing inventory has a surplus of interested homebuyers and a shortage of available listings.

Usually, sellers in an area with low housing inventory can get a higher price for their property. Thanks to the abundance of buyers, It’s not uncommon to see multiple offers for any type of housing stock.

Let’s take a closer look at how to make the most of low housing inventory for either side of the deal.

If You’re a Buyer Amid Low Housing Inventory

Although the odds may not favor buyers in a low housing inventory environment, they still have some options to increase their chances of finding a dream home

In a multiple-offer situation, the highest price may not be the most advantageous deal for the seller. Being flexible on the closing date and limiting contingencies can affect an offer’s competitiveness.

Getting pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage loan can show that buyers are ready to go and financially eligible. Typically, lenders provide potential borrowers with a letter stating how much they can borrow, given some conditions.

Pre-approval, which involves analysis of at least two years of tax returns, months’ worth of income history and bank statements, and documents showing any additional sources of income, can carry more weight and speed up the mortgage application process.

If you can swing it, a cash offer is often seen as advantageous because there’s no risk of the deal falling through from a denied mortgage loan.

An escalation clause is another method for beating out competing bids. The clause means a buyer automatically will increase their initial bid up to a specified dollar amount. For example, a buyer with an escalation clause could offer $250,000 with an option to bump up to $255,000 if another offer exceeded theirs.

Even in a seller’s market, house hunters would do best to keep appraised values in mind. If buyers pay thousands more than the appraised value of a house, their home equity could take a hit.

If You’re a Seller Amid Low Housing Inventory

When the forces of supply and demand favor sellers, they have a better chance of fielding multiple offers on a property. Still, getting a great deal is not a sure thing.

The same conventional wisdom applies for cleaning and touching up a house to get more foot traffic at showings or open houses.

Setting a reasonable asking price just below the market value—a figure based in part on comps, or comparables, what similar homes in the same area have sold for recently—is another way to capture buyer interest. In a multiple-offer situation, this gives buyers room to outbid each other, potentially increasing the purchase price above asking.

If faced with more than one offer, it may be tempting to go for the highest bidder. It can be beneficial to review each buyer’s finances and contingencies to lower the risk of a deal falling through.

Cash offers are generally the most secure but represent just 14% of buyers, according to a National Association of Realtors® report.

Lenders may not extend financing for pre-approved buyers if they’re applying to borrow more than the appraised value of a home.

And contingencies like the house passing an inspection could allow a buyer to back out of a deal, too.

Buying a Home

Housing inventory is an important consideration when looking for a new home, but it’s just one aspect of deciding the best time to buy a house.

Personal finances also come into play. Most buyers will have to borrow to seal the deal.

Getting quotes from several lenders can help find a home loan that best fits your needs. And you can get pre-approved by multiple lenders without hurting your credit score, as long as it’s done within a 45-day time frame.

SoFi offers mortgage loans with competitive rates, no hidden fees, and as little as 10% down. Mortgage loan officers are on hand to help you through the process and make your dream home a reality.

The Takeaway

Housing inventory dictates whether an area is a buyer’s or seller’s market. Knowing homes’ average time on the market, comps, and strategies can help lookers and listers navigate high and low housing inventory.

Find your rate on a SoFi home loan in just two minutes.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (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.
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.
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Using Your Credit Card During a Crisis—Pros & Cons

Even under so-called “normal” circumstances, some people may have an ambivalent-at-best relationship with credit card use. A person’s first card likely represents freedom and independence—as an adult, those cards might instead symbolize great stress.

Credit-reporting company Experian® says credit card debt is the second-fastest-growing debt behind personal loans, and that the average credit card debt for Americans is $6,194 (with an additional $1,155 on retail credit cards). And 43.9% of credit card holders are referred to as “revolvers” by the American Bankers Association, meaning they carry at least some debt from month to month.

Unfortunately, with the global coronavirus pandemic, there’s no doubt economic circumstances are not normal right now. Should the approach to using credit cards change during a crisis? Here are some ins and outs of using—and rethinking how to use— credit cards:

Is It Smart To Use Credit Cards Now?

Just as in pre-coronavirus times, credit cards aren’t magical “buy anything and worry about it much, much later” tickets. Many of the basics for using a credit card are still in effect: Don’t make purchases just to get reward points, report missing or stolen cards immediately, be in the habit of checking your statements every month, etc.

That said, many banks and lenders are offering relief in the form of rolling out new policies to ease the burden for card holders who are struggling with their payments. Some are waiving fees, offering payment deferral or forbearance, or increasing credit lines—some banks are even offering these three forms of support, and more.

Of course, it’s unwise to assume a bank or credit card company is focused on looking out for you during this time—the better option might be to contact your card issuer for information and any fine print that might go along with these possible perks. And while the ability to increase your credit line might sound good, it could also cause more headaches down the road.

Making minimum payments on credit cards can lead to four times the price of purchases paid back over decades. The interest—especially compounding interest, which is essentially interest on interest already due—can often be the big killer with credit cards. But there are ways to potentially avoid interest on credit cards, such as paying off a balance in full each month.

Even if your income seems stable, if there’s one thing we’ve all been learning through COVID-19 it’s that one can never really predict what is about to happen a week or two later. Now, more than ever, it might be a good idea to use your credit cards responsibly. Part of that responsibility now means knowing what responsibility means for you and your situation—while being one of the revolvers the American Bankers Association tracks isn’t necessarily something to be thrilled about, the costs might be worth enduring if it means you have the necessities you need for survival now. It obviously isn’t irresponsible to charge things you truly need to survive—after all, priorities shift during a crisis. But only you will know what you need.

Planning for the Future—Starting Now

Conversations about using credit cards, global pandemic or not, are really about responsible saving and spending. There is no blanket yes or no answer to whether it’s a good idea to use credit cards right now—although it’s certainly possible to be a little wiser about using a credit card.

FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, reported in 2018 that nearly a third of households would struggle to cover an unexpected $2,000 expense—and while credit cards might be a source of uncertainty or stress, it’s also true that they are not necessarily bad. After all, credit cards might be a key component of establishing and maintaining a credit history, and they of course come in handy for unexpected (and some expected) expenses.

If you’re looking to be spread less thin in the here and now, however, it might be worthwhile to hunt for credit cards that might offer more reasonable rates than your current cards. A good place to start might be with your current card issuers and see if they can lower the interest rate. These calls usually take just a few minutes, so it might be worth a shot. Even if a credit card company can’t do it now, they might be able to do it later—and if you do get a rate decrease, it’s possible to use that when negotiating on another card for a rate to at least match it.

Another alternative might be to consider a cash-back credit card, one that offers cash rewards in a small percentage back on each transaction. Depending on the issuer, the card might offer higher rates for certain categories of purchases, so it might be worth doing some research and strategizing if there is a big purchase you want to make. But, of course, it is not recommended to spend on purchases just to earn a little bit more. The idea with these cards is knowing that cash reward is there versus, say, points that can be redeemed from a catalog of items that might not be essential for survival right now.

There are also balance-transfer credit cards, or a card you would transfer existing card debt to, usually at a lower (or maybe even 0%) annual percentage rate (APR). The rationale and incentive for these cards is to lock your credit card debt in at a lower rate than it would be currently, to therefore make it less burdensome to work on paying it down.

There are wrinkles to employing this strategy, however, so you might want to consider reading the fine print. The idea is you can pay off that balance with no interest on a more compressed timeline than you might otherwise. That lower rate might change after the introductory period, which must be at least six months according to the Credit Card Act of 2009, but can last longer. If you are unable to pay your debt off before the introductory period is over, you may be saddled with an APR that could be even higher than the one you had to begin with. Also, you might want to watch out for any balance transfer fees. Usually, these cards have to be issued by a different company than one you already bank with.

Just be forewarned that while signing up for new cards can make things slightly easier right now by increasing purchasing power, it might only be worthwhile if it helps pay required monthly expenses. Extraordinary times can call for extraordinary measures.

Putting the Cards Down—For Now

If the idea of getting more plastic feels more like a problem than a solution, another route might be to consider a loan to consolidate your current credit card debt. Similar to balance-transfer credit cards, one common use for unsecured personal loans is to consolidate revolving and/or high-interest debt into one loan, ideally with lower interest rates and fees.

Personal loans might make it easier to manage debt all in one monthly bill, with a set end date when your debt will be repaid, and it could end up helping you save money in the long run. SoFi has fixed rate, unsecured personal loans with no fees that can be used to help cover expenses and keep moving forward. And if you’re looking to find ways to tame those credit card bills, SoFi also offers credit card consolidation loans, with no application or origination fees and no pre-payment penalties.

Ready to start vanquishing your credit card debt? Learn more about personal loans and consolidating credit card debt with SoFi.



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