Selling a House With a Mortgage: Can You Do It?

Selling a House With a Mortgage: Can You Do It?

It’s entirely possible to sell a house with a mortgage. In fact, it’s common to sell a property that still has a mortgage, because most people don’t stay in a home long enough to pay off the home loan.

With the help of your lender and real estate agent, you can move ahead and sell a house with a mortgage. Yes, there’s a bit of paperwork involved, but settling your mortgage at the closing table shouldn’t prove too challenging.

Here’s everything you need to know about selling a home with a mortgage.

What Happens to Your Mortgage When You Sell Your Home?

When you sell your home, the amount you contracted with the buyer is put toward your mortgage and settlement costs before any excess funds are wired to you. Here’s how it works for different transaction types.

A Typical Sale

In a typical sale, homeowners will put their current home on the market before buying another one. Assuming the homeowners have more value in their home than what is owed on their mortgage, they can take the proceeds from the sale of the home and apply that money to the purchase of a new home.

A Short Sale

A short sale is one when you cannot sell the home for what you owe on the mortgage and need to ask the lender to cover the difference (or short).

In a short sale transaction, the mortgage lender and servicer must accept the buyer’s offer before an escrow account can be opened for the sale of the property. This type of mortgage relief transaction can be lengthy (up to 120 days) and involves a lot of paperwork. It’s not common in areas where values are falling or at times when the real estate market is dropping.

When You Buy Another House

There are several roads you can take when you buy another house before selling your own. You may have the option of:

•   Holding two mortgages. If your lender approves you for a new mortgage without selling your current home, you may be able to use this option when shopping for a mortgage. However, you won’t be able to use funds from the sale of your current home for the purchase of your next home.

•   Including a home sale contingency in your real estate contract. The home sale contingency states that the purchase of the new home depends upon the sale of the old home. In other words, the contract is not binding unless you find a buyer to purchase the old home. The two transactions are often tied together. When the sale of the old home closes, it can immediately fund the down payment and closing costs of the new home (depending on how much there is, of course). Keep in mind that a home sale contingency can make your offer less competitive in a hot real estate market where sellers are not willing to wait around for a buyer’s home to sell.

•   Getting a bridge loan. A bridge loan is a short-term loan used to fund the costs of obtaining a new home before selling the old home. The interest rates are usually pretty high, but most homebuyers don’t plan to hold the loan for long.



💡 Quick Tip: You deserve a more zen mortgage. Look for a mortgage lender who’s dedicated to closing your loan on time.

Selling a House With a Mortgage: Step by Step

Here are the steps to take to sell a home that still has a mortgage.

Get a Payoff Quote

To determine exactly how much of the mortgage you still owe, you’ll need a payoff quote from your mortgage servicer. This is not the same thing as the balance shown on your last mortgage statement. The payoff amount will include any interest still owed until the day your loan is paid off, as well as any fees you may owe.

The payoff quote will have an expiration date. If the outstanding mortgage balance is paid off before that date, the amount on the payoff quote is valid. If it is paid after, sellers will need to obtain a new payoff quote.

Determine Your Home Equity

Equity is the difference between what your property is worth and what you owe on your mortgage (your payoff quote is most accurate). If your home is worth $400,000 and your payoff amount on the existing mortgage is $250,000, your equity is $150,000.

When you sell your home, you gain access to this equity. Your mortgage, any second mortgage like a home equity loan, and closing costs are settled, and then you are wired the excess amount to use how you like. Many homeowners opt to use part or all of the money as a down payment on their next home.

Secure a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent can walk you through the process of selling a home with a mortgage and clear up questions on other mortgage basics. Your agent will be particularly valuable if you need to buy a new home before selling your current home.

Set a Price

With your agent, you will look at factors that affect property value, such as comparable sales in your area, to help you set a price. There are different price strategies you can review with your agent to bring in more buyers to bid on your home.

Accept a Bid and Open Escrow

After an open house and showings, you may have an offer (or a handful). Consider what you value in accepting an offer. Do you want a fast close? The highest price? A buyer who is flexible with your moving date? A buyer with mortgage preapproval?

You may also choose to continue negotiating with prospective buyers. Once you’ve selected a buyer and have signed the contract, it’s time to go into escrow.

Review Your Settlement Statement

You’ll be in escrow until the day your transaction closes. An escrow or title agent is the intermediary between you and the buyer until the deal is done. While the loan is being processed, title reports are prepared, inspections are held, and other details to close the deal are being worked out.

Three days before, you’ll see a closing disclosure (if you’re buying a house at the same time) and a settlement statement. The settlement statement outlines fees and charges of the real estate transaction and pinpoints how much money you’ll net by selling your home.


💡 Quick Tip: Generally, the lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better loan terms you’ll be offered. One way to improve your ratio is to increase your income (hello, side hustle!). Another way is to consolidate your debt and lower your monthly debt payments.

Selling a House With a Negative Equity

Negative equity means that the value of an asset (such as a home) is less than the balance due on the loan against it. Say you purchased a property for $400,000 with a $380,000 loan, but then the real estate market took a nosedive. Your property is now worth $350,000, less than the amount of the mortgage.

If you have negative equity in the home and need to sell it, it is possible to sell if you come up with the difference yourself.

In this scenario (an alternative to a short sale), you pay the difference between the amount left on your mortgage note and the purchase offer at closing. So in the example above, if you sold the house for $350,000, at the closing, you would need to pay the loan holder an additional $30,000 to clear the debt.

The Takeaway

Selling a house with a mortgage is common. The buyer pays the sales price, and that money is used to pay off your remaining mortgage, your closing costs, and any second mortgage. The rest is your profit.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

Who is responsible for the mortgage on the house during the sale?

The homeowner is responsible for continuing to pay the mortgage until paperwork is signed on closing day.

What happens if you sell a house with a HELOC?

When you sell a home that has a home equity line of credit with a balance, a home equity loan, or any other kind of lien against the house, that will need to be paid off before the remaining equity is paid out to you.

What happens to escrow money when you sell your house?

Your mortgage escrow account will be closed, and any money left will be refunded to you.

Can I make a profit on a house I still owe on?

Yes. You can make a profit if the amount you sell your house for is greater than the amount you owe on it, less closing and settlement costs.

Can I have two mortgages at once?

Yes, you can have two mortgages at once if the lender approves it.


Photo credit: iStock/Beton studio

*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are 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.

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Building Generational Wealth Through Homeownership

How Homeownership Can Help Build Generational Wealth

One of the time-honored ways to build wealth and financial stability is by buying real estate. Properties typically appreciate over time and may provide cash flow as well.

Owning your own home not only gives you a great place to live, but it will likely turn out to be a good investment, one that can help build generational wealth for your family.

What Is Considered Generational Wealth?

Generational wealth refers to assets passed on from one generation to another within the same family. Assets is a broad term that includes cash; stocks, bonds and other securities; a family business; and real estate, including the family home.

Because of the high rates of appreciation in the past several decades, real estate can be one of the most valuable assets passed down from one generation to another.


💡 Quick Tip: SoFi’s award-winning mortgage loan experience means a simple application — we even offer an on-time close guarantee. We’ve made $7.5 billion in home loans so we know a thing or two about what makes homebuyers happy.‡

How Does Homeownership Build Wealth?

Homeownership can help build wealth directly through price appreciation. When the value of a home rises, owners are able to sell for that higher price, sometimes moving into a new, larger home. For homeowners who aren’t selling, price appreciation adds to their home equity and overall financial assets.

Of course, if home values decline, as they did in the 2007-2009 Great Recession, the opposite can happen and owners may find they owe more than the home is worth. But real estate has proved to be one of the most reliable assets in the long term.

The bottom line: A person’s home is often their largest financial asset, the benefits of which are often passed on to the next generation.

If you’re just getting started, know that a first-time homebuyer can be anyone who has not owned a principal residence in the past three years, some single parents, and others. The prospective purchasers can often get assistance (such as low or no down payment) as they progress towards buying their first property. Programs such as these can be a stepping stone to building generational wealth.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.


Direct and Indirect Building of Wealth

Next, consider different ways of building wealth over the generations.

Inheritance

Inheriting appreciated capital assets like real estate, stocks, bonds, ETFs, or a small business can have a big tax benefit, thanks to the “step-up in basis.” The value of the inherited asset is “stepped up” to the fair market value on the date the original owner dies.

If the heir sells the property, the step-up in basis will greatly reduce capital gains taxes due or make them moot if there is no gain. Any capital gain from the sale of inherited property is considered long-term. Current long-term capital gains taxes are 0%, 15%, or 20%, depending on your income and filing status.

For married couples, the death of one spouse results in a partial step-up in most states, but here’s a simplified example. Let’s say you inherit your grandmother’s home, purchased in 1940 for $10,000. The home is valued at $450,000 on the date of her death, which is the stepped-up basis. If you sell the home for $450,000, you’ll pay no capital gains tax. If you sell for a higher sum, capital gains tax will apply only to the amount over $450,000.

Imagine using the stepped-up basis provision over more than one generation of a family. An heir could sell a phenomenally appreciated asset and pay a minimal amount in capital gains tax or none at all on their inheritance, as long as the asset was included in the decedent’s estate.

Indirect Benefits

Heirs of homeowners may well inherit the actual real estate, but generational wealth can also be more indirect. Consider these points:

•   Homeowners are often more financially secure than renters, passing that security on to children.

•   Homeowners are able to borrow against the equity to improve the home (and often boost its value) or take care of other financial needs.

•   Many homeowners are located in districts with high-performing schools, enhancing overall opportunities for their children.

•   Down the line, the equity in a home can help finance retirement and health care needs, shielding adult children from that financial burden.

All of these factors can positively affect the next generation and add to their wealth.

How Discrimination Can Affect Generational Wealth

When housing discrimination occurs, it can keep people of color, women, and families with children, immigrants, and people with disabilities from living in the place they want. Importantly, it can also have a serious impact on generational wealth.

Considering the following statistics from the Fed for the fourth quarter of 2023:

The homeownership rate for non-Hispanic white households overwhelmingly led the pack, at 73.8%. Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander families came a distant second, at 63%. Hispanic families of any race had only a 49.8% homeownership rate, and African American households logged in at 45.9%.

A number of factors have contributed to the race gap in homeownership; not the least is the legacy of race-based discrimination in the housing market.

When homeownership lags among a certain group because of housing discrimination, so does the possibility for generational wealth.


💡 Quick Tip: Your parents or grandparents probably got mortgages for 30 years. But these days, you can get them for 20, 15, or 10 years — and pay less interest over the life of the loan.

Understanding Home Appreciation and Home Equity

To understand how homeownership can build wealth, it’s important to understand the concepts of home appreciation rates and home equity. These are some key points:

•   The increase in the value of a home over time is known as appreciation or the appreciation rate.

•   Home equity is the property value minus the outstanding balance of mortgages, liens, or other debt on the property.

•   Your first contribution to home equity is your down payment.

•   Every time you make a monthly mortgage payment, you are paying down the amount you owe and slowly paying part of the principal on your loan, which builds equity.

•   Price appreciation and home improvements can also add to home equity.

Most people purchase real estate with the expectation that their home will increase in value over time. But many things come into play when it comes to home appreciation and the amount of home equity you can build. Some you can control and some you can’t.

Recommended: How Much Is a Down Payment on a House?

The Economy

Housing prices can be affected by several economic indicators. When a recession hits, unemployment rises, or inflation jumps, the real estate market often declines.

Interest rates are also vitally important. Low mortgage interest rates can fuel demand, which can increase home prices in many areas. Conversely, a rise in mortgage rates can have a cooling effect on buyer demand.

The correlation between the housing markets and the rest of the economy can be surprising at times. For instance, during the initial stages of the pandemic, when economic indicators were showing signs of trouble, the nation saw a giant rise in home prices. This was particularly true in rural and suburban areas as urban dwellers sought more space and fewer crowds.

Recommended: How Rising Inflation Affects Mortgage Interest Rates

Laws and Regulations

Federal legislation can have a big effect on the U.S. housing market. Government tax credits, deductions, and subsidies aimed at certain homeowners can fuel the housing markets.

Local policies and regulations can also affect housing appreciation. Local investments in infrastructure or new schools and parks can increase your home’s value. Local zoning laws can also have an effect, positive or negative.

Home Improvements

This encompasses everything from an extensive addition to a fresh coat of paint. All kinds of improvements can add to the resale value of your home and, importantly, enhance your life while you’re living there.

Whether you decide to remodel a kitchen, a bathroom, or a remodel a living room, updated appliances and décor and energy-efficient improvements are often valuable upgrades.

To fund them, some homeowners use home improvement loans.

Is Homeownership a Smart Investment?

The answer to that question isn’t always straightforward. First, your home is the place where you live, of course, and hopefully you derive happiness from that. In that sense, the costs associated with your home and your mortgage payment can be considered living expenses, not necessarily an investment.

On the other hand, appreciation and home equity can be seen as the return on your investment in your home.

The sweet spot is often a combination of the two: a great place to live and a profitable investment.

Still, homeowners’ net worth far outpaces renters’. Every three years, the Federal Reserve issues the Survey of Consumer Finances, which compares the net worth of homeowners and renters. The latest report shows that homeowners had a median net worth of $396,200; renters, $10,400.

Keeping your expectations realistic can effectively put your home value into the context of your overall financial wellness and estate planning. To do that, you may need to keep in mind the total costs of owning and maintaining real estate. Too often, people subtract their purchase price from the expected sale price and figure the difference is the return on investment. But there are many more costs involved in homeownership.

To calculate your true return, you’ll want to add up the following:

•   Down payment

•   Closing costs

•   Mortgage points

•   Any mortgage insurance

•   Home maintenance expenses

•   Home improvements

•   Total mortgage payments

•   Taxes

•   Any homeowners association fees

•   Estimated selling costs (such as the real estate agent’s fees and staging charges).

That total is the number you want to compare against home appreciation to determine your actual return.

The Takeaway

How does homeownership build generational wealth? In direct and indirect ways. The real estate itself can likely grow in value, and the homeowner may enjoy such benefits as raising a family in a good school district. Buying real estate can build a foundation for a family today and for generations ahead.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.


Photo credit: iStock/Capuski

*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.


SoFi On-Time Close Guarantee: If all conditions of the Guarantee are met, and your loan does not close on or before the closing date on your purchase contract accepted by SoFi, and the delay is due to SoFi, SoFi will give you a credit toward closing costs or additional expenses caused by the delay in closing of up to $10,000.^ The following terms and conditions apply. This Guarantee is available only for loan applications submitted after 04/01/2024. Please discuss terms of this Guarantee with your loan officer. The mortgage must be a purchase transaction that is approved and funded by SoFi. This Guarantee does not apply to loans to purchase bank-owned properties or short-sale transactions. To qualify for the Guarantee, you must: (1) Sign up for access to SoFi’s online portal and upload all requested documents, (2) Submit documents requested by SoFi within 5 business days of the initial request and all additional doc requests within 2 business days (3) Submit an executed purchase contract on an eligible property with the closing date at least 25 calendar days from the receipt of executed Intent to Proceed and receipt of credit card deposit for an appraisal (30 days for VA loans; 40 days for Jumbo loans), (4) Lock your loan rate and satisfy all loan requirements and conditions at least 5 business days prior to your closing date as confirmed with your loan officer, and (5) Pay for and schedule an appraisal within 48 hours of the appraiser first contacting you by phone or email. This Guarantee will not be paid if any delays to closing are attributable to: a) the borrower(s), a third party, the seller or any other factors outside of SoFi control; b) if the information provided by the borrower(s) on the loan application could not be verified or was inaccurate or insufficient; c) attempting to fulfill federal/state regulatory requirements and/or agency guidelines; d) or the closing date is missed due to acts of God outside the control of SoFi. SoFi may change or terminate this offer at any time without notice to you. *To redeem the Guarantee if conditions met, see documentation provided by loan officer.
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.

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Should I Lock My Mortgage Rate Today?

Should I Lock My Mortgage Rate Today?

If you are offered a relatively low mortgage rate, locking it in can secure it and potentially save you a bundle of money over the life of your loan. In other words, it can be a smart move.

That said, when applying for a mortgage, you only have so much control over the mortgage rate, as lenders will consider your credit score, income, and assets to determine your risk as a borrower. What’s more, mortgage rates change daily based on external economic factors like investment activity and inflation.

Read on to learn how a mortgage rate lock works and the benefits and downsides of using this option.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.


What Is a Mortgage Rate Lock?

A mortgage rate lock is an agreement between a borrower and lender to secure an interest rate on a mortgage for a set period of time. Locking in your mortgage rate safeguards you from market fluctuations while the lender underwrites and processes your loan.

Interest rates can rise and fall significantly between mortgage preapproval and closing on a property.

Remember that in the home-buying process, when you’re pre-approved for a mortgage, you will know exactly how much you most likely can borrow, and then you can shop for a home in that range.

So when can you lock in a mortgage rate? Depending on the lender, you may have the option to lock in the rate any time between preapproval and when underwriting begins.

Before preapproval and locking in, it’s recommended to get multiple offers when shopping for a mortgage to find a competitive rate.


💡 Quick Tip: Want the comforts of home and to feel comfortable with your home loan? SoFi has a simple online application and a team dedicated to closing your loan on time. No surprise SoFi has been named a Top Online Lender in 2024 by LendingTree/Newsweek.

How a Mortgage Rate Lock Works

Mortgage rate locks are more complicated than simply securing a set rate in perpetuity. How the rate lock works in practice will vary among lenders, loan terms, different types of mortgages, and geographic locations.

Once you lock a mortgage rate, there are three possible scenarios: Interest rates will increase, decrease, or stay the same. The ideal outcome is securing a lower rate than the prevailing market interest rate at the time of closing.

Here are some key points to know if you are considering a rate lock:

•   Rate locks are sometimes free but often cost between 0.25% and 0.50% of the loan amount.

•   When you choose to lock in your rate, it’s stabilized for a set period of time — usually for 30 to 60 days, but up to 120 days may be available.

•   If the rate lock expires before closing on the property, the ability to extend is subject to the lender.

•   Time it right. The average mortgage took 44 days to close as of February 2024, according to ICE Mortgage Technology, underscoring the importance of timing a mortgage rate lock with your expected closing date. Otherwise, you could face fees for extending the rate lock or have to settle for a new, potentially higher rate.

•   Whether borrowers are charged for a rate lock depends on the lender. It could be baked into the cost of the offer or tacked on as a flat fee or percentage of the loan amount. The longer the lock period, the higher the fees, generally speaking.

•   Lenders have the discretion to void the rate lock and change your rate based on your personal financial situation. Say you take out a new line of credit to cover an emergency expense during the mortgage underwriting process. This could affect your credit and debt-to-income ratio, causing the lender to reevaluate your eligibility for the offered rate and financing.

•   Lenders also determine the mortgage rate based on the types of houses a borrower is looking at: A primary residence vs. a vacation home or investment property, for example, would influence the interest rate.

Recommended: A Guide to Buying a Duplex

Consequences of Not Locking in Your Mortgage Rate

There are risks to not locking in a mortgage rate before closing.

If you don’t lock in a rate, it can change at any time. An uptick in interest rates would translate to a higher monthly mortgage payment. Granted, a slight bump to your monthly payment may not lead to mortgage relief, but it could cost thousands over time.

Example: The monthly payment on a $300,000 loan at a 30-year fixed rate would go up by $88 if the interest rate increased from 4% to 4.5%. This would add up to an extra $31,611 in interest paid over the life of the loan.

You can use a mortgage calculator tool to see how much a rise in rates could affect your mortgage payment.

Furthermore, a higher monthly payment might potentially disqualify you from financing, depending on the impact on your debt-to-income ratio. After a jump in interest rates, borrowers may need to make a larger down payment or buy mortgage points upfront to obtain financing.

Even if you lock in a mortgage rate early on, you could face these consequences if it expires before closing. Deciding when to lock in a mortgage rate should account for any potential contingencies that could delay the process.
If you’re unsure, ask your lender for guidance on when you should lock in.


💡 Quick Tip: Generally, the lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better loan terms you’ll be offered. One way to improve your ratio is to increase your income (hello, side hustle!). Another way is to consolidate your debt and lower your monthly debt payments.

What to Do if Interest Rates Fall After Your Rate Lock

The main concern with mortgage rate locks is that you could miss out on a lower rate. In most cases, buyers will pay the rate they are locked in at if the prevailing interest rate is less.

A float-down option, however, protects you from rate increases while letting you switch to the lower interest rate at closing.

•   Float-down policies vary by lender but generally cost more than a conventional rate lock for the added flexibility and assurance.

•   It’s also possible that a float-down option won’t be triggered unless a certain threshold is met for the drop in rates.

•   It’s worth noting that borrowers aren’t committed to the mortgage lender until closing, so reapplying elsewhere is an option if rates change considerably.

Pros and Cons of Mortgage Rate Lock

Back to the big question: Should I lock my mortgage rate today? It’s important to weigh the pros and cons to decide when to lock in a mortgage rate.

Pros

Cons

Locking in a rate you can afford can lessen money stress during the closing process A rate lock might prevent you from getting a better deal if rates fall later on
You could save money on interest if you lock in before rates go up If a rate lock expires, you may have to pay for an extension or get stuck with a potentially higher rate
Lenders may offer a short-term rate lock for free, providing a window to close the deal if rates spike but an opportunity to wait it out if they drop Rate locks can involve a fee of 0.25% to 0.50% of the loan amount.

The Takeaway

A favorable interest rate can make a difference in your home-buying budget. If you’re considering a rate lock because you’re concerned that rates will be rising, it’s important to choose a lock period that gives the lender ample time to process the loan to avoid extra fees or a potentially higher rate.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

How long does a rate lock period last?

Rate locks usually last 30 to 60 days but can be shorter or longer depending on the agreement. It’s not uncommon for lenders to offer a free rate lock for a designated time frame.

Should you use a mortgage rate “float-down”?

If you’re worried about missing out on low interest rates, a mortgage rate float-down option could let you secure the current rate with the option to take a lower one if rates drop. Take note that these agreements usually outline a specified period and minimum amount the rate must drop to activate the float-down.

How much does a rate lock cost?

Lenders don’t always charge for a rate lock. If they do, you can expect costs to range from 0.25% to 0.50% of the loan amount for a lock period (usually 30 to 60 days). A longer lock period or adding a float-down option typically increases the rate lock cost.

What happens if my rate lock expires?

If your rate lock expires before you’ve finalized the deal, you can choose to extend the lock period (usually for a fee) or take the prevailing rate when you close on the loan.


Photo credit: iStock/Vertigo3d

*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are 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.

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Property Tax and Your Mortgage: Everything You Need to Know

Property Tax and Your Mortgage: Everything You Need to Know

As you explore your home loan options, you may wonder if property taxes are included in mortgage payments, and typically they are, often along with insurance. Though many mortgage calculators don’t include property tax in their estimates, it is likely that expense will be rolled into your mortgage payment.

Having your property tax included in your mortgage is convenient, for sure, but it’s not the only way to pay taxes. Read on to learn more about paying property taxes and your mortgage.

Key Points

•   Property taxes are typically included in mortgage payments, often alongside insurance.

•   Most mortgage calculators do not account for property tax, although it is usually part of the mortgage payment.

•   Property taxes fund local services such as schools, police, and road maintenance.

•   Property taxes are paid into an escrow account monthly, and the mortgage servicer pays the bill when due.

•   If a mortgage is paid off, the homeowner must manage property tax payments directly.

What Are Property Taxes?

Property taxes are taxes paid on real property owned by an individual or entity. Property taxes are based on an assessed property value and are paid whether or not the property is used. When you become a new homeowner, you’ll pay property taxes for the first time.

The money you pay will be put to use toward the local school system, police and fire departments, sanitation, road work, and other services.


💡 Quick Tip: SoFi’s award-winning mortgage loan experience means a simple application — we even offer an on-time close guarantee. We’ve made $7.5 billion in home loans so we know a thing or two about what makes homebuyers happy.‡

Why Do You Need to Pay Property Taxes?

Local governments rely on property taxes as a revenue source. About 75% of local funding from tax collections come from property taxes.

As noted above, property taxes pay for government services like schools, roads, law enforcement, and emergency services. If you have a mortgage, a portion of your payment will go into your escrow account to be paid when your taxes come due.

How Are Property Taxes Paid?

Every month you’ll pay one-twelfth of your tax payment into an escrow account, if you have one, and most loans do.

When it’s time to pay taxes, a notice will be sent to your mortgage servicer. You’ll likely see one in the mail, too, but your mortgage servicer is the one responsible for paying your property taxes. (A review of your mortgage statements should reflect that you are paying these taxes.)

If you make a down payment of 20% or more on a conventional loan, your lender may waive the escrow requirement if you request it. USDA and FHA mortgages do not allow borrowers to close their escrow accounts. If you own your home outright, you’ll pay taxes on your own.

How to Calculate Property Tax

Property tax is calculated by your local taxing entity. The methods and rates for calculating property taxes vary widely around the country. In general, your property is assessed, and you pay taxes as a percentage of that value. (Keep in mind that the assessed value may be different from the market value.)

To get the amount of taxes you will pay, multiply the assessed value of your home by the tax rate. Some states allow for an exemption to reduce the taxable value. Florida, for example, offers a homestead exemption of up to $50,000 on a primary residence.

If your home was assessed at $400,000, and the property tax rate is 0.62%, you would pay $2,480 in property taxes ($400,000 x 0.0062 = $2,480).

If you qualify for a $50,000 exemption, you would subtract that from the assessed value, then multiply the new amount by the property tax rate.

$400,000 – $50,000 = $350,000
$350,000 x 0.0062 = $2,170

With an exemption of $50,000, you would owe $2,170 in property taxes on a $400,000 house.

Property Tax Rate

The property tax rate is determined by the local taxing authority and is adjusted each year. In general, taxing entities aim to collect a similar amount as in the prior year. If property values go up, the effective tax rate might go down a little. You will receive a notice in the mail informing you of the new rate.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.


Are Property Taxes Included in Mortgage Payments?

Property taxes will be listed on your mortgage statements if you have an escrow account for homeowners insurance and property taxes. (When you’re shopping for a home loan, whether you’ll need an escrow account is one of many mortgage questions to ask a lender.)

The mortgage servicer deposits the portion of your mortgage payment meant for taxes in the escrow account. When your tax bill is due, the servicer will pay it.


💡 Quick Tip: To see a house in person, particularly in a tight or expensive market, you may need to show the real estate agent proof that you’re preapproved for a mortgage. SoFi’s online application makes the process simple.

What Happens to Property Tax If You Pay Off Your Mortgage?

If you pay off your mortgage, your property tax stays the same. The difference is you no longer have a mortgage servicer administering the escrow account for you. If you do have money left in your escrow account, it will be refunded to you once the mortgage is paid off.

Now that you no longer have an escrow account, you need to contact the taxing entity and have the tax bill sent directly to you.

Recommended: How to Afford a Down Payment on Your First Home

What if You Can’t Afford Property Tax?

If you’ve paid off your house or have closed your escrow account, you may feel the full force of ever-increasing property taxes. This is particularly true of older adults on a fixed income.

The trouble with not paying taxes is that your taxing entity can place a lien against your property or even start foreclosure proceedings. You do have several options to explore if you’re having trouble with your property taxes.

•   Payment options. Your locality may be open to establishing a payment system for collecting your taxes. There are also relief programs you may be eligible for.

•   Challenge your home’s assessed value. Since your taxes are based on your home’s assessed value, you can challenge it to potentially reduce your taxes. You generally need to do it soon after you receive your tax bill. You have to show that the market value of your home is inaccurate or unfair.

•   Talk to a HUD housing counselor. A housing counselor can point you in the direction of programs that can reduce your tax bill or offer some other relief, such as a deferral or payment plan. They can also help you find mortgage relief programs, should you need them.

The Takeaway

Is property tax included in a mortgage? With most home loans, yes. Typically, you pay one-twelfth of the amount owed every month into escrow, and your servicer is then responsible for paying the property tax bill for you. Property taxes are a significant part of your home-buying budget, so be sure to include them in your budget as you work towards securing a mortgage.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

What is included in my monthly mortgage payment?

There can be as many as seven parts to your mortgage payment: principal, interest, escrow, taxes, homeowners insurance, any mortgage insurance, and any HOA or condo fees.

Is it better to pay your monthly tax with your mortgage?

It’s certainly more convenient to have your tax included in your mortgage payment. You’ll never have to worry about your taxes being paid or coming up with a large payment when they come due. On the other hand, if you would rather manage the tax payment yourself, you may be able to cancel your escrow account and pay the taxes on your own.

How do I know if my property taxes are included in my mortgage?

You can check your monthly mortgage statement or closing documents if you’re a new homeowner. For most types of loans, taxes are included in your mortgage payment.

Do you pay property tax monthly?

The monthly mortgage payment you send contains a share of the annual property tax bill that your mortgage servicer will pay. If you pay your taxes directly, you’ll pay them annually or semiannually.


Photo credit: iStock/MStudioImages

*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.


SoFi On-Time Close Guarantee: If all conditions of the Guarantee are met, and your loan does not close on or before the closing date on your purchase contract accepted by SoFi, and the delay is due to SoFi, SoFi will give you a credit toward closing costs or additional expenses caused by the delay in closing of up to $10,000.^ The following terms and conditions apply. This Guarantee is available only for loan applications submitted after 04/01/2024. Please discuss terms of this Guarantee with your loan officer. The mortgage must be a purchase transaction that is approved and funded by SoFi. This Guarantee does not apply to loans to purchase bank-owned properties or short-sale transactions. To qualify for the Guarantee, you must: (1) Sign up for access to SoFi’s online portal and upload all requested documents, (2) Submit documents requested by SoFi within 5 business days of the initial request and all additional doc requests within 2 business days (3) Submit an executed purchase contract on an eligible property with the closing date at least 25 calendar days from the receipt of executed Intent to Proceed and receipt of credit card deposit for an appraisal (30 days for VA loans; 40 days for Jumbo loans), (4) Lock your loan rate and satisfy all loan requirements and conditions at least 5 business days prior to your closing date as confirmed with your loan officer, and (5) Pay for and schedule an appraisal within 48 hours of the appraiser first contacting you by phone or email. This Guarantee will not be paid if any delays to closing are attributable to: a) the borrower(s), a third party, the seller or any other factors outside of SoFi control; b) if the information provided by the borrower(s) on the loan application could not be verified or was inaccurate or insufficient; c) attempting to fulfill federal/state regulatory requirements and/or agency guidelines; d) or the closing date is missed due to acts of God outside the control of SoFi. SoFi may change or terminate this offer at any time without notice to you. *To redeem the Guarantee if conditions met, see documentation provided by loan officer.
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.

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Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market With a Low Down Payment

Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market With a Low Down Payment

The housing market is rising in some areas of America and falling in others. If you find yourself in a hot seller’s market, it can be challenging to buy a house, but doing so, even with a low down payment, is possible.

Lenders are willing to approve low-down-payment mortgages if you qualify and are comfortable with paying mortgage insurance.

Read on for advice on navigating the real estate market if you have a small down payment but a fair amount of competition from other prospective buyers.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.


What Is Considered a Low Down Payment?

While many people believe you need at least a 20% down payment to buy a house, the average down payment on a house at the end of 2023 was 8%.

Given the wide range above, what’s actually considered a low-down payment? Popular mortgage programs out there may require as little as 3% down, and a couple of more specific home loan programs allow 0% down.

The reason why that 20% down payment figure keeps popping up is that any amount less than that will likely entail some form of mortgage insurance, an ongoing fee charged by most lenders.


💡 Quick Tip: You deserve a more zen mortgage. Look for a mortgage lender who’s dedicated to closing your loan on time.

Challenges of Buying in a Seller’s Market When You Have a Small Down Payment

There’s truth to the saying “cash is king,” and that continues to be evident in a seller’s market, where real estate investors who pay all cash frequently outbid prospective first-time homebuyers.

Be ready for these potential challenges if you intend to buy a home with a small down payment.

Longer Closing Time

Closing on a home with a mortgage-contingent offer to buy takes longer than closing with a cash offer. There’s often more paperwork, and underwriters may take longer to ensure that your financials are in order before green-lighting your mortgage.

Lenders May Disagree With Mortgage Minimums

Just because a mortgage loan program allows for a 3% minimum down payment doesn’t mean the lender will accept it. Lenders have wide latitude to dictate their own terms, and it’s fairly common for them to set their own minimum down payment requirement somewhere above what the stated minimum for the program is.

Home Sellers May Be Nervous About Your Ability to Close

While it’s true that all funds from your down payment and mortgage transfer to the seller at closing, many sellers still buy into the old “bird in hand” adage when it comes to accepting offers. A higher down payment signals a buyer’s financial capacity and is, therefore, more attractive in the eyes of the homeowner.

If sellers accept a bid with a low down payment, they may run an increased risk of the buyer being rejected at the last minute by their mortgage lender.

In a deal involving a mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), if the home is appraised for less than the agreed-upon price, the sellers must match the appraised price or the deal will fall through.

And FHA guidelines require home appraisers to look for certain defects. If any are found, the sellers may have to repair them before the sale.

Recommended: Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) versus Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP)

Tips for Buying With a Small Down Payment

If you’re trying to score a home with a small down payment, there are some ways you can approach it to increase your odds of buying the home of your dreams.

One way is to select a government-backed mortgage program — FHA, or the US Department of Agriculture or Veterans Affairs — that allows for a low down payment. The government guarantee makes them more palatable for mortgage lenders and easier for a homebuyer to afford.

Some specialized mortgage programs allow qualified buyers to put as little as 0% down; others, from 3% to 5% down. Some of the most popular low-down-payment mortgage programs are:

•   VA loans (0% down)

•   USDA loans (0% down)

•   FHA loans (3.5% down)

•   Fannie Mae HomeReady (3% down)

•   Conventional 97 loan (3% down)

•   Conventional mortgage (5% down)

Another option is to apply for down payment assistance. Many governments and nonprofits offer down payment assistance programs for first-time homebuyers — those who have not owned a principal residence in the past three years — in the form of loans or grants. Some lenders can even assist you in qualifying for these programs to help offset the upfront costs of homebuying.

Finally, you can also ask a family member, or sometimes a domestic partner, close friend, or employer, to help with the down payment by contributing gift money. The money can’t come with any strings attached, and a gift letter will likely be required. This is a popular option for parents and in-laws who want to help their children buy a first home.


💡 Quick Tip: Not to be confused with prequalification, preapproval involves a longer application, documentation, and hard credit pulls. Ideally, you want to keep your applications for preapproval to within the same 14- to 45-day period, since many hard credit pulls outside the given time period can adversely affect your credit score, which in turn affects the mortgage terms you’ll be offered.

Pros and Cons of Using a Low Down Payment

There are both benefits and disadvantages to submitting a small down payment on a home. Here are a couple of points to think about.

Pros of Using a Low Down Payment

•   Gets you in a home faster than waiting to save for a bigger down payment.

•   Start building equity earlier and avoid spending money on rent.

•   Preserve cash for other investments, opportunities, and emergencies.

•   Take advantage of current low mortgage rates, theoretically saving you money over the long run.

Cons of Using a Low Down Payment

•   You’ll have to pay private mortgage insurance, or a mortgage insurance premium, which could add 0.5% to 1.5% of the loan amount to your annual housing costs.

•   Your monthly mortgage payment will likely be larger, as the amount you borrow will increase the less you put down.

•   Your lender may penalize you with a higher mortgage rate to offset the higher risk of a lower down payment.

•   You run a greater risk of your home loan being underwater, should home values drop.

Recommended: Home Affordability Calculator

Tips for Managing a Seller’s Market

So what’s a prospective homebuyer to do if they find themselves in a seller’s market or a tight market and feel the cards are stacked against them?

One way to get a leg up on the competition is to get the ball rolling on financing early and make sure you have everything in place by the time you even submit an offer on a home.

Make sure you’re prequalified (which is when lenders have an idea of your income and assets before you start home shopping, so you have an idea of how much you can afford). Then, it can be smart to get preapproved, which is when you receive a letter from a lender stating that you qualify for a certain loan amount and rate. These steps can ensure that you’ll be ready to roll the second you find the right home.

Once you’ve submitted an offer on a house, make sure you’re ready when it comes to all documents and information requested by your chosen lender.

Another thing you can do is to find a good real estate agent who’s been through the homebuying process countless times and can advise you effectively.

Recommended: How to Buy a House in 7 Steps

The Takeaway

Buying a home with a small down payment, even in a seller’s market, is possible. With preparation and the right mortgage lender, you may be able to land a starter home or your dream home with a low down payment.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.


Photo credit: iStock/sturti

*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are 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.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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