How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?

How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?

It may not be required by law or your lender, but if you’re purchasing a home, you’ll likely want to consider getting a professional home inspection, which can cost a few hundred dollars.

You may even choose to make your contract contingent on the results.

A basic home inspection typically ranges from $300 to $500, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and it’s almost always the buyer’s cost to cover.

Here’s what you can expect to get for your money.

What Do Home Inspectors Do?

In the recent frenzied real estate market, which has included sight unseen home buying, some buyers have taken the risk of waiving the home inspection.

But certified home inspectors are trained to find the problems you might not see when you walk through a home that’s for sale (even if you’ve seen the property multiple times).

Many states require inspectors to be licensed, and there are several professional organizations that require their members to follow certain standards of practice. Two of the largest national organizations for certified inspectors are the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), but there are also many state associations.

The goal of a professional inspection is to help you avoid being surprised by structural defects, plumbing and electrical issues, or other significant problems with a home you plan to buy. Here are just a few of the things on a home inspection checklist that an inspector will look at.

Roof Condition

Inspectors aren’t required to stand on a roof to inspect its condition, but they will review the materials used to cover the roof; the gutters and downspouts; any vents, flashing, skylights, etc.; and the general structure of the roof. And they’ll report any evidence of active leaks.

Exterior

This part of the inspection will generally include the exterior walls; the eaves, soffits, and fascia; windows and doors (including garage doors); walkways and driveways; stairs, steps, and ramps; porches, patios, decks, and the like; railings; and any issues that could cause problems with water intrusion.

Structural Soundness

This typically includes looking for cracks or other problems with the home’s foundation, the basement or crawlspace, and other structural components.

Heating and Cooling

The inspector will report on the types of systems used to heat and cool the home and if they are in working order.

Plumbing

This may include checking the main water supply shut-off valve and water heater; running the faucets and flushing all toilets; and reporting drainage problems for sinks, tubs, and showers. The inspector will look for damage, loose connections, leaks, and equipment that wasn’t properly installed.

Electrical

Besides checking a representative number of switches, light fixtures, and receptacles, the inspector will look at the type of wiring used in the home, the electrical panel, the main service disconnect, and any equipment that wasn’t properly installed or repaired. The absence of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors also will be noted.

Insulation and Ventilation

The inspector may note any issues with the insulation used in the home, including the depth and type, and the exhaust systems in the kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry room.

What Isn’t Included in a Basic Home Inspection?

A basic inspection is a noninvasive, visual assessment of accessible areas of the property, so inspectors may not move rugs, furniture, or other items that block their view. If there’s a problem behind a wall or under the floors, the inspector may not catch it. And you shouldn’t expect the inspector to predict how long the roof, appliances, or HVAC system might last.

You may have to hire specialists, and that could add to your overall costs. Specialized inspections might include looking at the swimming pool, fireplace chimney and flue, a well and/or septic tank, and detached sheds and garages. You also may choose to get separate inspections to search for mold, termites, asbestos, lead paint, or radon gas, and to check for municipal code compliance.

While the cost of a single-family home inspection normally ranges from $300 to $500, the price can go significantly higher depending on the home’s square footage and the addition of specialized inspections.

You’ve probably already looked at numbers with a mortgage calculator or plan to. That’s more money you’ll need to come up with before or during your closing.

Why Get a Home Inspection?

A home inspection can cost hundreds of dollars, but getting one could save you thousands. After all, the home you’re buying could be the biggest investment you’ve ever made.

Once you receive your inspection report, it will be up to you to decide if and how you want to move forward with the purchase.

As a buyer, you may have a few options, including:

•   If there are problems, you can give the seller a list of requested repairs (based on the inspection, not your taste) that must be completed and paid for as a condition of the sale

•   You may request a credit, or a concession, that gives you enough to pay for the necessary repairs yourself

•   You could back out of the deal altogether

You don’t have to do anything, by the way. If you want the home and you think the price is fair, you can proceed with the transaction even if the report lists major issues.

Especially in a hot seller’s market, you may not be able to use the report as a negotiation tool to lower the price or get the seller to pay for repairs. Still, you’ll have the information you need to make the best decision for your personal needs and goals.

Home Inspection Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

Can give you an unbiased evaluation of the home you hope to buy Adds a cost to the already expensive home buying process
Can help you decide if repairs are in your DIY skill set or would require a pro Waiving the inspection is risky (even if it makes your offer more appealing in a seller’s market)
May help you assess if the asking price is fair or if you should negotiate
May enable you to ask the seller to make repairs before you buy

Is an Inspection Necessary for a New or Renovated Home?

It might be tempting to waive the inspection if you’re buying new construction or a home that looks new thanks to a remodel. Fresh paint, that “new home smell,” and some professional staging can be a distraction for eager buyers. But even new construction can have problems, and an inspection can help find red flags.

What Factors Into the Price of a Home Inspection?

When you’re shopping for an inspector, you may want to ask for a written estimate of how much you’ll be charged and a breakdown of costs. Here are some things that could affect the price:

Size

The larger the home, the longer it could take to complete the inspection and the inspection report. Here’s a breakdown of approximate costs based on square footage:

Home Size

Approximate Cost

Under 1,500 sq. ft. $250
1,500 to 2,500 sq. ft. $325
2,500 to 3,000 sq. ft. $380
3,000 to 4,000 sq. ft. $420
Over 4,000 sq. ft. $500-plus

Age

Because it may take more time — depending on the condition of the home and the design — the inspection for an older home may cost more than for a newer build of the same approximate size.

Location

If the inspector must travel a long distance to get to the home, the cost estimate may be higher. (The inspector may charge by the mile or a negotiated amount.)

The Inspector

How much experience does the inspector have? Are they licensed by your state and/or certified by a professional association like ASHI or InterNACHI? You may have to pay extra for this expertise.

Additional Costs

The first price you’re quoted may not be the final price you’ll pay for an inspection. If you want additional inspections that require more expertise or specialized equipment, you can expect to pay much more. Inspecting detached structures on the property also may increase the price. Ask about those separate costs and if they’ll be listed on your written estimate.

How Long Does an Inspection Take?

A home inspection typically takes two to three hours onsite, and you may have to wait one or two days to get your inspection report. You may find it helps to research inspectors even before you find a home so you can move quickly when you’re ready to buy. That way you’ll have plenty of time to read the report and decide what you want to do about any points of concern.

Home inspection contingencies, which can allow buyers to get out of the contract if they find something they don’t like, usually have a tight deadline. You may have to send formal notice to the seller that you’re canceling the contract within seven days after signing the purchase agreement.

Are Any Fixes Mandatory After an Inspection?

A home inspector’s report isn’t a list of “must-dos.” Most repairs are negotiable. And you may decide not to press the seller for any fixes.

In some cases, a buyer may be denied financing or insurance if the bank or insurer isn’t satisfied with the results of an inspection and the planned repairs. Those items likely would include dangerous structural or electrical defects and/or building code violations.

Tips on Choosing an Inspector

Word-of-mouth references can be a great place to start when you’re looking for a home inspector. There are also plenty of online sites that can help you find local inspectors.

Once you have a few names, you can:

Look for Online Reviews

There are several sites that list inspectors, and some offer reviews. You also can ask the inspector for references.

Check Credentials

Is the inspector a member of a professional organization? You may want to ask to see a membership card. And don’t forget to ask for proof of licensing if it’s required in your state.

Ask About Experience

How long has the inspector been in the business? Experienced inspectors likely will have seen several types of homes and know where to look for problems.

Get Pricing Information

You can start by asking about the cost of a basic inspection and what it includes, then go from there. If the inspector does specialized tests you’re interested in (for mold, radon, asbestos, etc.), you can request to have those costs included in the estimate.

Compare Sample Reports

One way to gauge an inspector’s work may be to look at a past report and compare it to other companies’ reports.

Set the Date

Keep your timeline in mind as you consider who to hire. Things can move quickly in the mortgage process, and you don’t want your inspection to hold up the deal.

Try to be there when the inspector is working so you can see the home through an unbiased lens. If you can’t be there, you may want to ask your real estate agent to attend.

The Takeaway

It might be tempting to skip the home inspection to save money or time, or to make your offer more appealing. After all, the average home inspection cost is $300 to $500 and could go higher. But a home inspection can provide an important layer of protection.

3 Home Loan Tips

  1. Traditionally, mortgage lenders like to see a 20% down payment. But some lenders, such as SoFi, offer mortgages with as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers and 5% down for other buyers.
  2. Your parents or grandparents probably got mortgages for 30 years. But these days, you can get a home loan for 20, 15, or 10 years — and pay less interest over the life of the loan.
  3. Not to be confused with pre-qualification, pre-approval involves a longer application, documentation, and hard credit pulls. Ideally, you want to keep your applications for pre-approval 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.


Photo credit: iStock/Altayb

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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.
SOHL1121058

Read more
What Happens When You Pay Off Your Mortgage?

What Happens When You Pay Off Your Mortgage? All You Need to Know

Is a paid-off mortgage in sight? Hooray for you! Greater monthly cash flow and less stress are coming your way. But hold up: Is hurrying to pay off a mortgage always the smartest move, and is refinancing something to consider?

Although paying off your mortgage is certainly an achievement, there are some things you need to do before you complete the process, if payoff is the path you’ve chosen.

Pros and Cons of Paying Off Your Mortgage

Paying off your mortgage is a fantastic milestone to reach, but it’s not without trade-offs. Here are a few considerations to help you make the best decision for your situation.

Pros of Paying Off a Mortgage

Cons of Paying Off a Mortgage

No monthly payment
No more interest paid to the lender Your cash is all tied up in your home’s equity
More cash in your pocket each month If you pay extra to pay off your home, you may miss out on investment strategies
You’ll need less income in retirement Lost opportunity costs for other uses for your money
Greatly reduced risk of foreclosure No tax deduction for mortgage interest, if you’re among the few who still take the deduction

What Happens When You Pay Off Your Mortgage?

To get the amount you need to pay off your mortgage, the first thing you need to do is request a mortgage payoff letter. If you pay the amount on your last statement, you won’t have the right amount. A mortgage payoff letter will include the appropriate fees and the amount of interest through the day you’re planning to pay the loan off.

The payoff letter is only good for a set amount of time. You’ll have instructions on where to send the payment.

Once you’ve sent the payoff amount, your mortgage company is responsible for sending you and the county recorder documentation to release the mortgage and lien on your home.

What Documents Do You Get After Paying Off a Mortgage?

After paying off your mortgage, you should receive (or have access to) documents proving you paid off the mortgage and no longer have a lien attached to your home. These include:

•   Satisfaction or release of mortgage. This document will be filed with the county recorder (or other applicable recording agency). It states that the mortgage has been satisfied and the lien released.

•   A canceled promissory note. When you closed on your home, one of the documents you signed was called a promissory note. Now that the mortgage has been satisfied, you may receive this document back with a “canceled” or “paid in full,” though it’s also possible you may have to call and request the document.

•   A statement on the paid-off loan balance. Your lender should send you a statement showing that your loan has been paid in full.

What Should You Do After Paying Off Your Mortgage?

After you pay off your mortgage, you’ll need to take care of a few housekeeping items.

•   Close your escrow account. Since you’re no longer sending a mortgage payment to a mortgage servicer, you’ll need to take care of the items in your escrow account, primarily your taxes and homeowners insurance.

•   Contact your county recorder’s office to double-check that the mortgage satisfaction paperwork has been filed. Once that has been filed, you will have a clear title on the property.

•   Make plans for the extra money. Whether you want to make a bigger push in your retirement account, enlarge your emergency fund, or pay off other debts, you now have more cash to do it with. If you don’t make plans for the extra money, it might just evaporate.

Want to know more? You can find more online content at our mortgage help center.

Is Prepaying a Good Idea?

Generally, paying off your mortgage early is a great idea. It reduces the principal, which in turn reduces the amount you’ll pay in interest over the life of your loan. Still, there are reasons that some homeowners consider not paying their mortgage off early.

Most lenders do not charge a prepayment penalty, but home loans signed before Jan. 10, 2014, may include one, and nonconforming mortgage loans signed after that date may have a prepayment penalty that applies within the first three years of repayment. (The different types of mortgage loans include conforming and nonconforming conventional mortgages.)

The best way to find out if prepayment is subject to a penalty is to call your mortgage servicer. The terms of your mortgage paperwork should also outline whether or not you have a prepayment penalty.

Should You Refinance Instead?

Another option you may consider is refinancing your mortgage. There are several reasons you may want to refinance instead of paying off your mortgage.

Lower monthly payment. Getting a lower rate or different loan term may lower your monthly payment. Be sure to check out current rates and this calculator for mortgages to find out what a possible new payment would be.

Shorter mortgage term. Refinancing a 30-year mortgage to, say, a 15-year mortgage can keep you close to paying off your mortgage while also providing financial flexibility.

Spare cash. Whatever your need is — home renovations, college funding, paying off higher-interest debt — a cash-out refinance might be an option.

The Takeaway

What happens when you pay off your mortgage? After doing a jig in the living room, you’ll need to take care of a few housekeeping tasks and make plans for the extra money.

Would a refinance to a shorter term make more sense, or pulling cash out with a cash-out refi?

Whatever you decide, SoFi stands ready to help. Whether you want to apply for a mortgage or looking to refinance, our experts can answer all your mortgage questions.

Find out more about SoFi’s home financing options and get your rate on refinancing with no obligation.

FAQ

Is paying off your mortgage a good idea?

The answer depends on an individual’s situation. If you have the money and you’d love to shed that monthly obligation for good, paying off a mortgage is a good idea.

If you’re worried about funding your retirement or losing opportunities to invest, paying off your mortgage may not be a good idea for you.

What do you do after you pay off your mortgage?

Ensure that you have received your canceled promissory note, and update your property tax and insurance billers on where to bill you. Since you no longer will have a mortgage servicing company, you must pay your insurance (if you choose to keep it) and property taxes yourself.

Is it better to pay off a mortgage before you retire?

Paying off a mortgage will give you more to work with in retirement since you’re not paying a mortgage, of course. But if your retirement accounts need a boost, most financial experts contend that allocating money there is a better idea than paying off your mortgage.

Paying off a mortgage when you have low cash reserves can also put you at risk.

Does paying off your mortgage early affect your credit score?

Surprisingly, paying off your mortgage early won’t affect your credit score much. Your credit score has already taken into account the years of full, on-time payments you made each month.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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.

Photo credit: iStock/katleho Seisa
SOHL0322008

Read more
Everything You Need to Know About Home Swapping

What Is House Trading & How Does It Work?

Home exchange. House swap. House trading. By any name, it’s a twist on home buying and selling that can spare both parties the irritation of showings and the expense of agent commissions.

Trading homes isn’t done every day, but maybe it’s an option waiting for your exploration.

What Is House Trading?

You’re likely familiar with home exchange programs when it comes to vacations. You dash off to a lovely apartment in Paris, and the folks come to the Big Apple to enjoy your SoHo loft. Both parties enjoy a vacation with a much lower price tag.

But what’s talked about much less is permanently trading homes. Find the idea intriguing? Here’s what you need to know.

How Does House Trading Work?

Think of a house swap as a win-win. You want to sell your house. You find a home you like, and the homeowner is interested in buying your home too. It happens.

What comes next? You trade. This means there will be two simultaneous transactions. You sell your home to the Joneses, and they buy yours, typically on the same day. Because you’re selling and buying at the same time, it’s much like a trade. This is not a simple transaction, though. You want the stars aligned on that day.

However, there are some similarities to buying a home the traditional way. Expect the basics of the home buying process to be the same: getting a home inspection, doing a title search, qualifying for a mortgage, and closing, when you will sell your home and buy the new one in two separate but simultaneous transactions. You pay off one mortgage, if you have one, and take on a new one if needed. At the same time, the other party will sign their purchase and sale agreement.

As much as doing all this at once may feel overwhelming, the upside is that you won’t have two mortgages on your hands at the same time. If both homes are owned free and clear, then the only money matters are transfer taxes and closing costs.

You’ll probably want a real estate lawyer who knows how these deals work at your side.

It could be that you have a good friend or relative who loves your home, and you, theirs, and you’re interested in trading. But the more likely circumstance is that you find your match in cyberspace via home exchange websites and through social media.

What If the Homes Are Unequal in Value?

It’s quite probable that the two homes won’t be of equal value. That’s not a deal-breaker, though. What matters is whether each house meets the needs and desires of the other party.

It’s important for both parties to order home appraisals. If one home is more valuable than the other, the buyer of the more expensive home pays the seller the difference at closing.

To make the home exchange even, some folks have been known to include a boat or car in their side of the deal.

How Common Is It?

Trading homes is not something that happens every day, but as people continue to search for creative ways to fulfill their dreams, and technology helps connect like-minded folks, it’s likely the use of house trading will grow.

Pros and Cons of Trading Your House

Pros

There’s something to be said for this unconventional way of buying and selling a home. One biggie is that you may be able to buy a house without a Realtor. If there is no real estate agent involved in the trade, both buyer and seller keep the money they would have shelled out to their agents.

You eliminate some of the hassle of moving day. Because buyer and seller are working in concert, it makes orchestration of the move easier.

Another benefit is that you miss the whole dog-and-pony show of potential buyers traipsing through your home and the stress of having it look perfect for showings.

You also may find that getting financing when trading a home is easier. Some homeowners encounter hurdles qualifying for a mortgage before their home is sold, but if you have a contract to sell your current house (which you would in a home trade), your lender won’t count your monthly mortgage payments as debt if you apply for a mortgage.

Having this improved debt-to-income ratio can allow you to qualify for better terms on your new mortgage, which just might save you a ton of money as well.

Cons

Trading isn’t without its issues. What if you’re in a hurry to move? You may not be able to find someone who wants a house swap as quickly as you want to move.

Truth is, house trading may mean you have fewer options, you may not get the neighborhood you have in mind, or you may not find a home with all your dream features.

Know too that if you owe more on your mortgage than your home is worth, you may have trouble getting financing. The only way a trade would work is if you pay the lender the difference of what you sell your house for and what is still owed on the mortgage.

If for some reason the purchase and sale don’t happen at the same time, you could be stuck for a time with two mortgages. You can lessen the odds of that fiasco by using the same title company for both transactions.

Pros of Trading Homes

Cons of Trading Homes

You may not need to use a real estate agent May not find a home as quickly as you want
Getting financing may be easier Fewer options
Avoid the hassle of showing your home to multiple potential buyers Could have to temporarily pay two mortgages

Trading Houses vs Conventional Selling

With trading there’s a good chance you will be able to avoid using a real estate agent if you find your trading partner on your own, be it a relative, colleague, friend of a friend, or from a website. You can also avoid the tradition of showing the home to prospective buyers.

There are some things that are pretty much the same.

Both parties may need new mortgages, and both may want home inspections. Both will probably want attorneys present.

Trading Homes

Conventional Sale

Likely no real estate agent Usually buyer’s and seller’s agents involved
Small market Wide market
Deal with one buyer Handle multiple offers

The Takeaway

Trading homes is a viable option for house hunters who find a trading partner with a mutual real estate admiration. While the home exchange approach is decidedly nontraditional, some rituals of a house swap are the same.

You want to take care in your search for financing, for example, try finding an online mortgage lender that best suits you.

3 Home Loan Tips

  1. To see a house in person, particularly in a tight or expensive market, you may need to show proof of pre-qualification to the real estate agent. With SoFi’s online application, it can take just minutes to get pre-qualified.
  2. Not to be confused with pre-qualification, pre-approval involves a longer application, documentation, and hard credit pulls. Ideally, you want to keep your applications for pre-approval 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.
  3. 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.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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

Photo credit: iStock/AndreyPopov
SOHL1121073

Read more
What Is Mortgage Principal? How Do You Pay It Off?

What Is Mortgage Principal? How Do You Pay It Off?

Many homebuyers swimming in the pool of new mortgage terminology may wonder how mortgage principal differs from their mortgage payment. Simply put, your mortgage principal is the amount of money you borrowed from your mortgage lender.

Knowing how mortgage principal works and how you can pay it off more quickly than the average homeowner could save you a lot of money over the life of the loan. Here’s how it works and what you need to know about paying off the principal on a mortgage.

Mortgage Principal Definition

Mortgage principal is the original amount that you borrowed to pay for your home. It is not the amount you paid for your home; nor is it the amount of your monthly mortgage payment.

Each month when you make a payment, a portion goes toward the original amount you borrowed, a portion goes toward the interest payment, and some goes into your escrow account, if you have one, to pay for taxes and insurance.

Your mortgage principal balance will change over the life of your loan as you pay it down with your monthly mortgage payment, as well as any extra payments. Your equity will increase while you’re paying down the principal on your mortgage.

Mortgage Principal vs. Mortgage Interest

Your mortgage payment consists of both mortgage principal and interest. Mortgage principal is the amount borrowed. Mortgage interest is the lending charge for borrowing the mortgage principal. Both are included in your monthly mortgage payment, though you likely won’t see a breakdown of how much of your monthly mortgage payment goes to principal vs. interest.

When you start paying down principal, the mortgage amortization schedule will show that most of your payment will go toward interest rather than principal.

Hover your cursor over the amortization chart of this mortgage calculator to get an idea of how a given loan might be amortized over time if no extra payments were made.

Mortgage Principal vs. Total Monthly Payment

Your monthly payment is divided into parts by your mortgage servicer and sent to the correct entities. It includes principal plus interest.

Fees and Expenses Included in the Monthly Payment

Your monthly payment isn’t just made up of principal and interest. Most borrowers are also paying bits of property taxes and homeowners insurance each month, and some pay mortgage insurance. In the industry, this is often referred to as PITI, for principal, interest, taxes, and insurance.

A mortgage statement will break all of this down and show any late fees.

Among the many mortgage questions you might have for a lender, one is whether you’ll need an escrow account for taxes and insurance or whether you can pay those expenses in lump sums on your own when they’re due.

In the world of government home loans, FHA and USDA loans require an escrow account, and lenders usually require one for VA-backed loans.

Conventional mortgages typically require an escrow account if you borrow more than 80% of the property’s value. If you live in a flood zone and are required to have flood insurance, an escrow account may be mandatory.

Does the Monthly Principal Payment Change?

With a fixed-rate mortgage, payments stay the same for the loan term, but the amount that goes to your mortgage principal will change every month. An amortization schedule designates a greater portion of your monthly mortgage payment toward interest in the beginning. Over time, the amount that goes toward your principal will increase and the amount you’re paying toward interest will decrease.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) are more complicated. Most are hybrids: They have an initial fixed period that’s followed by an adjustable period. They are also usually based on a 30-year amortization, but most ARM borrowers are interested in the short-term benefit — the initial interest rate discount — not principal reduction.

If you take out an ARM and keep it, you could end up owing more money than you borrowed , even if you make all payments on time.

Understanding mortgages and amortization schedules can be a lot, even for those who aren’t novices.

This Home Loan Help Center offers a wealth of information.

What Happens When Extra Payments Are Made Toward Mortgage Principal?

Making extra payments toward principal will allow you to pay off your mortgage early and will decrease your interest costs, sometimes by an astounding amount.

If you make extra payments, you may want to contact your mortgage servicer or notate the money to make sure it is applied to principal instead of the next month’s payment.

Could you face a prepayment penalty? Conforming mortgages signed on or after Jan. 10, 2014, cannot carry one. Nor can FHA, USDA, or VA loans. If you’re not sure whether your mortgage has a prepayment penalty, check your loan documents or call your lender or mortgage servicer.

Keeping Track of Your Mortgage Principal and Interest

The easiest way to keep track of your mortgage principal and interest is to look at your mortgage statements every month. The mortgage servicer will send you a statement with the amount you paid and how much of your principal was reduced each month. If you have an online account, you can see the numbers there.

How to Pay Off Mortgage Principal

Paying off the mortgage principal is done by making extra payments. Because the amortization schedule is set by the lender, a high percentage of your monthly payment goes toward interest in the early years of your loan.

When you make extra payments or increase the amount you pay each month (even by just a little bit), you’ll start to pay down the principal instead of paying the lender interest.

It pays to thoroughly understand the different types of mortgages that are out there.

And if you’re mortgage hunting, you’ll want to shop for rates and get mortgage pre-approval.

The Takeaway

Knowing exactly how mortgage principal, interest, and amortization schedules work can be a powerful tool that can help you pay off your mortgage principal faster and save you a lot of money on interest in the process.

Ready to dive in on a mortgage loan? You’ll want a competent partner. SoFi is an online mortgage lender that offers competitive fixed rates and a variety of terms. Qualifying first-time homebuyers can put just 3% down.

Find your rate in minutes.

FAQ

What is the mortgage principal amount?

The mortgage principal is the amount you borrow from a mortgage lender that you must pay back. It is not the same as your mortgage payment. Your mortgage payment will include both principal and interest as well as any escrow payments you need to make.

How do you pay off your mortgage principal?

You can pay off your mortgage principal early by paying more than your mortgage payment. Since your mortgage payment is made up of principal and interest, any extra that you pay can be taken directly off the principal. If you never make extra payments, you’ll take the full loan term to pay off your mortgage.

Is it advisable to pay extra principal on a mortgage?

Paying extra on the principal will allow you to build equity, pay off the mortgage faster, and lower your costs on interest. Whether or not you can fit it in your budget or if you believe there is a better use for your money is a personal decision.

What is the difference between mortgage principal and interest?

Mortgage principal is the amount you borrow from a lender; interest is the amount the lender charges you for the principal.

Can the mortgage principal be reduced?

When you make extra payments or pay a lump sum, you can designate the extra amount to be applied to your mortgage principal. This will reduce your mortgage principal and your interest payments over time.


Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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.
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.
SOHL0322025

Read more
Tips for Buying a Single-Family Home

How to Buy a Single-Family Home: Step-by-Step Guide

It’s no secret that the price tags of single-family homes — the ideal dwelling in terms of space, independence, and resale value — have spiked, and many current homeowners have been reluctant to let go, but a buyer whose heart is set on a single-family home may be able to follow a playbook to find their prize.

Buying a single-family home isn’t dramatically different from purchasing another type of property, but the process has a few variations.

Here are some guidelines.

What Is a Single-Family Home?

The definition would seem easy enough, but it does vary according to real estate experts and government sources.

The U.S. Census Bureau says single-family homes include fully detached and semi-detached homes, row houses, duplexes, quadruplexes, and townhouses. Each has a separate heating system and meter for public utilities, and has no units above or below.

According to other definitions of a single-family home, the building has no shared walls; it stands alone on its own parcel of land. In some places, the number of kitchens the home has informs the definition.

Unlike a multi-family property, a single-family home is meant for one person or household. Among the types of houses out there, including condos, co-ops, townhouses, and manufactured homes, the single-family home remains the holy grail for many Americans.

Recommended: How to Buy a Multifamily Property

Benefits of Purchasing a Single-Family Home

While condos and townhouses may come with shared amenities and lower maintenance, traditional detached single-family homes come with different perks. When people buy a single-family home, they’re looking for benefits specific to this property type.

Spacious, Quiet, and Intimate

A single-family home is typically larger than a condo or townhome. Moreover, since the property is often on its own lot without shared walls, a single-family home offers more space and privacy inside and outside the home.

Possibly No HOA

A co-op association or a condo or townhouse homeowners association sets and enforces rules and collects fees to pay for shared amenities. Anyone who buys into an HOA community must live by the CC&Rs: the covenants, conditions, and restrictions. They can be lengthy, and the ongoing fees can constantly rise.

You may be able to buy a detached single-family home with no HOA and paint your mailbox, or house, pink or purple, unless you live in a city like Palm Coast, Florida, that allows only earth tones and light or pastel hues but no colors that are deemed “loud, clashing, or garish.”

Then again, HOAs are becoming more common for detached single-family homes in planned communities. In fact, about 65% of single-family homes built in 2020 were in an HOA, Census Bureau data shows.

Single-Family Home Appreciation

Generally, single-family homes are in higher demand than multi-family or other properties. Because of the demand, when a person buys a single-family home, the value may faster.

Possibilities for Renovation and Expansion

When people buy single-family homes, they’re buying into the potential to expand or renovate extensively. If the lot is big enough, single-family homeowners could put an addition on the property.

Single-family homes can be an attractive buy simply because of the option to expand in the future, unlike properties with shared lots or walls.

How to Buy a Single-Family Home

Ready to buy a single-family home? Anyone from a first-time buyer to a seasoned investor may find appeal in a single-family home.

Recommended: First-Time Homebuyers Guide

1. Draw Up Your Financial Priorities

First, it’s important to look at finances. Your credit scores can have a significant impact on getting approved for a mortgage.

To get a clear read on credit, but not scores, buyers can request free credit reports from the three major credit bureaus.

Additionally, it can be helpful for a qualified first-time homebuyer — who can be anyone who has not owned a principal residence in three years, some single parents, and others — to look into specialty mortgages to see if they qualify for them.

An FHA loan may allow a down payment as low as 3.5%. A USDA loan requires nothing down, and a VA loan, usually nothing down. Some conventional lenders allow qualifying first-time buyers to put just 3% down.

It’s important to know, though, that all FHA loans require an upfront and annual mortgage insurance premium, regardless of the down payment size. VA loans require a one-time “funding fee.” And borrowers with conventional conforming loans who put down less than 20% will pay private mortgage insurance until their loan-to-value ratio drops to 80% and they request removal, or to 78%, when it falls off.

2. Decide on Your Preferred Type of Housing

No two houses are alike, just as no two homebuyers are. Everyone has different tastes and priorities about where they want to call home.

Before hitting every open house in town, consider deciding on must-haves for a home, including privacy, proximity to businesses, size, and style. This could help determine if a single-family home is the right fit.

3. Arrive at Your Price Point

Armed with an understanding of the type of house, it’s time to think about the price point. In addition to thinking about the down payment, buyers will want to calculate a monthly mortgage payment and total loan costs.

Figuring out a price point before looking at homes can take the emotion out of the process. That way, buyers have a budget in mind and a “do not exceed” amount before they fall for a home.

4. Search for a Good Real Estate Agent

Buying a single-family home can be fun, stressful, and fast-paced. Working with a trusted real estate agent can make the process a little easier.

To find a real estate agent, you might consider:

•   Reaching out to friends for referrals

•   Checking out local real estate association websites

•   Using an agent selling homes in the area you want to buy in

You might want to interview more than one agent, asking about their experience, availability, and philosophy. The choice of agent will likely come down to a combination of personality match and experience.

5. Find Your Neighborhood

Armed with an agent and budget, it’s time to dive deeper into neighborhoods. Once again, the choice of where to search will come down to the buyer; there’s no one “right” place to buy a single-family home.

As buyers explore neighborhoods, they might prioritize the following:

•   School district

•   Walkability

•   Proximity to workplace

•   Community resources

•   Budget

An experienced agent can help buyers distill their priorities and even point them in the right direction. Typically, buyers will have to balance the above elements, as it might not be possible to check all the boxes in a single neighborhood.

6. Tour Homes With Your Agent

Once buyers decide what neighborhoods they want to buy a single-family home in, it’s time to start touring properties.

When touring a single-family home with an agent, try to allot between half an hour to an hour. In the case of open houses, prospective buyers can walk in at any time, but private home tours require a buyer’s agent to gain access to the property.

When buying a single-family home, everyone will have their own checklist of what they want, which might include:

•   Listing price

•   Number of bedrooms and bathrooms

•   Storage space

•   Floorplan

•   Plot of land

•   Deck and porch

•   Garage and driveway

It could help to take photos or notes while touring a home to refer to them long after you’ve left the property.

7. Choose a House and Bid

Found a place and ready to make an offer? Time to get a home loan in order. Luckily, buyers will have a good idea of what they can offer on a property based on their finances with the upfront legwork.

Your agent can help with negotiating a house price.

How to make an offer? It pays to understand comps and the temperature of the market, and then:

•   Figure out the offer price

•   Determine fees

•   Budget for an earnest money deposit

•   Craft contingencies

With an offer drawn up, it’s time to submit it to the seller and wait for the next steps.

8. Review the Process and Get Ready to Move

Buying a single-family home isn’t a done deal once an offer is submitted. Typically there will be a back and forth, perhaps over offer price or contingencies.

Once everything is agreed on, and the inspection is resolved, it’s time to tally moving expenses and pack up.

9. Head to Closing and Move Into Your New Property

The final part of buying a single-family home is closing day. During closing, the buyer and seller meet with their agents to go over paperwork, and settle any outstanding costs, and formally turn over property ownership.

Next, it’s just moving everything in and settling in. Even after closing, homeownership may feel overwhelming, but there are plenty of resources to make it easier.

SoFi’s Home Financing Options

Ready to buy a single-family home? SoFi Mortgages can help make that dream a reality. With a variety of terms and competitive rates, home sweet home may be closer than you think.

Qualifying first-time homebuyers can put just 3% down, and others, 5%.

Kickstart your single-family home search by finding your rate.

FAQ

How much does it cost to buy a single-family home?

Zillow put the typical cost of a single-family home at $337,560 in March 2022. The National Association of Realtors® gave the median sales price of existing single-family homes as $382,000 for the same month.

New construction costs more. The average sales price of new houses sold in February 2022 was $511,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Can you buy a single-family home with no money down?

If a buyer qualifies for a mortgage-backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs or Department of Agriculture, or one issued directly by those agencies, they may be able to purchase a home with no down payment.

What are the most important things to consider when buying a house?

Location (including property tax rate, quality of schools, walkability, crime rate, access to green space, and the general vibe), your ability to cover all the costs, duration of your stay, and square footage may be important.

How much should you have in savings to buy a single-family house?

Enough to cover a down payment, closing costs, and moving fees while ideally preserving an emergency fund.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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.
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.

Photo credit: iStock/jhorrocks
SOHL0122005

Read more
TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender