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Costs of Owning a Home

If you’re preparing to join the ranks of homeowners, whether you are just starting to daydream about it or are actively scanning listings, it’s important to understand the costs involved. You’ll probably hear a lot of talk about mortgage rates as you enter this realm, and, while your home loan will certainly be a critical expense, it’s just one of the things to budget for.

Here, you’ll learn about all the expenses involved in owning a home, from that mortgage to home maintenance; from homeowners insurance to utilities. Equipped with this intel, you’ll be better prepared for the true cost of having your very own place and making sure you’re ready for your big purchase.

Costs of Purchasing Your Home

When you think of buying a home, you may well be focused on accumulating that bundle of cash known as the down payment. But there are more costs associated with buying your home than simply that expense.

The down payment is probably the largest initial cost you’ll take on, but don’t be blindsided by the additional fees you’ll need to pay. You can find out how much home you can afford with a home affordability calculator or keep reading to learn about the typical costs associated with owning a home.


💡 Quick Tip: Don’t overpay for your mortgage. Get a competitive rate by shopping around for a home loan.

Down Payment

Historically, the magic number for a down payment has been 20% of the home’s value. If you’re thinking that’s impossibly steep, take a deep breath. The median down payment on a conventional loan recently clocked in at about 6% among first-time homebuyers. And conventional home loans can be had with as little as 3% to 5% down.

So 20% may no longer be standard, but, if you put down anything less, you may pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) on top of your monthly mortgage.

PMI can make it possible for many buyers to put down a more affordable down payment while protecting the bank’s investment if you were to default on the loan. The downside of PMI is the additional payments you’ll need to make each month until you are eligible to remove this insurance from your mortgage payment. Typically, PMI is canceled when your principal balance reaches 78% of the home’s original value (meaning the purchase price).

As you think about how much of a down payment to make, it could be tempting to make as large a payment as possible to help minimize your monthly mortgage payment and avoid PMI. Keep in mind that doing so can leave you little wiggle room financially for the additional costs associated with your home down the line. If you make a large down payment, it can help to have money reserved as an emergency fund and for unexpected home repairs.

Closing Costs

Your down payment won’t be the only thing due on closing day. In addition to the down payment, you’ll be expected to cover closing costs. Closing costs typically cover things like:

•  Title insurance

•  Title search fees

•  Appraisal costs

•  Escrow or attorney fees

•  Surveying

•  Lender fees

Closing costs can vary based on factors such as the purchase price of your property, but you can expect to pay an estimated amount somewhere between 3% to 6% of your loan amount in closing costs.

Home Ownership Costs

You may think that being a homeowner involves affording the down payment on a house and the monthly payment of principal and interest on your mortgage, but there’s more to be prepared for. Here are some extra costs you may want to save and budget for.

Mortgage Payment

Your monthly mortgage payment could be just the funds paid to the bank, a combination of principal and interest, or it could be a few different payments rolled into one single bill. Your mortgage payment might include some or all of the following:

•  Principal: This is the repayment of the initial loan you took out to purchase the home. Paying the principal is paying off the remaining balance of what you owe on your home to your lender.

•  Interest: Depending on the terms of your mortgage, the interest could be fixed or variable. You are paying this every month for the privilege of borrowing the funds to buy your home. It’s one of the ways banks make money.

•  Property Tax: If your mortgage has an escrow account, a portion of your mortgage payment may go towards your annual property tax bill. Property tax is paid to your local government and usually goes towards funding public schools, public works, libraries, parks, city government, and maintenance. The amount of property tax you’ll pay is calculated as a percentage of the value of your property. The percentage varies by location. Some homeowners may pay this separately, directly to their town.

•  Insurance: If you’re paying into escrow, you’ll probably pay a portion of your homeowners insurance policy each month instead of a lump sum once a year. You’ll work with your insurance provider to determine the coverage of the policy, but standard home insurance typically provides protection against certain unexpected events, like damage caused by a fire or a break-in. Policy specifics will vary.

•  PMI: If your initial down payment was under 20%, you may be responsible for PMI, as described above. This payment can be anywhere from 0.2% to 2% of your loan amount per year.



💡 Quick Tip: One answer to rising house prices is a jumbo loan. Apply for a jumbo loan online with SoFi, and you could finance up to $2.5 million with as little as 10% down. Get preapproved and you’ll be prepared to compete in a hot market.

Utilities

Unlike a rental where you may only pay for gas and electricity, when you own a home, you’re on the hook for all utilities, which can include water, gas, heat, electricity, sewer, and trash/recycling. Utilities will vary based on your location, as well as the size of your home, but the national monthly averages are as follows:

•  Electricity: $117.46

•  Water: $45.44

•  Broadband internet: $59.99

•  Gas: $61.69

•  Waste services: $66.20

•  Phone: $114.

These figures vary based on area and activity, but taking steps to save energy on heating and cooling could lower your monthly bills. Depending on where you live, utility providers might offer an option to set a fixed rate for the year, so you’ll pay the same amount each month instead of paying a bill that varies with the change in the seasons (say, soaring in the summer as people switch on the air conditioning).

Improvements & Repairs

Your dream home might just be a few renovation projects away, but remember to factor the cost of those updates into the true cost of owning your home. Not only that, but strategic improvements can greatly increase the resale value of your home.

The cost of home improvement projects vary widely based on what you’re working on. A recent survey by Houzz found that the median cost for a home renovation was $22,000 in 2022.

Maintenance

Home maintenance entails the general upkeep of things like your property’s systems, structures, and appliances.

Upkeep costs can be more predictable than some repairs. One rule of thumb says to budget 1% to 4% of your home’s value for annual maintenance. A variety of these projects might be DIY-ed, but you’ll want to budget in the cost of tools and supplies.

You can’t predict the exact lifespan of your appliances and home systems, but a general idea can make it easier to anticipate future costs. When you buy your home, take note of how old the appliances and other systems are, so you can have a better idea of when you’ll need to replace them.

For example, a refrigerator could last between 10 and 18 years, but you might benefit in terms of energy efficiency by replacing an old power-guzzling appliance sooner. Consider the outside structure of the house as well, such as the roof, siding, and gutters. It may be helpful to get a quote from a contractor for any larger repairs or renovations you plan to complete so you can factor that into the costs of owning a home.

Recommended: The Cost of Buying a Fixer-Upper

The Takeaway

The time and money required to own and maintain a home can be considerable. There are the monthly costs, which can involve mortgage, insurance, property taxes, and utilities, as well as annual maintenance. Plus, sooner or later, you are likely going to have to replace an appliance, repair a roof, or otherwise update your home.

Understanding and estimating the costs of owning a home can be an important step before joining the ranks of homebuyers. It can also impact what size and sort of mortgage you get and from which lender. That’s an important area to wrangle your costs as you think about your overall budget.

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.


*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.

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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Best Types of Loans for Home Improvement

A higher resale value of your home is one of the many rewards for carrying out home improvements and renovations. But remodeling projects cost money, and financing them can be expensive, depending on the amount you borrow and the type of loan you use.

Options for home improvement financing include home equity loans (HELOCs), home equity lines of credit, and cash-out refinancing. These types of financing allow homeowners to borrow against the equity they have built up in their home. Other financing options are personal loans, credit card financing, and government programs. Any of these could be the best option depending on the circumstances.

Here’s what homeowners need to know about the different types of home improvement loans and what factors they should consider before settling on a lender.

1. Home Equity Loans

If you have built up equity in your home, which means you have paid off a portion of your mortgage, a home equity loan could be the right choice to finance home improvements. To find out how much equity you have, subtract the balance due on your mortgage from the assessed value of your home. For example, if your home is worth $400,000 and you owe $200,000 on your mortgage, you have $200,000 in equity. A bank will let you borrow up to a certain percentage of that amount — up to 100% in some cases.

A home equity loan acts like an additional mortgage, where the homeowner pays back the loan in monthly payments. The payments are in addition to the original mortgage payments. Home equity loans often have low fixed interest rates because the home is used as collateral for the loan. However, there are closing costs to consider that could be between 2% to 5% of the loan amount.

On the plus side, home equity loans usually qualify for the mortgage interest tax deduction as long as the funds are used to substantially improve the home.

If you have plenty of equity and need a sizable amount to finance a big project, a home equity loan could make sense. You will receive a lump sum payment, and the improvements you make may increase the value of your home.

Advantages of a Home Equity Loan

Disadvantages of a Home Equity Loan

Low interest and terms from five to 30 years There are origination fees and closing costs
You can borrow up to 100% of your home’s equity Funds are disbursed as one lump sum, so borrowers need to budget carefully
The interest is tax deductible The monthly payments add to existing mortgage payments



💡 Quick Tip: Before choosing a personal loan, ask about the lender’s fees: origination, prepayment, late fees, etc. One question can save you many dollars.

2. Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

A home equity line of credit also borrows against the equity you have built up in your home. But the funding works more like a credit card and is not distributed as a lump sum payment. A bank will allow a qualified homeowner to borrow up to a preapproved limit and then pay it back. HELOC loan terms are typically between five and 20 years.

Interest rates differ for HELOCs because they are adjustable and rise and fall over the life of the loan. However, interest is only due on the outstanding balance — the amount borrowed — not the full credit limit.

The amount you can borrow through a HELOC depends on your credit score, income, and the value of your home. Your lender can change the loan terms, too. For example, if your credit score drops during the loan term, your lender may reduce the amount you can borrow.

One advantage of a HELOC is that you can use funds from the line of credit, make payments, and then borrow again. A HELOC is a better option if you have smaller projects to do over a longer term. You can borrow as you go, only pay interest on how much you use, and avoid paying closing costs.

Advantages of a HELOC

Disadvantages of a HELOC

No closing costs Interest rates may go up and down
Interest payments are tax deductible Interest rates are typically higher than those for a home equity loan
You only pay interest on the amount you use Your lender can change the amount you can borrow and the repayment terms

3. Cash-Out Refinancing

Another option to fund home improvements is cash-out refinancing. In the case of cash-out refinancing, a homeowner takes out a new mortgage that is higher than their original mortgage. The borrower then pays off the original mortgage and uses the leftover cash to fund home improvements. The amount of cash they can access depends on the equity they have in the home.

For example, let’s say the homeowner currently owes $100,000 on a $300,000 mortgage. They take out a new mortgage for $350,000, pay off the old mortgage ($300,000), and now have $50,000 left to spend on home improvements. The catch is that their new monthly mortgage payments will be higher because they have increased the size of the loan, and they will have to pay origination fees and closing costs.

Money from refinancing does not have to be used to improve a home; it can be used to consolidate debt, pay for school, or anything else the borrower wants to use it for. Also, the cash is not considered income from the IRS and is not taxable.

Cash-out refinancing may be a good option if interest rates have dropped since you took out your original mortgage. You can take out cash and pay a lower interest rate on the new loan. You might also be able to reduce the term length of your original mortgage and pay off your home loan sooner. This will be the case if the total cost of your new loan including closing costs is less than the total cost of your original mortgage.

Advantages of Cash-Out Refinancing

Disadvantages of Cash-Out Refinancing

You will still have one monthly mortgage payment Your new mortgage will have a higher balance
You might be able to lower your interest rate and loan term Your loan term will start from the beginning, so you will be paying off your mortgage for longer
You can use the cash for anything If interest rates have gone up, your monthly payments may be higher

4. FHA 203(k) Rehab Loan

An FHA 203(k) rehab loan is a loan taken out at the time of the home’s purchase. These loans are typically used for a fixer-upper, when the owners need funding right away for improvements. This could be the best type of loan for home improvements for big projects. The advantages of this type of loan for the borrower are that they have funds available for improvements from the outset, and they only have to pay back one loan with one set of closing costs.

These loans are also backed by the government and come with benefits. Borrowers can qualify with a less-than-stellar credit score (typically, a minimum of 620), and the down payment expected is lower than it would be for a traditional mortgage loan (as low as 3.5%).

Two things to remember are that the renovation costs must exceed $5,000 for the borrower to qualify for this type of loan, and the closing process can take a long time. Lastly, work covered under an FHA 203(k) loan must start within 30 days of closing, and projects must be completed within six months.

This type of loan may be worth considering if you are buying a fixer-upper that requires significant work, and your credit score qualifies you for this type of loan.

Advantages of a FHA 203(k) Rehab Loan

Disadvantages of a FHA 203(k) Rehab Loan

One loan and one set of closing costs Only old homes or homes in bad repair may qualify
Federally-backed with low interest rates and low closing costs You are likely to be charged costly monthly mortgage insurance
You can qualify with a lower credit score Cash must be used for specific home improvements

5. Personal Loans

If you don’t have sufficient equity in your home to take out a home equity loan or a HELOC, a personal loan is an option. A personal loan will come with a higher interest rate, adjustable or fixed, because this type of personal loan is unsecured. Your home is not used as collateral. These loans are processed much quicker than home equity loans or HELOCs, sometimes the same day.

Personal loan terms are shorter, from two to five years, which will mean higher monthly payments, and you’ll have to pay closing costs.

These loans may work if you lack equity or if you have an emergency, such as a broken water heater or HVAC system. That said, they are probably one of the most expensive borrowing options.

Advantages of a Personal Loan

Disadvantages of a Personal Loan

Fast financing Higher interest rate than mortgage loans
You can qualify for a good interest rate even with an average credit score Shorter terms, which increases monthly payments
Your home is not used as collateral and is not at risk Fees and possible prepayment penalties

6. Credit Cards

A credit card can be used for financing, and it’s a fast, simple way to access funds. The amount you can spend on improvements will depend on your credit limit (although you could use multiple cards), and the interest charges are likely to be much higher than other financing options.

A credit card can be a good option if you think you can finish your renovations quickly and pay off the balance on the card. Look for cards with an introductory 0% annual percentage rate (APR). Some cards allow you up to 18 months to pay back the balance at that introductory rate. If you can pay off the balance by the deadline, that’s interest-free financing. However, check for fees and other hidden costs.

The danger here is that if you don’t pay off the balance by the end of the interest-free rate, the interest charges can skyrocket. That’s why credit cards should not be used for long-term financing.

A credit card can be a great option for home improvement financing if you can find one with a low introductory rate, low fees, and you are confident you can pay off the balance within the introductory rate period.

Advantages of Credit Card Financing

Disadvantages of Credit Card Financing

Fast financing High interest rates, particularly after a low introductory interest rate period has expired
Some cards offer 0% introductory rates Possibly low credit limits
Less paperwork High fees

7. Government Assistance Programs

The federal government has grants and programs that can help homeowners pay for renovations. Two home renovation loan options are Title I loans and Energy Efficient Mortgages. Lenders for Title I property improvement loans for your state are listed on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website.

Title I Loans

An FHA Title 1 loan is a fixed-rate loan used for home improvements and rehabilitation. Loans under $7,500 are usually unsecured, but bigger loans may use your home as collateral. These loans may be used in conjunction with a 203(k) rehabilitation mortgage.

The maximum loan terms are between 12 and 20 years, and loan amounts are $7,500 to $60,000, depending on the home’s size and type.

The loan must be used for property improvements, and an FHA mortgage insurance premium of 1% of the loan amount will be added to your interest rate. There is no minimum credit score required, but your debt-to-income ratio may factor into your loan terms.

Energy Efficient Mortgage

FHA’s Energy Efficient Mortgage program (EEM) finances energy-efficient improvements with their FHA-insured mortgage. The borrower must qualify for the loan amount used to purchase or refinance a home. However, they’re not required to be qualified on the total loan amount that includes the amount used to finance energy-efficient improvements. The FHA insures the loan to protect the lender against loss in the event of payment default.

Starting in 2023, homeowners can also get tax credits for some energy-efficient updates, including windows, insulation, new doors, heat pumps, and air conditioners.

These types of programs will reduce the cost of financing for home improvements and are great options if you meet the criteria.

Advantages of Government-Assisted Financing

Disadvantages of Government-Assisted Financing

Low interest rates Financing must be used for property improvements.
Broad range of loan terms Strict qualification standards
Tax credits Larger loans may require your home as collateral.

How to Decide the Best Type of Home Improvement Loan for You

If you’re trying to decide what home improvement loan is best for you, consider the following factors:

Are You Purchasing a Fixer-Upper?

If you are buying a fixer-upper, check if you qualify for either an FHA 203(k) rehab loan or a government-assisted program. You may get cheaper financing this way.

Do You Need Funds Right Away?

If you need funds quickly — for example, you have a broken heat pump or HVAC system — a personal loan or credit card financing are options to explore.

Do You Have Equity Available?

If you have built up equity, a home equity loan or line of credit will provide cheaper financing than a personal loan and over a longer term, so that your monthly payments will be lower. A cash-out refinancing loan might also mean that you could lower your payments and reduce your term if interest rates have dropped significantly since you took out your original mortgage.

How to Get a Home Equity Loan

The first step in getting a home equity loan is to decide which loan is best for your situation. Next, find a lender with the best terms and fill out an application to see if you qualify.

1. Check Your Financial Health

The better your credit score, the better the loan terms will be. If you can boost your credit score before you apply for financing, you’ll boost your chances of getting a better deal. Lenders will also look at your debt-to-income ratio when setting the interest rate and term, so lowering your debt before you apply for a home improvement loan can help lower the cost of your financing.

2. Compare Lenders

You should contact a few different lenders to compare their rates and loan terms. Look for benefits, such as rate discounts for enrolling in autopay, and watchouts, such as late payment fees and minimum loan amounts.

3. Gather Documentation

You will need to submit a few basic pieces of information when you apply for a loan. As a general guide, you will need:

•  Proof of income, such as W-2s or 1099s, bank statements, pay stubs, or tax returns.

•  Proof of residence, such as your Social Security number and utility bills.

Your current debts, housing payment, and total income will also play a role. Be sure to have all the information your lender may need on hand when you apply to speed up the application process.



💡 Quick Tip: With home renovations, surprises are inevitable. Look for a home improvement loan with no fees required — and no surprises.

4. Apply for Prequalification

Some lenders will prequalify you, which will tell you your interest rate and how much your monthly payments will be. Prequalification should not affect your credit score, whereas a formal loan application could. Applying for too many loans in a short space of time could lower your credit score.

5. Complete the Loan Application Process

Your loan application might be fully online, via phone and email, or in person at a local branch. In cases where you are borrowing against equity, your lender may require a home appraisal. Provided your finances are in good shape, the lender should approve your application, and you’ll receive funding.

How Your Credit Affects Your Home Improvement Loans

Your credit score will affect the total cost of a home improvement loan. The higher your score, the less of a risk you pose to a lender, so the better the loan terms will likely be for a mortgage or long-term loan. The same goes for credit cards and personal loans. Also, if you have good credit, you’ll probably have an easier time securing a home improvement loan.

Can You Use Home Equity Loans for Non-Home Expenses?

Home equity loans and HELOCs are flexible and can be used for anything, not just home expenses or renovations. However, these loans are best suited for long-term, ongoing expenses like home renovations, medical bills, or college tuition.

The Takeaway

The types of loans for home improvements include loans based on the equity you have built up in your home, such as a home equity loan, a HELOC, or cash-out refinancing. You can also use personal loans, credit card financing, and government programs. Loans based on equity tend to cost less over the loan’s lifetime, but they also tend to have longer loan terms. Equity-based loans also tend to be best when you need to borrow a larger amount, because you can spread out the cost over a longer period.

A personal loan will have a higher interest rate and a shorter term, but the higher your credit rating, the better the interest rate tends to be. Alternatively, credit card financing is favorable if you need funds quickly, the amount you need is not too high, and you can take advantage of a 0% introductory rate and pay off the balance before the rate expires.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2023 winner for Best Online Personal Loan overall.

FAQ

What type of loan is best for home improvements?

The type of loan that is best for home improvements depends on your finances and how much you need to spend. If you hold a fair amount of equity and need a sizable amount of cash, a home equity loan, HELOC, or cash-out refinancing may be good options. Cash-out refinancing might be particularly appealing if interest rates have dropped, and you can refinance with better loan terms.

If, on the other hand, you have a smaller project that you expect to complete in a short timeframe, using a credit card that gives a 0% interest rate for a period could be the way to go.

What is the best renovation loan?

If you’re taking on a big project, buying a fixer-upper or planning to renovate an older home, you may want to consider the FHA 203(k) mortgage. The 203(k) rehab loan lets you consolidate the home and renovation costs into a single remodel home loan and avoid paying double closing costs and interest rates.

If your home is newer or higher-value and you have equity, cash-out refinancing can be a good option, particularly if interest rates have dropped.

Should I use a personal loan for home improvements?

Personal loans are a more expensive option for home improvements, especially if your credit score is average. However, using a personal loan for home improvements might be the best option if you don’t have a lot of equity to borrow from.

Are home improvements tax deductible?

Home improvement loans are generally not tax deductible. However, if you use a refinance or home equity loan, some of the costs might be tax deductible. Check with a CPA or tax specialist.

What credit score is needed to get a home improvement loan?

Credit score requirements for a home equity loan depend on the lender. A credit score in the mid-600s might be enough to be approved by some lenders, while others might not approve you with a score above 700. Lenders consider many factors, including your debt-to-income ratio and equity in the home, when considering you for a home equity loan.


Photo credit: iStock/Hero Images

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.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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

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

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Garage Financing: What Are Your Options When Building a Garage?

Adding a garage to your property can make your life easier while also adding value to your home. But building a garage can be expensive — and if you can’t afford the cost upfront, some type of financing will likely be required in order to move forward with the project.

The good news is homeowners have several options to choose from so they can get the garage they want now and pay for the project over time — including a personal loan, a home equity loan or line of credit, or a cash-out refinance.

But how do you decide which type of garage financing is best for you? Read on for a breakdown of the different options, some of their pros and cons, and how to choose the right financial product for you when you decide to build your new garage.

How Do People Afford to Build a Garage?

Most people probably can’t afford to add a garage to their home without borrowing at least part of the money for the build. And even those who have enough cash to cover the cost might not want to dip into their savings to foot the entire bill upfront.

There are several ways to finance a garage build, and the option that works best for you may depend on several factors. Before you make your choice, it can be good idea to look at:

•  How much equity you have in your home, and if you want to tap that equity for funding.

•  Your credit score nd what kind of interest rate you might be offered if you apply for a loan.

•  How long you want to make payments, and how those payments might affect your other goals.

•  How much you expect the full cost of your project to be, and how much of that you want to finance.



💡 Quick Tip: Before choosing a personal loan, ask about the lender’s fees: origination, prepayment, late fees, etc. SoFi personal loans come with no-fee options, and no surprises.

What Is the Average Amount Needed to Build a Garage?

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of building a garage is about $28,326. The typical price range in 2022 was between $16,424 and $40,287.

Of course, your costs may vary significantly based on the size of the garage, the materials you choose, labor costs in your area, and the type of structure you plan to build. Here’s a breakdown of what some garage projects can cost:

Carport

Average cost: $2,400 to $8,400 for one car; $4,000 to $14,000 for two cars, fully installed

A carport can be a great option if you’re looking to protect your car from the sun, snow, sleet and hail, pollen, bugs and birds, etc. A carport is typically less expensive than a fully enclosed garage.

Square footage is usually the most important factor when it comes to determining price. A fully installed (parts, labor, etc.) 12-foot-by-20-foot carport, built for just one car, averages between $2,400 to $8,400; while a two-car, 20-foot-by-20-foot carport would be around $4,000 to $14,000.

Here are some other factors that can impact the cost:

•  Whether the carport is temporary or permanent

•  The roofing and other materials used

•  Whether it’s a prefab or custom build

•  Whether it’s freestanding or attached to another structure or a concrete foundation.

Attached and Detached Garages

Average cost: $10,500 to $27,000 for one car; $14,500 to $40,300 for two cars, fully installed

If you’re looking to keep tools, bikes, or even a washer and dryer in your new space, along with your car or cars, you’ll probably want a completely enclosed garage with doors you can lock.

Your storage needs will help determine the size of the garage you build — and, yes, that size will figure into the cost. A standard one-car garage is 12 to 16 feet wide and 20 to 24 feet long, while a two-car garage is usually 22 to 26 feet wide and 20 to 24 feet long.

Keep in mind that if the garage is attached to your home, you may pay 10% to 15% less than you would if the garage is detached. The materials you choose for the walls and roofing will also influence the cost. And you can expect the price to increase if you add windows, plumbing, and/or electricity.

Storage Shed

Average cost: $2,500, fully installed

If you’re just looking for additional storage and not a place to park your car, a shed might be a more affordable option. The average price range for building a shed ranges from about $200 (for a small prefab shed) to $30,000 (for a custom structure that could serve as an office, man cave, or she-shed).

The size of the shed (both square footage and ceiling height) will make a big difference in the cost, as will the materials you choose, the type of foundation you use, if the project requires a permit or professional installation, and if you want to add plumbing and electricity.

Garage Doors

Average cost: $1,200, fully installed

The door you choose for your new garage can be important to your home’s curb appeal, but you may also want to consider energy efficiency and how the door will hold up against rough weather — or energetic kids who use it as a backdrop to their sports practice.

Factors that can affect the cost of a garage door include the style, materials, size, and the type of installation required. The cost can also increase if you opt for an automatic door with sensors, a keypad, and other bells and whistles.

Installation Costs

Unless you plan to build your garage yourself, your labor costs could add up to at least half of your project’s price tag — and your location could be an important factor.

HomeAdvisor found, for example, that if you live in Austin, Boston, or Los Angeles, you could end up paying twice as much for your garage as you would if you lived in Chicago, Oklahoma City, or Kansas City, Mo.

Permit Fees

Average cost: $150 to $500

Here’s a cost homeowners tend to overlook: Almost any building project requires a permit.

Permitting needs and costs can vary depending on the type of project and where you live. If you’re working with a contractor or installation company, they should be able to tell you what’s required and the cost. You also can contact your local government agency for information.

The average cost for a garage permit is $150 to $500, but if you’re adding electricity, plumbing, or air conditioning, the price could be as much as $800 to $1,500.

Recommended: The Cost of Buying a Fixer-Upper

Garage Builders Financing Options

Because the cost of building a garage can get pretty expensive, homeowners often decide to use some type of financing to pay for the project.

There are several options available if you prefer to break down the cost of your project (large or small) into affordable monthly payments. Here are some common choices:

Personal Loan

With a personal loan, you’ll get a lump sum of money that can be repaid in monthly installments, usually at a fixed interest rate that’s based on your credit score, income, and how much debt you’re currently carrying. This type of financing can be used for just about anything, but home improvement projects are among the most popular uses of a personal loan.

Borrowers typically aren’t required to provide collateral to get a personal loan (unlike a home equity loan or HELOC). This can make the approval process go faster, which means you can get your money sooner. Another plus: You won’t be putting your home or any other asset at risk if you can’t make your loan payments. But there’s also a downside in that your interest rate may be higher than it would be with a secured loan. And you may have less time to pay back the money you borrowed.

Recommended: 11 Types of Personal Loans and Their Differences

Home Equity Loan

Borrowers who have built up some equity in their home (at least 10% to 20%) may want to look into financing a garage build with a home equity loan. With this type of loan, you’ll get your money upfront and pay it back, with interest, in fixed monthly payments.

The upside to a home equity loan is that a lender may offer a lower interest rate because the financing is secured with your home as collateral. The downside, of course, is that if you default on the loan, the lender could choose to foreclose. And if you sell your home, you’ll be expected to pay off your loan balance. You also can expect a more complicated application process and to pay closing costs and other fees with this type of loan.

HELOC

A HELOC is like a home equity loan in that it allows you to borrow against the equity you have in your home. But with a HELOC, you don’t have to borrow all the money at once — you can use your line of credit to borrow just what you need as the project moves along. And you’ll pay interest (usually a variable rate) only on the amount you currently owe, much like a credit card.

The major drawback is that your home will serve as collateral for the line of credit, so if you default, the lender could foreclose on your home. And if interest rates increase, your loan payment could end up being higher than the amount you originally budgeted.

203(K) Loan

The Federal Housing Administration offers 203(K) loans as a way for current homeowners and homebuyers to refinance their home and roll the costs of a renovation into the mortgage. Because they’re backed by the FHA, these loans can come with lower interest rates and qualifying may be easier. But your home and your garage project will have to meet FHA requirements.

Construction Loan

Construction loans traditionally have been used to finance the building of a new home, but they also may be used to make substantial renovations to a current home.

These loans typically have a variable interest rate, and because they’re unsecured, the rate may be higher than other types of garage financing options. Construction loans also have shorter terms than most loan options: They generally must be rolled into a mortgage or paid off within a year.

Cash-out Refinance

With a cash-out refinance, borrowers take out a new and larger mortgage on their home, then pay off the old mortgage and keep the difference to pay for their renovation project.

If you can find a competitive, fixed interest rate and other loan terms that work for you, this might be an alternative worth considering. But again, the loan is secured with your home as collateral, the application and approval process can be more complicated and slower than with other options, and there may be closing costs and fees.

What Type of Loan Is Best for Building a Garage?

If you’re hoping to build a garage, it makes sense to thoroughly research all the financing possibilities. But you’ll likely find that a personal loan is among the top contenders.

Benefits of a Personal Loan

There are several benefits to using a personal loan to finance a new garage.

•  You can borrow a fairly high amount (up to $100,000, for example, with a SoFi personal loan).

•  With an unsecured personal loan, you won’t have to put up your home or any other asset as collateral.

•  If you have a good credit history, you should qualify for a competitive interest rate.

•  Personal loans typically come with a fixed interest rate, which can make budgeting easier.

•  If you make timely payments and pay off the loan on time, it can help your credit.

•  The application process can be faster than other options, so you’ll get your money sooner.

Qualifying for a Personal Loan

Personal loan requirements can vary from one financial institution to the next, but here are three things lenders typically look at when reviewing an application:

•  Credit score and credit history: The higher your credit score, and the cleaner your credit report, the better your chances of qualifying for a loan with a competitive interest rate.

•  Employment history and income: Borrowers should be prepared to provide recent tax returns, bank statements, and other documents to verify their employment and their wages or salary.

•  Debt-to-income ratio: Lenders can have different requirements, but generally, the lower your debt-to-income ratio (how much you spend on monthly debt payments relative to your income), the better chance you’ll qualify for the loan terms you want.

Things to Consider When Applying for a Personal Loan

Before you apply for a personal loan, it can be a good idea to think about:

•  How much you need: With a personal loan you’ll receive a lump sum of cash, so it can be helpful to have an estimate for your project’s overall cost — and how much what you’ll need to borrow — before you begin researching lenders.

•  How much you can afford to pay back each month: You may want to run the numbers to see how your loan payments will fit into your monthly budget.

•  How much time you’ll need to repay the loan: If you have big dreams — and a big price tag to match — you may want to look at a long-term loan (five to seven years) so the payments don’t overwhelm you. Keep in mind, though, that the longer the loan term, the more you can expect to pay in interest.

•  Where you can get a personal loan that’s a fit for your needs: When you’re ready to look for a loan, your focus will likely be on finding the most competitive interest rate. But when you’re deciding where to get a personal loan, don’t forget to consider other costs — including origination fees, late payment charges, and prepayment penalties.

Alternative Garage Builders Financing Options

There are a couple of alternatives to financing your garage build with a loan or a secured line of credit. And like the other options listed here, they, too, have pros and cons.

Cash

If you have plenty of money to finish your project without financing, and you want to avoid interest charges, paying cash is definitely an option to consider. But if it would require pulling money from your emergency fund, or affect your budget or other important financial goals, you might want to look at other options. Of course, you could save up until you feel comfortable about paying for the project with cash. But depending on the total cost of the project, that might mean a long delay.

Credit Card

A credit card is a convenient way to pay for costs as you go, and this type of financing could be easier to obtain than a secured loan or secured line of credit. But unless you’re eligible for a card with a low or 0% introductory rate — and can pay off your balance before the introductory period expires — the interest rate could be much higher than with other borrowing options. If you’re building a storage shed or DIY carport, a credit card might be an appropriate financing tool. But for a pricier project, you may find there’s a more affordable option.

The Takeaway

Building a garage — whether it’s a prefab shed, standalone carport, or attached garage — can be an expensive project. Depending on the scale of the project and where you live, you could easily spend close to $30,000.

Most people opt to finance their garage build project, either with a personal loan or a line of credit. This allows them to break up the cost over several months and keep their cash in savings for a rainy day.

If you know what kind of garage or similar structure you hope to build, and you need or want to find financing to help pay for it, a personal loan can be a solid option.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2023 winner for Best Online Personal Loan overall.

FAQ

How do people afford to build a garage?

If paying cash to build a garage isn’t feasible, there are several financing options available, including a personal loan, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit (HELOC).

Can you finance a garage?

You can finance a garage if you can’t pay cash — or don’t want to. There are several financing options available, whether you’re planning to DIY a small carport or you’re working with a contractor to install a super-sized garage with all the amenities.

What type of loan is best for building a garage?

If you have solid credit, a personal loan may be the best type of financing for building a garage. You can borrow the money you want upfront, get the funding quickly, and make fixed-rate monthly payments while enjoying the benefits of adding a garage where you can keep your car, boat, tools, toys, and more.


Photo credit: iStock/PC Photography

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.


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

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

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How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Chimney?

The cost to replace a chimney ranges from $1,000 to $15,000, depending on the type and size of the chimney. You can install a smaller or prefabricated chimney for $1,000 to $5,000, but a full masonry chimney replacement cost can reach $15,000.

Below, we’ll explain new chimney cost factors, break down labor and materials expenses, discuss financing options, and help you determine if you might be able to replace the chimney yourself.

Chimney Replacement Costs: An Overview

How much does a chimney replacement cost? Anywhere from $1,000 to $15,000. A full chimney replacement is on the higher end of that range while a partial replacement — or a basic prefab chimney installation — is on the lower end.

In some cases, it might be possible to repair the chimney instead of replacing it. Chimney repair costs typically range between $1,000 and $3,000, though it varies depending on the extent of the damage.

Recommended: The Ultimate Home Maintenance Checklist

Full Chimney Replacement

A full chimney replacement costs between $5,000 and $10,000 — or up to $15,000 in some cases. Prefabricated chimneys are the lowest-cost option. You’ll pay moderate prices for a metal chimney and the highest prices for a brick chimney.

Partial Chimney Replacement (Rebuild)

You may only need to replace part of a chimney, like the stack, which extends above the roof. In other cases, you may need to pay for the repair of specific elements, like collapsing mortar, a damaged chimney crown, or a cracked flue.

Partial chimney replacement costs may top out at $5,000 while repair typically ranges between $1,000 and $3,000 per job.

Recommended: Home Improvement Calculator

Chimney Installation Labor Cost

Labor makes up a large portion of the cost to replace a chimney. Depending on your geographic location, if you can reach the chimney by ladder or you need scaffolding, and the type of chimney being installed, labor rates may range from $50 to $150 an hour for an experienced mason.

You will usually need to hire a structural engineer before the mason can begin their work, which adds to your overall labor costs. Depending on where you live, that can cost around $500.

Chimney Installation Material Costs

Material costs vary depending on the type of chimney being replaced, rebuilt, or repaired. Prefab chimneys have lower material costs while masonry chimneys require more expensive materials like bricks and mortar.

Chimney Installation Cost Financing

Paying for a new chimney — or even a more basic chimney repair — can be difficult on a tight budget. If you don’t have the money in emergency savings, you can explore other options like:

•  A payment plan with the contractor: Ask the contractor if they can set you up with a payment plan over a set number of months, rather than requiring the full payment all at once. Costs may be higher if you go this route.

•  A credit card: Some contractors will let you pay with a credit card but be careful. Your credit card may have a high APR, and if you can’t afford to pay the full bill at the end of the month, you could end up paying a lot of interest, which will make the new chimney even more expensive.

•  A home improvement loan: Home improvement loans are a low-cost option for homeowners. These personal loans typically have a lower interest rate than your credit card, and you can choose repayment terms — often three to five years — that make sense for your budget. A personal loan can be a cost-effective way to pay for common home repair costs.

•  Home equity loans: Homeowners can also tap into their home equity with a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC).

Before you decide on the best financing option, you will want to compare the difference between home equity loans vs. home improvement loans.

Can I Replace the Chimney Myself?

A chimney replacement requires special skills and training. A lot can go wrong if you install or repair a chimney incorrectly. It could become a fire hazard or potentially collapse. No matter your DIY skills, we highly recommend hiring a qualified mason to tackle all repairs and replacements.

Recommended: How to Keep Inflation From Blowing Your Home Reno Budget

What Factors Impact a Chimney Replacement Price?

Several factors can impact your overall chimney replacement cost, including:

•  Permits needed: You’ll almost always need to get a permit for larger chimney replacement projects. Permit costs vary depending on your state and municipality.

•  Level of work required: Wholesale chimney replacements cost significantly more than minor work. For example, chimneys may just require some repointing or tuckpointing to keep them in good shape, or you may need to replace the crown or cap or only rebuild the stack. If you have to replace the whole chimney, it may require demolition, which can be expensive. Talk with your contractor about the extent of the work to get a better idea of the total chimney installation cost.

•  Type of chimney: Prefab chimneys are the most affordable to install. You’ll spend more to replace a metal chimney, but the most expensive type of chimney to replace is a brick one.

•  Size and location: Larger chimneys will cost more to replace than small ones. Chimneys that are easy to access (by ladder, for example) are also more affordable to repair or replace. If the positioning of the chimney makes it harder for the contractor to access, labor costs will be higher.

Signs Your Chimney Needs to Be Replaced

How do you know when it’s time to replace your chimney? Here are a few signs to watch for:

1.   Crumbling brick: If the brick is visibly crumbling or deteriorating, call a mason quickly to determine the extent of the damage and begin the repair or replacement work.

2.   Leaks: If your chimney is the source of leaks (look for water damage to the surrounding walls and ceiling), it’s time to call a contractor to look at it.

3.   Cracks: It’s good practice to have your chimney inspected each year. During the inspection, the contractor will look for large cracks. These could be a sign that it’s time to repair or replace the chimney.

The Takeaway

Chimney replacement costs can range from $1,000 to $15,000 — it’s not a cheap project, but luckily, it’s also not a common one. Get your chimney inspected every year, and keep up with regular maintenance and cleaning. Unless there’s unexpected storm damage or the chimney is old, you may not have to replace the chimney the entire time you live in your home.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


Replace your chimney asap with a home improvement loan from SoFi.

FAQ

How long does it take to replace a chimney?

Basic chimney repairs can be quick: A professional should be able to repair a partially damaged chimney in one to four days. Significant damage may lead to longer timelines — in some cases, it might take weeks or even months to repair and rebuild a chimney.

Can I replace my chimney myself, or do I need to hire a professional?

Replacing and repairing a chimney requires specialized knowledge, skills, and equipment, not to mention physical strength. If you make even a small mistake when replacing your chimney, you might accidentally cause a leak, inadvertently create a fire hazard, or build a structurally unsound chimney that could collapse. Always hire a professional for this work.

What qualifications should I look for in a chimney replacement contractor?

When looking for a contractor to work on your chimney, always confirm that they are licensed and insured. You should also verify that they’re certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Ask the contractors if they offer warranties or guarantees for their work and read reviews online to make sure they provide quality services. You can also ask them for references.

How do I compare quotes from different chimney replacement contractors?

Before getting quotes from any chimney replacement contractors, read online reviews and ask the contractors about their licenses, insurance, and certifications. Only get quotes from qualified contractors.

When comparing quotes, look not just at the overall cost but also the timeline to ensure they can replace your chimney quickly, if needed. Also verify what is and isn’t covered in the quote. For example, has the contractor included the necessary permits, or is that a separate cost not part of the estimate?

You’ll also want to ask about their payment schedule and how they prefer to be paid (cash, check, or credit card, for example).

Are there permits or inspections required for chimney replacement, and how much do they cost?

When replacing a chimney, you almost always will need to get a permit and an inspection. The costs will vary depending on where you live, but you might pay up to $500 for an inspection by a structural engineer, and permits can reach $150.

How often should I replace my chimney, and what factors affect its lifespan?

A well-built chimney should last several generations of homeowners. In theory, you may never need to replace your chimney (but regular inspections are a good idea). If you do replace your chimney, you likely won’t need to replace it again as long as you’re in that house.

That said, certain elements may need to be repaired or replaced more frequently. Chimney liners, for instance, last 15 to 20 years, and mortar lasts 25 to 30 years.

Extreme weather, like high and low temperatures, hail, and earthquakes, may shorten a chimney’s lifespan, as can exposure to water. As your home settles over time, it may also lead to premature cracks in your chimney.

What are the risks of not replacing a chimney that is in disrepair?

If you ignore the signs that it’s time to replace or repair your chimney, you’re exposing your home to a lot of risk. Water could more easily get into your home, leading to mold and mildew. Walls, ceilings, and floors could deteriorate over time, and the inner workings of your chimney would be exposed to rust. Eventually, your chimney might collapse, leading to much more expensive and extensive structural damage to your home.


Photo credit: iStock/AntonioSolano
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.


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

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How Much House Can You Afford When Paying Off Student Loans?

If you’re like many Americans, you may have student loans, and you may also hope to own your home at some point. You may worry that carrying student debt and buying your own place are mutually exclusive, but that’s not necessarily the case.

Yes, it can be true those with higher student loan balances may be less likely to be homeowners than peers with lower amounts of debt. However, understanding your debt-to-income ratio and other aspects of your financial profile can be vital. This insight can both inform how much room there is in your budget for a home loan payment and highlight how to improve your odds of being approved for a mortgage.

With this guide, you’ll learn the ropes, such as:

•   Understanding how mortgage lenders evaluate your finances

•   How your student loans impact your profile

•   Steps you can take that may boost your chances of getting a home loan application approved when you have student debt.

Getting a Mortgage When You Have Student Loans

Student loans are a familiar financial burden. Currently, Americans hold in excess of $1.7 trillion in student loan debt. A significant 70% of undergraduates finish school with an average sum of $37,000 or more in student loans.

You may wonder how having student loans can impact your eligibility for a mortgage. Here’s what you should know: When a lender is considering offering you a home loan, they want to feel confident that you will pay them back on time. A key factor is whether they think you can afford the mortgage payment with everything else on your plate. To assess this, a lender will consider your debt-to-income (or DTI) ratio, or how high your total monthly debt payments are relative to your income.

For the debt component, the institution will look at all your liabilities. These can include:

•   Car loans

•   Credit card payments

•   Student loans.

In the case of student loans (other than those forgiven by Biden administration), banks know that you’re likely to be responsible for that debt. It usually can’t be discharged in a bankruptcy and it’s not secured to an asset that a lender can recover.

Many industry professionals say that your debt-to-income ratio should ideally be below 36%, with 43% the maximum. If you have a high student loan payment or a relatively low income, that can affect your debt-to-income ratio and your chances of qualifying for a mortgage.


💡 Quick Tip: When house hunting, don’t forget to lock in your home mortgage loan rate so there are no surprises if your offer is accepted.

Can You Get a Mortgage With Student Loan Debts?

Are you wondering, “How much house can I afford with student loans?” Here are some important facts. Having student loan debt doesn’t disqualify you from getting a mortgage, but it can make it harder. So here’s how student loans are calculated for a mortgage: That student loan debt will increase your DTI ratio, which can make it harder to qualify for funds from lenders.

For example, here’s a hypothetical situation: Say you earn an annual salary of $60,000, making your gross monthly income $5,000. Say you owe $650 per month on a car loan and have a credit card balance with a $500 monthly minimum payment.

And let’s say you have student loans with a minimum payment of $650 a month. All your debt payments add up to $1,800 a month. So your debt-to-income ratio is $1,800/$5,000 = 0.36, or 36%. That’s right at the limit that some conventional lenders allow. So you can see how having a high student loan payment can affect your ability to qualify for a mortgage.

Another way that student loans can affect your chances of buying a home is if you have a history of missed payments. If you don’t make your minimum student loan payments each month, that gets recorded in your credit history.

When you fail to make payments consistently, your loans can become delinquent or go into default. Skipping payments is a red flag to your potential mortgage lender: Since you haven’t met your obligations on other loans in the past, they may fear you’re at risk of failing to pay a new one as well.

That said, if you have an acceptable DTI ratio and a history of on-time payments on your student loans, you likely have a good shot at being approved for a mortgage. It’s not a matter of having to make a choice between paying off student loans or buying a house.

Estimate How Much House You Can Afford

Taking into account the debt-to-income ratio you just learned about, use this home affordability calculator to get a general idea of how much you can afford. This tool is one you can use to help estimate the cost of purchasing a home and the monthly payment.

How Student Loan Debt Affects Your DTI Ratio

As mentioned above, student loan debt can increase your DTI ratio. How much it will increase your DTI number will depend on how big your loan debt is. Currently, the average federal student loan debt is $37,338 per borrower. The figure for private student loan debt is $54,921.

Obviously, to get that average figure, many different amounts are factored in. Consider these two scenarios:

•   Person A earns $120,000 and has $80,000 in student loan debt, plus a car payment, plus $15,00 in credit card debt.

•   Person B earns $80,000, and has $10,000 in student loan debt, no car payment, and $3,000 in credit card debt.

It’s likely that Person B will have an easier time qualifying for a home loan than Person A. It boils down to one having a higher DTI ratio.

Recommended: Strategies to Pay Off Student Debt

Improving Your Chances of Qualifying for a Mortgage

Are you wondering how to buy a house with student debt? Your student loan debt is just one part of the picture when you go shopping for a home loan. Lenders look at many other aspects of your financial situation to assess your trustworthiness as a borrower. By focusing on improving these factors, you may be able to increase your chances of getting a mortgage.

•   Credit score: One of the most important things to address is your credit score, since this is a key measure lenders use to evaluate how risky it would be to lend to you. Your credit score is determined by many factors, including whether you’ve missed payments on bills in the past, how much debt you have relative to your credit limits, the length of your credit history, and whether you’ve declared bankruptcy.

If your credit score is below 650 or 700, you may want to work on building it. Starting by consistently making your payments on time, paying off debt, or responsibly opening a new credit line may help.

•   Automate your payments. If keeping up with payments has been challenging in the past, setting up automatic payments to your credit card. You might also establish automatic payments to, say, your utilities through your providers or your bank to help you stay on track without having to memorize due dates. In the case of a bankruptcy, you’ll typically have to wait 10 years for it to disappear from your record.

•   Strengthen your work history. Your employment matters to a lender because, if you’re at risk of losing your job, your ability to pay back the loan could change as well. Gaps in employment, frequent job changes, or lack of work experience can all be red flags for a financial institution.

If employment history is a weakness in your application, perhaps you can focus on finding a more stable role than you’ve had in the past as you are saving for a house. This could also be a matter of waiting until you’ve been in a new job for a couple of years before applying for a mortgage.

•   Save up for a bigger down payment. Another way to improve your prospects is to save more money for your down payment. If you have enough to put at least 20% down on a home, your student loans may become less of a factor for the lender.

You can save for a down payment by putting funds in an interest-bearing savings account or CD, asking wedding guests (if you’re getting hitched) to contribute to a “house fund,” earning more income, or even asking a family member for a gift or loan.

•   Focus on your DTI ratio. Another key area you could focus on is your debt-to-income ratio. Tackling some of your debts — whether student loans, credit card balances, or a car loan — could help lower that ratio. Another strategy is to increase your income, perhaps by asking for a raise, getting a new job, or taking on a side hustle. This can help you pay down debt and improve your DTI ratio.

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


How Student Loan Refinancing May Help

If you’re buying a home with student loans, another way to potentially improve your debt-to-income ratio is to look into student loan refinancing. When you refinance your student loans with a private lender, you replace your existing loans — whether federal, private, or a mix of the two — with a new one that comes with fresh terms.

Refinancing can help borrowers obtain a lower interest rate than they previously had, which may translate to meaningful savings over the life of the loan. You may also be able to lower your monthly payments through refinancing, which can reduce your debt-to-income ratio.

Refinancing isn’t for everyone, since you can lose benefits associated with federal loans, such as access to deferment, forbearance, loan forgiveness, and income-based repayment plans.

But for many borrowers, especially those with a solid credit and employment history, it can be an effective way to reduce debt more quickly and improve the chances of getting a mortgage.


💡 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.

Don’t Let Student Loans Hold You Back

With many Americans holding student loan debt, it’s understandable that this financial burden could pose a hurdle for some would-be homeowners. But can you get a mortgage with student loans? Yes, student loans and a mortgage aren’t mutually exclusive. Paying for your education doesn’t have to cost you your dream of owning a home.

If you’ve been making payments on time and your debt is manageable relative to your income, your loans might not be an issue at all. If your student loans do become a factor, you can take steps to get them under control, potentially improving your chances of qualifying for a mortgage. One option could be refinancing those loans.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

FAQ

Can I refinance student loans to improve my mortgage eligibility?

Refinancing student loans might improve your mortgage eligibility. If you obtain a lower rate, you could potentially pay down your student loans more quickly, which could lower your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. However, refinancing federal loans can mean you are no longer eligible for loan forgiveness and other programs.

Can a cosigner help if I have student loans and want to buy a house?

Having a cosigner on your student loans could help with your mortgage qualification if you are “on the bubble” in terms of qualifying. A cosigner with a strong financial profile and credit history could help tip you into the approval zone.

Will a history of on-time student loan payments positively impact my mortgage application?

A history of on-time loan payments is an asset. It can help build your credit score, which is one of the factors lenders use to assess whether to approve your mortgage application.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


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

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

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 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.

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