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Is Buying a Home a Good Investment?

Many people consider homeownership a rite of passage, a part of the American Dream, and a key way to build wealth. But recently, as home prices and mortgage interest rates have risen, some may wonder, “Is buying a home a good investment, no matter what?”

It can be challenging to gather enough funds for a down payment, qualify for a mortgage, and then afford all of the costs that go along with homeownership, such as property taxes, maintenance expenditures, and utilities. But to live in a place you love while building equity can be a win-win.

So if you’re wondering “Is buying a house a good investment?” vs. say, investing your money, you’ll have to take a closer look at how homeownership relates to your personal financial situation. Read on to learn how to evaluate what will be the right decision for you, starting with important questions to contemplate.

Is It a Good Investment to Buy a House?

In order to determine if buying a home is a good investment for you, you’ll need to estimate the amount of time you plan to own the house and the real estate marketplace dynamics.

•   If you don’t plan to own the house for at least five years, you may not break even when you sell the home. When you buy a home, you pay for more than just the house and those costs can add up. You’re often paying for appraisals, mortgage application fees, inspections, movers, real estate agent fees, and that can add up to thousands of dollars.

In order to recoup all those fees, conventional wisdom says you need to wait at least five years for your home to appreciate before selling it. If you plan to live somewhere for less than five years, it could make the most financial sense just to rent property.

•   You may also want to consider other aspects of whether it’s a good time to buy a house. For example, is it a hot or cool market? Are you likely to wind up in a bidding war (and possibly overpay) because there isn’t enough supply to meet demand? Are interest rates likely to fall over the next year? These dynamics can impact whether now is the right time to jump into the housing market.


💡 Quick Tip: With SoFi, it takes just minutes to view your rate for a home loan online.

Do You Have Sufficient Savings to Buy a House?

In order to buy a home, you’ll generally have to take out a mortgage to finance your home purchase. Before that’s not the only expense. These costs must also be covered:

•   Before you even get to the mortgage stage, you’ll have to save for a down payment (which is often anywhere between 3% and 20% of the property’s purchase price) and closing costs, which are typically 3% to 6% of the loan amount. This can mean a significant chunk of change.

•   There are continuing costs you’ll have to account for, such as home insurance, property taxes, general maintenance, and emergency home repairs.

When you are renting, if the kitchen sink springs a leak, your landlord will take care of it. But when you own a home, those repairs will be entirely your responsibility. Having an emergency fund saved up will help you deal with unexpected costs associated with homeownership.

Also, if you are purchasing a house as an investment vs. using it as a primary residence, can you afford to buy a house while still renting? That is a situation in which you will want to map out your cash flow and make sure you are prepared if you can’t flip or rent the property as quickly as anticipated. An emergency fund could also be invaluable in that scenario.

Are You Confident in the Housing Market?

The housing market rises and falls; take a close look to evaluate current trends. Home prices skyrocketed during the Covid pandemic and have continued to rise recently. This can make it difficult for first-time homebuyers to find a suitable home that is in their price range. It’s important to be prepared as you start to look at homes. Understand your budget and make sure you have saved enough money to make a down payment on the property.

Also be sure that you understand how mortgage rates can impact the affordability of housing and what your home shopping budget looks like.

💡 Quick Tip: If you refinance your mortgage and shorten your loan term, you could save a substantial amount in interest over the lifetime of the loan.

Are You Ready for the Responsibility?

When you own your own home, you have a lot of freedom to make the space completely your own. With all of this flexibility comes a lot of responsibility. If the house has a yard, you’ll be responsible for regular maintenance and upkeep.

Will you need to pay for a new roof soon? Buy a lawn mower? If you live in an area with harsh winters, will you need to get a snow blower or hire someone to clear the driveway after each snow storm? These costs can add up.

So make sure you are ready for the financial responsibility that comes with owning a home before you make the purchase. You’ll have to account for repairs, improvements, general upkeep, insurance, and taxes. Not only does all of this cost money, it will take your time and attention as well, which isn’t necessarily the case when you rent. If you’re not ready to always be “on call” for your property’s needs, it could be a homebuying mistake to purchase.

Recommended: Should I Sell My House?

Are You Willing to Live with a Long-Term Loan?

Buying a home can mean you’re taking on a loan for perhaps 15 or 30 years. That’s a major undertaking. Part of the process of learning how to buy a house is educating yourself on how mortgages work and the different types available. Generally, there are two types: fixed rate and adjustable-rate mortgages.

•   A fixed-rate mortgage keeps your payment level over time, typically 15 or 30 years, because the interest rate remains stable.

•   The interest rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage loan fluctuates over time. They usually start out lower than a fixed-rate loan but often rise in later years.

To see what a mortgage could mean for your finances, take a look at an online mortgage calculator to compare different types of loans and see what your costs might look like. If a loan could be part of your life for three decades, you want to make sure you’re comfortable with it.

Remember that while it may seem daunting to take on a 30-year obligation, a mortgage helps you build equity in an asset that generally increases in value as time passes. Is a house a good investment? Historically, yes, if you take the long view.

Over the years, homeowners build up equity in the house as they methodically pay off more and more principal with less monthly payments on each loan payment. Many smart borrowers pay extra each month toward the principal to pay off the mortgage sooner.

Recommended: Quiz: Should You Buy or Rent a Home?

Pros and Cons of Buying a Home as an Investment

Before a major financial move, it’s important to consider the benefits and downsides. You’ll want to know what are the pros and cons of buying a starter home or a subsequent property. Consider these points.

Pros of Buying a House

Here are some of the upsides of buying and owning a home:

•   You will build equity in your home over time, which can help you grow your wealth. Your home value may appreciate as well.

•   There may be tax advantages to homeownership, such as deducting mortgage interest.

•   Paying your mortgage payments on time can help build your credit.

•   You can renovate the property as you see fit, unlike the case with rental units.

•   You likely have a good idea of your monthly housing costs for the long term. If you are renting, you could face significant fluctuations.

•   There’s a feeling of security for many people when they know they own their home.

Cons of Buying a House

Next, it’s wise to consider the disadvantages of buying a home:

•   You typically need to pay for the down payment and closing costs, which can be a significant financial hurdle.

•   You are likely locking into long-term debt, and it can take a while to build equity.

•   There is no guarantee that your home’s value will grow over time.

•   The costs related to owning a home can be significant. This includes expenses like property taxes and insurance, as well as home repairs.

•   You will have less flexibility if you need to move for a job, say, or want to relocate to be closer to friends and family. Selling a house can involve time, energy, and money.

Ready to Buy? Consider a SoFi Mortgage

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


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

Is it wise to buy a house as an investment?

Whether it’s wise to buy a house as an investment will depend on many factors, such as your personal finances and current economic and real estate trends, as well as whether the property is a place that’s a good home for you to live in for at least several years.

Is buying a house worth it in 2023?

Buying a house in 2023 can be challenging because home prices and mortgage rates have been rising. However, if you can afford the monthly mortgage payments, plus the down payment and ongoing costs of homeownership, it may still be the right move for you.

Is owning a home an asset?

In general, a home is considered an asset. Yes, you typically have a mortgage, which is a liability, but on the plus side, you are building equity while having a place you enjoy living.



*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.


Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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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12 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

If you’re getting ready to buy your first home, there are probably thousands of questions running through your mind. Questions about location, real estate services, expenses, and more — it’s a huge financial commitment and you probably want to make sure you have the best chance at getting exactly what you want. While it can be a difficult process to navigate, there is help for first-time homebuyers, from resources and advice to first-time homebuyer programs to help you finance a home.

If you’re worried you won’t ever be able to purchase a home, take a deep breath and a good look at your finances. You can start by reviewing your current financial situation and beginning to save for a down payment. (There are investment accounts and savings options that can help you reach your goal of buying a home, too.) Here are 12 helpful tips for first-time homebuyers.

1. Know Your Credit Score

Your credit score is typically very influential in determining what kind of interest rate you can get on a home mortgage loan. You can get one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion®) every 12 months, and may also be able to view free reports more frequently online. You can review your credit report to spotlight any errors that may affect what lenders are willing to offer you.

If you find any errors, you can report them and have them removed. This process can sometimes take a while, even if the mistakes are obvious, so consider starting a credit report review early on in your home-buying process.

2. Calculate What You Can Afford

Do you know how to figure out how much house you can afford? While the size of your mortgage is generally determined by an evaluation of your personal finances and debt, there are a few rules of thumb that may be relevant.

One general guideline is that your housing costs, including your mortgage payment, should, ideally, be no more than 28% of your gross monthly income.

If you are paying off student loans, credit card debt, or have a car payment, you may want to adjust your budget accordingly. Some people try to keep their debt to 36% of their gross monthly income, so that they can still prioritize financial goals like saving for retirement. (This is just another rule of thumb and everyone’s financial goals are different.)

And having less debt may make you more appealing to mortgage lenders. Understanding how much money you feel comfortable spending on a house can, in turn, impact the properties you consider. As you build your budget, you can also check out SoFi’s mortgage calculator.

3. Look into First-Time Homebuyers’ Programs

While you are evaluating your options and creating your budget, it could be worth looking into some first-time homebuyers’ programs. Some programs offer down payment and closing cost assistance, or loans with reduced interest rates.

There are a variety of options available for first-time homebuyers looking for assistance. For example, the Federal Housing Administration offers a mortgage insured by the FHA. These loans often come with competitive interest rates and allow for smaller down payments.

The USDA also helps first-time homebuyers with a program focused in rural areas. And the VA loan program provides assistance to active duty military members, veterans, and surviving spouses. There are even more first-time homebuyer programs and loans available from various states as well.

4. Understand the Expenses

There are plenty of other expenses that come with purchasing a home beyond your down payment and closing costs. For example, when you’re renting property, you don’t have to worry about property tax or general maintenance. When you own property, you do.

In addition to property tax, you’ll likely also need insurance to protect your new home. And you’ll be responsible for maintaining the property, of course, which can include painting, replacing windows, updating the roof, replacing appliances, and more regular maintenance and upkeep.

You may also need to factor in additional purchases like a lawn mower or professional landscaping if the property you are looking at has a yard. Will you need to buy a snowblower to clear the driveway during long winters? These are all factors that can come into consideration when figuring out the cost of your new home.

Check out our Home Affordability
Calculator to estimate how much house
you can afford.



💡 Quick Tip: Jumbo mortgage loans are the answer for borrowers who need to borrow more than the conforming loan limit values set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency ($766,550 in most places, or $1,149,825 in many high-cost areas). If you have your eye on a pricier property, a jumbo loan could be a good solution.

5. Remember that Location Matters

Location is, obviously, important to many buyers. In some cases, you may have to decide if being in the neighborhood you want is more important than having extra square footage or other, similar trade-offs.

If you have kids or are planning to, you will likely be considering the school district each potential property falls in. Even if you aren’t planning to have kids, it could be worth considering the school district since it can have an impact on the value of your property and could make it easier to sell the house down the line.

6. Plan for the Future

Zoning laws and development plans are another factor to consider when house-hunting. If there is undeveloped land nearby, it can’t hurt to do some digging and see if there are any plans for development.

It may also be worth looking into the property value of other homes in the area. Have they been declining in recent years? If so, this could impact the future value of a home you’re considering.

7. Use Your Imagination

When shopping around for houses, you can take the opportunity to look at a property’s potential, as well as its current value. It’s easy to be distracted by the current owner’s décor, paint, carpet, or other factors that are easy to change. You can easily repaint or update the appliances, but you won’t be able to adjust the location, floorplan, or add rooms to the home as easily.

💡 Quick Tip: Backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), FHA loans provide those with a fair credit score the opportunity to buy a home. They’re a great option for first-time homebuyers.

8. Reserve Cash for Home Improvements

When you’re getting ready to put a down payment on a house, it may be tempting to clean out your savings account. And while that’s completely understandable, keeping your emergency fund close at hand may be a good idea when becoming a homeowner.

After closing costs have been sorted out and you’ve moved into your new home, you might find that unexpected repairs pop up. Having a reserve stash of cash can be helpful if the roof in your new home starts leaking, or you need to replace an appliance.

9. Get a Real Estate Agent

With all of the housing apps and free resources available on the internet, it may seem like a real estate agent is unnecessary. But in reality, navigating the housing market can be tricky and hiring an agent up front can save you time and help make your home-buying experience easier.

While you could spend your time going to open houses and scouring real estate listings, an agent can tailor the home search so that you spend less time looking at houses that don’t meet your criteria. They also can have access to new listings that aren’t yet on the market and may be willing to “preview” homes for you. A real estate agent can also help you navigate the intricacies of contract negotiations and paperwork. If you’re wondering how the real estate agent gets paid take heart: They are typically paid from the seller’s proceeds.

10. Know What to Expect from a Home Inspection

Having a home inspection completed is a critical step in buying a home. Inspection procedures vary from state to state, so it can be important to understand what is included in the home inspection in your state, since this is a great chance to truly examine the property and uncover any issues—before they become your issues.

Inspectors should have access to every part of the house including the roof and crawl spaces, and you should be able to attend the inspection yourself.

Don’t be afraid to ask the inspector questions; the more information you have, the better prepared you can be to decide if this is the right house for you.

11. Negotiate the Offer

You’ll have an opportunity to negotiate when you’re making an offer on a house. A lot of factors can influence an offer and negotiating terms in your favor could result in serious savings, especially if you are in a buyer’s market.

If you are working with a real estate agent, they can help give you a good idea of what is considered a reasonable purchase bid by providing comparable sales. A “comparable” is a home similar to the one you are considering (and in the same condition and location) that has sold in the last three months. An agent can help give you an estimated price range and manage your expectations.

12. Find the Right Mortgage

Before committing to a mortgage, it’s smart to shop around and see what various lenders are willing to offer you. A few things to consider include the interest rates, loan terms, application process (Is it lengthy? Online only?), and any hidden fees included in applying for or repaying the mortgage. Familiarize yourself with the different types of mortgage loans available during this shopping process.

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


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.


Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

*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.

¹FHA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by FHA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. FHA loans require an Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP), which may be financed or paid at closing, in addition to monthly Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MIP). Maximum loan amounts vary by county. The minimum FHA mortgage down payment is 3.5% for those who qualify financially for a primary purchase. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.


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5 Tips for Finding a Mortgage Lender

Buying a home is an incredible accomplishment but it does not come without its challenges. Not only are you on the hunt for your dream house (you know, that one with that perfect yard for the dog and amazing fireplace), you’re likely also taking stock of your finances to figure out what you can afford.

And then there’s getting a mortgage loan, which means finding a good, reputable mortgage lender — one that offers the type of loan program that best suits your needs, and also provides excellent customer service and competitive rates. Finding a mortgage lender is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll make.

Luckily, there are plenty of viable options for borrowers. There are online lenders, credit unions, direct lenders, and mortgage brokers with a vast array of loan programs to choose from, to name just a few. The trick is narrowing down a crowded field to find a mortgage lender you trust that offers the loan program you want.

If you’re wondering how to find a good mortgage lender, here are five tips on how to find the best mortgage lender for you.

Tips for Shopping For a Mortgage Lender

1. Decide What’s Important

Throughout the process of obtaining a loan, you’ll have a lot of conversations with a bunch of different people. Before jumping in headfirst, take some time to understand what loan programs you may qualify for, the amount of downpayment you have to work with, and if you are a veteran, what lenders offer VA loans.

Once you narrow down the type of mortgage loan program you will be shopping for you can think about what other elements are important to you.

For one thing, there’s the type of communication you’ll want to have with the mortgage lender. Good mortgage lenders should be clear and upfront about the loan process and all associated costs. They should be willing to answer all your questions — and whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or not, you should feel comfortable asking any questions you may have.

You may even want to ask about how a mortgage lender will be communicating with you so you’ll know what to expect. For instance, you could ask them: “Do you communicate by phone, email, or text?” and “How quickly do you respond to questions?”

This is important because there are multiple steps that require back-and-forth correspondence and paperwork when applying for a mortgage. Maybe it’s critical for you to have someone who responds quickly. Ask your potential mortgage lender: “What are your turnaround times on things like pre-approval, appraisal, final approval and closing?”


💡 Quick Tip: Buying a home shouldn’t be aggravating. SoFi’s online mortgage application is quick and simple, with dedicated Mortgage Loan Officers to guide you through the process.

2. Be Prepared

Part of knowing how to find the best mortgage lender is to learn the vital details about the mortgage you want to take out. It’s hard to choose between lenders if you don’t truly know what you’re looking for, especially when there’s as much fine print as is typically involved in taking out a mortgage loan.

First, know the costs involved in taking out the type of mortgage you need in addition to the interest rate. There will likely be various fees associated with taking out a mortgage, such as origination and application fees, appraisal fees, and other third-party fees.

Fees can vary by lender, so have some idea of what is common and what to look out for. For example, if the rate quote is lower, are the fees higher as a result?

Next, it’s smart to have an idea of how much home you can afford and how much of a down payment is required under your preferred type of loan program. Be aware that the same loan program can have different down payment requirements at different lenders.

Knowing this type of information may help you narrow your search to the lenders who best fit your needs. Also, having your financial details in order will tell you how much you have to work with so you can get down to business with the lender of your choice.

How you have managed your credit and the resulting credit scores will come into play throughout the mortgage process. Your credit score may be one of the determining factors on what mortgage lenders you can choose from based on the loan programs you may be eligible to qualify for.

You may want to take some time to make sure your credit profile is in good enough shape for the loan program you want to qualify for before starting the process of searching for a mortgage lender.

3. Know Your Options

Finding the right mortgage lender means being able to navigate who you can work with in the big world of mortgage lending. Here are some of the major types of mortgage lenders out there. Many may offer similar types of loan programs, but possibly with different fees and qualifying criteria.

Mortgage bankers: Bankers work for a financial institution that underwrites loans, but does not take deposits. Mortgage bankers can sometimes also broker out loans.

Retail lenders: Similar to mortgage bankers and also known as direct lenders, retail lenders only originate mortgage products offered by their financial institution.

Mortgage brokers: Mortgage brokers don’t generally work with one institution, but instead act as an intermediary between the borrower and a wholesale lender. For the service of pairing you with a mortgage loan from one of the lending institutions they are approved to work with, the mortgage broker will generally take a commission that is a percentage of the loan amount. The loan is approved and funded by the wholesale lender.

Online lenders: A newer option for borrowers, online lenders like SoFi offer mortgage loans and focus on competitive rates and a more streamlined application.

Correspondent lenders: Typically, correspondent lenders are local mortgage loan companies that have the capital to fund a loan, but then turn around and sell the loan to a major financial institution.

Wholesale lenders: Unlike retail lenders, wholesale lenders don’t interact with borrowers and typically rely on brokers to sell their products.

Portfolio lenders: These lenders originate and fund loans from bank deposits and do not typically resell them after closing. They typically include community banks, credit unions, and savings and loan institutions.

Still, wondering how to find a reputable mortgage lender from these options? One thing you can do is read online reviews, like those on the Better Business Bureau’s website. You can also check to make sure that your lender is registered to originate loans with the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System Registry in your state.

4. Compare Lenders

It’s a good idea to shop around for mortgage rate quotes with a number of different lenders. Check with banks, online lenders, credit unions, and other local independent lenders to compare loan terms, interest rates, fees, and closing timelines. Request quotes in writing.

You can plug offers into a mortgage calculator to get an idea of the total interest costs. With a mortgage calculator, you can also compare different down payment options.

And remember, the interest rate isn’t the only cost to take into consideration. You’ll want to account for all of the fees associated with each rate and program offer.

Third-party fees should generally be the same no matter what lender you choose, so it’s the lenders’ loan terms, (qualifying) rate, and fees to compare apples to apples.

Checking on costs isn’t the only reason to get multiple quotes. It also allows you to experience a number of communication styles, and you’ll have a look into the process for each lender.


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

5. Get Pre-approved

Once you’ve narrowed it down to your chosen lender, apply for mortgage preapproval. During pre-approval, you’ll be asked to provide documentation on your financials, such as your paystubs, W2s, tax returns, bank account balances, and credit information.

This step is valuable when placing an offer on a home. A pre-approval letter shows that you have been vetted for the first (credit) portion of the loan process.

Once you apply with a lender you will receive a Loan Estimate laying out the down payment, fees, estimated monthly payment, and more.

This is the time to ask any lingering questions on the terms of the loan such as lending fees, rates, commissions, mortgage points, and any other fine print you may not understand.

Don’t be shy! This is a huge, important decision and you should feel welcome to ask every question twice if you need to.

At this stage, you may even want to consider negotiating your offers. If at all possible, use the competing offers as leverage to obtain better pricing. If the very thought of asking is intimidating to you, just remember that it never hurts to ask and the worst they can say is no. You might be surprised at what you can get by speaking up.

The Takeaway

Finding the right mortgage lender is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the home-buying process. You’ll want to compare different lenders and choose one you feel comfortable working with and who will answer your questions and get back to you quickly.

The right mortgage lender can help you get the best mortgage, and the best rate, for your needs. Be sure to weigh the options and compare and contrast different loan estimates to find the right deal for you.

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.



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.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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.

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


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 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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Understanding Your Mortgage APR

If you’re getting a mortgage, one important consideration is the APR, or annual percentage rate, on your loan. This is something different from your interest rate: The home loan APR reveals the overall cost of your mortgage, reflecting both the interest rate and any additional costs that must be factored in.

Knowing the APR on a home loan is a key bit of intel which can influence your overall costs as you move towards homeownership. To help you better understand this concept and how APR is calculated, read on. You’ll likely be better prepared to know which loan offer best suits your needs, today and tomorrow.

What Is APR?

APR stands for annual percentage rate, and it’s used to measure the cost of borrowing money from lenders for various reasons, such as your mortgage loan. While it’s often presented at the same time as your interest rate, it isn’t the same thing.

APR is expressed as a percentage and takes into account not only the interest rate but also many of the costs that are associated with the loan. When it comes to borrowing a mortgage, these costs can include such items as these, among others:

•   Origination fees

•   Application fees

•   Processing fees

•   Discount points.

APR provides a more comprehensive picture of the total cost of the mortgage loan. It gives you an overall view of the fees and costs you would have to pay that are included in the finance charge. If you compare just the interest rate, the additional fees and costs aren’t represented, which could give you an incomplete picture when it comes to determining the actual cost of the loan. That could negatively impact your ability to budget accurately for your home loan costs.

Since not all lenders charge the same fees or interest rates, comparing APRs is usually a better way to compare the total cost of your loan from one lender to another.


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

Why Is APR Important When Taking Out a Mortgage?

Knowing the APR can help consumers be more informed while comparison shopping for loan products. Thanks to the Truth in Lending Act, lenders are required to disclose the APR of their loans, as well as all fees and charges associated with a loan.

The APR should include all finance charge fees, which can make it easier for borrowers to sort through loan comparisons to find the right mortgage.

How Are Interest Rates Calculated?

As we’ve discussed, APR and interest rate aren’t the same, but your interest rate does impact your APR. So, how exactly are interest rates calculated?

Your interest rate is a percentage of your mortgage rate. What that percentage will be depends on what type of mortgage loan you have.

•   With a fixed-rate mortgage, you’ll pay the same interest rate for the entire time you have the loan.

•   With an adjustable rate mortgage, on the other hand, your rate will fluctuate throughout the life of the loan.
Also, keep in mind that any unpaid interest gets added to the mortgage principal. This means you’ll have to pay interest on that interest.

Your lender will determine your specific interest rate based on your financial specifics, such as your credit score, as well as the current economic conditions and market interest rates. Lenders usually use their own unique formula to calculate interest rates, which is why your rate can vary from lender to lender — and why it’s important to shop around for rates.

Recommended: APR vs. Interest Rate: What’s The Difference?

How to Calculate Your APR

When you’re getting a mortgage, you may want to be extra thorough and calculate the APR yourself. There’s a way to make that happen. But be warned, it’s not necessarily a super fun math project, but hey, where there’s a formula, there’s a way, right?

•   To get started, you’ll have to know the approximate monthly Principal and Interest (P&I) payment on your loan. Maybe your lender has already told you what it would be, but if not, you could calculate it with an online mortgage calculator or by hand.

•   You’ll need to have a loan amount, interest rate and a term in years.

•   Once you have the monthly P&I payment calculated, you’ll then be able to calculate the APR, which you can do with an online calculator. Keep in mind that because you don’t know what your applicable APR loan fees will be, it can be wise to use a ballpark estimate. If the loan costs that will impact your APR are 2% of your loan amount and your loan amount is $200,000, your loan costs for calculating the APR will be $4,000.



💡 Quick Tip: Lowering your monthly payments with a mortgage refinance from SoFi can help you find money to pay down other debt, build your rainy-day fund, or put more into your 401(k).

Why You Need to be Careful When Using APR to Compare Mortgages

When you’re getting a mortgage, you will likely have the APRs for all the mortgage offers you’re considering. Your APR is important to consider because it factors in the expense of additional fees over the life of your mortgage. If you’re applying for a 30-year mortgage, those fees are spread over 30 years.

But do you plan to live in your home for the full 30 years of your mortgage and never refinance your mortgage? If you sell your home after five years, rather than staying for the duration of your 30-year loan, you’ll still have to pay for the loan fees (such as origination fees).

That’s why it’s important to consider and compare APRs when choosing a mortgage. If you plan on living in the home for a limited time, a lender that offers fewer fees might be a better choice than a lender with a low APR but lots of fees. You may want to consult with your financial advisor before making this decision.

When you’re mortgage shopping, especially if you are a first-time homebuyer, you also may want to proceed with caution when comparing the APRs of fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages if you are using an online calculator. The APR on adjustable-rate loans may not be an accurate representation of the cost of the loan since some calculators cannot anticipate the frequency or amounts of the interest rate changes.

Recommended: Tips When Shopping for a Mortgage

The Takeaway

When getting a home loan, your interest rate and APR, or annual percentage rate, are not the same thing. The APR can reflect the overall cost of the loan, including various fees, for instance.

If you’re ready to take the next step in your home-buying journey, the first step is taking stock of your mortgage options. Comparing each loan’s APR is a quick and easy way to see how your offers stack up although it isn’t the only factor to take into account.

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.

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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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