What Is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)?

The term “accessory dwelling unit” might sound foreign, but chances are you’ve encountered one. Sometimes called an in-law suite, granny flat, or, more romantically, carriage house, an ADU is a secondary dwelling unit on the same lot as a primary single-family home.

Although ADUs have risen in popularity in recent years, they’ve been around for decades, according to a study by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., known as Freddie Mac.

When the suburbs boomed in the 1950s, municipalities across the country created zoning laws prohibiting higher-density residential structures, the Freddie Mac report noted, but in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and others that lacked affordable housing, the practice continued in secret.

As zoning laws across the country have changed to allow ADUs, the trend has boomed in tandem with population growth in the South and the West. “Half of our total 1.4 million ADUs are located in the Sun Belt states of California, Florida, Texas, and Georgia,” Freddie Mac reported.

What’s the attraction? Some property owners add an ADU to generate rental income; others want a place to accommodate guests, and still others need living space for aging parents.

Read on to learn why ADUs are all the rage in pricey cities and what it takes to build one.

ADU Meaning Explained

An ADU goes by many names, but its features make it unique among types of dwellings.

•   ADUs are smaller than the primary residence they accompany. In California, which passed statewide laws making many city restrictions on ADUs obsolete and streamlining the approval process, the size generally ranges from 500 to 1,000 square feet.

•   ADUs are self-contained. They usually include a bathroom, kitchenette, living area, and separate entrance.

•   ADUs require a special permit, which varies by location, according to the American Planning Association. Building codes may limit the size of the ADU and the number of occupants. Some cities, however, are offering an ADU amnesty program to help legalize under-the-radar units.

•   Unlike a duplex, ADUs usually share utility connections with the primary residence.

Recommended: A Guide to Buying a Duplex

What Are the Different Types of ADUs?

All ADUs have to follow ordinances and laws, but they don’t all look the same. Depending on homeowner preference, it might look like one of the following:

•   Detached This is likely new construction, formal or informal.

•   Converted garage This might mean retrofitting the garage or adding a second floor to create an ADU. Fans of Happy Days might recall Fonzie living in the Cunninghams’ converted garage, which was actually an ADU.

•   Attached Typically this is an addition to the existing residence.

•   Interior conversion An existing portion of the house, perhaps the basement, is transformed into an ADU. Fans of Full/Fuller House might recall the Tanners’ attic conversion and the basement/garage living space.

Benefits of an ADU

For the right homeowner, an ADU has upsides.

•   Rental income Choosing to rent out the space could bring in income, whether with a long-term rental or short-term Airbnb.

•   A true mother-in-law suite or adult-child dwelling For multi-generational families, adding an ADU could be a good way to create privacy and be close … but not too close. An ADU can also house an adult child who returns to the nest.

•   A space to age in place Conversely, aging homeowners or empty-nesters might choose to build an ADU for themselves. The homeowners could move into the smaller, more manageable space and rent out the larger property for passive income.

•   Flexibility An ADU could become a home office or art studio. For some homeowners, it might just be a good place to host guests.

•   Enhanced property value Compare the cost of buying a second small home or condo in your area with the cost of adding an ADU. How much value will a permitted habitable accessory dwelling add? A property appraisal will tell the tale.

Drawbacks of an ADU

ADUs may also come with their fair share of potential downsides.

•   Can be expensive A detached ADU may cost as much as a small house to build (though the homeowner already owns the land). An attached ADU or conversion of an existing structure will probably cost less, but still may cause sticker shock. Size, features, and the cost of professional services, permits, and any financing come into play.

•   Occupancy requirements Some local ordinances require that a home that has an ADU be owner-occupied in some capacity. That means a property with an ADU may not be the right fit for someone who wants to rent out the entire property.

•   Higher taxes On one hand, adding value to your property is a good thing. On the other, an ADU can make a property tax bill spike.

•   A smaller yard Unless a homeowner is retrofitting an ADU into their existing dwelling, building an ADU will cut down on outdoor space.

•   Financing Can be tricky. Read on.

Recommended: 8 Steps to Buying a Vacation Home

Ways to Pay for an ADU

While ADUs have different shapes and designs, they have a commonality: a price tag. If homeowners don’t have cash on hand to finance the build, they’ve got a few options to move forward.

A home improvement loan is a personal loan used to pay for a home renovation or update. When a homeowner takes out a home improvement loan, it’s not secured by the property — meaning the home isn’t collateral in the transaction.

A home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC) leverages homeowners’ equity in a property and allows them to borrow money against the value of the home. Unlike a home improvement loan, a home equity loan or credit line is tied to the house, meaning the property is used as collateral. A home equity loan provides you with a lump sum of funds at one time and typically has a fixed interest rate. With a HELOC, homeowners can draw different amounts at different times, typically with a variable interest rate.

With sufficient equity in your home, homeowners could also consider a cash-out refinance.

The Takeaway

Determining if an accessory dwelling unit is the right move for a homeowner comes down to needs, preferences, and finances. ADUs have pros and cons, but many areas have eased the way for this cottage industry.

Homeowners who don’t have much equity in their property or don’t want to use their home as collateral may want to consider a SoFi unsecured personal loan to cover the cost of an ADU. SoFi’s home improvement loans range from $5K to $100K, and offer competitive, fixed rates, as well as a variety of terms. Plus, there are no fees required.

Imagine the possibilities. Then check your rate. It’s easy.

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.

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.

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.

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.

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


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Should I Pay Off Debt Before Buying a House?

Ready to buy your own home? There’s a lot to consider, especially if this is your first time applying for a mortgage and you’re carrying debt. While having debt is not necessarily a deal-breaker when you’re applying for a mortgage, it can be a factor when it comes to how much you’ll be able to borrow, the interest rate you might pay, and other terms of the loan.

Understanding how the home loan process works can help you decide whether it’s better to pay off debt or save up for a downpayment on a home. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Manage Debt before Buying a Home

Understand Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

When lenders want to be sure borrowers can responsibly manage a mortgage payment along with the debt they’re carrying, they typically use a formula called the debt-to-income ratio (DTI).

The DTI ratio is calculated by dividing a borrower’s recurring monthly debt payments (future mortgage, credit cards, student loans, car loans, etc.) by gross monthly income.

The lower the DTI, the less risky borrowers may appear to lenders, who traditionally have hoped to see that all debts combined do not exceed 43% of gross earnings.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say a couple pays $600 combined each month for their auto loans, $240 for a student loan, and $200 toward credit card debt, and they want to have a $2,000 mortgage payment. If their combined gross monthly income is $8,000, their DTI ratio would be 38% ($3,040 is 38% of $8,000).

The couple in our example is on track to get their loan. But if they wanted to qualify for a higher loan amount, they might decide to reduce their credit card balances before applying.

That 43% threshold isn’t set in stone, by the way. Some mortgage lenders will have their own preferred number, and some may make exceptions based on individual circumstances. Still, it can be helpful to know where you stand before you start the homebuying process.

Recommended: How to Prepare for Buying a New Home

Consider How Debt Affects Your Credit Score

A mediocre credit score doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to get a mortgage loan. Lenders also look at employment history, income, and other factors when making their decisions. But your credit score and the information on your credit reports will likely play a major role in determining whether you’ll qualify for the mortgage you want and the interest rate you want to pay.

Typically, a FICO® Score of 620 will be enough to get a conventional mortgage, but someone with a lower score still may be able to qualify. Or they might be eligible for an FHA or VA backed loan. The bottom line: The higher your score, the more options you can expect to have when applying for a loan.

A few factors go into determining a credit score, but payment history and credit usage are the categories that typically hold the most weight. Payment history takes into account your record of making on-time or late payments, or if you’ve filed for bankruptcy.

Credit usage looks at how much you owe in loans and on your credit cards. An important consideration in this category is your credit utilization rate, which is the amount of revolving credit you’re currently using divided by the total amount of revolving credit you have available. Put more simply, it’s how much you currently owe divided by your credit limit. It is generally expressed as a percent. The lower your rate, the better. Many lenders prefer a utilization rate under 30%.

Does that mean you should pay off all credit card debt before buying a house?

Not necessarily. Debt isn’t the devil when it comes to your credit score. Borrowers who show that they can responsibly manage some debt and make timely payments can expect to maintain a good score. Meanwhile, not having any credit history at all could be a problem when applying for a loan.

The key is in consistency — so borrowers may want to avoid making big payments, big purchases, or balance transfers as they go through the loan process. Mortgage underwriters may question any noticeable changes in your credit score during this time.

Recommended: What Credit Score is Required to Buy a House?

Don’t Forget, You May Need Ready Cash

Making big debt payments also could cause problems if it leaves you short of cash for other things you might need as you move through the homebuying process, including the following.

Down Payment

Whether your goal is to put down 20% or a smaller amount, you’ll want to have that money ready when you find the home you hope to buy.

Closing Costs

The cost of home appraisals, inspections, title searches, etc., can add up quickly. Average closing costs are 3% to 6% of the full loan amount.

Moving Expenses

Even a local move can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, so you’ll want to factor relocation expenses into your budget. If you’re moving for work, your employer could offer to cover some or all of those costs, but you may have to pay upfront and wait to be reimbursed.

Remodeling and Redecorating Costs

You may want to leave yourself a little cash to cover any new furniture, paint, renovation projects, or other things you require to move into your home.

Trends in the housing market may help you with prioritizing saving or paying down debt. So it’s a good idea to pay attention to what’s going on with the overall economy, your local real estate market, and real estate trends in general.

Here are some things to watch for.

Interest Rates

When interest rates are low, homeownership is more affordable. A lower interest rate keeps the monthly payment down and reduces the long-term cost of owning a home.

Rising interest rates aren’t necessarily a bad thing, though, especially if you’ve been struggling to find a home in a seller’s market. If higher rates thin the herd of potential buyers, a seller may be more open to negotiating and lowering a home’s listing price.

Either way, it’s good to be aware of where rates are and where they might be going.


When you start your home search, you may want to check on the average amount of time homes in your desired location sit on the market. This can be a good indicator of how many houses are for sale in your area and how many buyers are out there looking. (A local real estate agent can help you get this information.)

If inventory is low and buyers are snapping up houses, you may have trouble finding a house at the price you want to pay. If inventory is high, it’s considered a buyer’s market and you may be able to get a lower price on your dream home.


If you pay too much and then decide to sell, you could have a hard time recouping your money.

The goal, of course, is to find the right home at the right price, with the right mortgage and interest rate, when you have your financial ducks in a row.

If the trends are telling you to wait, you may decide to prioritize paying off your debts and working on your credit score.

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Remember, You Can Modify Your Mortgage Terms

If you already have a mortgage, you may be able to make some adjustments to the original loan by refinancing to different terms.

Refinancing can help borrowers who are looking for a lower interest rate, a shorter loan term, or the opportunity to stop paying for private mortgage insurance or a mortgage insurance premium.

Consider a Debt Payoff Plan

If you decide to make paying down your debt your goal, it can be useful to come up with a plan that gets you where you want to be.

Because here’s the thing: All debt is not created equal. Credit card debt interest rates are typically higher than other types of borrowed money, so those balances can be more expensive to carry over time. Also, loans for education are often considered “good debt,” while credit card debt is often viewed as “bad debt.” As a result, lenders may be more understanding about your student loan debt when you apply for a mortgage.

As long as you’re making the required payments on all your obligations, it may make sense to focus on dumping some credit card debt.

Recommended: Beginners Guide to Good and Bad Debt

The Takeaway

Should you pay off debt before buying a house? Not necessarily, but you can expect lenders to take into consideration how much debt you have and what kind it is. Considering a solution that might reduce your payments or lower your interest rate could improve your chances of getting the home loan you want.

When you consolidate your credit card debt, you typically take out a personal loan, ideally with a lower rate than you’re paying your credit cards, and use it to pay off all of your credit cards. You then end up with one balance and one payment to make each month. This simplified the debt repayment process and can also help you save money on interest.

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.

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.

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 .


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7 Tips for Maintaining the Value of Your Home

When housing costs are high, it’s hard to imagine that your home could ever go down in value. But the truth is it can, particularly if you aren’t actively maintaining your home. If you neglect small repairs, over time these issues can become large — i.e., expensive — problems that can drag down the resale value of your home.

Whether you plan to sell in the near or far-off future, here are some simple (and relatively low-cost) ways to maintain — or even increase — the value of your home over time.

Update, Update, Update

If a home that’s for sale has an updated anything, the real estate listing will scream it out in ALL CAPS. This can apply to appliances, cabinetry, countertops, flooring, bathroom remodels, kitchen remodels, and more.

If your kitchen is due for an update, try to keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily mean stripping it to the studs and starting from scratch. Are the cabinets in good shape? Consider a fresh coat of paint or stain to reflect the latest color trends.

In addition, something as simple as upgrading to matching appliances or installing a garbage disposal or water filtration system could help maintain value — even if they’re not top-of-the-line.

Also keep in mind that “update” means bringing the home’s aesthetics into line with current styles — replacing brass fixtures for brushed bronze, for example, or swapping out carpet for wood. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean having to buy the most expensive version of that aesthetic.

Something as simple as adding some USB outlets to a room could turn it into a potential home office space.
Other, more expensive updates might adjust the actual layout of the home. If your current house only has one bathroom, is it possible to find a space for another half bath? Are there unused rooms or wasted space that could be updated to become more functional?

Recommended: 10 Small-Bathroom Remodel Ideas

Keeping Your Roof in Good Repair

Replacing a roof is costly, so it’s a good idea to do what you can to extend the life of your current roof as long as possible. A roof that shows signs of wear and tear can also be a big red flag to potential home buyers.

To maintain the value of your roof (and avoid other costly problems like leaks), you’ll want to replace any missing shingles or damaged areas as soon as possible. It’s also a good idea to have your roof cleaned regularly to remove any algae, moss, and mold that can damage the roof over time. Finally, be sure to get your gutters cleaned regularly so water can drain rather than collect on your roof.

Recommended: The Ultimate House Maintenance Checklist

Keeping Your Exterior Paint in Good Shape

Maintaining your home’s exterior paint not only helps your house look attractive and well-cared-for but also protects it from moisture. When paint starts peeling, water can find a way in, which can cause your siding to rot over time. Replacing sections of your siding can end up being a much costlier project than periodically freshening up your paint.

It’s a good idea to give your exterior paint job a look-over once a year to see if you any areas may need attention. This can help your paint job last longer and save money in the long run.

Pruning Your Trees and Shrubs

Maintaining your yard is a lot of work if you do it yourself, and costly if you hire a landscaper. But neglect can cause dead branches or an entire tree to fall in a heavy rain or wind storm, and can cause significant damage to your home. Overgrown shrubs can also bring unwanted bugs close to, and eventually inside, your home (more on that below).

It can be worth hiring a tree expert to evaluate and, if necessary, prune your trees once a year. You can regularly trim back hedges and bushes yourself or hire a landscaper to do the job.

Upgrading Energy Efficiency

Making your home more energy efficient is one of those goals that’s great not only if you’re selling, but also if you want to reduce spending on utility bills. And it doesn’t just mean big investments like switching to solar or wind-powered energy. Making your home more energy efficient can also be as simple as replacing bad weather seals, ensuring that the attic has sufficient insulation, paying attention to the air and heating systems, and using energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances.

Upgrading the energy efficiency of your home is something that might even be rolled in with another project, such as maintenance or updating.

Installing Smart Tech

Even if your home is more than 100 years old, adding smart tech can make it 21st-century ready. Smart home assistants like Google or Alexa, for example, can control everything from the lights to the TV to locking the front door.

They can also allow you to remotely control your heating and air temperatures, make sure the oven is actually turned off, and even give you a sense of security with security systems or video door bells. In order for the home assistants to accomplish all of these features, additional smart appliances may be required.

While some types of home tech are hard-wired into the house and others are more portable, even being able to say “wired for surround sound” can be a bonus on a home listing.

Smart home tech is not only quickly becoming a must-have for many homebuyers, adding it to your home can be a perk even if you have no immediate plans to move.

Recommended: What Are Common Uses for Personal Loans?

Keeping the Bugs at Bay

One important job that comes with homeownership is keeping unwanted critters outside where they belong. Public enemy No. 1 in this category? Termites. They can wreak havoc on a home’s wood structures leading to costly repairs.

The problem is so widespread that some home loan companies require buyers to get a “termite letter,” which is basically a guarantee that the home is free from termite damage.

DIY recommendations for keeping the pests at bay can also check off items on the home maintenance list, including keeping gutters and downspouts flowing, filling in any places where water pools around the home or in the yard, filling in cracks in the foundation, pruning shrubbery close to the home, and keeping air vents free and clear.

Beyond termites and the havoc they wreak, there are a variety of other living creatures that can cause damage to a home or surrounding property, including attic squatters like mice or raccoons, carpenter bees, moles, mosquitoes, and even grasshoppers that brunch on beautiful landscaping.

Recommended: What Are the Most Common Home Repair Costs?

Making Improvements Affordable

While some home maintenance projects are relatively low cost, others require a more significant investment. Before sinking a lot of money into a home maintenance or improvement project, it can be a good idea to use a Home Project Value Estimator that can help determine whether it’s a smart investment.

If you decide to move forward on the project, you’ll want to get estimates from at least three different contractors. Once you know the cost of the project, your next question may be, how are you going to pay for it?

For a small to midsize home maintenance project, you might consider using a home improvement loan. Unlike a home equity loan, these are unsecured personal loans — meaning your home isn’t used as collateral to secure the loan. Lenders decide how much to lend to you and at what rate based on your financial credentials, such as your credit score, income, and how much other debt you have.

With a home improvement personal loan, you receive a lump sum of cash up front you can then use to cover the costs of your home project. You repay the loan (plus interest) in regular installments over the term of the loan, which is often five or seven years.

If you think a personal loan might work well for your home maintenance project, SoFi could help. SoFi’s home improvement loans range from $5K-$100K and offer competitive, fixed rates and a variety of terms. Checking your rate won’t affect your credit score, and it takes just one minute.

See if a home improvement loan from SoFi is right for you.

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.

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.

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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Five Curb Appeal Ideas for Your House

If you’re a homeowner, there are plenty of reasons why you may want to boost your home’s curb appeal. A more attractive exterior can help make your house more appealing to buyers, and it could even boost its perceived value. Plus, adding a few simple upgrades can make your place feel more enjoyable however long you decide to live there.

Looking for inspiration? Here are five curb appeal ideas to consider.

1. Revitalize the Front Door and Mailbox

A fresh coat of paint on a front door can do wonders, and certain colors can be especially appealing. For instance, buyers tend to prefer homes with a black or slate blue door and may be willing to pay an average of $1,537 more for one, according to Zillow. On the other hand, other front door colors, such as a pale pink or cement gray, could have a negative impact on a home’s value.

This can also be the time to update the doorknob and door knocker, and any hardware on the door, including the street number. While you’re at it, what about a matching new mailbox? They even come with LED lights nowadays to do double duty.

2. Curb Appeal Landscaping

When choosing landscaping elements, keep the design of the home in mind, along with the size and slope of the lawn. A large lawn might look wonderful with shrubs that would likely overwhelm a smaller one, while eye-catching flowers might look perfect in front of a cottage-style dwelling but get lost in the shuffle in front of a big home. For curb appeal landscaping, also consider how its design moves guests in an attractive way to the front door, perhaps wending along the walkways.

Entire books can be written on curb appeal landscaping options, so enjoy exploring! While doing so, don’t forget how attractive window boxes full of blooming flowers can look. Consider integrating native flora and fauna, which have already adapted to your local climate and soil conditions and should thrive in your yard.

3. Upgrade Windows and Shutters

For a significant change in the look of a home, consider a brand-new style of windows. Options include eye-catching casement windows that are hinged to open horizontally through the use of a crank. With these windows, one side stays in place while the other side opens like a door.

Awning windows can be another interesting choice. With this style, the window swings open from the bottom while the top part stays fixed in place. Bay windows can also really make a difference in curb appeal. Also consider new shutters, perhaps ones that complement a newly painted front door.

4. Don’t Forget the Lighting

As part of curb appeal landscaping, also think about outdoor lighting that will really set off the new look. A new fixture on the porch can make a difference, aesthetically.

Along the front of the home and walkways, outdoor solar LEDs can be one option because they aren’t hard to install and can be cost efficient. They don’t create bright light, though, so they can be used as a form of supplementary lighting.

Traditional glass lanterns can be attractive, especially when paired with vintage-style bulbs. Ones that mimic the gas lanterns of the Victorian era have been trending.

5. Repair the Roof

If the roof has loose or missing shingles, this can make even the most appealing home look in need of some tender loving care. So, addressing these problems can add to curb appeal. As part of the project, check gutters and downspouts and take care of them as needed.

Costs for Upgrades

After thinking about what projects to take on, the next question to consider may be what these home remodeling projects cost.

New front door

A new door can cost under $100 for a basic hollow core choice up to $7,000 or more for a pricey wrought iron door. If you’re on a budget, you may want to consider painting an existing door and replacing hardware and a doorknob.


As with just about any home improvement project, curb appeal landscaping costs can vary by project. Lawn mowing services run around $55-$70 per hour on average, while laying sod could cost between $1,568 and $2,409, according to the home services website Thumbtack.

New windows

On average, new windows cost $850 on average, although this can vary by the home’s style and location. The cost for replacing all windows in a typical three-bedroom home can run between $3,000-$10,000. That said, the investment may be worth it, as new energy-efficient windows can save up to 15% of energy bills.

Roof repairs

Small roof repairs can cost between $150-$400, with labor charges of anywhere from $45 to $75 hourly. Nationally, the average roof repair costs $1,066, with a range between $379 and $1,766, according to Angi and HomeAdvisor. Repairing the gutters can come with an average price tag of $383 (falling somewhere between $193 and $620, depending on the height of the house, the gutter length and type, and repairs needed). When a full replacement is needed, figure $1,600-$2,175.

Funding Your Curb Appeal Ideas

As much fun as it is to dream of all the ways to improve the exterior of your home, just as important is how you’ll pay for the upgrades. You may decide to pay for the improvements out of a savings account or put everything on credit cards and pay off the balances in full when they’re due.

Keep in mind that if you choose to use credit cards — but are unable to pay off the balances in full when they’re due — you’ll likely be charged compound interest on the balance. And that could add to the overall amount you owe. To see how compound interest can pile up, take a look at this credit card interest calculator.

If it doesn’t make sense to use credit cards to fund curb appeal ideas, then you may want to explore a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or a personal loan.

Taking out a HELOC can make sense under certain circumstances, including these:

•   Significant equity exists in the home.

•   A large sum of money is needed.

•   Potential tax benefits are attractive.

Benefits of a personal loan include the following:

•   If the loan is unsecured, then home equity will not be tied up.

•   Fees are probably less; in some cases, there aren’t any.

•   The application process is usually easier, with the approval process typically quicker than the process for a HELOC.

The Takeaway

Improving your home’s curb appeal can help make it more attractive to prospective buyers and potentially increase its perceived value. The upgrades can also make your home more enjoyable to live in, no matter how long you’re there. Certain curb appeal ideas can have more of an impact. These include freshening up the front door and mailbox, adding or improving the landscaping, upgrading windows and shutters, adding outdoor lighting, and making necessary repairs to the roof.

The cost of making exterior improvements varies based on the work you’re doing and whether you’re hiring a professional. There are different ways to fund a curb appeal project, including using savings, using a credit card and paying off the balance when it’s due, or taking out a HELOC or personal loan.

If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get some curb appeal work done, see what a SoFi personal loan can offer. With a SoFi Home Improvement Loan, you can borrow between $5k to $100K as an unsecured personal loan, meaning you don’t use your home as collateral and no appraisal is required. Our rates are competitive, and the whole process is easy and speedy.

Turn your home into your dream house with a SoFi Home Improvement Loan.

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.

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.

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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The Ultimate House Maintenance Checklist

If spending big money on home repairs isn’t your thing, creating and keeping a solid house maintenance routine probably should be.

Regularly monitoring, cleaning, and caring for your roof, windows, plumbing, and appliances could help avoid costly leaks and breakdowns, make your home more energy efficient, and protect its value.

Not sure what needs to be done or when to do it? Check out the suggestions on this ultimate house maintenance checklist.

House Maintenance Checklist for Every Season

Many of the tasks on this list should be pretty easy to do yourself. Others might require phoning a friend with the proper tools and know-how. And there’s nothing wrong with calling in a pro if the job is too time-consuming or beyond your capabilities.

Monthly Home Maintenance Tasks

If the only time you remove the gunk from your gutters, garbage disposal, and dryer vent is when you notice they’re no longer working properly, you could be facing a hefty bill to fix the problem and repair any damage to your home.

Doing a little upkeep every month, instead of once or twice a year, can help keep small tasks from becoming major projects. Here are some things that can benefit from monthly maintenance:

•  Check the shower, tub, and sink drains for clogs. (If hair is your main headache, you may want to do this every week or more. Or you might want to consider purchasing a hair catcher for problematic drains.)
•  Clean showerheads and faucet aerators (that little mesh screen the water pours through) to keep sediment from slowing the flow. While you’re at it, check if any faucets are dripping when they shouldn’t and replace washers if necessary.
•  De-gunk the garbage disposal.
•  And give the dishwasher a deep cleaning. Good Housekeeping recommends using dishwasher cleaning tablets according to the label’s directions. Prefer the DIY route? Place a dishwasher-safe bowl filled with one cup of distilled vinegar on the top rack of an empty dishwasher, and run it through the pots-and-pans or heavy (hot) cycle.
•  Check and clean air conditioner and furnace filters, and kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans.
•  Make sure the dryer vent is free of debris. Doing so can help keep it running efficiently. And if there’s a bird’s nest or lint blocking hot air from escaping, it could become a fire hazard. You also may want to have your dryer duct inspected and cleaned once a year. (Most manufacturers recommend cleaning your lint screen, the piece near the door that’s easy to remove, after every dryer load.)
•  Vacuum HVAC registers and vents. Regular maintenance can keep some dust from building up, but you may want to call in a pro for a more thorough duct inspection if you suspect mold or if you have pets.
•  Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Test safety equipment every month and replace the batteries twice a year. (Many people use the change to and from daylight saving time as a reminder.) According to statistics from the National Fire Prevention Association, nearly three out of every five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.
•  Check electrical cords and outlets for damage. Replace or repair cords that are showing wear. And if an outlet cover is cracked, the prongs on an electrical cord won’t sit firmly in the outlet, or if the outlet is loose, don’t use it until you have a chance to repair it.

Seasonal Maintenance: Fall Tasks

Spring gets all the love when it comes to going all-in on sprucing up a house, but fall can also be a good time to take care of tasks both inside and out.

•  Do a top-to-bottom tour of the home’s exterior. If it’s a cool, sunny, and dry day, head outside and check out the roof for damaged or missing shingles or tiles. Inspect the exterior of the house (siding or stucco) and the foundation for any problems.
•  Check the chimney for exterior damage and clean the fireplace flue.
•  Give windows a once-over. Seal gaps, and if the windows are old and drafty, it might be time to replace them with a more energy-efficient model. (Keep in mind that you may need to get a building permit to install new windows that are bigger than what you had.)
•  Make sure exterior doors aren’t letting any cold air inside. You can get DIY weatherstripping materials at your local hardware store.
•  Wash windows and siding. If you notice any cracks or gaps during your walking tour, it may help to fix those first, especially if you’re pulling out the power washer. And if you see mildew or a buildup of dirt, check if it’s a symptom of a more serious problem.
•  Clean those gutters. If you’re ladder-phobic, there are pros out there who will be happy to clean your gutters and windows.
•  Winterize exterior plumbing. Drain hoses and sprinkler systems if you live in a colder climate. And drain, clean, and cover your swimming pool.
•  Remove and store or insulate window air conditioning units.
•  Give carpets and floors a thorough cleaning, and get your home ready for the holidays. If you haven’t cleaned your garbage disposal or dishwasher lately, this might be a good time to give them some love. And if you’re hosting Thanksgiving, maybe do a quick check to be sure all appliances are ready for the challenge.
•  Winterize your garden and lawn equipment. Depending on your climate and the type of grass you have, fall (not spring) may be the right time to fertilize your lawn. Bring in any delicate plants you hope to save from the cold. (Make sure no insects come along for the ride.) Clean garden tools. Empty gas-powered equipment before storing.
•  How’s your curb appeal? Raking leaves, aerating the lawn, patching the driveway or walkway, and touching up the exterior paint are fairly simple tasks that can make you house proud, improve your property, deter pests, and keep your family and visitors safe.
•  Flush the water heater and check for leaks. Manufacturers generally recommend flushing your water heater at least once per year to avoid sediment buildup.
•  Reverse ceiling fans to a clockwise rotation. This can help move the cooler air off the floor of your home and push warmer air down. Look for the switch on the fan’s housing, or you may be able to make the change with a remote or by giving the correct command to a smart device.
•  Remember to change the smoke detector batteries.

Seasonal Maintenance: Winter Tasks

If winter weather is a factor in your neck of the woods, prepare to hunker down.

•  Cover the barbecue or store it in the shed or garage.
•  Cover your outdoor air conditioning unit.
•  Store patio furniture and cushions in the garage or shed. If you prefer to leave heavy pieces in place, try to keep them covered.
•  Inspect the roof, gutters, and downspouts for damage after a heavy snow.
•  Check the basement for dampness or leaks when there’s a thaw.
•  Clear the driveway and walkways of snow so passersby can get by safely.
•  Focus on indoor tasks when you’re trapped by the weather. Clean the attic, caulk the tub, paint a room, and/or clean the refrigerator (inside and out, including the drip pans and coils).

Seasonal Maintenance: Spring Tasks

Shake off the winter blues, stow the alpaca throws, and get ready to enjoy warmer weather. Spring is for cleaning up, inside and out.

•  Throw those fall tasks into reverse. As soon as the last of the cold weather is past, uncover the outside air conditioning unit and have it serviced. If you have window air conditioning units, clean and return them to their rightful rooms. Bring the barbecue out from hibernation and make sure it’s in good working order. Prep the pool and outdoor sprinkler system for warm weather use. Return ceiling fans to a counter-clockwise rotation to bring cool air down. (And while you’re up there, maybe give those fans a good dusting).
•  Set up a termite inspection. There’s no wrong time of year to have your house inspected for termites, but since spring is when they tend to swarm, it may be a good way to tell if there’s a problem. It’s also an opportune time to check for carpenter ants, which can damage a home.
•  Clean and refinish the deck.
•  Look into any necessary lawn care. If you live in a warmer climate and have Bermuda, St. Augustine, or some other warm-season grass, it may be time to fertilize your turf.
•  Clean up fallen branches or leaves you missed in the fall. And clean out gutters and downspouts.
•  Inspect the roof, chimney, and siding for any winter damage.
•  Inspect indoor plumbing.
•  Check the attic for uninvited guests. Critters can invade your space almost any time of year, but squirrels, raccoons, bats, and rats are most likely to show up in the spring.
•  Wash windows and screens.
•  Clean patio furniture and cushions.
•  Call a professional about inspecting and pumping the septic tank. Some pros recommend emptying the tank every three to five years, but larger households may need more frequent pumpings.
•  Clear the clutter, and do a traditional spring cleaning. Dust everything. Polish furniture. Clean out closets, and donate or sell anything you no longer need. Clean the refrigerator, pantry, and cabinets. Scrub the floors, or have the carpets cleaned to get rid of late-winter’s muddy mess. Scrub the bathrooms and laundry room. As you go, you can check to see if anything is damaged and needs to be repaired or replaced.
•  Inspect and maintain the garage door opener. Listen for grating noises, and look for a jerky motion when the door goes up and down. Make sure the tracks are clear of debris. Some maintenance may be simple for DIYers (including spraying moving parts with lubricant, or repairing damaged weatherstripping). But if you suspect there’s an operational problem, you might want to bring in a pro.
•  Clear the garage of clutter and possible food sources. The garage may be another home for critters. Clean out the clutter and look for damage from pests, including rodents and ants.
•  Time to change the smoke detector batteries. (Yes, we listed it three times. It’s that important.)

Seasonal Maintenance: Summer Tasks

Because summer is so hot in many parts of the country, it can be a good season for inside repairs and outside jobs that might involve getting wet. For example, you could:

•  Pressure clean the house, driveway, and walkways.
•  Inspect the pool and pool equipment to be sure everything is clean and running well.
•  Check the sprinkler system to minimize water waste and maximize the benefits to the landscape.
•  Plant trees or shrubs to provide shade for your home, deck, and patio. Or consider installing a canopy or some other type of shade structure.
•  Install curtains, shades, or window film to minimize sun damage to indoor furnishings.
•  Inside, check for leaks around kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, and toilets.
•  Keep your air conditioner clean, and consider upgrading for better energy efficiency. Change the filter. Clean air ducts. Make sure nothing is blocking the outside unit.

Recommended: Home Improvement Cost Calculator

You’ll Probably Need Some Tools

Even if you plan to hire pros to take care of most of your home maintenance tasks, it can be a good idea to keep a few basic tools around for DIY jobs. Here are some items that could come in handy:

Basic Tools for Home Maintenance

•  Step ladder or fold-up work platform. Why risk falling off a wobbly chair when a step ladder can give you extra height and stability?
•  Extension ladder. If you’re planning to clean your gutters or get up on the roof, you’ll likely want to borrow or purchase an extension ladder to safely get the height you need.
•  Tape measure.
•  Hammer and assorted nails.
•  Screwdrivers and assorted screws. Both flat-head and Phillips-head screwdrivers (in a few different sizes) will likely get plenty of use; or you can pick up one screwdriver with interchangeable heads.
•  Drill and assorted drill bits. A light-duty, battery-operated drill and a set of bits should be able to handle most beginner-level repair jobs.
•  Indoor and outdoor extension cords.
•  Hacksaw or reciprocating saw. For quick cuts on wood, metal, PVC pipes, tree limbs, and more.
•  Putty knife. You can use it for patching holes, applying drywall mud, and for scraping away paint or dirt.
•  Pliers. Great for holding, bending, or reaching in to grab something.
•  Sandpaper. The grit or coarseness of the paper will vary depending on the job and the results you’re looking for. It may save time to have a few different types on hand.
•  Safety goggles and gloves. These basic pieces of safety equipment could protect you from a DIY disaster.

Paying for Home Improvements

One great reason to keep up with regular home maintenance is to avoid the high cost of major repairs or replacements. But from time to time, you may find you have to—or want to—take on a bigger project.

According to a 2022 study from the home services website Angi, homeowners spent an average of $2,467 on home maintenance projects and $1,953 on unexpected repairs. If your budget can’t handle those kinds of expenses right now, you may want to look into a home improvement loan, especially if you don’t have a lot of equity built up in your home.

A home improvement loan is an unsecured personal loan that can be used to cover the costs of renovations, upgrades, or repairs. It’s different from a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC), because you don’t have to use your home as collateral. Instead, the interest rate and amount you qualify for are based largely on the applicant’s credit history, income, and employment.

If you need to move quickly on a project or repair and need to borrow a small sum, such as $3,000 or $5,000, a home improvement personal loan can be especially appealing. The application process is a little less involved than for a home equity loan or HELOC. Note that repayment terms are typically shorter than with the other options and will vary with the lender. You may find terms of anywhere from one to seven years or possibly longer.

Recommended: How Much Does It Cost to Remodel or Renovate a House?

The Takeaway

Maintaining a home is a year-round job, one made easier by taking on a set number of tasks each month or season. The regular monitoring, care, and cleaning of the interior and exterior of your house doesn’t just keep your place looking good — it can also help prevent costly breakdowns and protect your investment. However, even the most vigilant homeowner will likely take on a costly repair at some point. If your budget can’t handle the extra expense, a home improvement personal loan might be one option to consider, as the application is usually a little less involved and you don’t have to use your home as collateral.

If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get some home repairs or renovations done, see what a SoFi personal loan can offer. With a SoFi Home Improvement Loan, you can borrow between $5k to $100K as an unsecured personal loan, meaning you don’t use your home as collateral and no appraisal is required. Our rates are competitive, and the whole process is easy and speedy.

Turn your home into your dream house with a SoFi Home Improvement Loan.

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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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