What Is a Condo? Should You Buy or Rent?

What Is a Condo? Should You Buy or Rent?

A condo is a privately owned unit in a condominium building that has common areas. If you’re considering whether to buy or rent a condo, you’ll want to think about the costs, benefits, and responsibilities of each choice.

Obviously, prospective renters have much less riding on their decision, but it’s still worth noodling over whether a condo purchase might align with their long-term plans — like whether they want a chance to build equity.

Let’s dive into the defining characteristics of condos and compare the benefits of condo rentals and ownership.

Characteristics of a Condo

Individual condo units are owned by private owners, while common areas are owned and maintained by the homeowners association (HOA).

Your ownership rights may be limited to the space within your condominium, as is the case with most condo high-rises, or you may own an entire standalone structure within a larger community. In a condo situation, the HOA owns the land. In a planned unit development, the homeowners own their lot and the common area.

Condos are popular starter homes, thanks to their low maintenance, relatively cheap purchase price, and general convenience.

They also appeal to investors and people who are downsizing.

With detached single-family homes, you’re on the hook for the bill if any repair issues arise, whether it’s a broken water heater, leaky roof, or malfunctioning air conditioner. This generally isn’t the case with condos, as the property management company employed by the HOA maintains common areas and shared amenities.

Convenience comes with a price, though. Condo owners share maintenance costs, and the expense of a master insurance policy, by paying HOA dues monthly or quarterly. The fees rose 19% in one year, to a median of $451 per month, at condos that have an HOA, according to recent data from Zillow Group Inc. Atop those fees, special assessments can be levied if the HOA needs to pay for a major project.

Condos tend to appreciate at a slower rate than traditional single-family homes but cost less. So buyers may want to take both realities into consideration when deciding on house vs. condo.

Recommended: First-Time Homebuyers Guide

Types of Condos

Condos vary widely in structure and appearance, ranging from high-rise buildings to communal developments.

Condo Developments

These are communities of standalone homes where maintenance of both the interior and exterior are borne by the condo owner, but services like the maintenance of common areas and snow removal are typically handled by a property management company.

All properties within a condo development are bound by the rules of the HOA, so it’s similar to a traditional neighborhood with fixed rules and less upkeep.

Condo Buildings

These are high-rise apartments consisting of individual condo units. The maintenance of the structure, shared utilities, and common areas are the responsibility of the property management company.

If you’re looking at buying or renting an apartment in a large metropolitan area, make sure you understand what it means to choose between a condo and a co-op.

High-rise condo buildings are more common in urban areas and have higher HOA fees in order to cover the greater costs of maintaining an apartment building and often the salaries of full-time maintenance staff members and doormen.

Buying or Renting a Condo: Which Is Better?

Whether you’re better off buying or renting a condo — or any of the other types of houses, from modular home to manufactured home, tiny house to townhouse — depends as much as your own circumstances as it does the cost of buying vs. renting in an area.

Assuming you’ve decided to settle down in an area for the next three to five years, you might be better off buying a condo if you have a stable income stream and can cover the down payment and closing costs without emptying your emergency fund.

You may be better off renting if there’s a chance you’ll need to relocate within the next few years, or if any upcoming life events might require you to upsize your residence, like having children.

Given, though, how real estate values have risen in the past few years, buying a condo may be a good choice if you’re looking for long-term investment and a chance to build home equity over time.

Pros of Renting a Condo

Renting a condo gives you all of the benefits of living in a private condo unit without the long-term commitment and upfront costs.

•   Few maintenance responsibilities: If you’re renting a condo unit in an apartment building, the HOA is responsible for maintenance, or in the case of an individually owned HVAC system, the owner is.

•   More leeway for negotiation: Reliable renters are hard to come by; some condo owners may be more willing to negotiate your monthly rent than professional property managers are.

•   Flexibility to end or extend your lease: As a renter, you can decide whether to end or continue your lease. This makes it easy to cut ties if needed.

Pros of Buying a Condo

Taking out a mortgage to buy a condo more or less freezes your living costs into the future. This will help you avoid rising rents, though that HOA fee can rise.

•   More affordable than single-family homes: The price of a condo is usually lower than a single-family home in a given area. This makes it attractive to homebuyers on a budget.

•   Freedom to make it your own: Owning a condo gives you more freedom over the appliances and color palette than a rental.

•   Rental potential: Depending on the rules of your HOA, you may have the right to rent out your condo to generate income.

Finding a Condo

If you’re ready to go out and shop for a condo, you’ll want to assemble a list of must-haves to narrow your search. This applies whether you’re looking to rent or buy.

Are you looking for a more affordable apartment condo or something with more space like a community development? Browse local listings for condo units that match your requirements.

For those seeking to buy a condo, it’s a good idea to find a real estate agent who’s well versed in condo sales. They know the area and can obtain vital info regarding HOA rules and financials. It’s important to review the rules and fees, and check for any special assessments and their frequency over the years.

It’s also a good idea to thoroughly understand mortgage basics and have financing lined up with a mortgage company so you’re ready to make a bid on a property.

A mortgage calculator is an excellent tool for helping you figure out your costs.

The Takeaway

What is a condo? A condo is a privately owned unit within a community that can be a good starter home or a place to downsize. If you’re able to rent a condo, it’s much like renting an apartment, except your landlord may be the owner.

If you’re interested in buying a condo, realize that condo buyers are able to access the same kinds of loans available to buyers of single-family homes.

3 Home Loan Tips

  1. Traditionally, mortgage lenders like to see a 20% down payment. But some lenders, such as SoFi, allow mortgages with as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers.
  2. 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.
  3. Not to be confused with pre-qualification, pre-approval involves a longer application, documentation, and hard credit pulls. Ideally, you want to keep your applications for pre-approval to within the same 14- to 45-day period, since many hard credit pulls outside the given time period can adversely affect your credit score, which in turn affects the mortgage terms you’ll be offered.

FAQ

Can you rent out your condo?

Whether you can rent out your condo depends on the rules of your condo community. While some may allow you to rent out your unit as you please, others may require you to enter a waitlist that determines how many units can be rented out at a time. Some may restrict how long a particular unit can be rented, and may have tenant requirements.

It’s imperative to scrutinize the HOA rules if you intend to purchase a condo for use as a rental property.

Are condos expensive?

Generally speaking, condos are cheaper than single-family homes in a given area because condos typically have less square footage and no land ownership.

A condo may also cost less than a townhouse. Townhouse owners typically own the structure and the land under it, plus sometimes a yard. Condo owners typically own the interior of their unit and an “interest” in the common elements.

Can you take a loan to buy a condo?

Condo buyers generally have access to the same mortgage options as buyers of single-family homes. Lenders of conventional loans will review the financial health of an HOA and whether most of the units are owner-occupied. For an FHA or VA loan, those agencies maintain lists of approved condos.


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

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

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

Photo Credit: iStock/Edwin Tan
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Property Tax and Your Mortgage: Everything You Need to Know

Property Tax and Your Mortgage: Everything You Need to Know

If you’re exploring your home loan options, you may wonder: Are property taxes included in mortgage payments? Many mortgage calculators don’t include property tax in their estimate, but it is likely going to be part of your mortgage payment.

Having your property tax included in your mortgage is convenient, for sure, but it’s not the only way to pay taxes.

Won’t rising property values increase property tax liability? Eventually, for many, depending on the schedule of the assessor’s office. In any case, property taxes are a fact of life for homeowners. Let’s look at what they are, why we pay them, how they’re paid, and what happens if you can’t pay them.

What Are Property Taxes?

Property taxes are taxes paid on real property owned by an individual or entity. Property taxes are based on an assessed value of the property and are paid whether or not the property is used.

When you become a new homeowner, you’ll pay property taxes for the first time.

Why Do You Need to Pay Property Taxes?

Local governments rely on property taxes as a revenue source. Over 70% of local tax collections come from property taxes.

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

How Are Property Taxes Paid?

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

When it’s time to pay taxes, a notice will be sent to your mortgage servicer. You’ll likely see one in the mail, too, but your mortgage servicer is the one responsible for paying your property taxes.

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

How to Calculate Property Tax

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

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

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

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

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

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

Property Tax Rate

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

Are Property Taxes Included in Mortgage Payments?

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

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

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

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

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

What if You Can’t Afford Property Tax?

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

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

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

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

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

The Takeaway

Is property tax included in a mortgage? With most home loans, yes. If you’re ready to take on property taxes, you’re ready to take on a mortgage.

Consider SoFi when you’re shopping for a home loan. SoFi has knowledgeable lending agents and an extensive help center for mortgages.

Additionally, if you qualify for mortgage pre-approval with SoFi, you may become a more competitive buyer in today’s real estate market.

Take a look at SoFi’s fixed-rate home loans and find your rate in minutes.

FAQ

What is included in my monthly mortgage payment?

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

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

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

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

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

Do you pay property tax monthly?

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


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

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

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

Photo credit: iStock/MStudioImages
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How to Buy a Multifamily Property and What to Look For

How to Buy a Multifamily Property and What to Look For

Multifamily property has the power to generate cash flow and build wealth. Yet it also has the power to drain you of your free time and become the biggest money pit of your life.

If you’re looking to buy a multifamily property and avoid common headaches, you have your research cut out for you.

What Is a Multifamily Property?

Multifamily property consists of multiple units in a single building. This includes duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, condominium buildings, student housing, age-restricted communities, low-income housing, and townhomes.

The units in a multifamily property must have separate entrances, kitchens, bathrooms, and utility meters.

Multifamily property investing is more popular than ever. In fact, 2021 saw more than $890 billion in loans originated for commercial real estate — a 45% increase over 2020. Multifamily properties accounted for $376 billion of that.

There’s a reason that individual investors gravitate toward two- to four-unit properties, other than ease of management. Residential loans of 30 years with a fixed rate are available for properties with one to four dwelling units. FHA, VA, and USDA loans are available for those properties if they are owner-occupied.

For five or more units, a commercial loan is required. Commercial loans usually come with a higher down payment requirement, higher interest rate, and shorter-term, meaning significantly higher mortgage payments.

Why Get a Multifamily Property?

Buying a multifamily home can jump-start your real estate investment portfolio. Here’s how.

Recommended: First-Time Homebuyers Guide

Income From Flipping

Multifamily homes can be improved and then resold for a profit: ”flipped.” Buying a multifamily property, remodeling, and then reselling can be even more profitable than flipping single-family homes because as you remodel, you can increase rents.

Once you increase rents, the property becomes more valuable, both in terms of monthly cash flow and overall worth.

The ‘BRRRR’ Method

BRRRR stands for buy, rehab, rent, refinance, repeat. An investor buys a property, renovates it, and rents out the newly refurbished units for more money. After that, they can refinance the property to take out extra cash to buy a new property to renovate.

This method works well with multifamily properties because the rehabbing of multiple units can be done while other units that are not being renovated can still bring in some income.

Cash Flow

Multifamily homes were designed for cash flow. Space and amenities are optimized to bring in money for the investor. On the other hand, single-family homes are designed for comfort. The added space of a single-family home may not bring as high of a return as a multifamily property.

Quick Portfolio Expansion

Buying multifamily properties allows investors to acquire multiple units with one transaction, so they may have a favorite in the single-family vs. multifamily comparison. Additionally, investing in multifamily properties can allow an investor to quickly generate income, which could be enough to acquire more properties.

Reduced Risk

A multifamily property lessens risk exposure. When you have single-family homes, vacancies have a bigger effect on your monthly cash flow. With one or more multifamily properties, the risk is spread across a number of properties. In other words, there are units still rented that can help cover the costs of the units that are vacant.

Analyzing the Investment Potential of a Multifamily Property

Investors can use a number of methods to determine if it makes sense to buy a multifamily property or not. Here are some of the most common calculations you can use to make that determination for yourself.

Cash Flow

In real estate, cash flow is money that’s generated by the property and money spent on the property. Positive cash flow means income exceeds expenses. You could also call it profit.

Investors have differing amounts that they consider acceptable. Some investors bank on the appreciation of the property instead of the amount of cash flow.

The 1% Rule

The 1% rule states that the gross rents should be 1% or more of the purchase price. The 1% rule is hard to apply in high-income areas where the purchase price of a property is high relative to the rents it generates.

Gross Rent Multiplier

The gross rent multiplier (GRM) compares the gross annual rents to the fair market value of a property. It doesn’t take expenses into consideration and is meant to be a simple calculation to determine if a property is worth exploring further.

The lower the GRM, the more gross rent there is compared with the purchase price.

Cash on Cash Return

The cash on cash return is the annual amount earned compared with the amount of cash invested. It’s expressed as a formula: annual net cash flow divided by cash investment. This is helpful for investors who want to know how much cash is brought in by their cash investment each year.

Capitalization Rate

The capitalization rate, or cap rate, is the amount of net operating income divided by the purchase price. This number indicates how long it will take to get back all your money in an investment.

Recommended: What Is Cap Rate and How Do You Calculate It?

Internal Rate of Return

The IRR measures the rate of return over an amount of time. It takes into account both cash flow and expected appreciation.

Recommended: Mortgage Payment Calculator

How to Buy a Multifamily Property

You may be able to use 75% of documented rental income to help finance your loan.
And again, multifamily homes with four or fewer units can be financed more traditionally, while five or more units require a commercial mortgage.

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage for your multifamily investment property is one of the best things you can do to get started. After a mortgage officer has examined your finances and greenlighted an amount, you can go shopping for your multifamily investment.

Find a Multifamily Home

To narrow your search for a multifamily property, you’ll want to decide what it is you’re looking for. Keep a few of these factors in mind:

•   Location: Do you have an area that you have expertise in? Are you going to manage the property yourself? These are some questions you’ll want to ask yourself to determine if you can buy a multifamily property near or far.

•   Price range: After you’ve looked at where you want to potentially invest, you’ll get a good sense of what properties will cost by looking at real estate listings. Keep in mind that you can count 75% of documented rents toward the purchase price for many loan types, so the price you’ll be looking at will be much different than if you were looking for a single-family home.

•   Type of property: Are you looking for a fourplex or an apartment complex? Duplex or 55+ community? There are a lot of choices to make between different property types and whether or not they’ll bring you a profit.

•   Profit potential: Are you looking to invest for appreciation or cash flow? Many properties with a lower price tag in the Midwest may be better for cash flow, while properties on the West Coast may appreciate more. Take a look at both and decide on your investment strategy.

•   Condition: Do you have the resources and team in place to take on a multifamily property that needs a lot of work? Or would you rather have something turnkey? You’ll want to be sure you know what resources you can commit to the project before you get in over your head.

Choose a Loan

The type of property may determine what type of loan you’re able to get. If this is your first rental, you may want to consider living in one of the units so you can qualify for owner-occupied financing, which usually comes with lower rates and down payment requirements.

Choose a lender that can answer your questions about mortgages.

Make an Offer and Close

Working with an agent, you’ll submit a competitive offer for the property you’ve chosen. Some buyers use cash to make the most competitive offer, while others need financing.

Renovate and Get Ready for Your Tenants

No matter what class of property you buy, the rental units will almost always require some work. Whether it’s a simple clean or a major renovation, these things are both tax-deductible and will improve the value, not to mention rentability, of your property.

Create a Management Plan

To make sure you’re running a business, and it’s not running you, you need to have a solid plan in place for how the rentals will be managed. How are repairs going to be taken care of? What’s your process when a rental turns over? How are you going to keep up with laws and ordinances?

Having a plan helps. Even so, you’ll learn as you go and will need to adjust this plan.

The Takeaway

How to buy a multifamily property? Do your research and choose a property that you’ll have the ability to finance and manage. Investing in rental properties is not easy, but it can generate cash flow and create family wealth.

If you need help buying a multifamily home, give SoFi Mortgages a look. SoFi offers financing for two- to four-unit properties, single-family homes, condos, and townhouses.

FAQ

Is buying a multifamily property a good investment?

Finding a multifamily property that is a good investment will depend on the investor’s analysis of the property. This can include the price, condition, gross rent multiplier, capitalization rate, and a number of other factors that will make renting the units successfully.

What are the different kinds of multifamily properties?

•   Duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes

•   Townhouses

•   Apartment buildings

•   Condominiums

•   Bungalow courts

•   Mixed-use buildings

•   Student housing

•   Age-restricted housing units

•   Low-income housing units

What is the best way to finance a multifamily home?

Some would argue that an FHA loan with 3.5% down is one of the best ways to finance a home with up to four units. The owner must live in one of the units to qualify for this type of financing.


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

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

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

Photo credit: iStock/Andrey Sayfutdinov
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All You Need to Know About Mortgage Credit Certificates (MCCs)

All You Need to Know About Mortgage Credit Certificates (MCCs)

To make homeownership more affordable, the federal government offers programs for first-time homebuyers and buyers with low to moderate incomes. The mortgage credit certificate (MCC) program is one option that helps eligible first-time homebuyers save money on their mortgage.

This guide will unpack how a mortgage credit certificate works, the pros and cons, and claiming it on your taxes.

What Is an MCC?

A mortgage credit certificate, sometimes called a mortgage certificate credit, is designed to help homebuyers recoup a portion of the interest paid on their home loan. An MCC is a dollar-for-dollar federal tax credit of up to $2,000 on the mortgage interest paid annually. It’s a nonrefundable credit, which just means that the amount of your credit can’t exceed the amount of income tax owed for that filing year.

If you take out a mortgage to buy a home, your monthly payment has four components: principal, interest, taxes, and insurance.

If you receive an MCC, you can claim the dollar equivalent as a tax deduction to reduce the amount you owe in federal taxes. Eligible homeowners can take advantage of an MCC even if they take the standard deduction rather than itemize deductions. If you are one of the few homeowners who itemizes, any remaining mortgage interest not accounted for in an MCC may qualify for the mortgage interest deduction.

Eligibility for this program is based on income and is generally only available for first-time homebuyers that qualify, though others may be able to buy a home in a “targeted area” designated by the state or Department of Housing and Urban Development and claim a mortgage tax credit.

Keep in mind that different mortgage types may have fixed or variable interest rates. Most fixed-rate loans are eligible for an MCC.

Recommended: First-Time Homebuyers Guide

How Does It Work?

Getting a handle on tax credits and deductions can be confusing as a new homeowner, and that’s OK.

To reiterate, an MCC lets you claim a tax credit for a portion of the mortgage interest paid in a year. This lowers your tax liability, which is the amount you owe to the federal government.

The portion of the mortgage interest you can claim with an MCC, known as the tax credit percentage, depends on the state you live in. Generally, the tax credit percentage ranges from 20% to 40% of a homeowner’s total annual mortgage interest.

The tax credit percentage, the mortgage amount, and interest rate are needed to calculate the total MCC. Note, however, that an annual MCC deduction is capped at $2,000 and can’t exceed a recipient’s total federal income tax liability after factoring in other deductions and credits.

It’s helpful to show how claiming an MCC works in practice. You’ll need to know some mortgage basics, like the interest rate, before getting started.

For instance, a homeowner with a $250,000 mortgage, 3.5% interest rate, and tax credit percentage of 20% could receive a first-year MCC tax credit of $1,750.

Here’s how to break this calculation down by steps:

1.    Determine the mortgage loan balance ($250,000), interest rate (3.5%), and tax credit percentage (20%)

2.    Multiply the loan balance and interest rate to calculate the total interest paid ($250,000 x 0.035 = $8,750)

3.    Multiply the total interest paid by the tax credit percentage to calculate the MCC tax credit ($8,750 x 0.2 = $1,750)

The $1,750 would be applied to your total federal tax bill, rather than deducted from your income. Let’s take a closer look at how claiming an MCC in this example would affect your federal income taxes.

With an MCC

Without an MCC

Income $70,000 $70,000
Mortgage Interest Paid $7,000 (total mortgage interest – MCC tax credit) $8,750
Taxable Income $63,000 $61,250
Federal Taxes Owed (22% tax rate) $13,860 $13,475
MCC Tax Credit $1,750 0
Total Federal Tax Bill $12,110 $13,475

In this example, a mortgage credit certificate could lower the amount owed in federal income taxes by $1,365. If you don’t have a mortgage yet, use this mortgage calculator to estimate your interest rate, loan amount, and, on the amortization chart, interest paid.

Mortgage Credit Certificate Pros and Cons

The mortgage credit certificate program was established by the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 to make homeownership more affordable for low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers. While an MCC tax credit can provide financial benefits, there are some potential drawbacks to consider, too.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of MCC pros and cons to help you figure out if an MCC is right for you if you’re a first-time buyer.

Pros

Cons

You can receive up to $2,000 in savings on taxes owed every year you’re paying mortgage interest, and carry over unused portions to following years. A portion of MCC benefits may be subject to a recapture tax if you move before nine years, have a significant increase in income, or experience a gain from the home sale.
MCCs can reduce the cost of interest and decrease your debt-to-income ratio to help with mortgage pre-approval and qualification. If you have limited tax liability, a MCC tax credit may not pose much benefit since it’s nonrefundable.
MCCs are eligible with most fixed-rate mortgage options, including FHA, VA, USDA, and conventional loans. Obtaining a MCC may come with processing fees, depending on the lender.
First-time homebuyer requirement is more flexible than other programs and can be waived for active military and veterans or if purchasing a home in targeted areas designated by federal and state government. The mortgage tax credit cannot be applied to a secondary residence and might not be reissued when refinancing.

How to Get a Mortgage Credit Certificate

Borrowers are issued an MCC through their lender before closing. Thus, it’s important to discuss options early in the process and when shopping for a mortgage.

Eligibility for an MCC varies by location. State housing finance agencies (HFAs) have established requirements for obtaining an MCC, such as limits on household income, loan amount, and home purchase price.

Other criteria to get an MCC include the following:

•   HFA-approved lender: The HFA may require borrowing from an approved list of lenders.

•   First-time homebuyer status: Borrowers must not have owned a principal resident in the past three years.

•   Primary residence: Only owner-occupied homes are eligible for an MCC.

•   Homebuyer education: HFAs may require borrowers to participate in education courses during the purchase process.

Claiming a Mortgage Credit Certificate on Your Taxes

To claim the MCC each year on your taxes, fill out IRS Form 8396. You’ll need to know the amount of interest you paid on the mortgage that year and the tax credit percentage set for the MCC.

Once complete, you’ll also know if any credit can be carried over for the following tax year.

The Takeaway

What is a MCC? A mortgage credit certificate is a federal income tax credit on a portion of the mortgage interest paid annually for low- to moderate-income first-time homebuyers or people purchasing a home in a targeted area.

The home buying process is a serious undertaking, especially for first-time homebuyers. To get up to speed, SoFi’s mortgage help center is a useful place to start and have your mortgage questions answered.

And when you’re ready to begin comparing mortgage options, check out SoFi. Qualifying first-time buyers can put just 3% down.

Find your rate with a few clicks.

FAQ

Who gives you the mortgage credit certificate?

A mortgage credit certificate program is administered by state-level Housing Finance Agencies and issued by mortgage brokers or lenders.

Does everyone get a mortgage credit certificate?

No, mortgage credit certificates have borrower income limits and other eligibility requirements. For context, only 22,298 MCCs were issued in 2019.

Can I refinance with a mortgage credit certificate?

A mortgage credit certificate does not prevent you from refinancing, but you’ll lose the MCC on your current loan. Many programs, though, allow borrowers to apply to receive a new MCC issued with their refinanced mortgage.

How do I know if I have an MCC?

Borrowers apply for an MCC prior to closing and receive a physical copy with a unique certificate number from their local or state government.

Do I lose my mortgage credit certificate if I refinance?

The original mortgage credit certificate becomes void if you refinance, but you may be able to have the MCC reissued if the principal balance on the refinanced loan is lower than the original.


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

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

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

How Rising Inflation Affects Mortgage Interest Rates

While the inflation rate doesn’t directly impact mortgage rates, the two tend to move in tandem. Rising inflation can shrink purchasing power as prices of goods and services increase. Higher prices can then influence the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policy, affecting the cost of borrowing for lending products like mortgages.

Homebuyers looking for a home loan and homeowners who want to refinance a mortgage need to know that mortgage rates may rise as inflation increases. Therefore, understanding the difference between the inflation rate, interest rates, and what affects mortgage rates matters for all home finance consumers.

Inflation Rate vs Interest Rates

Inflation is a general increase in the overall price of goods and services over time.

The Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, tracks inflation rates and inflation trends using several key metrics, including the Consumer Price Index (CPI), to determine how to direct monetary policy. A target inflation rate of 2% is considered ideal for maintaining a stable economic environment over the long run.

When inflation is on the rise and the economy is in danger of overheating, the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates to cool things down.

Interest rates reflect the cost of using someone else’s money. Lenders charge interest to borrowers who take out loans and lines of credit as a premium for the right to use the lender’s money.

Higher rates can make borrowing more expensive while also providing more interest to savers. People borrowing less and saving more can have a cooling effect on the economy.

When the economy is slowing down too much, on the other hand, the Fed can lower interest rates to encourage borrowing and spending.

Recommended: Federal Reserve Interest Rates, Explained

What Affects Mortgage Rates?

Inflation rates don’t have a direct impact on mortgage rates. But there can be indirect effects because of how inflation influences the economy and the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decisions. Again, this relationship between inflation and mortgage rates is related to how the Federal Reserve adjusts interest rates to cool off or jump-start the economy.

The Federal Reserve does not set mortgage rates, however. Instead, the central bank sets the federal funds rate target, the interest rate that banks lend money to one another overnight. As the Fed increases this short-term interest rate, it often pushes up long-term interest rates for U.S. Treasuries. Fixed-rate mortgages are tied to the 10-year U.S. Treasury Note yield, which are government-issued bonds that mature in a decade. When the 10-year Treasury yield increases, the 30-year mortgage rate tends to do the same.

Recommended: Understanding the Different Types of Mortgage Loans

So in terms of what affects mortgage rates, movement in the 10-year Treasury yield is the short answer. Higher yields can mean higher rates, while lower yields can lead to lower rates. But overall, inflation rates, interest rates, and the economic environment can work together to sway mortgage rates at any given time.

A simple way to see the relationship between inflation rates and mortgage rates is to look at how they’ve trended historically . If you track the average 30-year mortgage rate and the annual inflation rate since 1971, you’ll see that they often move in tandem.

They don’t always move perfectly in sync, but it’s typical to see rising mortgage rates paired with rising inflation rates.

Inflation Trends for 2022 and Beyond

In March 2022, the U.S. inflation rate hit 8.5%, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. This increase represents the largest 12-month increase since 1981 and moving well beyond the Federal Reserve’s 2% target inflation rate.

While prices for consumer goods and services were up across the board, the most significant increases were in the energy, shelter, and food categories.

Rising inflation rates in 2022 are thought to be driven by a combination of things, including:

•   Increased demand for goods and services

•   Shortages in the supply of goods and services

•   Higher commodity prices due to geopolitical conflicts

The coronavirus pandemic saw many people cut back on spending in 2020, leading to a surplus of savings. In addition to government stimulus, these savings created a pent-up demand for purchases once the economy got back on track. However, the supply chains have not been able to catch up to demand.

Supply chain disruptions and worker shortages are making it difficult for companies to meet consumer needs. This has resulted in rapidly rising inflation to levels not seen in decades.

In March 2022, the Fed started to raise interest rates to tame inflation and will likely continue to raise interest rates throughout the year. Many analysts believe that inflation is peaking and will steadily decline throughout 2022. However, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the economy that makes forecasting price trends difficult.

Recommended: 7 Factors that Cause Inflation

Is Now a Good Time for a Mortgage or Refi?

There’s a link between inflation rates and mortgage rates. But what does all of this mean for homebuyers or homeowners?

Rising inflation and higher interest rates have caused mortgage rates to spike at the fastest pace in decades, though mortgage rates are still near historic lows. As the Fed continues to pursue interest rate hikes, it could lead to even higher mortgage rates. It simply means that if you’re interested in buying a home, it could make sense to do so sooner rather than later.

Buying a home now could help you lock in a better deal on a loan and get a reasonable mortgage rate, especially as home values increase.

The higher home values go, the more important a low-interest rate becomes, as the rate can directly affect how much home you can afford.

The same is true if you already own a home and are considering refinancing an existing mortgage. However, when refinancing a mortgage, the math gets a bit trickier. You might need to determine your break-even point — when the money you save on interest payments matches what you spend on closing costs for a refinanced mortgage (a refi).

To find the break-even point on a refi, divide the total loan costs by the monthly savings. If refinancing fees total $3,000 and you’ll save $250 a month, that’s 3,000 divided by 250, or 12. That means it’ll take 12 months to recoup the cost of refinancing.

If you refinance to a shorter-term mortgage, your savings can multiply beyond the break-even point.

If your current mortgage rate is above refinancing rates, it could make sense to shop around for refinancing options.

Keep in mind, of course, that the actual rate you pay for a purchase loan or refinance loan can also depend on things like your credit score, income, and debt-to-income ratio.

Recommended: How to Refinance Your Mortgage — Step-By-Step Guide

The Takeaway

Inflation appears to be here to stay, at least for the near term. Buying a home or refinancing when mortgage rates are lower could add up to a substantial cost difference over the life of your loan. From a savings perspective, it’s essential to understand what affects mortgage rates and the relationship between the inflation rate and interest rates.

SoFi offers fixed-rate mortgages and mortgage refinancing. Now might be a good time to find the best loan for your needs and budget.

It’s easy to check your rate with SoFi.


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), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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

Photo credit: iStock/Max Zolotukhin
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