Mortgage Servicer vs Lender: What Are the Differences?

If you’re on the fast track to buying a home, you’ve probably come across a lot of different players in the game, including mortgage lenders and mortgage servicers. There are some important differences between a mortgage servicer and mortgage lender.

A mortgage lender is the lending institution that originates your mortgage. The loan officer you work with on your home loan is a representative of the lender. But once the papers are signed, the lender is no longer your primary point of contact. That role falls to the mortgage servicer, which is the institution responsible for administering your loan.

What Is a Mortgage Lender?

A mortgage lender is the financial institution that funds your mortgage. The lender serves as your primary point of contact during underwriting while your mortgage heads toward the closing table.

Once your home mortgage loan closes, the servicing of the loan may be handled by a different entity. It may be the same company (for example, Wells Fargo both originates and services home loans), but you may have a different mortgage servicer, which will issue your mortgage statements.

What Do Mortgage Lenders Do?

Mortgage lenders guide borrowers through the entire financing process. In a nutshell, mortgage lenders:

•   Help borrowers choose a home loan

•   Take the mortgage application

•   Process the loan

•   Draw up loan documents

•   Fund the mortgage

•   Close the loan

After shopping for a mortgage and obtaining mortgage preapproval, you choose a lender.

Your mortgage lender helps you compare mortgage rates and different mortgage types to find one that may be right for you.The lender also answers any mortgage questions you may have.

Your lender will also fund the mortgage and close the loan. After your loan has been funded, it may be transferred to a mortgage servicer.

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


What Is a Mortgage Servicer?

A mortgage servicer is a company that receives installment payments for a mortgage loan. It is responsible for administering the day-to-day tasks of the loan, which include sending statements, keeping track of principal and interest, monitoring an escrow account, and taking care of any serious concerns that may occur.

A mortgage servicer may or may not be the same company as your mortgage lender. The rights to service your loan can be transferred to another company. When this happens, your mortgage terms will remain the same, but you’ll send your mortgage payment to the new servicer.

What Do Mortgage Servicers Do?

The main role of a mortgage service is to collect your payment and ensure that the different parts of your payment (principal, interest, taxes, and insurance, and mortgage insurance, if applicable) make it to the proper entity.

The mortgage servicer will forward principal and interest to the investor (or holder of your mortgage note). Taxes collected and stored in the escrow account will go to the taxing entity when they are due, the insurance premium will be paid to the homeowners insurance company, and the mortgage insurance payment will be forwarded.

The mortgage servicer’s main duties are:

•   Managing and tracking borrowers’ monthly payments

•   Managing borrowers’ escrow accounts

•   Generating tax forms showing how much interest borrowers paid each year

•   Helping borrowers resolve problems, such as with mortgage relief programs

•   Initiating foreclosure if the borrower defaults

•   Performing loss mitigation to prevent foreclosure (in some cases)

•   Processing requests to cancel mortgage insurance

Mortgage servicers also have the responsibility of preserving properties that are in distress. Should a hardship befall borrowers and they need to vacate the property, the servicer must step in to take care of the property while it’s in foreclosure proceedings.

Recommended: Home Loan Help Center

Differences Between a Mortgage Servicer and a Mortgage Lender

To summarize, these are some of the major differences between a mortgage lender and a mortgage servicer.

Mortgage Servicer Mortgage Lender
Handles day-to-day administration of the loan Is the financial institution that loaned you the money for the mortgage
Sends you your monthly statements Processes your mortgage application and decides whether or not to loan you money
Keeps track of principal and interest paid Assesses your income, credit history, and assets
Manages escrow account Can pre-qualify or pre-approve borrowers for a mortgage amount
Responds to borrower inquiries Can advise borrowers on loan options
Ensures that homeowners know their options should they fall behind on payments Helps move the loan through underwriting, which includes verifying credit history, submitting supporting documentation, and ordering an appraisal for the property
Responsible for forwarding property tax payments from escrow account to the proper taxing entity Supplies you with a loan estimate, which outlines the costs associated with the loan, including interest rate, closing costs, estimated costs of taxes and insurance, and monthly payment.
Responsible for property preservation should homeowners need to leave the home because they are no longer able to pay the mortgage Supplies you with a closing disclosure, which plainly outlines the terms and conditions of the mortgage loan, including amount borrowed, interest rate, length of the mortgage, monthly payments, fees, and other costs

The Takeaway

Both the mortgage lender and mortgage servicer play an important role in the home-buying process but at different times. The lender will guide you in applying for and obtaining a mortgage. The mortgage servicer will assist in your everyday needs with the mortgage. So your first step on your home-financing journey is to find a mortgage lender.

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

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

What are the four types of mortgage lenders?

Banks, credit unions, mortgage lenders, and individual homeowners all lend money for home mortgages.

What is the difference between a mortgage servicer and investor?

A mortgage servicer is responsible for the day-to-day administration of a loan. A mortgage investor is the person or entity that owns the mortgage note. The investor may be the originator, but it’s more likely that the investor owns a mortgage-backed security. A mortgage investor has no active role in the administration of the actual loan.

How do I find out who my servicer is?

You should receive monthly statements that will have information on who your servicer is and where you can send payment. You can also find out who your mortgage servicer is by calling 888-679-6377 or going to www.mers-servicerid.org/sis, which has the current servicer and note owner information for loans registered on the MERS® System.

Can I change my mortgage loan servicer?

You cannot change your mortgage loan servicer unless you refinance your mortgage. Servicing of your mortgage, however, can be transferred to another loan servicer without your consent.

What happens when my loan moves to a new servicer?

If your loan has been transferred to a new servicer, the new company will send you a letter and you will need to send your monthly payments to them. The terms of the original loan will never change, no matter who the servicer is.


Photo credit: iStock/MicroStockHub

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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


*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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

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

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.

SOHL-Q224-1903402-V1

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How Much Income Is Needed for a $550,000 Mortgage?

If you’re looking at a $550,000 mortgage, you’ll need some solid numbers to help you afford the home you want. Assuming a 7% interest rate, you’ll need to make around $160,000 per year to afford the roughly $4,800 monthly payment on this loan.

This amount includes an estimate for taxes and insurance by Fannie Mae and a 36% total debt ratio. This number also assumes a higher purchase price of $687,500 with a 20% down payment to get the $550,000 mortgage with no private mortgage insurance (PMI).

We’ll run through a few scenarios to help you understand how different factors affect how much you’ll need to make to meet the requirements for this mortgage. As with any advice, it’s best to talk to a good lender, who can help you along the path of home affordability.

Income Needed for a $550,000 Mortgage


It requires a significant amount of income to pay for housing costs around the country. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau obtained from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the national median housing price is $420,800 in the first quarter of 2024. If you have no debt, you’ll need to make around $130,000 for the average house.

For a $550,000 mortgage loan, the amount needed is around $160,000. We arrived at this number by calculating the monthly payment on a $550,000 mortgage with a 7% APR, assuming at least a 20% down payment was already made on the purchase price to eliminate the cost of mortgage insurance. This number is just for the mortgage with taxes and insurance and assumes you have no other debt.

But if you’re a normal human being, you probably have a little debt and need to account for that in determining how much money is required to afford your $550,000 mortgage and your debt obligations. Here’s how to do that.

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


How Much Do You Need to Make to Get a $550K Mortgage?


You need to make a reliable annual income of $160,000 to $200,000 (give or take, depending on your debt level) to get a $550,000 mortgage. A few years ago, it was possible to get a $550,000 loan on a smaller income. Now, given that interest rates have risen, you need to lower your debt, increase your income and savings, and be a salary superstar to afford a $550,000 home.

What Is a Good Debt-to-Income Ratio?


A good debt-to-income ratio is as low as you can get it. Lenders favor levels below 36%, but you may be able to find a lender that allows for a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio around 45%.

What Determines How Much House You Can Afford?


How much house you can afford is determined by a number of factors. To give you a general idea of how they work together, consider the following:

Income

How much you make is the biggest factor in determining how much you can afford. But it’s also the predictability of the income that’s important to a lender. If you’re in business for yourself, but don’t have two years worth of tax returns, it’s hard to prove income, and the lender is less likely to want to lend you money.

Debt

Your debt obligations take away from how much home you can afford. More debt = less money available for a house payment = lower mortgage amount.

Down Payment

If you have a larger down payment, you’ll be able to afford more house. A down payment of 20% is ideal because you can avoid a PMI payment (mortgage insurance for the lender that does nothing for you). However, if you have good credit and a good lender, you may be able to find a loan type that doesn’t require 20% down and still get a good rate. Use a mortgage calculator to see how a down payment affects your home affordability.

Loan Type

The different types of mortgage loans affect how much house you can afford, since your monthly payment will vary. For example, a 15-year mortgage will have a higher monthly payment, which means you’ll have to choose a lower-priced home. You’ll also see your home affordability change when choosing between fixed-rate and adjustable-rate, especially if you compare 5-year ARMs vs. 30-year fixed mortgages.

If you need a loan that exceeds the conforming loan limits for your area, you’re looking at a jumbo loan, which has different requirements (such as a higher credit score and down payment) that will affect home affordability.

Lender and Interest Rate

Even the lender you choose can affect home affordability. This is because lenders offer different rates and have different risk tolerances. For example, if you have a lender that’s willing to underwrite loans with a 45% DTI ratio, you’ll qualify for a larger mortgage than you would with a lender that’s only willing to accept a 36% DTI ratio. That’s one of the many reasons it’s important to shop around for a loan and a lender.

Recommended: Cost of Living by State

What Mortgage Lenders Look For


For a $550,000 mortgage, lenders will look at the following factors in making a lending decision about you.

•   Credit score: Your credit score evaluates how risky your behavior with credit is. The higher, the better. If you make your payments on time, every time, you’ll be well on your way to a great credit score.

•   Debt-to-income ratio: Debt has to be factored into the equation. Lenders want to know that you can meet your monthly obligations. If you have lower amounts of debt, you’ll likely be approved for a larger mortgage amount because you can afford the monthly payment.

•   Income: You need to make enough steady income to qualify for the loan.

•   Down payment: A higher down payment reduces the risk to the lender. They may be able to offer better rates and terms to you if you have a significant down payment. However, even if you have a lower down payment amount, you may still qualify for great terms and rates with a lender.

$550,000 Mortgage Breakdown Examples


Everyone’s financial situation is so different. Perhaps one of these examples with different down payments, debt levels, and interest rates can help you see where you may fall. These numbers were taken from Fannie Mae’s mortgage calculator and include an estimate for taxes and insurance.

$550,000, 30-year mortgage with 20% down payment and 7% interest

•   Principal and interest: $3,513

•   Taxes and insurance: $1,100

•   Total monthly payment: $4,613

$550,000, 30-year mortgage with zero down payment, and PMI, at 7% interest

•   Principal and interest: $3,659

•   Taxes and insurance: $917

•   Mortgage insurance: $504

•   Total monthly payment: $5,080

$550,000, 15-year mortgage with 20% down, at 6.5% interest

•   Principal and interest: $4,599

•   Taxes and insurance: $1,100

•   Total monthly payment: $5,699

Pros and Cons of a $550,000 Mortgage


A $550,000 mortgage has some pros and cons you’ll want to consider.

Pros

•   Helps you buy the home you want

•   Falls under the conforming loan limit so you can qualify for a conventional loan

•   You may be able to put down a low down payment amount

•   Allows you to become a homeowner

Cons

•   You may pay a lot in interest costs

•   High monthly payment

•   Taxes, insurance, mortgage insurance, and other costs will be higher

•   More expensive to maintain a $550,000 home

How Much Will You Need for a Down Payment?


Here’s what you’ll need for a down payment for a roughly $550,000 mortgage on a home costing $567,000.

Loan type

Minimum down payment

Amount for a $550,000 loan

Conventional 3% (first-time homebuyers) $17,010
Federal Housing Administration (FHA) 3.5% $19,845
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 0% 0%
U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 0% 0%

Keep in mind, if you’re able to put down 20% ($110,000), you won’t need to include PMI in your monthly mortgage calculation, which will help you afford more home.

Recommended: Best Affordable Places to Live

Can You Buy a $550K Home With No Money Down?


It is possible to buy a $550,000 home with no money down, especially if you’re able to take advantage of one of the following loan types. These options have 0% down payment requirements for borrowers who qualify.

0% Down Payment Mortgages

•   VA mortgages For qualified veterans and servicemembers, VA mortgages offer excellent rates along with no down payment requirement. Veterans must obtain a certificate of eligibility (COE), which is based on service and duty status.

•   USDA mortgages If you live in a rural area and make a moderate income, you’ll want to look at a USDA mortgage. This type of mortgage doesn’t require a down payment and the interest rate is similar to what you would get with a conventional loan. There are even some options where USDA directly services the loan and provides payment assistance to make it more affordable for the borrower.

Can You Buy a $550K Home With a Small Down Payment?


If you’re looking to keep as much cash in your hands as possible, you might be wondering if you can buy a home with a small down payment. The answer is yes, it is possible to buy a $550,000 home with a small down payment.

•   Conventional mortgages Since a $550,000 mortgage falls under the conforming loan limits, you can qualify for conventional financing, which first-time homebuyers can obtain for as little as 3% down. You will need to pay mortgage insurance (PMI), but if you can afford the monthly payment and it allows you to get into a home, it may be worth it to you.

•   FHA mortgages It’s possible to get an FHA mortgage with as little as 3.5% of the purchase price. You also need to pay mortgage insurance on an FHA loan, and it’s expensive. You’ll want to refinance your mortgage as soon as you’re able just to get rid of it.

The other options for 0% down payment mortgages mentioned previously, VA loans and USDA loans, are also available here.

Is a $550K Mortgage with No Down Payment a Good Idea?


If you desire to move into a home of your own and can afford the higher monthly payment on a $550,000 mortgage with no down payment, don’t let anything hold you back. A 20% down payment is a great idea, but it can be incredibly hard in reality, even in the most affordable states. If you’re in a strong financial position, but don’t have a down payment, talk to a lender to see if you can make it work.

Can’t Afford a $550K Mortgage With No Down Payment?


There are things you can do if you can’t afford a $550,000 mortgage. Take a look at our tips to help you qualify for a mortgage. You can also try the following:

Pay Off Debt


When you pay off debt, you get that much more in your budget to be able to afford a home. Take a look at our home affordability mortgage calculator. You’ll be surprised how much paying off debt can affect your home affordability.

Look into First-Time Homebuyer Programs


Look for first-time homebuyer programs in your area. They’re different from state to state and city to city, but in general, most areas have a program that can help with down payment and closing costs assistance, homebuyer education, and rate buydowns.

Care for Your Credit Score


There are some strategic moves you can make to build your credit history. Try one of these ideas.

•   Check your credit report. You’ll want to know what is in your report and what your score is. You can fix errors, pay off balances, or find out what negative items are impacting your score.

•   Consider opening a credit account. If you’re new to credit, you may need a credit account to build your credit history. Look for secured or student credit cards with low limits. Use it for a few purchases and pay the balance in full every month.

•   Automate your payments. If you’re not using autopay or your bank’s bill pay, get it set up. It’s an easy and stress-free way to build your credit history, which is what most of your credit score consists of.

Start Budgeting


Even if you know what you’re doing when it comes to managing your money, going back to the basics of budgeting can help tremendously. You’ll get laser-focused on the areas you can adjust so you can save money and meet your goals.

Alternatives to Conventional Mortgage Loans


Conventional mortgages aren’t the only ways to finance a home. If you’re looking for nontraditional funding sources, you’ll want to look here:

•   Private lending: A private lender isn’t associated with a bank and offers their own terms and conditions (usually a higher interest rate and a shorter term). Qualifications may also be more flexible.

•   Seller financing: Seller financing is another alternative where the seller acts as the lender. In an arrangement like this, the seller and buyer agree on the details, such as purchase price and payments.

•   Rent-to-own: Similar to seller financing, rent-to-own arrangements are made where the buyer agrees to lease the property before they’re able to buy it.

Mortgage Tips


If you want a great mortgage, you’ll need to do a little homework. A home loan help center is a good place to start, but here are some sample tips:

•   Shop around. Interest rates and terms vary by lender.

•   Compare loan estimates. A loan estimate is a standard form where the lender estimates the fees, interest rates, closing costs, and other terms of the loan you want. By submitting the same information to each lender, you can get a good idea of what each loan would cost during the mortgage preapproval process.

•   Choose a lender who communicates well. A lender who can communicate effectively with you will make the process go much smoother. Ask for recommendations from friends and family and interview prospective lenders.

The Takeaway


To get a $550,000 mortgage, you’ll need enough income, an appropriate DTI ratio, and strong credit. Low- and zero-down-payment mortgages can help you qualify for a mortgage of this size faster, but they do come with a large PMI payment added to your monthly mortgage payment.

If you make it a goal to be able to qualify for a $550,000 mortgage, you’ll need to make the right moves to get there. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

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


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

How much does a $550,000 mortgage cost over 10 years?

If you borrow $550,000 at a 7% interest rate, you can expect to pay out a total of $766,316 over the decade of payments.

Can I afford a $500K house on a $100K salary?

If your interest rate is good enough, you have a big enough down payment, and you have little or no debt, a $100,000 salary may just be enough to afford a $500,000 house in the eyes of some lenders.


Photo credit: iStock/Pekic

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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


*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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

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

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.

¹FHA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by FHA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. FHA loans require an Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP), which may be financed or paid at closing, in addition to monthly Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MIP). Maximum loan amounts vary by county. The minimum FHA mortgage down payment is 3.5% for those who qualify financially for a primary purchase. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.
Veterans, Service members, and members of the National Guard or Reserve may be eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by VA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. VA loans typically require a one-time funding fee except as may be exempted by VA guidelines. The fee may be financed or paid at closing. The amount of the fee depends on the type of loan, the total amount of the loan, and, depending on loan type, prior use of VA eligibility and down payment amount. The VA funding fee is typically non-refundable. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.

SOHL-Q224-1878301-V1

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How to Buy a House With No Money: Guide to Getting a No Down Payment Mortgage

How to Buy a House With No Money: Guide to Getting a No Down Payment Mortgage

Even in a hot real estate market, it’s possible to learn how to buy a house with no money down. The trick is, you need to know where to look. Zero-down home loans aren’t available everywhere and to every borrower, but if you do qualify and can find an area with a zero-down mortgage, homeownership could be much more attainable.

Here’s exactly what you need to know about how to buy a house with no money down.

Can You Buy a House With No Money Down?

You can buy a house with no money down with certain loan programs in certain areas. There are more homeowner resources to help you buy a home than you may realize, and first-time homebuyer qualifications can be more flexible than you know. Here’s where to look for and what to expect on a zero-down mortgage.

Recommended: Learn more about first-time home buyer programs.

How to Buy a House With No Money

Of all the things you need to buy a house, a down payment holds many buyers back. But there are a few avenues you can take to get a mortgage loan and buy a home with no money down.

•   Buy a home with a VA or USDA loan. These loans, from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are no down payment mortgages

•   Receive assistance for your down payment or closing costs from a state or local program or a family member

•   Receive a lender credit

•   Ask for a seller concession

USDA Loan

A USDA loan requires no money down and is intended for buyers in rural areas. There are two ways the U.S. Department of Agriculture loans money:

•   Single-family housing direct loans

•   Single-family housing guaranteed program

The direct loans are issued by the USDA and come with a 33-year term for low- and very-low-income households. (Very-low-income applicants may stretch the repayment term to 38 years.) The guaranteed program is run through approved lenders with a 30-year fixed rate for low- to moderate-income households.

VA Loan

A VA loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is a zero down payment mortgage with low interest rates for qualified veterans, active-duty service members, certain reservists and National Guard members, and surviving spouses. Most borrowers pay a one-time funding fee, which can be rolled into the loan. Lenders can be more flexible with credit scores, mortgage amounts, and debt-to-income ratios.

Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance Programs

Many city and state agencies offer different mortgage types and down payment assistance to buyers, especially low- to moderate-income homebuyers, first-time homebuyers, veterans, and people buying in federally targeted areas.

The terms vary. Sometimes the assistance for a down payment is in the form of a second mortgage that is repaid over time. Other terms include deferred payments that are only due if the property is sold, loans that are forgivable if the property is occupied by an owner for a specified amount of time, and even grants.

HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, steers homebuyers to city, state, and nonprofit programs that offer down payment assistance.

Down Payment Gift From a Family Member

A down payment gift from a family member can also help you buy a house with no money down. The main thing to remember about a down payment gift from a family member is that the money must be properly documented with a gift letter. Your lender will likely provide a template to make sure you have all the crucial elements included.

Lender Credits

Lender credits are what you get when you agree to pay a higher interest rate in return for some money that the lender contributes toward your closing costs. The more lender credits you receive, the higher your rate will be. With some lenders, you can cover your closing costs entirely with lender credits. This is a common practice when refinancing a loan.

Seller Concessions

One strategy real estate agents have used is to ask for a credit from the seller, to be contributed toward the buyer’s closing costs. Making an offer above asking price in tandem with the seller concessions makes this option more palatable for sellers in a competitive housing market.

Recommended: Home Loan Help Center

The Takeaway

Learning how to buy houses with no money takes some research, but could be well worth your time. With a VA or USDA loan, down payment assistance, gift money, or lender credits, it is possible to obtain a no money down mortgage. Qualifying first-time buyers can also still catch a break with a conventional mortgage loan — some lenders will let you put just 3% down.

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


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

Can cash gifts be used as a down payment?

Yes, but certain rules must be followed for the gift to be documented by the lender, usually in the form of a gift letter.

Are there any homebuyer grants?

Sometimes. They’re usually reserved for first-time buyers, veterans, or people buying homes in federally targeted areas. You might start a search for assistance with your state housing finance agency or HUD and then look for city and county programs.

What are down payment assistance programs?

Down payment assistance programs help homebuyers afford down payments and sometimes closing costs as well. This is done in the form of grants and loans and can vary by location.

What credit score do I need to buy a house with no money down?

For a zero down mortgage backed by the USDA or VA, lenders are advised to look at a borrower’s situation case by case. Approved USDA loan lenders usually require a minimum credit score of 640, though the department itself doesn’t have a credit score requirement.

Most VA loan lenders will want to see a credit score above 620, but again, the VA does not have a minimum credit score. Applicants may qualify with a score below 620 when debt, income, and the ability to shoulder future mortgage payments are given a close look.

Down payment assistance programs often require a minimum credit score of 620.


Photo credit: iStock/Paperkites

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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


*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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

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

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.

¹FHA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by FHA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. FHA loans require an Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP), which may be financed or paid at closing, in addition to monthly Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MIP). Maximum loan amounts vary by county. The minimum FHA mortgage down payment is 3.5% for those who qualify financially for a primary purchase. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.
Veterans, Service members, and members of the National Guard or Reserve may be eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by VA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. VA loans typically require a one-time funding fee except as may be exempted by VA guidelines. The fee may be financed or paid at closing. The amount of the fee depends on the type of loan, the total amount of the loan, and, depending on loan type, prior use of VA eligibility and down payment amount. The VA funding fee is typically non-refundable. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.

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Guide to Buying a Townhouse

Guide to Buying a Townhouse

If you’re shopping for a new home and traditional single-family houses are out of your price range or the mere idea of lawn mowing and tree trimming makes you sweat, a townhouse could be the answer. Many — but not all — buyers will find that townhouses rise to the occasion.

What Is a Townhouse?

Among the different home types, from condos to modular homes, are townhouses. But what is a townhouse, specifically? It’s a multi floor home with its own entrance that shares at least one wall (not floors or ceilings) with an adjacent townhouse. Townhomes may be part of a community of units with a uniform appearance, but that isn’t always the case.

Why Buy a Townhouse?

There are pros and cons of buying a townhouse, with benefits including the following:

•   Ownership

•   Affordability

•   Low maintenance

Here’s more about each benefit.

Ownership

It’s a bit tricky because some townhouses are sold as condos. If you buy a townhome as a condo, you will own just the inside of your unit. If you buy it as a townhouse, you’ll own the interior and exterior of the structure and the land under and sometimes around your property.

This means fewer restrictions on how you’d use your yard compared with a condo owner. Townhouse owners could, as just one example, have the right to grill in their private outdoor space.

Ownership of the structure and land also means that financing a townhouse is much less complicated than financing a condo. It’s basically the same as getting a mortgage for a detached single-family house.

Affordability

Townhouses are typically less expensive than detached single-family homes, which can be especially important in expensive cities and for first-time homebuyers. Townhouses can serve as space-efficient choices, too, in places where land is scarce.

Note that townhouses may be more expensive than a condo in the same community.

Low Maintenance

Yards are likely smaller and, if the townhouse is part of a homeowners association (HOA), you may benefit from its security protocols and maintenance of shared areas. In some cases, you can enjoy amenities like pools because of HOA membership.

Some home downsizers may appreciate the lack of interior and exterior sprawl to maintain.

Recommended: First-Time Homebuyer Guide

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


Disadvantages of Buying a Townhouse

Buying a townhome can also come with disadvantages, including:

•   HOA fees and restrictions

•   Lack of privacy

•   Stairs

Here’s more about each potential disadvantage.

HOA

If the townhouse is part of an HOA, there will be fees to cover shared services and spaces. Plus, HOA rules may limit how you can decorate your townhouse. Who is responsible for exterior repair costs can sometimes cause confusion. So be sure to find out the specifics of a townhome you’re interested in buying.

Lack of Privacy

Shared walls automatically mean less privacy than with a detached home, which can be especially problematic for families with young children. This can also be a consideration for young couples who may want to start a family or for other people for whom privacy is a plus.

Stairs

Because townhouses are multistory dwellings, residents will need to climb stairs, which can be challenging for those with temporary or permanent mobility issues. Plus, if someone is used to a larger yard, having a small lot with neighbors nearby can feel constraining.

How to Buy a Townhouse

When buying a townhome, there are several steps to take.

Find a Real Estate Agent

Very few buyers go it alone, so finding a real estate agent who is experienced in your geographical location can help you to make savvy choices. This agent can guide you through the process of finding the right townhouse and help negotiate the best deal for you.

Know the Market

An experienced real estate agent can look into comps, or recently sold townhomes in the area that are similar in size, condition, and features, and you can also use a real estate website to find asking prices of similar townhouses and other real estate in the area.

If more than one buyer is interested in the same townhouse, you’ll need to be clear in your mind about how much you’re willing to pay for the property and strategically make an offer without busting your budget.

Investigate the HOA Fees

If the townhouse is part of an HOA, you’ll want to know what the monthly fees will be and what they’ll cover.

You might ask when the HOA last raised the fee, by how much, and when any new increase might happen. Looking at the HOA’s budget and reserve study could also be a good idea. If the reserves are low, the community is at risk of needing a special assessment.

Shop for a Mortgage and Get Preapproved

If you’re shopping for a mortgage, you’ll benefit from looking at more than advertised interest rates. You can apply with more than one lender and then compare loan estimates.

You may want to compare the APR of different loans: The annual percentage rate reflects the interest rate, lender fees, discount points, and the loan term. If comparing, realize that escrow fees and mortgage insurance can skew the APR.

The loan estimate will also tell you what your monthly payment would be on your home mortgage. To get a sense of what a payment might be with different down payments, you can also use an online mortgage calculator.

By getting mortgage preapproval, you’ll know exactly how much of a townhouse you can afford to buy, which can give you the ability to bid on a property with confidence and compete with other buyers for a property of choice.

Order a Home Inspection

It’s a good idea to get the townhouse inspected inside and out. Also pay attention to how well neighbors are maintaining their properties.

The Takeaway

Buying a townhouse could be a good choice for first-time homebuyers, lawn-mower phobics, downsizers, and people priced out of the larger market. If you decide that buying a townhome is the right choice for you, you’ll probably need to apply for a mortgage.

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


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

Is it worth buying a townhouse?

Townhouses, in general, don’t appreciate in value as quickly as detached single-family homes. But the purchase price is often lower.

Is a townhome a good first home?

A townhouse can be a good first home because of the low maintenance, and amenities may be included. Plus, the price is right for many first-time homebuyers.

Why shouldn’t you buy a townhouse?

Disadvantages can include a lack of privacy and usually a small yard. If an HOA is in place, ongoing fees and rules are involved. Plus, the stairs that come with townhomes may be challenging for some people to navigate.

How do I choose a good townhouse?

When buying a townhome, make sure that it has the features you want and need in a neighborhood where you’d like to live at a price within your budget. If it’s part of an HOA, ensure that the fees are palatable and cover what you expect them to.


Photo credit: iStock/cmart7327

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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


*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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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What to Know Before Renting out a Room in Your House

What to Know Before Renting out a Room in Your House

Renting out a room in your house can be a good source of extra income but generally isn’t something you want to do on a whim. From legal and financial considerations to aesthetics, there are lots of things to think about before offering the space to a potential housemate.

Here are some things to consider before renting out a room in your house.

What Are Some Room Rental Options?

Renting out a room in your house doesn’t have to mean having one long-term renter, although that’s certainly one way to go. Here’s a look at a few different rental options.

Short-term Rental

One option you might consider is offering short-term rentals through a service such as Airbnb or Vrbo. This could be a good option if you live in an in-demand tourist area or have a home in an out-of-the-way locale that might attract someone looking for a place to relax and unwind. Some travelers prefer to stay somewhere that feels more like a home than a hotel.

Recommended: 25 Things to Know When Renting Out an Airbnb

Long-term Rental

Having a housemate who is planning to rent a room in your home for an extended period of time can be one way to have a steady income for that time period. It’s a good idea to have a formal rental agreement that clearly outlines expectations of both parties.

Furnished or Unfurnished Rental

Whether to offer a furnished or unfurnished space will probably be determined by the type of renter you’re looking for. If you live in a college town, prospective renters might not have any furnishings of their own, so will likely be looking for a furnished rental. As with a short-term rental mentioned above, a furnished rental will probably be a given. A potential long-term housemate, though, may have their own furnishings to bring to the space.

What Financial Considerations Are There?

For some people, the sole reason for renting a room in their house is to have some extra income. With income, though, generally come expenses.

Return on Investment

It’s not likely that a spare room is ready for a renter without some updating and perhaps even some repairs. Keeping a record of how much money you spend preparing the space will help you determine if you’re coming out ahead financially. It may take some time to recoup the money you spend before you make a profit. And it’s a good idea to have a record of any ongoing expenses you incur to make sure you’re charging enough rent to offset those costs.

Recommended: What Is Considered a Good Return on Investment?

Taxes

In most cases, there will be income tax implications, so it’s wise to treat renting a room in your house as a business of sorts. As such, it’s a good idea to consult a tax professional who can answer detailed questions about rental income.

The IRS considers rental of part of your property, such as a spare room, as taxable income. And, like some business expenses, there are expenses related to this type of rental that are tax deductible. Any deductions claimed must be directly related to the portion of the home that is used for rental purposes and is generally calculated as a percentage of the home’s total square footage.

Recommended: 25 Tax Deductions for Freelancers

Are There any Legal Considerations?

It’s wise to look at your state’s landlord-tenant laws as a first step. Some states are more landlord friendly, while other states have a wide range of protections for tenants, putting more limitations on landlords’ rights.

Even if you’re just renting out a room to an acquaintance, you’ll likely still be considered a landlord and must adhere to regulations that apply to your situation. The Fair Housing Act protects potential tenants from discrimination except in limited circumstances. Shared housing is one of those circumstances because the government concluded that sharing one’s personal space has “significant privacy and safety considerations” in a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling.

Neighborhood Restrictions

Aside from governmental legal considerations, it’s a good idea to check your apartment lease or your neighborhood or homeowner’s association, if you have one, as some homeowner’s associations may have regulations about leasing all or part of your home. If you’re renting a home or apartment, your lease may specify whether you’re allowed to sublease or if you’re restricted from doing so.

Your homeowner’s insurance policy may also include a clause related to leasing part of your home. Some companies may allow you to rent a room in your home without any change to your policy, while others may disallow it completely. There’s a chance you may see an increase in your premium, as well. To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to let your insurance agent know of any change in your home’s occupancy.

Recommended: Condo vs Townhouse

Screening Tenants

Finding the right person to share your personal space may take some time. You likely have certain things you’re looking for in a potential renter along with other things that might be deal-breakers. Maybe you’re looking for a non-smoker who has a solid rental history. A rental application is one tool that can help you find a housemate that fits the bill.

You may want to run a credit check and a background check on any applicants who are truly interested in renting a room in your house. These checks generally have fees associated with them, and it’s a good idea to specify in the rental application who will be responsible for paying for credit and/or background check.

The applicant’s permission is required to run either of these checks and they are entitled to know if the results of either a credit or background check resulted in the denial of their rental application. It’s important to make sure you’re complying with fair housing laws when screening potential tenants and aren’t discriminating against certain applicants.

Rental Agreement

Having a formal, written lease in place will go a long way in protecting both you and your renter. A thorough agreement might include:

•   The leasing period — it’s typical for a lease to be for one year, but if you’re renting a room to college students, you may consider a shorter lease for the duration of the school year. This section might specifically note the move-in and move-out dates.

•   Rent amount — including the due date, how you would like to collect it, and any late fees you might charge.

•   Security deposit — the amount and conditions for returning or withholding it at the end of the lease.

•   Utility costs — are they included in the monthly rent or will the renter be responsible for paying their share of the total bills?

•   Shared spaces — expectations around common areas like the kitchen, living room, and bathroom.

•   Pets — are they allowed or not, as well as policies about pet messes and noise.

•   Cleaning and maintenance — will the renter be responsible for regular house cleaning, including private and common areas, and home maintenance, inside or out?

•   Parking — if there is a parking space available, is it included in the rent or is it a separate charge?

Covering a wide variety of things in a rental agreement can go a long way in avoiding misunderstanding and miscommunication between you and your tenant. Having an attorney review the agreement is a good way to make sure you’re not missing important elements. Lease agreements are legally binding contracts when signed by both parties.

It’s also a good idea to do a walk-through of the room with the tenant before signing the lease and again before they move out. Any damage can be documented (e.g., carpet stains, scratches on woodwork, torn window screen, among other things) so it’s clear that the tenant isn’t responsible for that damage. A final walk-through can be done before the tenant moves out, during which any additional damage can be documented and accounted for.

What Are the Costs of Renting a Room in Your House?

You may encounter costs preparing a room to be rented as well as ongoing expenses related to having another person living in the home.

Preparing the Room for Rental

Safety for you and your tenant are important concerns. You may want to make sure doors and window locks are in good working order. Your tenant will likely want their room to be private, so a keyed lock on their door can go a long way to easing any concerns they might have about living in someone else’s home. Providing a combination safe for the tenant’s valuables might be a nice gesture.

Installing locks on doors to any areas you don’t want your tenant to have access to is another layer of safety you may want to consider.

Fixing loose railings, sticking doors or windows, flooring trip hazards, and doing other home maintenance that could become safety issues is important in making your home and the individual room an attractive rental prospect for tenants.

You may want to make some cosmetic changes, too.

•   Painting the walls a neutral color may allow a prospective tenant to imagine their belongings in the room, instead of bright colors that might be a distraction to them. Using an easy-to-clean paint finish, like satin instead of flat, may also save you some effort after your tenant moves out.

•   If the room is carpeted, you might consider having the carpet cleaned, either professionally or using your own carpet cleaner. If the room is furnished with upholstered furniture, it can also be cleaned. Doing so will help the room look and smell fresh.

•   If you’re renting a furnished room, make sure the furnishings are clean and in good condition. Even used furniture can be presentable.

•   If the tenant will have a private bathroom space, the fixtures should be as modern as possible, but more importantly, clean and working. If the faucet drips, if the bathtub leaks, if the toilet runs — make the repairs before renting the room.

•   Is the bathroom a shared space? You might consider adding some baskets or other types of storage for the tenant’s personal hygiene products. Making a cabinet available for their own use would be nice if there is space to do so.

•   Cleaning, decluttering, and updating other shared spaces such as the living room and kitchen can make your home look more inviting, possibly increasing your chances of finding a renter.

•   You might consider adding some storage space for a tenant’s use. It could be as simple as a stand-alone cabinet or a designated area in a basement or garage. The rental agreement could specify what isn’t allowed to be stored (e.g., no hazardous chemicals) and how much storage space is allotted. A prospective tenant might feel more comfortable storing belongings if the space is able to be secured.

Recommended: 20 Renter-Friendly House Updates

Increased Utility Costs

An extra person living in the house will likely increase utility usage. Costs for gas, electric, water, sewer, and other utilities will probably be more than you typically pay without an extra person in the house. You may want to calculate your average utility costs over the past year to have an idea what an extra person’s use might add to those costs.

Some landlords include the cost of utilities in the cost of rent, while others might require the tenant to cover a percentage of each monthly utility bill. When renting out a room in your house, it may not be convenient to have separate utility connections for a renter.

Covering the Cost of Making Your Room Rental Ready

Depending on how much work needs to be done, getting a room in your house ready for someone to rent could be a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars. You may be able to keep costs down by doing some of the work yourself, but you might need to hire a professional contractor for some tasks you don’t have the skills to tackle or don’t feel comfortable doing on your own. It can help to think of this as an investment with a potential for a return in the form of rental income.

Taking some time to save money for the expense of getting a room in your house rental ready can be a smart choice. It can at least be one way to pay for some basic tasks, while considering other funding sources for more expensive repairs.

If you don’t have cash on hand, you could put all these expenses on one or more credit cards. But because credit cards carry such high interest rates, you might want to avoid racking up a credit card bill you can’t pay down any time soon.

Homeowners who have equity in their homes might consider taking out a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. These secured loans use your house as collateral. The application process can be lengthy and typically requires an appraisal of your home. Also, you risk losing your home if you don’t repay the loan.

Another option is to apply for a personal loan. Personal loans are typically unsecured loans, which means you don’t have to put up any collateral to qualify for them. Many personal loans also have fixed interest rates.

The Takeaway

From your personal comfort level for sharing your space with someone to financial and legal considerations, there are lots of things to consider before deciding to rent out a room in your house. You may need to complete some repairs to make the space safe for a tenant, and there may be some decor updating necessary to interest potential renters. However, you can likely more than make up for these upfront costs in rental income.

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 2024 winner for Best 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.


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

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

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

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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