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When to Consider Paying off Your Mortgage Early

Reasons for paying off your mortgage early include eliminating monthly mortgage payments, saving money in interest, reducing financial stress, and more. But, just because you can pay your mortgage off early doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

Should You Consider an Early Mortgage Payoff?

It can be tempting to rush to pay off your home loan when you have the ability to, especially if you’ve struggled with debt management. And why wouldn’t you want to pay off your mortgage? Getting rid of debt could potentially increase cash flow.

When it comes to your mortgage loan, paying it off early depends on your unique financial situation and goals — there is no one right answer.

Reasons Not to Pay Your Mortgage Off Early

While it may seem like there are no reasons not to pay off your mortgage early, that is actually not the case. Here are a few reasons why it may not be a good idea to pay off your mortgage loan early:

You Have a Competitive Interest Rate

Unless you’ve reached all of your financial goals, it may not make the most sense to pay off your mortgage early when you have a competitive interest rate.

For example, if you are saving to send your child to college or you’re trying to rebuild your emergency fund after a home repair, those might take priority.

You also could possibly earn more by investing your money as opposed to paying off your loan. If that’s the case, it doesn’t make sense to pay off your mortgage early unless you’re wanting the peace of mind that comes with no mortgage debt. Investment decisions should be based on specific financial needs, goals, and risk appetite.

You Would Have Nothing Left in Savings

If you only have enough in the bank to cover your mortgage, it is not advisable to pay it off. Having an emergency fund is necessary and may take priority over having no mortgage payment.

You Might Face a Prepayment Penalty

Make sure to review your mortgage terms closely. Some lenders charge an early payoff penalty, usually a percentage of the principal balance at the time of payoff.

You Might Miss Out on the Mortgage Tax Deduction

For many people who itemize, having a mortgage helps push their itemized deductions higher than the standard deduction. It’s worth discussing the mortgage tax deduction with your accountant or other tax professional before you resolve to pay your mortgage off early.

You Have Other High-interest Debt

If you have other high-interest debt, such as credit card debt, personal loans, or student loans, it may make sense to pay those off in full prior to paying your mortgage off early. Home loans typically have the lowest interest rates of other forms of debt and are considered “good debt” by lenders. It only makes sense to pay off your mortgage early if you have no other debts in your name.

When an Early Payoff May Make Sense

On the flip side, there are some situations when paying off a mortgage early might make more sense than waiting. Reasons to pay off your mortgage early may include:

You’ve Met All of Your Financial Goals

If your emergency savings account is right where you feel it needs to be and you’re diligently contributing to your retirement accounts, there may be no reason not to pay off your mortgage early.

Another idea, however, is to purchase an investment property instead of paying off your mortgage early. This can create a monthly cash flow in addition to the value of the property (hopefully) appreciating over the years.

You’re Interested in Being 100% Debt-Free

Sometimes, just the idea of having loan payments can be mentally taxing, even if you’re in a good place financially. Money is not just about numbers for many; it’s also about emotions.

If paying off your mortgage loan early relieves anxiety because it’s helping you become debt-free, then that might be something to consider.

Of course, reflecting on why you want to become debt-free is important when thinking about paying your mortgage off. If, for example, it’s because you’re approaching retirement and will no longer be getting a steady paycheck, it might make sense to pay off your mortgage.

Recommended: How to Pay Off a 30-Year Mortgage in 15 Years

Ways to Pay Off a Mortgage Early or Faster

If you’ve decided it makes sense for your financial situation to pay off your mortgage early, here’s how you can do it:

Lump sum. The easiest way to pay off your mortgage early is by making one lump-sum payment to your mortgage lender. Contact your lender prior to making the payment so you can make sure you’re paying exactly what you owe, including any possible prepayment fees.

Extra payments. You could potentially pay more toward your mortgage principal each month if you got a raise at work or you’ve trimmed some fat in your budget.

If you make extra payments toward your mortgage, it could lead to paying off the loan faster than if you were just to make the set payment each month. Make sure to contact your lender prior to making extra payments, though, so you know the extra amount is being applied toward the principal amount only, not the principal and interest.

Refinancing. Another option for paying off your mortgage early is refinancing. Refinancing your mortgage means replacing your current mortgage with a new one, ideally with a better rate and term.

If you shorten your loan term from 30 years to 15 years, for example, it may increase your monthly payments but in turn allow you to pay your mortgage off faster. Home loans with shorter terms often come with lower interest rates, too, so more of your monthly payments will be applied to the loan’s principal balance.

The Takeaway

Should you pay off your mortgage early? Maybe. If your retirement fund is fully-funded, you have no other high-interest debts, and you’re interested in becoming 100% debt-free, it may make sense to pay off your mortgage early. However, if you do not have a fully funded retirement and emergency savings account or you could make more money by investing rather than paying off your mortgage debt, it could be best to hold off on paying your mortgage off early.

One way to save on interest and possibly pay off your mortgage early is by refinancing. Refinancing can allow you to lower your interest rate and shorten your loan term, if desired.

SoFi offers competitive mortgage refinance rates and flexible loan terms. Checking your rate takes just a few minutes and will not impact your credit score.*

Interested in refinancing your mortgage? Apply with SoFi today.



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

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


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


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.

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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Living Room Remodel: Should You Do It?

Whether your living room is dated, too cramped, or no longer functional for your family, there are makeover options for every taste and budget. Also keep in mind that living room makeovers can happen in various stages — they don’t have to be all or nothing. Even, simple, affordable updates like new lighting, paint, or flooring, can have a big impact on the look and feel of a living room.

Whether you have the budget for a total overhaul or you’re just looking for an easy update, here are some living room remodel ideas to consider.

Living Room Remodel Ideas: Top Elements To Change

Layout

Effective use of space makes a room feel comfortable and inviting. If your living room seems underused, perhaps changing the layout will make family and friends want to hang out in it more often.

For someone moving into a new home and starting with a blank space, looking first at the layout of the room is a good starting point. Where do you enter the room? Where does your focus go first? Are the windows situated for convenient placement of furnishings?

If you’re currently living in the home, but the living room just isn’t functional, look at the layout in terms of what can be easily changed.

What in the room do you regularly use, e.g., couch or closets? Where do piles tend to accumulate? Do the windows cause a glare on the television? Is your furniture arranged to allow for good traffic flow? The more effortlessly the room setup can support your daily movements, the better.

Recommended: Home Equity Loans vs Personal Loans for Home Improvement

Windows

Windows not only let light in, they affect our perception of how large, open, and welcoming a space is. Replacing them can be pricey, but might increase a home’s value and can generate energy savings: On average, 25% to 30% of a home’s energy use is due to heat gained or lost through the windows.

If the window itself is fine but the aesthetic is not, new window trim or window treatments can make a world of difference. Painting dark-stained trim can make a space feel lighter, brighter, and more modern.

Updating window treatments with floor-length curtains adds drama and interest, while Roman shades that fit inside the window casing keep things unobtrusive while still adding texture.

Recommended: How Much Does It Cost to Replace Windows?

Lighting

Lighting is functional, of course, but it can also be an aesthetic choice. Think about taking a picture indoors with or without a flash: Room lighting has that same sort of visual resonance, affecting how the other elements of the room appear and how you feel in the space.

In choosing lighting for your living room remodel, consider if you want the fixture to recede out of sight or be a visual focal point. How bright or dim, warm or cool do you want your light levels? Where in the room will you need the most light? And adding dimmer switches to any lighting setup gives you loads of control.

Ceiling

Like the sky outside, what’s hanging above our heads indoors dramatically affects how we feel in a space. If you have a textured or popcorn ceiling, refinishing it to be smooth can instantly brighten and update your living room. It’s a messy DIY project, but one experienced painters or contractors can do while keeping the mess to a minimum.

If the ceiling would benefit from a new coat of paint, veering from the standard white might give the room a stylish quality. Light hues can create the illusion of a taller space, while something a little darker can evoke coziness.

Recommended: Beginner’s Guide to a Bedroom Remodel

Flooring

Along with layout and paint, flooring has perhaps the biggest impact on a room. It’s a large, dominant, visual element that affects how sound echoes in the room or carries beyond it, how much light reflects into the room, and how much dirt shows up.

When buying a new home, it’s a good idea to check what’s under the carpet. You might find lovely hardwood floors in pristine condition — or a mess of a subfloor. Knowing what you will have before signing the mortgage agreement will allow you to make a plan for any needed renovations. For a quick change, don’t underestimate a simple area rug.

Recommended: Four Ways to Upgrade Your Home

Molding

Molding hits the sweet spot of a decorative finish that feels structural. The trim around windows and doors, crown molding and baseboards, picture and knee rails — all inform the character of a space and add visual interest and structure. In particular, if things feel blank or sterile, adding decorative trim can make a space a little more impressive.

Paint

Fresh paint works wonders. Even if you don’t have time or budget for anything else, reimagine the wall color. Samples painted on the wall will show how the room’s light will affect the paint. Many paint brands now also offer virtual ways to “paint” your room.

Just as a room’s lighting can affect your mood, paint color has an effect on one’s psyche, too. For instance, the color blue has been shown to have a calming effect, while red has a stimulating effect and can create feelings of excitement or even stress in some people.

Furniture and Decoration

You can replace it, move it, or just pull it from another room. Alone or in conjunction with other major changes, furniture and decor can have a major effect on the finished space — and keeping layout top-of-mind when selecting furniture will help make sure it’s the right stuff for the space.

Using online room planners or going old school with graph paper to map out, to scale, what will go where is a good way to experiment without the heavy lifting.

What Color Should You Paint Your House Quiz

Recommended: Guide to Buying, Selling, and Updating Your Home

The Takeaway

Once you decide on the changes you’d like to make to your living room, the next step is to come up with a budget for the project. Some changes, like moving furniture from one room to another are free, while others, like changing a paint color, can probably be done inexpensively. But if you’re planning a significant renovation to your living room, additional funding might be necessary.

One financing option that can work well for a living room remodel is a home improvement loan. This is simply a personal loan that is used for home repairs and upgrades. With this type of funding, you receive a lump sum up front then repay the loan (plus interest) in regular installments over the loan’s term, often five to seven years.

SoFi’s home improvement loans range from $5K to $100K and offer competitive, fixed rates and a variety of terms. Checking your rate won’t affect your credit score, and it takes just one minute.

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


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


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

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LTV 101: Why Your Loan-to-Value Ratio Matters

If you are planning on applying for a home loan or for a mortgage refinance, you are likely going to want to know your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. This is calculated by dividing the loan principal by the value of the property. It’s an important metric when getting a mortgage approved because it reflects how much of the property’s value you are borrowing. A higher number may be seen as a riskier proposition by prospective lenders.

Here, you’ll learn the ins and outs of calculating LTV, why it matters, and how it can have a financial impact over the life of a loan.

LTV, a Pertinent Percentage

The relationship between the loan amount and the value of the asset securing that loan constitutes LTV.

To find the loan-to-value ratio, divide the loan amount (aka the loan principal) by the value of the property.

LTV = (Loan Value / Property Value) x 100

Here’s an example: Say you want to buy a $200,000 home. You have $20,000 set aside as a down payment and need to take out a $180,000 mortgage. So here’s what your LTV calculation looks like:

180,000 / 200,000 = 0.9 or 90%

Here’s another example: You want to refinance your mortgage (which means getting a new home loan, hopefully at a lower interest rate). Your home is valued at $350,000, and your mortgage balance is $220,000.

220,000 / 350,000 = 0.628 or 63%

As the LTV percentage increases, the risk to the lender increases.

Why Does LTV Matter?

Two major components of a mortgage loan can be affected by LTV: the interest rate and private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Interest Rate

LTV, in conjunction with your income, financial history, and credit score, is a major factor in determining how much a loan will cost.

When a lender writes a loan that is close to the value of the property, the perceived risk of default is higher because the borrower has little equity built up and therefore little to lose.

Should the property go into foreclosure, the lender may be unable to recoup the money it lent. Because of this, lenders prefer borrowers with lower LTVs and will often reward them with better interest rates.

Though a 20% down payment is not essential for loan approval, someone with an 80% LTV or lower is likely to get a more competitive rate than a similar borrower with a 90% LTV.

The same goes for a refinance or home equity line of credit: If you have 20% equity in your home, or at least 80% LTV, you’re more likely to get a better rate.

If you’ve ever run the numbers on mortgage loans, you know that a rate difference of 1% could amount to thousands of dollars paid in interest over the life of the loan.

Let’s look at an example, where two people are applying for loans on identical $300,000 properties.

Person One, Barb:

•  Puts 20%, or $60,000, down, so their LTV is 80%. (240,000 / 300,000 = 80%)

•  Gets approved for a 4.5% interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage

•  Will pay $197,778 in interest over the life of the loan

Person Two, Bill:

•  Puts 10%, or $30,000, down, so their LTV is 90%. (270,000 / 300,000 = 90%)

•  Gets approved for a 5.5% interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage

•  Will pay $281,891 in interest over the life of the loan

Bill will pay $84,113 more in interest than Barb, though it is true that Bill also has a larger loan and pays more in interest because of that.

So let’s compare apples to apples: Let’s assume that Bill is also putting $60,000 down and taking out a $240,000 loan, but that loan interest rate remains at 5.5%. Now, Bill pays $250,571 in interest;

The 1% difference in interest rates means Bill will pay nearly $53,000 more over the life of the loan than Barb will. (It’s worth noting that there are costs when you refinance a mortgage; it’s a new loan, with closing expenses.)

Mortgage CalculatorMortgage Calculator



💡 Quick Tip: You deserve a more zen mortgage loan. When you buy a home, SoFi offers a guarantee that your loan will close on time. Backed by a $5,000 credit.‡

PMI or Private Mortgage Insurance

Your LTV ratio also determines whether you’ll be required to pay for private mortgage insurance, or PMI. PMI helps protect your lender in the event that your house is foreclosed on and the lender assumes a loss in the process.

Your lender will charge you for PMI until your LTV reaches 78% (by law, if payments are current) or 80% (by request).

PMI can be a substantial added cost, typically ranging anywhere from 0.1% to 2% of the value of the loan per year. Using our example from above, a $270,000 loan at 5.5% with a 1% PMI rate translates to $225 per month for PMI, or about $18,800 in PMI paid until 20% equity is reached.

Recommended: Understanding the Different Types of Mortgage Loans

How Does LTV Change?

LTV changes when either the value of the property or the value of the loan changes.

If you’re a homeowner, the value of your property fluctuates with evolving market pressures. If you thought the value of your property increased significantly since your last home appraisal, you could have another appraisal done to document this. You could also potentially increase your home value through remodels or additions.

The balance of your loan should decrease over time as you make monthly mortgage payments, and this will lower your LTV. If you made a large payment toward your mortgage, that would significantly lower your LTV.

Whether through an increase in your property value or by reducing the loan, decreasing your LTV provides you with at least two possible money-saving options: the removal of PMI and/or refinancing to a lower rate.

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

The Takeaway

The loan-to-value ratio affects two big components of a mortgage loan: the interest rate and private mortgage insurance. A lower LTV percentage typically translates into more borrower benefits and less money spent over the life of the loan.

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

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.


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

SoFi On-Time Close Guarantee: If all conditions of the Guarantee are met, and your loan does not close on or before the closing date on your purchase contract accepted by SoFi, and the delay is due to SoFi, SoFi will provide you $2,000.^ Terms and conditions apply. This Guarantee is available only for loan applications submitted after 6/15/22 for the purchase of a primary residence. Please discuss terms of this Guarantee with your loan officer. The property must be owner-occupied, single-family residence (no condos), and the loan amount must meet the Fannie Mae conventional guidelines. No bank-owned or short-sale transactions. To qualify for the Guarantee, you must: (1) Have employment income supported by W-2, (2) Receive written approval by SoFi for the loan and you lock the rate, (3) submit an executed purchase contract on an eligible property at least 30 days prior to the closing date in the purchase contract, (4) provide to SoFi (by upload) all required documentation within 24 hours of SoFi requesting your documentation and upload any follow-up required documents within 36 hours of the request, and (5) pay for and schedule an appraisal within 48 hours of the appraiser first contacting you by phone or email. The Guarantee will be void and not paid if any delays to closing are due to factors outside of SoFi control, including delays scheduling or completing the appraisal appointment, appraised value disputes, completing a property inspection, making repairs to the property by any party, addressing possible title defects, natural disasters, further negotiation of or changes to the purchase contract, changes to the loan terms, or changes in borrower’s eligibility for the loan (e.g., changes in credit profile or employment), or if property purchase does not occur. SoFi may change or terminate this offer at any time without notice to you. ^To redeem the Guarantee if conditions met, see documentation provided by loan officer.

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


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


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

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

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How Does a Balloon Mortgage Work?

A balloon mortgage is where you make low monthly payments for a short period of time, and then pay off the entire loan balance at the end of the term. Balloon mortgages are typically five to seven years, but can be as little as two years. The payments leading up to the final payment, also known as the balloon payment, can be interest-only or principal and interest.

Here, we’re looking at what exactly a balloon mortgage is and how it works, including pros and cons and who may want a balloon mortgage.

What Is a Balloon Mortgage?

A balloon mortgage is a mortgage with a shorter-than-normal term — maybe five or seven years as opposed to 15 or 30 — with relatively low monthly payments but a large lump sum due at the end of the term.

How does this work exactly? In technical terms, a balloon mortgage is one that hasn’t undergone full mortgage amortization. Although the payments are based on a 30-year term, the actual term is much shorter, which means a lot of money is left over at the end (hence the lump payment due).

Typically, people who take out a balloon mortgage plan on selling the home or refinancing before the balloon payment is due. Or, some may expect to receive a large sum of money that can be used to pay off the loan.



💡 Quick Tip: Traditionally, mortgage lenders like to see a 20% down payment. But some lenders, such as SoFi, allow home mortgage loans with as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers.

Why Would Anyone Want a Balloon Mortgage?

Being suddenly faced with a lump sum mortgage payment might sound like a nightmare to most of us. So when would such a financial product actually be an attractive option?

It’s worth noting that balloon mortgages often carry lower interest rates than 30-year fixed-interest mortgages, and in some cases, they can be easier to qualify for. That can make them tempting to those in the following situations:

•   The borrower plans to sell the house and move before the balloon sum is due. This way, the lump sum is paid off with proceeds from selling the house — and in the meantime, the borrower benefits from the lower interest rate.

•   The borrower plans to refinance the loan once the balloon sum is due. This is a common scenario, and may give a borrower the opportunity to benefit from the lower interest rate of the balloon mortgage in the short term while buying time to build credit and shop for a better loan in the long term.

•   The borrower expects to have the money to pay the balloon sum by the time it’s due. Maybe they have another property they plan to sell or are banking on an inheritance or some other savings plan — and they might save money in the long run on interest compared with taking out a traditional 30-year mortgage.

That said, there are obviously risks to this approach that may outweigh the benefits.

Recommended: Guide to Buying, Selling, and Updating Your Home

Pros and Cons of Balloon Mortgages

What are the specific advantages and disadvantages of balloon mortgages?

Pros

•   Possible lower interest rate. Balloon mortgages may carry a lower interest rate than mortgages with longer terms, depending on the lender’s criteria and the borrower’s creditworthiness.

•   Possible lower monthly payment. Lower interest rates can translate to lower monthly payments, making the mortgage more affordable and easier to fit into the monthly budget (at least in the short term).

•   May pay off the loan quicker. If a borrower is able to come up with the lump sum payment at the time it’s due, a balloon mortgage may allow a purchaser to pay off the house more quickly.

•   Possibly easier to qualify for. Because of their lower payment, balloon mortgages may be considered less risky to some lenders. This means they can be easier for consumers to qualify for, which may make them a more accessible option for some.

Cons

•   Interest-only payments. In some cases, the monthly payments made during the term of a balloon mortgage may be interest-only — which means borrowers aren’t building equity in their homes during that time.

•   Buyers may be unable to sell their house or refinance in time. To avoid the lump sum payment, borrowers must sell or refinance. If rates have risen or they can’t sell, they may face mortgage foreclosure.

•   Buyer may pay more in fees. Even if successful, refinancing can incur fees that may mitigate some of the savings earned by taking out the balloon loan in the first place.

•   Refinancing may increase monthly payment. After refinancing, monthly mortgage payments are often higher, especially if the balloon mortgage was interest-only.

•   Risky for the borrower. Other unforeseen circumstances can wreak havoc on a balloon borrower’s plans, leaving them with a huge lump sum payment they can’t afford.



💡 Quick Tip: To see a house in person, particularly in a tight or expensive market, you may need to show proof of prequalification to the real estate agent. With SoFi’s online application, it can take just minutes to get prequalified.

Other Types of Mortgages to Consider

Although balloon loans can be relatively easy to qualify for and do have some benefits, in many ways, they can be risky, too. We know what they say about best-laid plans — and even those with bulletproof plans sometimes encounter unforeseen circumstances.

What if the money that was set aside for the balloon payment has to be spent on a medical emergency or another surprise expense? What if the sale of the property or the annual bonuses fall through? What if, when it’s time to refinance, rates are actually higher or the borrower’s credit history is less favorable? What if property values have dropped precipitously and refinancing options are hard to come by?

Fortunately, there are plenty of other types of mortgages that can meet borrowers’ needs without creating an unduly risky scenario.

Fixed-Rate Mortgages

A fixed-rate mortgage, or FRM, is one in which the interest rate is fixed. The borrower pays the same interest rate over the entire term of the loan, usually 15 or 30 years.

The fixed interest rate also means the monthly payment amount is fixed, making this a popular type of mortgage for those who want to plan ahead to ensure that their mortgage payment will fit their budget.

FRMs protect buyers from rising interest rates; no matter what happens with the market, they can rest assured their rates will stay the same.

On the other hand, FRMs can preclude borrowers from benefiting when interest rates drop — which leads us to another popular type of mortgage.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

An adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM, has an interest rate that fluctuates over the term of the loan based on the market. These loans generally begin with a relatively short period when the interest rate is fixed — known as the fixed-rate period — before switching to the variable interest rate.

ARMs are attractive for a variety of reasons. For one thing, the interest rate during the introductory fixed-rate period is often lower than it is in FRMs, meaning the borrower can enjoy smaller payments at the beginning of the mortgage.

ARMs may also allow borrowers to benefit when market rates drop. Though, if market rates increase, so can the borrower’s monthly payment. Some ARMs include clauses limiting the annual and life-of-loan adjustments and creating rate caps, which can help protect buyers, but it’s still not the same kind of peace of mind available from FRMs.

Recommended: Fixed vs. Adjustable Rate Mortgages: What’s the Difference?

More Ways to Find the Right Mortgage for Your Needs

Any mortgage — indeed, any loan — carries some degree of risk. But there are ways to mitigate the inherent hazards involved with owing a large debt.

For one thing, figuring out how much house you can afford is an important first step to help ensure that you don’t overspend and end up with an unaffordable mortgage.

Once you’ve got a home-buying budget locked in, researching types of mortgage loans is a great next step. And finally, shopping around at different lenders for the best mortgage terms available can also help you save money in the long run.

Government-insured loans can help borrowers qualify with low-interest rates and down payments — as little as 3.5% for FHA loans and even 0% for USDA loans in approved rural areas.

But conventional loans, or those offered from private lenders, can also offer competitive terms and incentives.

Home Loans with SoFi

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


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.


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

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


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


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.

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

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Finding Down Payment Assistance Programs

Buying a home is exciting, but coughing up the down payment can be a downer. That’s where down payment assistance enters the picture. Government and nonprofit programs help unlock the door to homeownership for qualified buyers.

Of those who financed their home purchase, the average down payment was 7% for first-time buyers and 17% for repeat buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

It makes sense to put down as much as you can comfortably afford on a down payment. The more you put down, the less you’ll be borrowing, which translates to lower monthly payments and less interest paid over the life of the loan.

Down Payment Defined

Depending on their financial situation, homebuyers may qualify for down payment assistance from the government or a private entity.

Down payment assistance programs come in several forms. Some offer homebuyers loans and grants that can be applied directly to down payments and, in some cases, help with closing costs, too.

The down payment — which covers the upfront “out of pocket” cost of getting a mortgage — is usually made at the mortgage closing and can be paid with a check, cashier’s check, or electronic payment.

The down payment covers a reasonable percentage of the total home purchase price, with the mortgage covering the remainder. Lenders typically won’t approve a mortgage loan unless the borrower pays upfront cash — anywhere from 3.5% to 20% in most cases — against the total price of the property.


💡 Quick Tip: Thinking of using a mortgage broker? That person will try to help you save money by finding the best loan offers you are eligible for. But if you deal directly with an online mortgage lender, you won’t have to pay a mortgage broker’s commission, which is usually based on the mortgage amount.

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


Homebuyer Assistance Programs and Qualifications

If a first-time homebuyer can’t afford a down payment, that opens the possibility of financial assistance.

The programs that tend to provide the most financial assistance to homebuyers — state and federal governments and local, regional, and national nonprofits — will likely need an applicant to clear hurdles in order to qualify for down payment help.

These criteria usually lead that list:

•   The three-year rule. The buyer must not have owned a home in the past three years. In most scenarios, government agencies and private charities deem anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the previous three years, even a repeat buyer, a “first-time home buyer.”

•   Must be for a primary home. Homebuyers should be clear if the money is going to the purchase of a primary residence. If the home is an investment property designed to draw rent, financial assistance providers usually won’t issue a green light on funding.

•   Income limits. First-time homebuyers may have to meet income limits. The buyer may also have to keep the home price below a specified limit.

•   Funding caveats. Depending on the funder, the first-time homebuyer may have to take a homebuyer education course and may be asked to contribute some money to the down payment.

New homebuyers looking for financial help — and who qualify for that help — can get financial aid from a variety of sources, both public and private.

The help can be substantial.

According to a report from the Urban Institute, up to 51% of potential homebuyers residing in the report’s U.S. metropolitan areas studied would qualify for some form of home down payment assistance. Upon applying, those homebuyers would be in line to receive between $2,000 and $39,000.

That’s one reason actively looking for down payment assistance may be so important. When that search begins, the following funding sources may be a good place for homebuyers to start.

💡 Recommended: First Time Homebuyer Guide for 2023

HUD, the Gatekeeper

A good source for state and nonprofit home down payment assistance is the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.

HUD is a federal gatekeeper, steering homebuyers to various state and nonprofit programs and offering home buying and down payment advice from HUD home assistance counselors.

Each state may have different rules and requirements, so it’s a good idea to talk to either the state agency directly or to a qualified advisor through the HUD housing counselor portal.

Federal, State, and Local Government Grants

Government grants might be the optimal form of down payment assistance, as it’s free money. Grants usually come from federal, state, or local governments and nonprofit groups.

Each government agency or charitable group has its own rules for down payment assistance grants, but in general, you have to pass an eligibility test (the common criteria are listed above) to qualify.

Again, HUD does not offer direct grants to individuals but works through local governments and nonprofit organizations to make financial assistance and counseling available.

💡 Quick Tip: Not to be confused with prequalification, preapproval involves a longer application, documentation, and hard credit pulls. Ideally, you want to keep your applications for preapproval to within the same 14- to 45-day period, since many hard credit pulls outside the given time period can adversely affect your credit score, which in turn affects the mortgage terms you’ll be offered.

Federal Government Loans

While technically not deemed direct down payment assistance, U.S. government-insured housing loans consist of low-interest loans to new homebuyers that enable them to make lower down payments, thus making it easier to afford both a home loan and a down payment.

Federal home loans usually come from three agencies:

The Federal Housing Administration. The FHA provides loans from private lenders to qualified homebuyers. The primary qualifier is a FICO® credit score of 580 or above. A borrower with a credit score of 500 to 579 who brings a 10% down payment to the table may also qualify for an FHA loan.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA offers direct home-buying assistance to rural homebuyers. Loans enable qualified homebuyers to purchase a home with no down payment. The home must be in a qualified rural area, and borrowers’ adjusted annual income cannot exceed 115% of the median income in the area, among other criteria.

There is no minimum credit requirement for a USDA loan, but applicants with a credit score below 640 are subject to more stringent guidelines to qualify.

Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA provides home purchasing assistance to current members of the armed forces, military veterans, and eligible spouses of deceased U.S. military members. Similar to a USDA home loan, a VA loan requires no down payment.

Applicants must meet the VA’s — and the lender’s — standards for credit and income, and be purchasing a primary home.

Forgivable Loans

These loans come from lenders, usually in two forms: deferred payments and forgivable loans.

Forgivable loans are basically second mortgages that borrowers don’t have to repay if they remain in the primary home for a specific time period (for example, 10 years).

Forgivable loans usually have a 0% interest rate, making it easier to afford a home down payment.

State Down Payment Assistance

Assistance programs vary by state. Still, some commonalities exist — especially the urgency to help economically struggling homebuyers afford a home down payment.

These states are examples of that:

Arizona. By and large, homebuyers in most Arizona counties can apply for home down payment assistance through the state’s Department of Housing Home Plus Program.

Homebuyers will need a FICO® credit score of 640 or higher and an annual income of $126,351 or less. Additionally, the purchase price of the home can’t be higher than $371,936.

Florida. The Sunshine State offers home down payment assistance programs via Florida Housing Finance Corp.

•   HFA Preferred and HFA Advantage PLUS Second Mortgage. These down payment and closing cost programs offer 3%, 4%, or 5% of the total loan amount in a forgivable five-year second mortgage.

•   Florida Assist. Eligible homebuyers receive up to $10,000 through an interest-free second mortgage. The money doesn’t have to be paid back unless the homeowner sells or refinances the property.

Recommended: Guide to Buying, Selling, and Updating Your Home

The Takeaway

Government and nonprofit funding are the primary vehicles for down payment assistance, but homebuyers may also seek down payment help from family and friends, retirement and investment funds, or even microlenders.

However a buyer approaches home down payment assistance, the keys are planning, research on available programs, and a disciplined approach to budgeting.

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


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.


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

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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.

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

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