Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market With a Low Down Payment

Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market With a Low Down Payment

It has been difficult lately to buy a home with a small down payment, considering that the average home price rose by 17% in 2021, and cash offers and bidding wars remain a thing. But buying a house with a low down payment is possible.

Lenders are willing to approve low-down-payment mortgages if you qualify and are comfortable with paying mortgage insurance.

Here’s some help navigating the current real estate market if you have a small down payment.

What Is Considered a Low Down Payment?

According to the National Association of Realtors®, 45% of consumers think they need a down payment of 16% to 20% or more to buy a house. In actuality, the average down payment on a house in 2021 was 17%. If you look at just first-time homebuyers in that survey, the average down payment was closer to 7%.

Given the wide ranges above, what’s actually considered a low-down payment? Popular mortgage programs out there may require as little as 3% down, and a couple of more specific home loan programs allow 0% down.

Just keep in mind that anything under a 20% down payment will likely entail some form of mortgage insurance, an ongoing fee charged by most lenders.

Recommended: Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) versus Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP)

Challenges of Buying in a Seller’s Market When You Have a Small Down Payment

There’s truth to the saying “cash is king,” and that continues to be evident in today’s seller’s market, where real estate investors who pay all cash frequently outbid prospective first-time homebuyers.

Be ready for these potential challenges if you intend to buy a home with a small down payment.

Longer Closing Time

Closing on a home with a mortgage-contingent offer to buy takes longer than closing with a cash offer. There’s often more paperwork, and underwriters may take longer to ensure that your financials are in order before green-lighting your mortgage.

Lenders May Disagree With Mortgage Minimums

Just because a mortgage loan program allows for a 3% minimum down payment doesn’t mean the lender will accept it. Lenders have wide latitude to dictate their own terms, and it’s fairly common for them to set their own minimum down payment requirement somewhere above what the stated minimum for the program is.

Home Sellers May Be Nervous About Your Ability to Close

While it’s true that all funds from your down payment and mortgage transfer to the seller at closing, many sellers still buy into the old “bird in hand” adage when it comes to accepting offers. A higher down payment signals a buyer’s financial capacity and is, therefore, more attractive in the eyes of the homeowner.

If sellers accept a bid with a low down payment, they may run an increased risk of the buyer being rejected at the last minute by their mortgage lender.

In a deal involving a mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), if the home is appraised for less than the agreed-upon price, the sellers must match the appraised price or the deal will fall through.

And FHA guidelines require home appraisers to look for certain defects. If any are found, the sellers may have to repair them before the sale.

Tips for Buying With a Small Down Payment

If you’re trying to score a home with a small down payment, there are some ways you can approach it to increase your odds of buying the home of your dreams.

One way is to select a government-backed mortgage program — FHA, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture or Veterans Affairs — that allows for a low down payment. The government guarantee makes them more palatable for mortgage lenders and easier for a homebuyer to afford.

Some specialized mortgage programs allow qualified buyers to put as little as 0% down; others, from 3% to 5% down. Some of the most popular low-down-payment mortgage programs are:

•   VA loans (0% down)

•   USDA loans (0% down)

•   FHA loans (3.5% down)

•   Fannie Mae HomeReady (3% down)

•   Conventional 97 loan (3% down)

•   Conventional mortgage (5% down)

Another option is to apply for down payment assistance. Many governments and nonprofits offer down payment assistance programs for first-time homebuyers — those who have not owned a principal residence in the past three years — in the form of loans or grants. Some lenders can even help you qualify for these programs to help offset the upfront costs of homebuying.

Finally, you can also ask a family member, or sometimes a domestic partner, close friend, or employer, to help with the down payment by contributing gift money. The money can’t come with any strings attached, and a gift letter will be key. This is a popular option for parents and in-laws who want to help their children buy a first home.

Recommended: Home Affordability Calculator

Pros and Cons of Using a Low Down Payment

There are both benefits and disadvantages to submitting a small down payment on a home. Here are a couple of points to think about.

Pros of Using a Low Down Payment

•   Gets you in a home faster than waiting to save for a bigger down payment.

•   Start building equity earlier and avoid spending money on rent.

•   Preserve cash for other investments, opportunities, and emergencies.

•   Take advantage of current low mortgage rates, theoretically saving you money over the long run.

Cons of Using a Low Down Payment

•   You’ll have to pay private mortgage insurance, or a mortgage insurance premium, which could add 0.5% to 1.5% of the loan amount to your annual housing costs.

•   Your monthly mortgage payment will likely be larger, as the amount you borrow will increase the less you put down.

•   Your lender may penalize you with a higher mortgage rate to offset the higher risk of a lower down payment.

•   You run a greater risk of your home loan being underwater, should home values drop.

Tips for Managing a Seller’s Market

So what’s a prospective homebuyer to do in a seller’s market when the cards are stacked against them?

One way to get a leg up on the competition is to get the ball rolling on financing early and make sure you have everything in place by the time you even submit an offer on a home.

Making sure you’re pre-qualified, when lenders have an idea of your income and assets before you start home shopping, and then pre-approved, when you receive a letter from a lender stating that you qualify for a certain loan amount and rate, can ensure that you’ll be ready to roll the second you find the right home.

Once you’ve submitted an offer on a house, make sure you’re Johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to all documents and information requested by your chosen lender.

Another thing you can do is to find an experienced real estate agent who’s been through the homebuying process countless times.

No matter the temperature of the market, tips for how to shop for a mortgage can come in handy.

Recommended: How to Buy a House in 7 Steps

The Takeaway

Buying a home with a small down payment, even in a seller’s market, is possible. With preparation and the right mortgage lender, you may be able to land a starter home or your dream home with a low down payment.

SoFi allows a down payment of as little as 3% for qualified first-time homebuyers and 5% for other borrowers for its line of low-fixed-rate mortgages.

Before you apply for a mortgage loan, start with a no-obligation home loan rate quote from SoFi.

It takes just minutes to get your rate.


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

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

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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What Is a Good Mortgage Rate?

Because your interest rate is the cost you pay to borrow money, it makes sense that you’ll want to strive to get the lowest rate possible. Even a slight difference can significantly affect the amount you’ll pay over the life of a loan.

Most people probably equate a “good” rate with the lowest average current rate. Certainly not everyone will qualify for the lowest rates they see out there, and the mortgage type—conventional, government insured, adjustable, fixed—and term will affect the rate, as will the state of the economy.

By comparison shopping and understanding the factors that affect rates, you can better navigate the mortgage market and find the best loan for your particular situation.

What Causes Rates to Fluctuate?

Interest rates are always changing. A variety of factors determine mortgage rate changes. Some you have control over, and others you do not.

One of the critical factors outside your control is what’s happening in the economy. Major economic events have a significant effect on interest rate fluctuations.

Inflation, which limits consumers’ purchasing power, also plays a role.

And the central bank of the United States, the Federal Reserve, may influence mortgage rate changes.

Interest Rates in Two Crises

Here’s a look at interest rate fluctuations in two turbulent eras.

In the early 2000s, lenders began offering risky mortgage options, known as subprime mortgages, to borrowers with poor credit.

An overheated housing market combined with subprime loan programs helped lead to the Great Recession, from December 2007 to June 2009, despite the Federal Reserve having drastically cut interest rates from 5.25% in September 2007 to 2% in April 2008.

For the next decade, the Fed kept interest rates very low to encourage borrowing and reinvigorate the economy. In 2018, it started to steadily increase short-term rates. Then came three rate cuts in 2019.

In March 2020, citing disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the Fed cut the federal funds rate—the benchmark for most interest rates—to nearly zero.

But two years later, with a strong economy and high inflation, the Fed started to increase the federal funds rate above near-zero levels.

The Fed’s interest rate decisions usually drive shorter-term products like home equity lines of credit and credit cards. However, mortgage rates and the federal funds rate often move in the same direction. For example, as the Fed started to signal tighter monetary policy in late 2021, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose from a low of about 3% in December to over 5% in April 2022.

How Lenders Determine Your Mortgage Rate

In addition to economic and political factors and the influence of the Fed, your unique financial situation will help determine the mortgage rate you qualify for.

Here are a few key factors lenders will consider when determining your rate.

Credit Score

Most lenders review your credit history to determine if you’re eligible for a mortgage.

With this in mind, you want to make sure you check your score regularly and that you’re doing everything you can to keep your score as high as possible, like paying your bills on time and keeping your credit balances low.

Credit report agencies will assign you a credit score by evaluating these factors. The most common model is the FICO® credit score, which ranges from 300 to 850.

Usually, if you have a credit score of 800 or higher, it’s considered exceptional, whereas a credit score between 740 and 799 is considered very good.

A credit score of 669 or lower ranges from fair to very poor. A low credit score demonstrates that a borrower is high risk. Lenders may deny the application.

It’s important to note that credit score requirements may depend on the loan you apply for.

Income and Assets

Your income is another important factor when lenders determine if you’re eligible for a mortgage. Lenders prefer borrowers with a steady income. To determine if you qualify, lenders evaluate your income and other assets, such as investments.

Also, your debt-to-income ratio is essential to lenders. Your DTI indicates what percentage of your monthly income is used for debt payments. This number gives lenders an idea of how well you’re doing financially.

If your ratio is high, it may show that you’re not in a position to take on more debt. A lender may give you a higher interest rate or deny your mortgage application altogether.

Down Payment Amount

Sometimes your down payment amount can lower your interest rate or determine what loans you’re eligible for. Lenders may see you as less of a risk since you put more money down.

A good standard is to save a 20% down payment. A 20% down payment may help you get the most favorable interest rates.

However, if you’re applying for a government-backed loan, you may not need as much. For example, a Veterans Affairs mortgage requires nothing down, and a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan only requires 3.5% down.

And some conventional home loans do not require 20% down.

Loan Term and Type

The loan term you select, such as 15 or 30 years, can also make a difference in the interest rate you receive. In general, a shorter-term loan will have a lower interest rate than a longer-term loan.

Then there are several loan categories, including conventional, FHA, USDA, and VA loans. Each loan product may have very different rates.

If you choose a fixed-rate mortgage, your interest rate will remain the same for the life of the loan. This means that even if interest rates fluctuate, your rate will stay constant.

If you choose an adjustable-rate mortgage, your interest rate will vary after an initial fixed rate for a period of time, such as five to seven years.

Therefore, before you take out any loan, it’s important to compare all of your options to make sure you identify the best rate available.

Location

The location of your property can also play a role in the interest rate you receive. Some real estate markets are more costly than others.

Look at APR, Not Just Rate

Usually, lenders express the interest rate as an annual percentage. An APR gives borrowers a more comprehensive measure of the cost to borrow money than the interest rate alone does.

The APR includes the interest rate, any points, mortgage broker fees, and other charges you pay to borrow money. So when you’re comparing options, you’ll want to review each lender’s APR to indicate the true cost of borrowing.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a government agency, offers a tool to look at state-by-state rates a borrower with a particular credit score might expect to receive.

To get an idea of what your mortgage payments may be, you can use a mortgage calculator.

Before Taking the Plunge …

With the historically low mortgage rates of late, it’s no wonder many buyers want to take advantage of this opportunity. But before you do, assess your financial situation, which will affect your rate as well.

Before taking the plunge, understand your budget and home affordability.

Some suggestions include:

•  Pay off higher-interest debt. First, if you have debt, you’re likely paying a lot of money in interest. This money could be going toward other things like a mortgage payment once you pay off your debt. Second, carrying a large amount of debt means you lower your chances of approval for a home loan.
•  Save more for a large down payment. Buyers who put down less than 20% may end up paying private mortgage insurance, which typically costs between 0.5% and 1.5% of the loan amount annually.
•  Review your credit history and check for errors. The government offers a free annual credit report , which will help you review your credit history. However, it doesn’t show your credit score. If you spot any errors, be sure to address them to enhance your ability to get a home loan.

Making sure your finances are in order before you apply for a mortgage will likely help you obtain a better interest rate and loan terms.

The Takeaway

What is a good interest rate on a mortgage? A tiny one, you might answer. But your financial health, the health of the economy, the loan type and term, and other factors will determine the actual rates you’re offered.

When shopping the options when rates are low, give a SoFi mortgage or refinance a look. There are no hidden fees, and finding your rate takes just two minutes.

And SoFi now offers loans on investment properties.

Interested in a home loan? Apply for one with SoFi today!



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

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

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products 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.
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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Can You Make Mortgage Payments With a Credit Card?

Can You Make Mortgage Payments With a Credit Card?

Whether you want to rack up points on a rewards credit card or give yourself some breathing room during financial hardship, you can pay your mortgage with a credit card. You’ll have to find a workaround to do so though, because mortgage companies won’t let you make payments directly with them using a credit card. Plus, it’s important to understand other factors involved when paying your mortgage with a credit card, such as possible fees and other financial consequences.

Read on to learn how to pay your mortgage with a credit card and what to consider before you do.

How to Pay Your Mortgage With a Credit Card

There are several ways you can pay your mortgage with a credit card, including using a money order, utilizing third-party services, and getting a cash advance.

Use a Third-Party Service

Some third-party services facilitate mortgage payments using your credit card and send a payment to your lender on your behalf. Companies like Plastiq allow you to use Mastercard and Discover/Diners Club/JCB credit cards to make mortgage payments through their platform. Many third-party services don’t allow mortgage payments using popular issuers like Visa and American Express.

For the privilege, you’ll most likely need to pay a convenience fee — Plastiq charges 2.85% — each time you make a mortgage payment using your credit card. You may also have the option to make recurring payments or to make your payments manually.

Buy a Money Order

Depending on your location and the retailer, you may be able to purchase a money order with your credit card. Then, you’ll simply take the money order and deposit it at your bank and transfer the amount to your mortgage lender.

Keep in mind that many retailers may not accept credit cards as a form of payment for money orders — it’s best to check ahead of time if you plan to do so. Even if you can, money orders tend to have a limit of $1,000. That means if you want to go this route, it may take you a few tries before you have enough for your mortgage payment.

Additionally, you may incur a fee for each money order you buy. Also keep in mind that some credit card issuers treat money order purchases as cash advances, which can result in a fee and interest charges at a rate that’s usually higher than the purchase APR on a credit card.

Transfer a Balance to Your Bank Account

You could attempt to conduct a balance transfer, with the funds going into your bank account — some credit card issuers may allow this type of transaction. Most commonly, credit card issuers provide cardholders with balance transfer checks to facilitate these types of transactions. There may be balance transfer fees involved, and interest may accrue depending on your credit card terms.

Get a Cash Advance

As another method to pay your mortgage with a credit card, you can get a cash advance at the ATM with your credit card. You’d then deposit the cash into your bank account and use the funds to make your mortgage payments. You could also consider using the funds to purchase a cashier’s check and mail it to your lender.

Going this route most likely means you’ll have to pay a cash advance fee, and interest on cash advances will accrue on your credit card with no grace period. Credit limits may be lower for cash advances as well.

Recommended: Charge Card Advantages and Disadvantages

Do All Mortgage Lenders Accept Credit Card Payments?

No, most mortgage lenders don’t accept credit card payments directly from the borrower.

For one, paying debt with a credit card isn’t a financially responsible move — mortgage companies likely don’t want the added risk that could come with that. In fact, some credit card issuers like Visa specifically prohibit credit card payments for debt repayment.

Factors to Consider When Paying a Mortgage With a Credit Card

Before paying your mortgage with a credit card, consider the following.

Fees vs Rewards

Similarly to those considering paying taxes with a credit card, many people tend to pay their mortgage with a credit card because they want to earn rewards. Since third-party services will charge you fees — or you’ll pay the fees charged directly by your credit card issuer for balance transfers — you’ll want to make sure the value of the rewards outweighs what you’re paying in fees.

Sure, the fees may seem small, but they can quickly add up over time. Also, in many cases, rewards cards may only count certain transactions as eligible for rewards. Many issuers don’t consider balance transfers as qualifying transactions.

The Cost of Interest

If you don’t pay off your balance each month, interest will start to accrue on your credit card — and credit card interest rates are typically much higher than your mortgage interest rate even if you have a good APR for a credit card.

Additionally, if you go the cash advance route, these transactions may have higher credit card interest rates, and there’s no interest-free grace period.

Effect on Your Credit Score

If your credit card balance starts to get too overwhelming and you miss making the credit card minimum payment, it could negatively impact your score.

Even if you make on-time payments, having a high balance could affect your credit utilization, which is the ratio between your balance and your available credit. The higher your credit utilization, the more it could negatively impact your score.

Challenges You May Face When Paying a Mortgage With a Credit Card

One challenge with using a credit card for mortgage payments is the time it takes to do so. Any of the above mentioned methods will take you some time and effort to complete successfully.

There are also the fees to consider — determining whether paying the extra charges is worth it takes some careful calculations.

Should You Pay Your Mortgage With a Credit Card?

Making mortgage payments with a credit card may be a good idea if you’re looking for a way to earn more rewards or get some financial breathing room. However, given the downsides, such as high fees and the impact it may have on your credit, you may be better off pursuing other options first.

Alternatives to Using a Credit Card for Your Mortgage

Here are several options you can choose from instead of paying your mortgage with a credit card:

•   Consider mortgage forbearance: If you’re struggling with your payments and experiencing a significant hardship, you can contact your lender to see if you’re able to temporarily stop paying or have your monthly payments reduced until you can get back on your feet.

•   Seek help with a housing counselor: You can find a reputable housing counselor that’s approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by contacting the Homeowners HOPE Hotline or using the housing counselor tool on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website. They could suggest options to help you manage your mortgage payments. You may have to pay a small fee for the service, but it could be more affordable than using a credit card to pay your mortgage.

The Takeaway

Paying for your mortgage with a credit card may be possible as long as you understand what you’re getting into and are strategic about how to do so. Before you move forward with paying your mortgage with your credit card, make sure you weigh the fees involved vs. the rewards you could earn as well as any interest you could accrue and potential impacts to your credit.

If you’re looking to apply for a credit card that could help you earn rewards, you might apply for the SoFi Credit Card. For a limited time, new credit card holders† who also sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings with direct deposit can start earning 3% cash back rewards on all eligible credit card purchases for 365 days*. Offer ends 6/30/22.

Take advantage of this offer by applying for a SoFi credit card today.

FAQ

Can you use a credit card to pay a mortgage?

You can’t pay your mortgage directly using a credit card, but you can do so through indirect methods. Some of these include going through a third-party service, making a balance transfer, purchasing a money order using your credit card, or getting a cash advance. Each of these methods will come with its own set of fees.

Can paying a mortgage with a credit card impact credit score?

If you end up with a high balance on your credit card as a result of your mortgage payment, it could negatively impact your score if you have a high credit utilization. Or, if you end up missing or being late on a payment (perhaps you’re struggling to make the monthly payments), then your score could also be impacted.

Are there fees for paying a mortgage with a credit card?

There are fees depending on how you use your credit card to pay for your mortgage. For instance, you may incur balance transfer, cash advance, or third-party fees.


†SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS PROSPECTIVELY BASED ON MARKET CONDITIONS AND BORROWER ELIGIBILITY. Your eligibility for a SoFi Credit Card Account or a subsequently offered product or service is subject to the final determination by The Bank of Missouri (“TBOM”) (“Issuer”), as issuer, pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated. Please allow up to 30 days from the date of submission to process your application. The card offer referenced in this communication is only available to individuals who are at least 18 years of age (or of legal age in your state of residence), and who reside in the United States.

*You will need to maintain a qualifying Direct Deposit every month with SoFi Checking and Savings in order to continue to receive this promotional cash back rate. Qualifying Direct Deposits are defined as deposits from enrolled member’s employer, payroll, or benefits provider via ACH deposit. Deposits that are not from an employer (such as check deposits; P2P transfers such as from PayPal or Venmo, etc.; merchant transactions such as from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.; and bank ACH transfers not from employers) do not qualify for this promotion. A maximum of 36,000 rewards points can be earned from this limited-time offer. After the promotional period ends or once you have earned the maximum points offered by this promotion, your cash back earning rate will revert back to 2%. 36,000 rewards points are worth $360 when redeemed into SoFi Checking and Savings, SoFi Money, SoFi Invest, Crypto, SoFi Personal Loan, SoFi Private Student Loan or Student Loan Refinance and are worth $180 when redeemed as a SoFi Credit Card statement credit.

Promotion Period: 4/18/2022-6/30/2022

Eligible Participants: All new members who apply and get approved for the SoFi Credit Card, open a SoFi Checking and Savings account, and set up Direct Deposit transactions (“Direct Deposit”) into their SoFi Checking and Savings account during the promotion period are eligible. All existing SoFi Credit Card members who set up Direct Deposit into a SoFi Checking & Savings account during the promotion period are eligible. All existing SoFi members who have already enrolled in Direct Deposit into a SoFi Checking & Savings account prior to the promotion period, and who apply and get approved for a SoFi Credit Card during the promotion period are eligible. Existing SoFi members who already have the SoFi Credit Card and previously set up Direct Deposit through SoFi Money or SoFi Checking & Savings are not eligible for this promotion.

1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
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.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s
website
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Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
The SoFi Credit Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri (TBOM) (“Issuer”) pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

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Paying Off a Mortgage in 5 Years: What You Need to Know

Paying Off a Mortgage in 5 Years: What You Need to Know

Paying off your mortgage ahead of time might sound like an incredibly savvy thing to do — and in some cases, it is. But it’s not the right money move for everyone.

Pay off a mortgage in five years? It’s an aggressive strategy that may or may not be the smartest choice.

Benefits and Risks of Paying Off a Mortgage Early

Achieving homeownership is, well, an achievement. And since you’re here reading an article about paying a mortgage off early, you’re clearly an overachiever.

Paying off any kind of debt early usually seems advisable. But for most of us, our home is the single largest purchase we’ll ever make — and paying off a six-figure loan in only a few years could wreak havoc on the rest of your finances.

In addition, some mortgages come with a prepayment penalty, which means you could be on the line for additional fees that might eclipse whatever you’d stand to save in interest payments over time. (Mortgages tend to have lower interest rates than many other common types of debt anyway.)

That said, if you have the cash, paying off your home early can lead to substantial savings, not to mention helping you build home equity as quickly as possible.

Let’s take a closer look at the risks and benefits of paying off a mortgage early.

Benefits of Paying Off a Mortgage Early

The main benefit of paying off a mortgage early is getting out of debt. Even minimal interest is an expense it can be nice to avoid.

Additionally, paying off your home early means you’ll have 100% equity in your home, meaning you own its whole value, which can be a major boon to your net worth.

Risks of Paying Off a Mortgage Early

Paying off a mortgage early may come with risks, and not just prepayment penalties (which we’ll touch on again in a moment). In many instances, it can be a plain old bad financial move.

Depending on what your cash flow situation looks like, and what the interest rate on your mortgage is, you might stand to out-earn early payoff savings if you funneled the extra cash to your investment or retirement accounts instead. (You can use this handy dandy mortgage calculator to see how much interest you stand to spend over the lifetime of your home loan — and then compare that to how much you might earn if you invested that money instead.)

Additionally, if you have other forms of high-interest debt, like revolving credit card balances, it’s almost always a better idea to focus your financial efforts on those pay-down projects instead.

To recap:

Benefits of Paying Off a Mortgage Early

Risks of Paying Off a Mortgage Early

Saving money on interest over time Possible repayment penalty
Building home equity quickly Lost opportunity for investment growth, which could outweigh interest savings
No longer having to make a mortgage payment every month Less money for other important goals, such as paying down credit card debt

Watching Out for Prepayment Fees

One of the biggest risks of paying off a mortgage before its full term is up is the potential to run into prepayment penalties. Some mortgage lenders charge large fees to make up for the interest they’ll be missing out on.

Fortunately, avoiding prepayment penalties on home loans written after 2014 is easier: Legislation was passed to restrict lenders’ ability to charge those fees. But if your mortgage was written in 2013 or earlier — and even if not — it’s a good idea to read the fine print before you hit “submit” on your lump-sum payment, and ideally before you accept the contract at all.

Steps to Paying Off a Mortgage Early

You’ve assessed the risks and benefits and decided that paying off the mortgage early is the right move for you. Nice!

Now let’s take a look at how to get it done.

Pregame: Considering Repayment Goals When House Shopping

This option won’t work if you’ve already found and moved into a home, but if you’re still in the home-shopping portion of the journey, looking at inexpensive homes can be a great first step toward paying off your mortgage fast.

After all, if the home has a lower price tag, it’ll be easier to reach that goal in a shorter amount of time. Ideally, you want its value to appreciate, so you’ll still want to shop around before just choosing the lowest-priced house on the block.

Maybe you signed your home contract years ago and are just now considering getting serious about early mortgage repayment. Take heart! There are some easy steps to follow to vanish your mortgage in five years or so.

1. Setting a Target Date

The first step: figuring out exactly when you want the mortgage paid off. Choosing your target date will make it easier to figure out how much additional money you need to send to your lender each month.

Five years is a pretty tight timeline for this kind of debt repayment process, but it could be doable depending on your earnings and commitment.

2. Making a Higher Down Payment

The higher your down payment, the less loan balance you have to pay down, so if you can manage it, offer as much as you can right at the start. There are many assistance programs for down payments that might boost your offer and put you on track for paying down your mortgage early.

Also, realize that first-time homebuyers — who can be anyone who has not owned a principal residence in the past three years, and some others — often have access to down payment assistance.

3. Choosing a Shorter Home Loan Term

Obviously, if you want to pay your mortgage off in a shorter amount of time, you can consider choosing a shorter home loan term; most conventional mortgages are paid off over 30 years, though it’s possible to find loans with 15- or even 10-year terms.

However, your interest rate might be higher on those loans in order to make the deal worthwhile to the lender, so for many borrowers, choosing a longer home loan term and making aggressive additional payments is a better option.

4. Making Larger or More Frequent Payments

One of the most achievable ways for most borrowers to pay off a home loan early is to pay more than the monthly minimum, either by adding extra toward the principal in the monthly payment or by paying more than once per month.

Unless you’re due for a six-figure windfall, chipping away at the debt this way might be the smartest option.

But how does one come up with the additional money to funnel toward that goal?

5. Spending Less on Other Things

As with most debt repayment strategies, chances are you’ll need to find other budgetary items to cut back on in order to set aside more money to put toward the mortgage. This could be as small as ditching the daily latte or as serious as choosing to give up a car.

6. Increasing Income

Another option, if there’s just nothing left to cut? Finding ways to increase your income, perhaps by starting a side hustle or asking for that long-overdue raise.

The Takeaway

Pay off a mortgage in five years? While paying off your home loan early could help you save money on interest, sometimes the money is better spent on other financial goals and projects.

Whether a cash-out refinance sounds appealing or you’ll soon be on the hunt for a new mortgage, see what SoFi offers. SoFi’s fixed-rate loans can be used for refinancing or a new purchase.

What about the home loan rates you can find with SoFi? They’re competitive, and locking in soon could be beneficial.

Finding your rate takes just minutes, and there is no obligation.


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

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

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

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What Homebuyers Should Know About Housing Discrimination

Housing Discrimination Facts for First-Time Homebuyers

Despite decades of anti-discrimination legislation and other efforts to fight redlining, create fair lending, and ban racial and other bias, housing discrimination can still exist in many markets throughout the country, especially for first-time homebuyers.

It can be subtle or overt. Either way, housing discrimination holds people of color, immigrants, families with children, and LGBTQ people back by denying them access to safe neighborhoods, good schools, and the generational wealth that comes with homeownership.

This guide offers more information on housing discrimination and what to do if it happens to you.

What Is Housing Discrimination?

Federal housing discrimination is defined as discrimination concerned with renting or buying a property based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation), familial status, or disability.

In other words, if anyone in the housing process treats a person buying, renting, or selling housing differently because of any of these reasons, they are breaking the law.

Whether first-time homebuyers are buying a starter home or upsizing, they may want to fine-tune their anti-bias antennas and know the laws.

Housing Discrimination Examples

Housing discrimination comes in many forms. It could be a landlord who charges higher fees to renters with children, a real estate agent who refuses to show immigrants homes in certain neighborhoods, or a buyer offering less because of the seller’s race.

What’s more, housing discrimination can be subtle, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), making it difficult to prove and punish. Here are examples of subtle housing discrimination described on HUD’s website:

An African American man speaks on the phone to a landlord who seems eager to rent to him. But when the man meets with the landlord to fill out the application, the landlord’s attitude is different. A few days later, the potential renter receives a letter saying his application was denied because of a bad reference from his current landlord. But his current landlord says he was never contacted.

An Asian man meets with a real estate broker because he is interested in purchasing a house for his family in a specific neighborhood. When he mentions the neighborhood, the broker tells the Asian man that she has wonderful listings in a neighborhood where there are more people like him. When he looks at houses in the neighborhood she recommends, he notices that the majority of residents are Asian. The man files a complaint. Steering buyers to certain neighborhoods because of race is illegal.

Sexual harassment, failure to comply with accessibility requirements, and rules against renting or selling to children are also discriminatory.

Equal Opportunity Housing Laws to Know

Housing discrimination by sellers, lenders, and landlords based on race, color, religion, or nationality has been illegal since Congress passed the Fair Housing Act in 1968.

The act was expanded in 1974 to include gender and in 1988 to include families with children and people with disabilities. Additional laws concerning discrimination in mortgage lending are included in the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, passed in 1974.

Some situations are exempt from the Fair Housing Act. These include some types of senior housing and housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs. Single-family rental homes are also exempt as long as the landlord does not own more than three homes and does not advertise or broker the rentals. Owner-occupied properties with four or fewer rental units are not governed by the Fair Housing Act.

States and local jurisdictions may have additional laws regarding housing discrimination. For instance, many states and cities ban discrimination based on age, criminal history, immigration status, marital status, or sexual orientation.

In 2020 the Trump administration made several changes to HUD regulations, making it more complicated for people to prove they are victims of housing discrimination. Specifically, victims had to go to great lengths to show that the discrimination was intentional. In early 2021, President Joe Biden signed executive orders aimed at reversing those changes.

What to Do About Potential Discrimination

First, become familiar with the federal, state, and local laws that may apply. Knowing the laws and how they work is vital to filing an effective complaint and getting a successful outcome.

If you think you are a victim of housing or mortgage lending discrimination, you can file a federal complaint with the HUD Office of Fair Housing Equal Opportunity (FHEO). This office investigates claims concerning any of the protected classes specified in the Fair Housing Act. You can file a complaint online or mail the complaint form to your regional HUD office or call the Housing Discrimination Hotline at 800-669-9777. The complaint form is available in nine languages, including English and Spanish, and any retaliation for filing a complaint is illegal.

The FHEO is supposed to investigate complaints within 100 days. Sometimes complaints prompt the U.S. Department of Justice to file lawsuits against people or companies that may have violated the law.

You may also want to file a complaint with your state attorney general’s civil rights bureau or your city’s civil rights or fair housing commission. This may be more effective than filing solely with the FHEO, especially in areas with extensive housing discrimination regulations. To find out where to file a complaint in your area, start with the National Fair Housing Alliance website for a list of local agencies.

In addition to the FHEO, mortgage lending discrimination complaints can be filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

How to Make Your Case Proving Housing Discrimination

Extensive documentation can help prove housing discrimination. When you are talking to brokers, sellers, landlords, or lenders, it’s a good idea to listen carefully and take notes during each conversation. HUD officials suggest looking for what they call red-flag language. This may occur when a real estate agent is trying to steer you away from or into a particular neighborhood. Phrases such as “This wouldn’t be a good fit for you” or “You’d be happier in this other neighborhood” can be red flags.

If you feel you are being “steered,” you can do an online search to learn if a broker failed to show all of the houses in the local housing market in your price range.

If you suspect lending discrimination, such as being quoted a higher rate than you expected, you can check the posted rates online at that mortgage lender and others to see how they compare. You can take screenshots or print this information.

Keep an eye out for and document surprising obstacles that come up in the home buying or renting process. Perhaps your landlord, seller, or agent has said you are qualified, but then you are unexpectedly denied, only to determine that the house or apartment is still on the market weeks later. If you haven’t been given a specific financial reason why your application or offer didn’t fly, this may be a sign of discrimination. You’ll want to document the situation with dated notes from your conversations and screenshots or copies of the ads showing the property still available after you were turned down.

Local housing advocacy and human rights groups also offer help. Organizations such as the Fair Housing Justice Center may help you conduct tests using volunteers of different races to test for disparate treatment in specific locations. These tests can also provide compelling evidence for your case.

Recommended: Home Affordability Calculator

The Takeaway

Longstanding laws and regulations are not enough to eradicate housing discrimination, but informed buyers and renters can fight back.

Expect a level playing field at SoFi, which offers fixed-rate mortgages at competitive rates. You can apply for a mortgage online and be guided through every step.

And qualified first-time homebuyers can put just 3% down.


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

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

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Photo credit: iStock/zoranm
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