exterior of condos

How to Buy an Apartment Complex

When the idea of buying a home comes up, many people imagine a sweet house with a white picket fence: the classic American dream. But in truth, purchasing a home can mean buying an apartment, especially if you are a city dweller, or it might even include buying an apartment complex, where you can both live and earn some rental income.

Apartment living can be perfect for those who love urban life, singles, small families, and empty-nesters. However, it’s not only in cities that you will find apartments: There are beach condos, suburban and rural buildings that house more than one family, and other options available. Wherever it may be located, owning a complex can be a way to enjoy the apartment lifestyle and make money. Typically, an apartment complex is defined as a residential property with five or more units.

Here, you’ll learn the full story on real estate options that may be available when you’re considering the purchase of an apartment complex.

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

Condo vs Co-Op

If you are considering becoming an owner and resident of an apartment complex, you will likely encounter the terms “condo” and “co-op.” Both a condominium and a housing cooperative involve multi-unit buildings, but there are key differences between a condo and a co-op. It can be important to understand these points upfront.


When you buy what is known as a condo, you own the unit. The exterior of the units and land are usually considered common areas, owned collectively.

If you buy into a co-op, you don’t own your apartment. You purchase shares or an interest in the entire building. So, you don’t “buy” a co-op apartment; you become a shareholder in the corporation that owns the co-op.

You’ll usually sign a contract or a lease agreement that allows you to live in one of the co-op units.


Both condos and co-ops answer to an oversight body. For condos, it’s a homeowners association. For co-ops, it’s the residents who own shares in a nonprofit corporation that owns the building.

When it comes to buying and selling, the co-op association can influence the deal. Most require a prospective buyer to be approved by the co-op board.

💡 Quick Tip: Mortgage loans are available with flexible term options and down payments as low as 3%.*


Here are some of the key differences for residents of co-ops and condos:

•   Co-ops tend to cost less per square foot and often have lower closing costs. But some lenders aren’t keen on co-ops or require higher down payments. And some co-op documents outright prohibit financing.

•   Co-op monthly fees tend to be higher than condo fees. A co-op shareholder’s fee could include payments for the building’s mortgage and property taxes, security, amenities, and utilities.

•   Condo owners pay property taxes on their unit, which may provide them with a tax deduction.

•   With a co-op, the monthly dues for maintenance include the property taxes associated with the units, technically owned by the corporation, which receives one property tax bill. Each resident’s portion of that bill is tax-deductible.

House vs Apartment

If you are pondering whether to buy an apartment complex or a house, consider some of these key lifestyle differences.

•   Unlike a co-op apartment or a condo, houses stand alone, and some folks prefer that breathing room. Hey, communal living isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

•   Along with the home, the owner owns the land that the home sits on, as well as any detached structures on their property like a garage or pool house.

•   Similar to a condo, homes may require HOA fees that cover costs relating to security, maintenance, and access to any amenities in the neighborhood.

•   A house typically will cost more than a condo or co-op apartment, but it usually appreciates faster than a condo. However, in hot housing markets, an apartment or an apartment complex could prove to be an excellent investment.

•   With a house, there’s that yard to mow. Then again, you can have your own garden. With an apartment complex, you may or may not have common outdoor space, whether a courtyard or a roof garden. If it is part of the property, as the owner, you will be responsible for its maintenance.

💡 Quick Tip: One answer to rising house prices is a jumbo loan. Apply for a jumbo loan online with SoFi, and you could finance up to $2.5 million with as little as 10% down. Get preapproved and you’ll be prepared to compete in a hot market.

Finding the Right Real Estate Agent

While buyers can search for an apartment complex on their own, professional help is often a smart move.

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned one, listing your top priorities can help an agent narrow down the options. Examples of things that could be important to you:

•   Proximity to work or school

•   Local crime rates

•   Parking, traffic, and transportation

•   Cost of living

•   Nearby amenities (gym, grocery store, shops, etc.)

When choosing a real estate agent to work with, it can be smart to speak to a few and ask them key questions to determine if they’ll be a good fit.

Think of it as a job interview and review their qualifications, learn more about their area of expertise, and find out how much it’s going to cost to work with them. Some questions worth asking are:

•   How many clients do you currently work with?

•   How many apartment units/complexes have you helped clients buy?

•   Do you have references?

•   What is your availability to show apartment buildings?

•   How quickly do you typically respond to emails and phone calls?

•   What are your fees? Do you have a network of professionals who can help with other aspects of buying and owning an apartment complex?

Recommended: Buying a Multifamily Property With No Money Down

Renting vs Buying an Apartment

Renting is not always cheaper than buying, but at the same time, any type of homeownership comes with added costs that renters don’t have to incur.

Before deciding whether to buy or rent, it’s best to ask yourself some important questions. And then you might want to check out a rent vs. buy calculator.

There are many calculators available, but they can only provide a loose idea of what may be a better deal long term, so that’s worth keeping in mind. Each calculator will have a different methodology.

Obviously, buying an apartment complex brings a different set of financial obligations and expenses to the table. Consider those vs. potential rental income carefully.

Next, take a closer look at the responsibilities that come with buying an apartment complex vs. just a single apartment.

Why Buy an Apartment Complex?

While the practicality and value of buying an apartment complex will depend on each person’s needs, goals, and financial situation, there are a few ways to tell if buying a multifamily building is a good opportunity.

•   Income. You can earn rental income as an owner of an apartment complex. If you live in one unit and rent out the others, you will have a form of passive income coming your way.

•   Wealth building. When you buy an apartment complex, you may well be building your wealth long-term as your equity in the property grows and its value potentially increases over time.

•   Tax incentives. You may benefit from mortgage interest, depreciation, and other deductions come tax time.

•   Supplemental income. You may be able to earn additional funds via providing laundry machines, parking spots, and the like.

However, you must also consider these obligations:

•   Time and energy. You will likely have to invest a significant amount of time in shopping for and purchasing an apartment complex. Not only are you considering whether there’s a unit you yourself would like to live in, but you must also think about the real estate investment you will be making.

For instance, is the building structurally in good shape? What kind of capital improvements may be required in the future? And if you do become an owner, you will either need to find and hire a management company or be on-call for tenant issues and repairs 24/7 yourself.

•   Funding. Buying one apartment can be pricey enough. Buying a multifamily building? More so. You will need to spend time getting your financing in order, and also recognize that you lose the liquidity of, say, cash in the bank or investments when you purchase real estate.

•   Ongoing expenses. You must have an operating budget and be ready to finance the maintenance issues that are bound to occur. Also, as residents move out, you will need to expend time, energy, and resources to re-rent units. And what if an apartment sits empty for a while? Can you handle that in terms of cash flow?

•   Liability. If an accident or crime were to occur at the property, you could be liable. It’s important to understand, prepare for, and protect yourself in the event of such incidents.

Steps to Buy an Apartment Complex

Soon-to-be apartment buyers will want to understand that getting their finances in order and securing a mortgage loan are some of the final steps toward the goal.

1. Do Your Research

Before you go shopping or apply for a loan, it’s important to understand the responsibilities of owning an apartment complex and to know the four different types of buildings, from Class A (best condition and amenities) to Class D (likely older and in need of repair).

You will probably want to learn more about the housing market and cost of living in areas you are considering. You want to feel comfortable that the area you are investing and living in is stable or on the upswing to protect your business interests and enhance your daily life.

2. Develop Your Budget

Purchasing an apartment complex can involve a six-figure down payment and a positive financial standing. You will also need to have worked through the cash flow implications of owning a multifamily building, including a budget for maintenance and reserves for unexpected expenses.

3. Get Preapproved for Your Loan

Finding the right financing may require a different path than getting preapproved for the purchase of a single-family home. You will need to find a lender who serves borrowers for multifamily properties. It’s likely you will need to have detailed financials prepared for this investment as well.

Don’t be surprised if you need up to 30% as a down payment, and recognize that your financial projections may count more toward your mortgage approval than your credit history.

Recommended: How to Afford a Down Payment, Step by Step

Pros and Cons of Buying an Apartment

If you are thinking of buying an apartment complex and living in one of the units, consider the upsides and downsides.

First, the pros of buying an apartment complex:

•   Income. As an owner/tenant, you should be bringing in a stream of passive income which can build your personal wealth. This can be enhanced by offering additional amenities to tenants, such as laundry facilities or onsite parking.

•   Wealth growth. You will likely build equity in your property, and the value of your building may increase over time.

•   Tax deductions. As the owner of an apartment complex, you may be able to claim deductions and depreciation on your taxes.

•   Convenience. In terms of your own residence, apartment life appeals to many who want an urban lifestyle or the ease of maintaining a smaller footprint.

On the other hand, consider these potential negatives:

•   Expense. Buying a multifamily property will likely require a hefty down payment and an ongoing investment of funds to operate and maintain the building. You may have to cover loss on income also if, say, a tenant moves out and it takes several months to re-rent the unit.

•   Time and energy. Maintaining your property, its financials, and tenant needs 24/7 is a major commitment. It’s not a simple side hustle in most cases!

•   Liability. If someone were to be injured on your property or a crime were to occur, you might be liable.

•   Lack of flexibility. As a resident of an apartment, you may lack the opportunity to customize your home as you could with a single-family house. You probably can’t add another bathroom or expand the kitchen much, for instance.

Tips on How to Buy an Apartment Complex

If you think buying an apartment complex is right for you, follow these tips to help make your ownership dreams come true:

•   Do your due diligence. Scrutinize not just the structure and its mechanicals but also its financial records. You may want to review copies of leases and tax returns and have an appraisal done.

•   Consider your financing carefully. You might get financing from the seller, a commercial bank, or a private lender. You may want to look into what are known as non-recourse loans which, if you were to default, would not allow the borrower to seize your personal property. These loans are typically costlier than recourse loans but can be a smart move for some borrowers.

•   Get the right support. You’ll likely want to be advised by a real estate attorney with experience in this realm, and you may want to interview and hire a property management company to help you handle the sometimes constant demands of owning an apartment complex.

The Takeaway

Are you ready to buy an apartment complex and possibly live in it? If so, it’s wise to be aware of the differences between a condo and co-op building, the financing and expenses involved, and how it may impact your cash flow, tax returns, and net worth. When securing financing, not all lenders will offer funding for multifamily properties, so it’s wise to shop around. If, however, you are simply shopping for an apartment in a building that someone else owns, you’ll likely have a more streamlined path (and many lenders to consider) as you pursue homeownership.

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.


Is it profitable to buy an apartment complex?

Many factors determine whether it is profitable to buy an apartment complex. You will have to consider the cost of the property and its financing, maintenance expenses, the local housing market, occupancy rates, and many other variables. As with any business venture, it may or may not be profitable.

What questions should you ask when buying an apartment building?

When buying an apartment building, it is important to understand the condition of the building and improvements that will need to be made in the future, current and past occupancy rates and rents (ask to see leases), and the tax returns of the current owner (to know what the cash flow is likely to be like). It’s also wise to personally inspect each unit and request an appraisal.

How can you make money when investing in apartments?

It is definitely possible to make money when investing in apartments, but it’s not a given. You will need to have the means to afford the purchase, manage cash flow successfully, understand the rental market in your area, and keep up with maintenance and other liabilities while turning a profit. Working with an experienced, highly recommended real estate attorney and management company may contribute to your success.

*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 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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Everything You Need to Know About Remodeling Recessed Lighting

Everything You Need to Know About Remodeling Recessed Lighting

If you’re a homeowner, you may be interested in small, accessible projects that can potentially boost the value of your property. If so, remodeling with recessed lighting can be a smart move.

Not only can recessed lighting improve the ambience of your house, it may make it more energy-efficient, which is a growing concern for many homeowners, not to mention prospective homebuyers if you plan on selling.

Here, you can learn more about this home renovation project and how recessed lighting could enhance the value of your home.

What Is a Recessed Light?

Recessed lighting is a lighting fixture that is set into a ceiling, virtually flush with the ceiling rather than hanging down from it. They’re often referred to as “can lights” or “downlights.”

Installation requirements for and the recessed lighting fixtures themselves are different for a remodel than new construction, depending on access to the area above the ceiling.

Generally speaking, it’s more common to have access to that space while a house is being constructed than for a house that’s already built. But for remodeling projects that do have that access to the ceiling, recessed lights can be installed.

There are two main parts to a recessed light — the housing and trim — with multiple options for each. The two parts can be purchased together in a kit, or they can be purchased separately.

Housing: The housing is the portion set into the ceiling and, depending on the type of fixture, can be visible or fairly hidden, and plain or decorative. It’s the part that is actually mounted to the ceiling and houses the bulb socket.

Trim: The trim is the most visible part of a recessed lighting fixture. Some types of trim are merely a ring covering up the edge of the housing, allowing more of the inner housing to be visible. Other types of the trim cover more of the housing, placing the emphasis on the level of illumination or where the light is directed.

Homeowners who want to change the look of existing recessed lighting can usually change the trim without needing to replace the housing. This is called retrofitting.

💡 Quick Tip: Some lenders can release funds as quickly as the same day your loan is approved. SoFi personal loans offer same-day funding for qualified borrowers.

What to Consider When Deciding To Add Recessed Lighting

There are a host of factors to consider when planning to add recessed lighting to an existing home. Sure, you want something that enhances the ambience of your home and helps maintain your home value.

As you move ahead and consider recessed lighting options, you’ll have a few factors to consider. These range from the function the lighting will perform to the style of light that will work best with the architecture of the home, as well as project cost and more.

Recommended: Personal Line of Credit vs. HELOC


Will the light be to generally light up the room? Or will it be to draw focus to a piece of art?

To add general lighting to a room — a living room, for instance — ambient downlights will provide even lighting throughout the room. The number and placement of lights will depend on the size and shape of the room.

Is the goal to have better lighting when performing certain tasks, such as in a kitchen? Spotlights placed in areas above where those activities are done will serve this purpose well.

For instance, bright lighting placed over the kitchen sink can help ensure you can see what you’re doing when washing dirty dishes. Or recessed lighting over a counter section where most of the food preparation is done can help you see better as you slice and dice.

Some people might have artwork or architectural detail to accent. For those purposes, recessed lighting that can be pointed in the desired direction would be optimal.

Recommended: How to Keep Inflation from Blowing Your Home Reno Budget


There are four main bulb categories: incandescent, halogen, compact fluorescent (CFL), light-emitting diode (LED), all in a variety of wattages. However, as of July 2023, incandescent and halogen bulbs are typically unable to meet the standards of legislation that was passed to encourage the switch to more energy-efficient LED bulbs.

LED bulbs use semiconductors to convert electricity into light, a process that doesn’t emit heat as incandescents or CFLs do.

They’re much more energy-efficient than the other lighting option of CFL bulbs. What’s more, LEDs don’t contain mercury, nor do they contain wire filaments like incandescents and halogens, so it’s safe to dispose of them in regular household trash.

💡 Quick Tip: Home improvement loans typically offer lower interest rates than credit cards. Consider a loan to fund your next renovation.


Including recessed lighting in an existing home remodeling project typically requires fixtures that are supported by metal clips that are pushed through the housing onto the top of the drywall or plaster of the ceiling. This differs from new construction fixtures in which the fixture’s frame is screwed or nailed to the ceiling joists, which are accessible during the construction process.

Homeowners who have access to space above the ceiling where the fixture will be placed, such as attic space, may be able to use new construction fixtures. An advantage to this option is that fixtures made for new construction are generally less expensive and offer a wider range of trims than remodel fixtures.

Insulation is also a factor. If the lighting fixtures will be installed in an area where they will be in contact with insulation, they should be insulation compatible (IC) rated. If not, an alternative solution would be to use a fire-rated recessed light cover to go over the fixture’s housing in the attic.

Another rating to look for is the AirTight (AT) rating. This rating indicates that the fixture should keep heat from escaping. This might be less of a concern if there is living space above the room with recessed lighting, but when installing recessed lighting in a room with unfinished attic space above, the AT rating may be something to take into account.

Recommended: Four Ways to Upgrade Your Home


The cost to install recessed lighting in an existing home is dependent on several factors. How many lights will be installed? What type of recessed lighting will be installed? Will there be labor costs if the job is done by a professional? How much drywall repair and repainting will be needed after the installation is complete?

On average, recessed lighting costs about $500 per fixture when installation is being done by a professional; the cost of hiring a contractor can be considerable. A typical kitchen, for instance, might require six fixtures, for a total cost of $3,000. This cost can vary, of course, based on the number and type of fixtures, trim, and bulbs chosen.

Recessed lighting is a common feature in kitchen and bath remodels, both of which have a high return on investment. While the lighting itself might not be the ultimate selling point for someone thinking of purchasing a home, updating the lighting when undertaking a remodeling project just might add to that ROI.

Recommended: The Top Home Improvements to Increase Your Home’s Value

The Takeaway

Adding recessed lighting to your home is one way to increase the cozy factor while maintaining the home’s value for a relatively small investment. Understanding the scope of the job will make it easier to estimate how much it might cost and how best to pay for it based on your particular financial situation. In some cases, a personal loan can help you update your home and unlock its optimal value.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

Photo credit: iStock/Yulia Romashko

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.

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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50 Fall Housing Projects to Tackle This Year

25 Fall Home Projects to Tackle This Year

Sure, you’ve heard of spring cleaning, but if you’re a homeowner, fall is a great season to do some maintenance before the rigors of winter set in. It could be something as simple as making sure your weatherstripping around doors and windows is in good shape, to help keep the warmth in and the cold out. Or it could involve dealing with a roof that’s reaching the end of its lifespan.

Taking care of such tasks can not only make your home more comfortable, it can help you maintain or even build your property’s value.

Here, a checklist of 25 fall home maintenance and home improvement projects that will help keep your house snug all winter and in top condition.

1. Door & Window Seals

It’s easy for cold air to slip in around doors and windows that don’t have sufficient weatherstripping. To keep your ongoing heating costs in check, it’s smart to take a look at all of your doors and windows to ensure the seals are tight. Fixing any issues could wind up saving you some serious money over time.

💡 Quick Tip: Before choosing a personal loan, ask about the lender’s fees: origination, prepayment, late fees, etc. SoFi personal loans come with no-fee options, and no surprises.

2. Furnace Inspection

There’s not a lot worse than finding out on the coldest day of the year that your HVAC system needs repairs. Instead of waiting for a problem, it’s almost always a good idea to have your furnace inspected annually.

Recommended: The Ultimate House Maintenance Checklist

3. Air Ducts

This isn’t something you likely need to do every year, but it is smart to have your HVAC ducts cleaned regularly so the system is operating as efficiently as possible. Once every three to five years is a good cadence.

4. Gutters

Whether you do it yourself or hire a pro, having your gutters cleaned after the leaves have fallen can ensure that your roofline remains leak-free during the winter months.

5. Exposed or Rotting Wood

Whether it’s on your deck, around your foundation, or under your gutters, wood that is no longer properly sealed can take a beating during winter months. You can save yourself serious headaches by repairing, replacing, or sealing any exposed wood.

6. Roof inspection & Repair

A leaking roof is no one’s idea of a good time and is among the most common home repairs. Having an older roof inspected can help to spot minor problems before they turn into major issues.

In colder climates, some roof repairs may need to wait months for warmer weather before they can take place. For that reason, the sooner you tackle this issue, the better. You might be able to squeeze in a repair before the weather gets too chilly. (Note: It’s worth checking if you have a roof warranty before shelling out for repairs.)

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

7. New Insulation

If you’re like a lot of people, you don’t check the insulation of your attic and eaves regularly, if ever. Having the proper depth of insulation can provide most homeowners with significant savings when it comes to heating and cooling costs.

8. Lawn Winterization

Your lawn will be greener earlier in the spring if you fertilize it in the fall.

Recommended: How to Winterize a House

9. All Those Leaves

While you don’t want leaves in your gutters or on your lawn, having them in your garden and flower beds can actually help protect plants against damage from cold weather by insulating them. A leaf bed also provides a home for insects that help feed migratory birds in spring; it can also spare landfills from tons of waste.

10. Critter Blockers

All those pipes and tubes coming into our homes from the exterior can mean there are little cracks and crevices. These in turn can allow insects and even vermin to enter in search of warmth. It can be smart to inspect and seal these crevices before the weather turns significantly colder.

💡 Quick Tip: Unsecured home improvement loans don’t use your house as collateral — a relief for many homeowners.

11. Storing Summer Clothes & Bedding

If you live in a cooler climate and you have the space, you may want to get organized and put summer clothes and bedding in storage over the winter. Enjoy the extra closet space!

12. Chimney Inspection/Cleaning

There’s nothing like sitting in front of a roaring fire on a cold winter day — unless, of course, dangerous creosote is building up in your chimney. You can likely nip any problems in the bud by having your fireplace inspected and cleaned annually.

13. Spring Bulb Planting

If you love tulips, daffodils, and other flowers that grow from bulbs, now’s the perfect time to set them in your garden. They often love a good freeze over the winter.

14. Perennial Care

Not only will mulch keep your beds looking neat and tidy during colder months, it can help insulate plants from the cold.

15. Outdoor Faucets

Now’s a great time to check your faucets to see if washers and all other parts are in good working order. And if you live in colder climates, it could be a good idea to install a frost-free yard hydrant to help protect your pipes against breakage during freezing weather.

16. Ceiling Fans

This is an easy one to forget. If you have ceiling fans, it’s smart to switch their direction for colder months. By reversing the direction of your fans, you can help to disperse warm air throughout your rooms.

17. Yard Tools

To keep your lawnmower, leaf blower, and any other gas-powered tools in good working order, clean them up before storing them for the season.

18. Trees & Shrubs

Pruning can be especially important for flowering trees and shrubs that only flower on new growth. It can also help to ensure that unhealthy branches are removed before heavy snow and ice coat them and possibly break them.

19. Carpet & Rug Cleaning

You’re likely going to be spending a lot more time indoors during the winter months, so why not freshen up your surroundings with a good carpet and rug cleaning? It could provide some welcome allergy relief.

20. Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

It can be smart to check your detectors and replace batteries whenever there’s a time change. So when you “fall back” and re-set the clocks, make sure these important devices are in good working order.

21. Patio Furniture & Grilling Equipment

Covering your outdoor furniture and grill can lengthen their lives and help prevent chipping and other damage.

22. Snow Removal

If you live where it snows regularly, it’s smart to go ahead and prepare now. Having your snowblower serviced, buying salt or snowmelt products, ensuring that your snow shovels are in good shape, and/or lining up a snow removal service are all things you can do now to avoid problems when the snow has begun to fall.

Recommended: Typical Personal Loan Requirements Needed for Approval

23. Older Doors & Windows

If you’re still living with single-pane windows, it may be time to upgrade and undertake the effort and cost of replacing windows. Here’s why: Double- or even triple-pane windows can pay for themselves in just a few years. They can be far superior in keeping out both the cold and heat (depending on the season), thus reducing your heating and cooling bills. The same is true for older doors that may not be well insulated or have single-pane glass in them.

24. Programmable Thermostat

It may seem like a little thing, but turning your heat down every night can wind up saving you money. Remembering to do it, however …that’s another story. Why not make it easy on yourself and install a programmable thermostat that remembers for you?

25. A Fresh Coat of Paint

If you’re going to be spending more time indoors, why not update its look to something you love? A fresh coat of paint can do wonders to spruce up almost any room. And how about the exterior? You might also look into the cost of painting a house; this is a project that can take homeowners a weekend to complete or can be bid out.

Recommended: The Top Home Improvements to Increase Your Home’s Value

The Takeaway

As the leaves change, it might be time for homeowners to consider some important home improvement projects before the cold weather really kicks in. A seasonal to-do list can ensure that your home is comfy, cozy, and safe for winter and beyond. For some of the bigger projects, like replacing windows or completing roof repairs, you may want to get your financing squared away too, perhaps with a personal loan.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

Photo credit: iStock/JavenLin

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.

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 Much Does It Cost to Install Central Air?

How Much Does It Cost to Install Central Air?

The average cost across the United States to install central air conditioning was $5,882 as of mid-2023. That price can, however, fluctuate based on such factors as where you live, the size of your home, and what kind of unit you choose.

For instance, if you live in a 1,500 square foot home in Vermont, your air conditioning needs and costs will likely be quite different vs. those of someone who lives in a 5,000 square foot house in the desert.

Here, learn more about air conditioning costs, your options, and how to get the best possible price if you do choose to install central cooling.

What Factors Play a Role in Installing Central Air?

Many factors go into the cost to install central air conditioning, including the brand of AC you choose, the unit itself, and the overall size of your home. A central air conditioning unit alone can cost thousands of dollars. For instance, a split unit air conditioning unit will typically run between $1,900 and $4,200 on average; a packaged central air conditioning unit will be somewhat more, typically between $2,300 to $5,500. (More in a minute on the difference between these types of systems.)

If you add in the labor of an air conditioner contractor, the cost to install central air ranges from $3,883 and $7,918 on average. But that number can range depending on where you live, the type of AC system your home needs, and the condition of your existing air ducts.

According to HomeAdvisor , these are the average air conditioning unit costs with installation:


Average Cost

3-ton $3,400-$5,400
4-ton $4,200-$6,200
14 SEER $3,000–$6,000
16 SEER $3,700–$9,000

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Pre-Installation Evaluation

Some helpful things to think about when evaluating your home for a new air conditioning system include a careful analysis of how big of a system your living quarters need. The price jumps quickly for larger units, so it’s often smart to make sure you’re not overdoing the cooling capacity for your project.

Ease of access for installing the bulky ducting system of a traditional air conditioning setup is important, so if you have a tight basement or attic crawl space, expect to pay more in labor costs than if you had more room to mount all the equipment and pipes easily.

Also, think about where you’d want to locate the duct feeding into the room. You might have to cut through hardwood or tile, for example, to gain an access point for the air to flow. Or there could be a spot in your house that needs a little more airflow and will therefore require multiple ducts into the room.

Though an AC installation typically just takes one day, if extensive cutting into floors or walls or ductwork is required, it could take several. If this might disrupt your quality of living, you’ll likely want to consider staying with family or friends as your central air is installed — or move into a hotel, the cost of which should factor into your overall air conditioning home renovation budget.

Recommended: Personal Loan vs. Credit Card

Types of AC Units

Affordability and preference help determine the type of air conditioning unit that you’ll need, which affects the overall central air cost. A traditional split system — with air conditioning on one side of the unit, heating on the other — is on the lower end of the pricing range vs. packaged units. In addition, more complex models that include heat-pump, hybrid, and geothermal functionality can run substantially higher.

Ductless air conditioning systems have been around for years and are rapidly entering the U.S. market from overseas. They can offer affordable efficiency as they cool living spaces. Ductless units have a central compressor and fan with standalone wall-mounted units that eliminate the need for ducting. Instead, a wall-mounted fan serves each room independently. Coolant and drainage lines are routed through the wall back to the centralized air conditioning assembly, making for a clean finish.

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When planning central air installation, you should consider what kind of ductwork is best for your home. Ductwork falls into two categories — flexible or rigid — with many different options for materials within each. Flexible and rigid ductwork each has its own pros and cons regarding price, lifespan, efficiency, and flexibility.

The cost of ductwork can vary greatly. The national average cost for ductwork is $1,179, but can range from $454 to $2,056 or significantly higher depending on the job specifics.

The cost to replace old ductwork is higher since it involves both removing the existing materials and installing new ductwork.

Recommended: How Much Is My Home Worth?

AC Installation and Labor

While handy types may be tempted to tackle the central air installation on their own, it might be wise to find a contractor who is well-qualified to ensure that the job is done properly.

City codes departments typically require permits for work like central air installation that can be obtained easily by a state-licensed contractor. Handling refrigerant chemicals like Freon™ also require a license .

Many websites offer contractor and price-compare quotes in your area. Angi and Thumbtack both can be good places to start your research. A referral from someone you know also can be a great way to find a vetted air conditioning contractor.

You might also search online communities and neighborhood forums to find a reliable air conditioning contractor. There’s a good chance that someone locally has had similar issues and might be able to recommend a professional contractor to handle your air conditioning installation job.

Recommended: The Top Home Improvements to Increase Your Home’s Value

The Takeaway

The cost to install central air conditioning is, on average, almost $6,000. While that’s a considerable expense, it can include the labor involved in addition to the price of the unit by itself. And it can give you peace of mind knowing you have a new central air system to keep you cool and likely improve the resale value of your home if you plan to list your house or refinance in the future. For this reason, it may be wise to look into your financing options, such as taking out a personal loan.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

Photo credit: iStock/Pramote2015

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.

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.

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


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How Much Does It Cost to Finish a Basement?

How Much Does It Cost to Finish a Basement?

The average cost of finishing a basement in 2023 is $22,850, but there is a huge variation in pricing depending on your specific project. Of course, the square footage makes a difference, as does the particular configuration of your basement, as well as whether you are simply finishing the space for storage purposes or adding an extra bedroom and bathroom as living space.

Whatever your goal, you will most likely increase the resale value of your home while adding to your usable space. The following guide will help you understand the considerations, the cost, and how to get the work done.

The Costs of Finishing a Basement

The cost of finishing a basement has a lot of variables, as most home upgrades do. Weighing what you can afford versus what you want is critical here. While it might be nice to have all the bells and whistles of a sky-is-the-limit home renovation, there are many things that will affect the bottom line during a reconstruction event like finishing a basement.

The national average cost of finishing a basement is $22,850, but there’s a wide range (as there is with the cost of home remodeling projects of all kinds). In this case, it can swing from $4,700 to $41,000. Your number could rise based on where you live and whether you plan to add features such as running water, custom cabinets, or countertops.

Ultimately, the final cost to finish a basement depends on how extensive the work is, as well as the square footage in the planned remodel. Typically, a small basement is considered to be a 300- to 700-square-foot space. Do you have more than 2,000 square feet to finish? Then that’s an oversized amount of space.

According to the home improvement site Angi, a simple process of finishing a basement will cost between $7 and $23 per square foot. However, if you are doing a full remodel, you can expect to spend $30 to $75 per square foot.

You can also use online tools to help you estimate the cost of your remodeling project.

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How to Plan Your Basement Project

The first thing you need to think about when finishing a basement is how you primarily plan to use the space. If it’s mostly for storage, you’ll want to include closets, cabinetry, and a shelving system in your plans.

Or do you intend to use it as a bonus room or lounge? If your basement’s primary function is as a gathering space, you’ll want to wire it so that you have internet, cable, and plenty of lighting and outlets.

Due to their subterranean nature, basements also require waterproofing. The below-grade format of a basement demands special attention be paid to exterior drainage, interior surface materials, and air ventilation, in addition to ensuring a safe way to exit the space during an emergency, like an egress window.

With proper planning, it’s possible to mitigate some of the major expenses associated with building below ground, so do your homework before the rainy season comes. Local government code departments often have building standards to guide the process.

As part of your efforts to keep the finished basement dry, you’ll probably want to install a sump pump for extreme weather events. Built into the floor with an automatic pump, sump pumps give peace of mind for when you’re out of town or have an excess of rainfall.

If you’re finishing a basement to use as an apartment or in-law suite, you’ll need added features like a bathroom and kitchenette. Installing both a bathroom and kitchenette can quickly cause the price to mount with the added costs of cabinets, countertops, appliances, and fixtures, so weigh the decision to add those features carefully against how much use you think they will truly get. Or consider going the budget route, forgoing top-of-the-line furnishings and appliances, if cost is a concern but you need those spaces to complete your basement.

Recommended: 10-Step Guide to Building Your Own Home


How much it costs to finish your basement will ultimately come down to the features you add and how the work is done. Consider these factors when making a budget:

•   Labor. This may cost $25 to $100 per hour, and you might also need a plumber or electrician to do some specialized work, which could increase the price (as anyone who’s rewired or needed to pay to fix a plumbing leak knows). Typically, labor costs will be 25% of the total project cost.

•   Permits. According to Angi, getting the proper permits for your project can run between $1,200 and $2,000.

•   Materials. The cost of materials, such as flooring, insulation, and drywall, will make up the bulk of your project budget. Expect to pay anywhere from $5.25 to $21 per square foot depending on the specifics of your remodeling.

Other areas where your basement costs may add up include if you opt for high-end materials, if you hire a professional for interior design assistance with the layout or furnishing plans or if you add furniture to the space.

💡 Quick Tip: With home renovations, surprises are inevitable. Look for a home improvement loan with no fees required — and no surprises.

How to Save Money on Basement Remodeling

There are many ways to save money on basement remodeling, the first being doing the labor yourself. If you’re simply going for a basic basement remodel for storage, this is a project you likely can DIY even without a lot of prior home renovation experience.

You might, for example, want to add corner shelves, install a pegboard system for mounting your tools, or build a wire rack system to store your bulky items — all basement finishing tasks you can tackle yourself without hiring outside labor.

If finishing your basement requires extensive electrical work and/or plumbing, however, you’ll likely want to call in a licensed professional to do that work.

If you’re on a tight budget, you might rethink installing a kitchenette or a bathroom, which are where your basement refinishing costs often add up quickly. A budget-friendly option for cabinetry could be purchasing from a resale shop or using old cabinets from another part of your house that you can refresh with an inexpensive coat of paint.

Recommended: The Top Home Improvements to Increase Your Home’s Value

The Takeaway

A basement remodel could serve multiple purposes — adding living space or storage to your home — while simultaneously improving your quality of life and the resale value of your home. There are a lot of considerations to take into account, including keeping an inherently moist environment dry and comfortable, and additional safety measures that you’ll need to factor into the overall budget. With the average basement finishing project costing almost $23,000, you may also need to consider financing options, such as a personal loan to use for home improvement.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

Photo credit: iStock/PC Photography

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.

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

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


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