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Are You Ready to Buy a House? — Take The Quiz

Buying a house can be the single largest financial move you’ll ever make. What’s more, once purchased, your home is likely to be your biggest asset and possibly a path to building wealth.

So this rite of passage probably isn’t something to be done without a lot of preparation. For instance, you usually have to focus on such factors as:

•   Saving for a down payment

•   Optimizing your credit score

•   Understanding what your monthly expenses will be

•   Considering the dynamics of the real-estate market

•   Researching where you want to live

•   Making sure you’re ready for the responsibilities of homeownership.

You’ll learn more about these factors in a minute, but first, take this quiz to get a read on just how ready you are to dive into house-buying. While it won’t answer the question, “Am I ready to buy a house?” definitively, it can help you gauge where you stand.

Then, read on to learn more about how to make snagging your dream house become a reality.

Now that you’ve taken the quiz, here’s more intel on how to get ready to buy a house.

Recommended: First-Time Home Buyer Guide

Financial Factors

Home ownership can be quite expensive, especially recently. As you may know, housing prices soared during the pandemic, rising over 40% in some areas. In an effort to stem that, as well as other aspects of inflation, the Fed has been raising interest rates, so it’s become more expensive to borrow money, too, further squeezing potential homebuyers.

But don’t let that discourage you: Homeownership is still a goal you can realize, especially if you prepare for the following:

•   Down payment: Ideally, lenders like to see a 20% down payment (although SoFi offers flexible down payment options). Plus, you’ll need to have enough money left over for closing costs, moving costs, and any renovation costs involved.

•   Private mortgage insurance: If you are putting down less than 20% on your home purchase, you may have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). This helps protect your lender as you may look like a less well-qualified home purchaser. This cost is typically charged along with your monthly interest payment by the lender. It’s wise to include this amount in your calculations, if necessary, as you move toward buying a house.

•   Income: Knowing the answer to “When can I buy a house?” doesn’t depend on a particular salary. However, mortgage lenders do like to see two years of steady income, because both job continuity and consistent income are important.

•   Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: You’ll need to see if your monthly income allows you to afford the mortgage payment you’d be taking on. This typically involves calculating your debt-to-income ratio or DTI.

Here’s an example: Say you make $6,000 a month, before taxes. You’re paying $1,500 a month in rent and, when you add in car payments, credit card debt, and student loan payments, that equals another $700. You’ve got monthly expenses, then, of $2,200; when you divide that by your monthly income ($2,200/$6,000), then your debt-to-income ratio is 36.7%, which is in the range of what many lenders like to see.

•   Credit score: It’s helpful to know your credit score before you go home shopping and, if it’s under 700 (meaning either at the low end of a good score or a fair credit score), work to build it. That can open you up to more mortgage offers and lower interest rates.

•   Mortgage options: Speaking of mortgages, connecting with lenders or mortgage brokers can help you gain a better understanding of how much house you can afford, what kinds of mortgages are available, and whether you can get prequalified or even preapproved before you shop in earnest. This can give you an edge in or possibly even be necessary in today’s tight housing market.

•   Homeownership costs: In addition to the mortgage payment and any PMI, you’ll need to budget for property taxes, heating costs, and other regular expenses. Make sure to factor those in as you develop a budget for your life as a homeowner.

Recommended: How to Qualify for a Mortgage

Housing Market Conditions

When determining if you’re ready to buy a house, also consider housing market conditions. Among the key factors:

•   Location: Of course, you’ll want your home to be in a desirable location, however you define “desirable.” It could mean being in the heart of a busy city — or in a peaceful place along a river. If you have or plan to have a family, quality schools are likely important, and so forth.

It’s likely going to make your house hunt more manageable and productive if you narrow down where you want to live to a few towns or neighborhoods. Otherwise, you might spend a lot of time and effort driving all over and not being able to whittle down the choices.

•   Real-estate dynamics: In desirable locations, competition is fierce today, with homes often selling quickly after being put up for sale and bidding wars occurring. And, as demand has increased, available housing (especially for first-time homebuyers looking to purchase in affordable price ranges) has therefore decreased.

So, you’ll have to be prepared to compete in the current housing market conditions, which means having your financial situation in order so you can make a timely offer on a house of choice.

Check out local real estate
market trends to help with
your home-buying journey.


Lifestyle Considerations

Let’s say you’re confident that you have the financial resources to purchase a home in your neighborhood of choice. Before you move forward, here are a couple of lifestyle issues to consider:

•   Home maintenance: If you’re used to renting, your landlord has played a key role in home repairs and so forth. If you buy a home, you would now be your own landlord. That means dealing with broken boilers, leaky roofs, yard maintenance, and more. Be sure you budget for that financially and are also prepared for the responsibility.

•   Community: Think about whether you are ready to settle down in a particular community for at least a few years. If not, you may not break even when you sell the house you bought. Here’s why: It can take time to recoup closing costs and other expenses you covered when purchasing the home.

The Takeaway

Homeownership can be the foundation of the American dream for many people. It’s also a potential avenue to build wealth. But when you should buy a house depends on a variety of factors. Before you dive in, do your research, save for your down payment, and optimize your finances so you are ready to handle the responsibility.

When you decide it’s time to buy, SoFi can help. Compare mortgage options from SoFi: We offer competitive rates and features, such as qualifying first-time homebuyers putting down as little as 3%.

When you’ve scrolled through the perks, find your rate in a few clicks.


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


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


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 .

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.

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

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How Much Is My House Worth?

Your house is much more than a home — it’s likely one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make, with a value that makes up a significant proportion of most people’s net worth. As such, you’ve probably wondered from time to time what your home is worth.

Determining the answer is not as simple as referring back to your sales agreement or mortgage papers. What you paid for your house when you purchased it merely reflects what your house was worth to you — and the real estate market — at a specific point in time.

In reality, housing values are dynamic, and they fluctuate based on a number of factors. Some things, such as keeping your house in good repair, are within your control. Other external influences, such as the market, mortgage rates, and other considerations, can also affect the value of your home.

Here, we’ll take a close look at how this works, and answer questions like:

•   How much is my house worth?

•   What factors determine my home’s value?

•   How can I increase my home’s value?

First, take our “how much is my house worth” quiz to get an overview of what value your home holds.

Next, delve into the topic more deeply with these insights.

Estimating the Value of Your House

Knowing how much your house is worth can improve your money mindset by helping you understand where you are financially. There are a number of ways you can determine the estimated value of your house.

•   Online calculators. The easiest and fastest way to answer the question, “How much is my house worth?” is probably to use an online home valuation calculator. These tools provide a ballpark estimate of the value of your home based on your address. Such estimates typically use publicly available information, including average home sale prices in your area, property tax assessment information, market trends, and other data.

•   Market dynamics. Once you have a rough estimate of your property’s worth, you can use other cues about the housing market in your area to gain more insight. This might include such factors as sales and mortgage trends, which can give you a sense of whether your property value is likely to increase, decrease, or remain stable. For instance, during times of rising mortgage interest rates, consumer demand might wane as it becomes more expensive to borrow money.

•   Professional opinions. A professional appraiser or real estate agent can also help you get a more precise estimate of what your house is worth. An appraiser will consider both the local housing market and the unique characteristics of your property when creating your home appraisal.

Real estate agents, meanwhile, will typically conduct a comparative market analysis (also called a comp or CMA). This is an estimate based on actual data from recently sold homes that are most similar to yours.

If you are looking to sell, you may want to consider getting a comparative market analysis from several different real estate agents to help you assess their knowledge of and viewpoint on the local market before you commit to one. Understanding the various criteria real estate agents use to determine listing prices can also help you to get an accurate picture of what your house is worth.

Check your score with SoFi

Track your credit score for free. Sign up and get $10.*


Recommended: What Hurts a Home Appraisal?

A Home’s Worth: 3 Factors to Consider

Every house is unique — but the factors used to determine property value are fairly consistent.

  1. Neighborhood: There’s a good reason why “location, location, location” is one of the most popular mantras in real estate. The same home, in the exact same condition, will fetch different prices depending on where it is. Proximity to desirable schools, shopping, public transportation, and other resources and infrastructure can increase the desirability of a neighborhood and thus the value of the home. Safety considerations, such as crime rates, sidewalks, and traffic signals, can also impact house values.
  2. House specifications: Attributes such as the size of your lot, square footage, age of your home, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, parking space, and updated mechanical systems are among the criteria buyers will typically consider. Agents may factor these in while developing a comparative marketing analysis.
  3. Also, the style of your house and the amenities can matter. Does it have a fabulous family room, a spa-style bathroom, skylights, or a pool? That can lift the value.

  4. House condition: Well-maintained houses with high curb appeal can typically fetch better prices than run-down fixer-uppers. As such, your home’s condition is probably the most easily controlled aspect of its value.
  5. To evaluate the condition of your home, take stock of any repairs, both major and superficial; any upgrades such as premium kitchen appliances; and any renovations you may have performed.

There are additional factors outside of your control that will affect the value of your home — though these may be less significant if you are not imminently considering selling.

For example, the state of the economy and mortgage rates may dictate others’ appetite for real estate purchases, as well as how much they are willing to spend. At press time, mortgage interest rates were rising in an effort to offset inflation’s impact on consumers. This can cause a softening of the housing market, or a lowering of prices, since it’s more expensive to borrow money.

Seasonal fluctuations such as holidays and weather can also affect home purchasing patterns. In addition, spring has often been looked at as the prime selling season, when families hope to find a new home and get settled before the start of the next school year.

Recommended: Should I Sell My House Now or Wait?

Increasing the Value of Your Home

Though there are some factors that may be out of your control (such as inflation and its impact), there are things you can do to increase the value of your home. If you are considering selling soon, staging your house or making small improvements, such as tidying your garden, can go a long way towards appealing to buyers — without a big financial investment.

But if you are considering investing in renovations and upgrades, it is helpful to know which will deliver the greatest returns. An online calculator can compare different projects to determine how various home improvements impact your home’s value. You might be able to finance such improvements with a home equity line of credit (or HELOC).

Recommended: Does Net Worth Include Home Equity?

Why Your Home Value Matters

If you are considering selling your house, “How much is my home worth?” is likely one of the first things you’ll wonder about. But even if a move isn’t something you are considering right now, there are other reasons why it might be important to know the actual value of your home.

•   Relocation plans. For those considering relocating, getting a reliable estimate of how much your house is worth will inform the amount you can afford to spend on your next home. As taxes, real estate agent commissions, and some other fees will be based on the actual sale price of your house, this valuation will also help you to estimate some of your moving costs.

•   Financial planning. Even if you aren’t planning to move, it can be wise to know your house’s value for another reason. As one of the greatest assets in many people’s financial portfolios, your home’s worth can play a helpful role in guiding long-term money planning, including retirement and estate planning.

If these things seem a long way off, there are immediate benefits to being informed about your home’s worth, too.

•   Property taxes. Your property tax bill is based on the market value of your house and may change from year to year, based on your municipality’s estimate of its worth as determined by a government assessor. A reliable estimate of how much your house is worth can help you to identify discrepancies in the assessed value. If you believe there is an error, you can file an appeal in an attempt to get your property tax bill reduced.

•   Homeowners insurance. Having an accurate estimate of the value of your home is also important for obtaining appropriate insurance coverage. If your estimate is too low relative to the actual value of your home, you run the risk of being underinsured in the event of a claim. Too high, and you’re paying for coverage you don’t need.

•   Equity considerations. Your home’s value can also help you to access money to pay for home improvements, a financial emergency, or other needs that may arise. If the current value of your home is more than it was at the time you purchased it, you may be able to tap into that increased value with, say, a HELOC or cash-out mortgage refinance.

Home Improvements and Your Mortgage

Even if you’re not looking to sell, adding value to your home may result in savings in the near term. This can be especially true for those who are paying private mortgage insurance (PMI).

•   Typically, buyers who purchase a home with less than 20% down are required to pay for PMI — a fee that is based on a percentage of your total mortgage.

•   The amount of equity in your home can be determined by subtracting what you owe on your house (or your mortgage principal) from the current total value of your home. If your property value has increased, you have more equity than when you purchased your home.

•   If the increase in your property value brings your equity over the 20% threshold, you can ask your mortgage loan servicer to cancel the PMI. That, in turn, will save your money every month.

The Takeaway

Understanding how much your house is worth is an important fact. Your house is a major investment, and knowing its current value can help you in a variety of ways, whether or not you are planning on selling it. Even if you are staying put, knowing its worth could help you make sure your insurance is keeping pace with its price, open the door to a home equity loan, or perhaps lower an assessment.

If you’re ready to find out your property’s value, SoFi’s money tracker app can help. Our property tracking tool can help you learn your home’s worth. It can help you know when more insurance is needed, how much renovations would cost and financing options, and what you might be able to save by refinancing your loan.

Stay on top of your home’s value with SoFi.


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


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). 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.

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

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

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.

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What is the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation?

The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, or FHLMC, is known as Freddie Mac, the entity created by Congress for the purpose of buying mortgages from lenders to increase liquidity in the market. Freddie Mac was created in 1970 and expressly authorized to create mortgage-backed securities (MBS) to help manage interest-rate risk.

Because the FHLMC buys mortgages, lenders don’t have to keep loans they originate on their books. In turn, these lenders are able to originate more mortgages for new customers. The mortgage market is able to keep capital flowing and offer competitive financing terms to borrowers because of this system. In other words, the market runs more smoothly because of Freddie Mac and its sister company, Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA).

If you want to know more about how this government-sponsored enterprise works and how it affects your money, read on for details on:

•   What is the FHLMC and what are FHLMC loans?

•   What is the difference between Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae?

•   What are Freddie Mac mortgages?

•   How does the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation work?

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae


These organizations, with their friendly-sounding nicknames, serve a very important purpose. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were created for the purpose of stabilizing the mortgage market and improving housing affordability. These government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) do this by increasing the liquidity (the free flow of money) in the market by buying mortgages from lenders. Mortgages are then pooled together into a mortgage-backed security (MBS) and sold to investors. The process created the secondary mortgage market, where lenders, homebuyers, and investors are connected in a single system.

In the past, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae operated as private companies, though they were created by Congress. Fannie Mae came first in 1938, followed by Freddie Mac in 1970. Freddie Mac’s addition in 1970 resulted in the creation of the first mortgage-backed security.

The federal government took over operations at both companies following the financial crisis in 2008. According to the National Association of Realtors, without government support of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, there wouldn’t be very much money available to lend for mortgages.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has oversight of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. On a yearly basis, they assess the financial soundness and risk management of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

What Is the Purpose of the FHLMC?


As mentioned above, the FHLMC, or Freddie Mac, makes the housing market more affordable, stable, and liquid by buying mortgages on the secondary market. When they buy these loans, the retail lenders they buy them from are able to originate more mortgages to new customers and keep the mortgage market flowing smoothly.

There are many types of mortgage loans; the ones that Freddie Mac buys are known as conventional loans. The mortgage loan must meet certain standards (such as loan limits) for Freddie Mac to guarantee they will buy these loans.

In general, the process of successfully obtaining a mortgage usually looks something like this once the buyer has made an offer on a house that’s been accepted:

•   The consumer finds a lender, if they haven’t already done so, and will apply for a mortgage.

•   The lender collects documentation required by the loan type and submits it to underwriting.

•   The underwriter approves the loan.

•   The homebuyer closes on the loan, and mortgage servicing begins

•   The lender sells the loan on the secondary mortgage market to Freddie Mac (or Fannie Mae or Ginnie Mae, depending on what type of loan it is and from what type of lender it originated).

From a homebuyer standpoint, they will see the outward mortgage servicing, which is the entity to which they will send their monthly payment and who takes care of the escrow account. The mortgage servicer is the one who forwards the different parts of the mortgage payment to the appropriate parties.

Mortgage servicing can also be sold from servicer to servicer, but this is different from the sale of a mortgage to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Freddie Mac is also tasked with the responsibility of making housing affordable. There are specific mortgage programs guaranteed by Freddie Mac and offered by lenders.

•   HomeOne®. HomeOne is a mortgage program that offers low down payment options for first-time homebuyers. There are no income or geographic limits.

•   Home Possible®. Home Possible is a program for first-time homebuyers and low- to moderate-income homebuyers. It offers discounted fees and low down payment options.

•   Construction Conversion and Renovation Mortgage. This type of loan combines the costs of purchasing, building, and remodeling into one loan.

•   Manufactured Home Mortgage. For qualified buyers, Freddie Mac can guarantee mortgages when buying manufactured homes that meet their criteria.

•   Relief Refinance/Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). For borrowers with a good repayment history but little equity, loans are available to refinance into a more affordable rate.

Recommended: What Is the Average Down Payment on a House?

Understanding Mortgage-Backed Securities


After a mortgage is acquired from a lender, Freddie Mac can do one of two things: either keep the mortgage on its books or pool it with other, similar loans and create a mortgage-backed security (MBS). These MBS are then sold to investors on the secondary mortgage market.

What’s attractive about a mortgage-backed security to an investor is how secure it is. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee payment of principal and interest. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issue mortgage backed securities now.

Does the FHLMC offer Mortgage Loans?


Freddie Mac does not sell mortgages directly to consumers. You won’t see a Freddie Mac mortgage or an FHLMC loan advertised to consumers. Instead, the FHLMC buys mortgages from approved lenders that meet their standards.

Recommended: What Are the Conforming Loan Limits?

The Takeaway


The housing market in the United States arguably benefits from the role of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. Lenders can essentially originate mortgages to as many borrowers as can qualify. The free flow of capital created by the FHLMC also means mortgages are less expensive for homebuyers all around. In short, the smooth operation of the housing market owes much of its success to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

If you’re shopping for a home and looking for a lending partner, consider what SoFi has to offer. With dedicated loan officers, competitive interest rates, flexible terms, and low down payment options, SoFi Mortgage Loans can offer something for nearly every borrower.

SoFi Mortgage Loans: Simple, smart, flexible.

FAQs

What does FHLMC stand for?


FHLMC is an abbreviation of Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. It is commonly referred to as Freddie Mac.

What type of loan is FHLMC?


Freddie Mac guarantees conventional loans that adhere to funding criteria, but it does not offer Freddie Mac mortgages directly to consumers.

What is the difference between FNMA and FHLMC?


Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac originated in different decades and initially had different purposes, but for the most part, they serve the same purpose today of helping to improve mortgage liquidity and availability.

Photo credit: iStock/Andrii Yalanskyi

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


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


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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Should You Buy a Home While Still Renting?

Buying an investment property before your first home can be an interesting and financially sound plan. There are clear advantages — generating cash flow or building equity in your asset could benefit you and your family for years to come. You may be able to qualify as a first-time home buyer and take advantage of programs that allow you to buy a multi-family property. You may also be able to produce a strong enough income for the unit to pay for itself.

Yet, there can be significant sacrifices you may need to contemplate in order to make this dream happen. Here, learn what needs to happen if you’re planning on buying an investment property before your first home, including:

•   Is buying an investment property before your first home a good idea?

•   What are the steps for buying a house to rent?

•   What are the benefits of buying a house as an investment while still renting?

Purchasing an Investment Property 101


Purchasing an investment or rental property is similar to a regular home purchase. When you’re looking at buying an investment property for which you qualify as a first-time home buyer, however, there are some special considerations. Here is a guide:

Step 1: Decide if you’re going to live in a part of the investment property.
One of the first things you should decide when purchasing a rental property is if you’re going to live in a part of the investment property. This decision will affect what types of properties you’re going to look at, how you’re able to finance the property, and how much down payment you’ll need to come up with.

For example, if you can buy a house to rent with two to four units and live in one yourself, you may be able to finance the purchase as an owner-occupied property. This may qualify you for lower interest rates, lower down payment options, and more favorable loan options. However, you do have to live on the property. You cannot finance a property with an owner-occupied loan without living on the property as this is considered a type of mortgage fraud.

Here’s a quick summary of the difference between owner-occupied and non-owner-occupied rental properties.

Owner-Occupied Non-Owner-Occupied
Down payment options from 3.5% Down payment typically around 15%
Lower interest rates by about half a basis point Interest rates higher by about half a basis point

Step 2: Get preapproved for a loan.
Before you go shopping, make sure a lender is willing to give you a mortgage. Qualifying as a first-time homebuyer has some positives. On the one hand, you may have a better debt-to-income ratio since you don’t own a home yet. However, you may have a shorter credit history or a smaller down payment. Whatever the case, it’s helpful to get some numbers from your lender to assist with your investment.

Factors your lender will take into account when deciding what to lend to you include:

•   Amount of your down payment

•   Owner occupied status

•   Credit score

•   Debt-to-income ratio

•   Employment history.

Your lender will also take into account what programs you qualify for. Financing options for an investment property are wide. Some may include:

•   FHA

•   VA

•   USDA

•   Conventional

•   Private lending

•   Seller financing

Quick note: If you do decide to purchase a rental property and live in part of your investment property, your lender may be able to use the potential rent from that to qualify you for a mortgage.

Step 3: Find a property that meets your criteria
Now that you have your budget and parameters set, you’re ready to find a property. You may want to enlist the help of a real estate agent who can serve as your first-time homebuyer guide, especially since you want to buy an investment property right off the bat.

Your agent can help you write an offer while your lender may be able to help you apply for a mortgage online. You’re well on your way to buying a house to rent at this stage.

Step 4: Start your rental business.
Be sure to check local ordinances and business requirements for becoming a landlord. If you’ve got a plan and do your research, you may see success. Just don’t believe what you may see on TV, which makes owning a rental property look easy. Landlording is a tough job, and there’s a lot you need to know about the business before you start. Buying a house while renting is an endeavor that takes time and effort.

Buying a House While Still Renting


The benefit to buying an investment property before your first home is that your debt-to-income may be more favorable than for someone who has a mortgage. What this means is it’s possible you don’t have too much debt to qualify for a rental property.

The possible downsides are that you may not have the cash reserves to protect yourself from the risks of being a landlord. There’s always something that needs to be repaired or replaced.

What to Know As a New Landlord


Unlike what you may have heard or imagined, becoming a landlord can be anything but passive. You’ll also want to research all you can and put proper systems in place. Here’s a little of what you can expect to encounter as a new landlord.

•   Learn local housing laws. Housing laws can make or break you. Are short-term rentals allowed (if that’s what you’re planning)? What rights does your tenant have? If you need to evict a tenant, what does the process look like? Will you benefit by putting your property in an LLC?

There’s a lot to navigate, and you may want to consider hiring a property management company that specializes in this.

•   Determine how much to charge for rent. You’ll want to look at what other properties in the area are charging for rent and position yourself competitively. Also, consider what other landlords are allowing and charging when it comes to pets.

•   Prescreening is key. The reliability of your tenant is so important. It’s incredibly stressful when you’re not paid rent. Don’t rent to someone who “feels” like they would be a good tenant. Do your due diligence. Check credit and their background, and call references.

•   Create a plan for home maintenance, repairs, and other issues. If you’re hiring a property management company, plan for the expense. If you’re doing it yourself, make a list of contacts to call for the different issues that come up (electrical, plumbing, locks, handyman, etc.).

•   Have procedures in place for unit turnover. It’s an incredibly intense time when a tenant leaves and another needs to move in. How are you going to handle inspections? Cleaning? Deposits? You will need a system for logging such events and being prepared for turnover.

Recommended: Fixed-Rate vs. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

The Takeaway


While landlording has a lot of responsibilities and risk, there can also be a lot of reward. If you’re really interested in buying a house while renting, you’ll find a way to make it work.

If you’re starting to shop for a new home and need a partner to help with your lending needs, see what SoFi has to offer. With a wide range of loans to choose from, low down payment options, and competitive interest rates, SoFi Mortgage Loans can be a great fit.

A SoFi Mortgage: Smart, simple, and flexible.

FAQ

How much profit should you make on a rental property?

There’s no easy answer for how much profit you should make on a rental property. Some investors buy property for the appreciation alone. There are also a number of methods for determining how much profit investors want to make on an investment property, such as cash flow, the 1% rule, gross rent multiplier, cash on cash return, cap rate, or internal rate of return. Those can help provide guidelines.

Should I buy an investment property and live in it?

If you’re able to live in your investment property, you can qualify for owner-occupied financing, which means lower down payments and better interest rates. But it also depends on your plans. If you want to renovate an investment property, living in it during renovations could be challenging.

Is rental property a good investment in 2023?

Rental demand is strong in 2023, but buying property is more dependent on your individual situation rather than market conditions.


Photo credit: iStock/luismmolina

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


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


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.

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.

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When Do I Get My Escrow Refund?

If you, as a mortgage holder, have money in an escrow account, you may see an escrow refund after an escrow analysis at the end of the year. It may not happen often, but an escrow refund check comes if there’s an excess amount in your escrow account. Regulations set by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) allow the mortgage servicer to retain two months’ worth of your escrow payment as a cushion. Amounts greater than $50 above the cushion should be refunded to you. Escrow balances less than this amount can be retained in the escrow account for the next year or refunded to the borrower.

Escrow refunds generally come when there’s an expense that’s smaller than expected, such as a lower insurance bill or fewer taxes. Your mortgage servicer pays the lower amount and then, when the servicer conducts an escrow analysis, the difference will be refunded to you, typically by check. The funds can also come when an escrow account is closed, such as when the mortgage is paid off or refinanced.

Here, you’ll learn more about escrow refunds, including:

•   What is an escrow refund?

•   How is escrow overage calculated and dispersed?

•   When might you expect an escrow refund?

•   How long does an escrow refund take?

The Escrow Process 101

You might have heard the term “escrow” in a couple of different settings when you’re buying a home. First, an escrow account is like a savings account that is set up for holding earnest money after you make an offer on a house.

And second, a different escrow account is set up by your mortgage servicer after you close on the loan. It can manage your taxes, private mortgage insurance (PMI), and/or homeowner’s insurance. The second factor is most likely to trigger a refund.

Recommended: What Is an Escrow Holdback?

In its simplest form, the escrow process looks like this:

1.    The mortgage servicer sets up an escrow account.

2.    The borrower makes monthly payments to the mortgage servicer.

3.    The mortgage servicer deposits the portion of the monthly payment for the homeowners insurance, taxes, and mortgage insurance into an escrow account.

4.    The taxing entity, homeowners insurance provider, and/or mortgage insurance company send the mortgage servicer a bill.

5.    The mortgage servicer pays the bill on the borrower’s behalf.

6.    The mortgage servicer audits accounts every year to determine if there is an overage or a shortage.

7.    If there is an overage above $50, the borrower can be refunded that money. The servicer will alter the monthly payment lower for the next year.

8.    If there is a shortage, the mortgage servicer will modify your monthly payment to account for both the shortage in the last year and the increased cost for the upcoming year.

What Is an Escrow Refund?

An escrow refund occurs when you, as a mortgage holder, receive a check at the end of the year for the extra money you paid into your escrow account. This is a requirement of mortgage servicing.

When you start making monthly payments to your mortgage servicer, you’ll pay the same amount each month. This amount typically includes your principal, interest, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and PMI (if you have it). The portion designated for taxes, PMI, and homeowner’s insurance will go into your escrow account. This amount is saved until your bill is due. The mortgage servicer pays the bill and deducts the amount from your escrow account.

Every year, the mortgage servicer is required to conduct an escrow analysis. This is a process where the servicer looks at the deposits made by you as well as the bills for insurance and taxes. Adjustments are made, and if you overpaid, you get a refund.

Escrow Refunds at Closing

You also might be wondering, “Do you get escrow money back at closing?” The process for escrow refunds at closing is a little different.

•   Your lender typically uses the money from your existing escrow account to apply toward your down payment or closing costs.

•   Then, for the new escrow account opened by your mortgage servicer, you will contribute what are called “prepaid closing costs” to the account to fund your escrow account. If you end up paying too much, you’ll see an escrow refund check from your servicer after an escrow analysis has been performed.

Mortgage servicers like escrow accounts because it helps protect their investment in your home. When the homeowner’s insurance is paid, the lender can be assured there is protection for the home should anything happen to it. Likewise, when the taxes are paid, the lender doesn’t have to worry about the taxing entity placing a lien on the home.

Recommended: What Is Escrow?

When Might You Expect An Escrow Refund?

Mortgage servicers are required to complete an escrow analysis at the end of the escrow account computation year, according to Regulation X of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). After the yearly escrow analysis, you will receive an escrow account statement. This statement will show you the deposits and expenses for the year, as well as show you a projection of anticipated expenses for the upcoming year.

It will also notify you of changes to your monthly payment that need to be made. These steps help ensure that your mortgage servicer is able to pay your taxes and insurance in full from your monthly payment. It’s common for the amount to change a bit from year to year.

If the escrow analysis uncovers a surplus above the allowable cushion in your escrow account, you can expect a mortgage escrow refund within 30 days.

Here are some common scenarios where you might expect to see a refund from your escrow account.

Mortgage Payoff

When you pay off your mortgage or refinance with a new low interest mortgage loan, your mortgage servicer is no longer required to hold an escrow account for you. You may receive a refund from your escrow account for any unused funds.

Lower Tax Bill

If your tax bill decreases, that means the amount collected from your monthly mortgage payment over the year will be more than what is actually due. The excess amount in your escrow account could be refunded to you after escrow analysis.

Better Insurance Rate

If you change your homeowners insurance to a company that offers a better rate, you may be due a refund. If this happens, you’ll likely pay the higher premium that you had locked into your monthly payment for the year. However, once the escrow analysis is completed at year’s end, the savings will be apparent and you should receive your refund.

Private Mortgage Insurance No Longer Required

On many conventional mortgages, there may come a time when you don’t need to pay for mortgage insurance. Let’s say you were a first-time homeowner who put less than 10% on your house. When your home equity reaches 20%, you may be able to have the private mortgage insurance premium removed (depending on the type of mortgage you have).

This may happen in the middle of the year before your servicer expects it. Your monthly payment may not be adjusted until an escrow analysis is completed at the end of the year. After an analysis has been completed, you’ll likely receive a refund because you’ve been overpaying for that mortgage insurance you no longer need.

Recommended: What Is a Mortgage Contingency?

Purchase Overpay

If you overpaid for an escrow item when you closed on your home, the surplus can be refunded to you after an escrow analysis.

When You Won’t See an Escrow Refund

The part of your monthly mortgage payment that goes toward your escrow account is set at the beginning of the year. However, tax rates and insurance rates often increase during the year. When your tax or insurance bill is due, your escrow servicer will pay the larger bill even though there isn’t enough money in the escrow account to cover it. This may result in a negative escrow balance.

In the case of a negative escrow balance, the servicer uses their own money to cover the shortfall. To make up for the shortage, the servicer will make adjustments after completing escrow analysis and take steps to collect the shortfall. The adjustment will also account for the new increased amounts due monthly during the upcoming year.

How Soon Can I Expect a Refund?

For ongoing mortgage payments: Your escrow servicer is required to issue a refund within 30 days of discovering a surplus of $50 or more. (This surplus is above a two-month allowable cushion of escrow payments that your mortgage lender may hold.). Borrowers must be current on their mortgage payment, however, to be able to receive this refund.

If you pay off your mortgage: Your escrow servicer may refund the balance of your escrow account within 20 days. Or, if your new mortgage is with the same servicer, the servicer can apply the balance of the escrow account to a new escrow account with your permission.

The Takeaway

You may see an escrow refund coming your way if you’ve negotiated a better deal for your homeowners insurance, expect to pay less in taxes, or no longer need to pay PMI. It will happen automatically because your mortgage servicer is required to perform yearly escrow analysis. You’ll also receive a refund if you pay off your mortgage and possibly when you refinance. Once that happens, the servicer has 30 days or less to refund the money you’re owed from your escrow account.

If you need a reliable mortgage partner, consider what SoFi Home Loans have to offer. With competitive rates, low down payment options, and dedicated loan officers, you can be assured you’re in good hands.

When you’re ready for a new mortgage, a refinance, or a home equity loan, SoFi is here to help.


Photo credit: iStock/MaslovMax

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


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


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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