The Ultimate Guide to Updating Interior Doors: interior doors in need of upgrade

The Ultimate Guide to Updating Interior Doors

Doors can be a portal to another world, or maybe just a great first impression when you walk through a home. But when they don’t look their best, a dated or damaged door can make an entire space feel off.

The doors inside your home come in a wide variety of styles, and can be updated in just as many ways. Some updates can be done on the cheap, while replacing doors entirely will likely come at a higher cost. What follows are key things to know about updating your interior doors, including options and costs.

What Are the Different Types of Interior Doors?

Interior doors come in many styles and price points. Here’s a look at some of the most popular options, plus estimated costs (including materials, labor, and equipment).

•   Traditional Standard doors, such as a bedroom door, swing in or out to open and close. This type of door can be either hollow core, solid composite, or solid wood.
Cost to replace: $50 to $600.

•   Pocket These space-saving doors slide “into” the wall when they’re open. Pocket doors hang from the top and slide along a track mounted in a space inside the wall and across the top of the door opening.
Cost to replace: $140 to $1,000

•   French The door with a certain je ne sais quoi, French doors can be either single or paired, and can have either a full (single) glass pane or a number of divided panes. French doors are often used as exterior doors to porches or patios, but they can also be a great way to let light diffuse inside a home.
Cost to replace: $200 to $4,000

•   Sliding A cousin to the pocket door, sliding doors save space by sliding in tracks at the top and bottom of the door frame. Unlike a pocket door, however, they don’t disappear into the wall. Glass sliding doors are typically used as exterior doors to a patio or deck, but can be used indoors to separate rooms while maintaining visibility between them.
Cost to replace: $400 to $4,500

•   Bifold Also called folding doors or concertina doors, bifolds are made of panels that fold next to each other when opened, sliding on tracks both on top of and below the door. Single bifold doors are sometimes used as doors to smaller closets, and a pair of bifold doors might divide a large room.
Cost to replace: $35 to $70

•   Barn A sliding barn door in the home takes rustic farmhouse trends to the next level. These doors slide on a track mounted on the wall above the door. Barn doors have a low profile, as they do not swing out.
Cost to replace: $150 to $4,000

•   Saloon Head straight to the wild west with these doors. Sometimes called cafe doors, saloon doors hang on a pivot hinge, meaning they can easily swing in and out with a nudge. Because they swing in both directions, they’re commonly used as kitchen doors or in cafes where traffic goes both in and out.
Cost to replace: $100 to $500

•   Murphy You may have encountered a murphy door before without even knowing it. Often custom made, murphy doors are typically bookcases that swing out, turning a door into storage space.
Cost to replace: $700 to $2,500

Recommended: How Do Home Improvement Loans Work?

Signs You May Need New Interior Doors

Interior doors in a home can take quite a beating. They’re slammed, kicked, scuffed, and may have been pounded on a few times. Depending on their quality and age, there’s a chance your doors may simply have seen better days.

If these signs sound familiar, it may be time to buy some new doors for your home:

1.    The door is stuck and has trouble staying open or closed. The more someone struggles to open and close a door that doesn’t budge, the more damage they’ll do. If a door’s always sticking or never manages to stay closed, it may be time to replace it.

2.    The door is warped or cracked. Age will affect the quality of any door, and if the frame or hinges are visibly cracked or peeling, it’s time to think about replacing them.

3.    The door’s style is dated. If your kitchen’s classic saloon-style doors feel decidedly old school — not in a good way — it might be time to consider replacing them. Even if they still work, dated styles can negatively impact a home’s value at the time of sale.

Depending on the style of door and the complexity of the installation, swapping out an interior door can cost anywhere between $150 to $2,000, with an average of $750. A good portion of the cost is professional labor.

While hanging a door might sound simple, doing it wrong can lead to improper closure or a door that just won’t close at all, which leaves you back at the drawing board. It could be worth asking for estimates from a few professional contractors if you decide to replace several interior doors at once.

A door can make an impression — good or bad — when someone enters a room. That first impression might become very important when considering home value. This kind of home improvement project could pay off when you eventually sell your home.

Recommended: Tips for Maintaining the Value of Your Home

DIY Ways to Update Your Interior Doors

Replacing interior doors altogether can be expensive, and is not always necessary. If your door is in good shape, an inexpensive DIY can update your interior doors to look more modern or trendy.

Here are some interior door upgrades you might consider before ditching a door altogether.

•   Swapping out door knobs and hardware Sometimes dated brass or an ornate finish might make a standard swing door feel out of place. For between $75 and $150, you can update a door’s knobs and hinges.

•   Trying a new hue A fresh coat of paint might transform a door’s entire vibe. Instead of a standard white, you might opt for a neutral shade, make a statement with a black door, or choose a rich, deep tone that complements other colors in your home. You can even switch things up by painting the frame and the door different colors. Although you have to remove the door from its frame, this project is DIYable, and can typically be done within a day or two.

•   Updating hollow core doors Hollow core doors are the standard type of door installed in many homes when they’re built. It’s a swing door with a flat surface. These are basic doors that can be a blank slate for your personal taste. For example, you might use molding and beadboard panels to create a paneled look on standard doors. This can make a builder-grade, hollow-core door look custom-made. This DIY project is a small investment for a big payoff.

Recommended: What Are the Most Common Home Repair Costs?

The Takeaway

Doors inside your home don’t just provide privacy, they’re a feature of the property. If your interior doors are in poor shape, replacing and updating them could help increase the value of your home, making the upgrade well worth the upfront outlay of money.

If you don’t have enough cash on hand to cover the cost of upgrading your doors (or any other part of your home), you might consider using a personal loan for financing. This is an unsecured loan that can be used for virtually any purpose, including a home renovation or upgrade. Once approved, you get a lump sum of cash up front you then pay back (plus interest) in monthly installments over time. Rates are typically fixed and lower than credit cards.

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

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


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


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Driving vs. Shipping Your Car Across the Country

A cross-country move is exciting. You’ll make friends, have new experiences, and dive into a whole new way of life in a new city. But not so fast: You have to get there first. And one of the big decisions you’ll have to make when moving across the country is whether to drive your car yourself or hire a shipping company to move it for you.

There are a lot of considerations to keep in mind when making this decision, from weather to safety to timing. And of course, there are shipping costs to think about. To make the right choice, take the following factors into account.

Driving Distance

Getting your vehicle to your new home could be one of your biggest moving expenses. When deciding whether to drive or ship your car, the first step is to get a sense of how long the drive actually is. Use a mapping app to get a sense of the various routes you could take, the total distance, and a driving time estimate.

Understanding distance can help give you a sense of how much fuel you’d need to make the journey. Consider how many miles per gallon of gas your car usually gets. Divide the total distance by that number, and that can help you create a rough estimate of how much gas you might expect to purchase.

You may also want to factor in the average gas prices in the locations you’ll be driving through. The American Automobile Association (AAA) aggregates the average price for a gallon of gas in each state, and nationally.

Mapping can also give you a sense of what kind of conditions you can expect to be driving in. For the most part, you may expect to take major highways. But will your route take you across mountains or deserts? These regions might be tough on a vehicle, especially if it’s older and prone to overheating, for example.

Recommended: How to Save Money on Gas

Seasonal Considerations

The time of year you plan to move can make a big difference when it comes to driving conditions. Driving in balmy July weather can be very different from driving through wintry conditions in February, especially if your trip takes you across the northern part of the country where there is a chance of snowy or icy conditions.

Take geographical features, like mountains, into consideration as well. For example, there may be snow in mountain passes far earlier than in places closer to sea level. So, though a cross country trip in October may be snow free in most parts of the country, you might encounter wintry conditions as you cross the Rocky Mountains.

If driving through adverse weather does not sound appealing to you, you may consider shipping your car instead.

Recommended: How to Move Across the Country

Timing

Driving from coast to coast at a fairly reasonable clip could take as little as a few days or as long as a week. If you’re driving with someone else, you can switch off drivers and the trip may take less time.

If you’re driving solo, you may take extra time as you make stops to ensure you’re well rested enough to safely continue your journey. If you can’t afford to take the time off to drive your car yourself, shipping may make more sense.

Recommended: 13 Helpful Tips for You to Afford Moving Out

Safety

When you drive across the country, you necessarily put yourself and any passengers at a certain amount of risk. Your car will experience more wear and tear on a long drive, and you face the possibility of breakdowns.

What’s more, you risk the possibility of theft while you’re on the road, whether of your vehicle itself or its contents.

There is also a chance that you could get into an accident while on the road. Shipping your car limits potential damage to your vehicle and shields you from personal safety hazards.

Recommended: 31 Ways to Save Money on Car Maintenance

Cost to Ship a Car

The cost to ship a car across the country will depend on a number of factors, including the size and weight of the vehicle, the distance the vehicle will be shipped, and what kind of insurance you want to buy.

To a certain extent, price may depend on demand, which can fluctuate throughout the year. The more cars are being shipped along a certain route, the pricier it will be. While prices vary, September through November are generally the cheapest months to ship a car.

On average, it costs around $1,108 to ship a car. Again, price depends on the length of trip, but also on whether you choose an open transport or an enclosed transport. A 2,750-mile trip in an open transport costs about $1,210, while covering that same distance in an enclosed transport runs about $1,580.

You may also want to consider the option of shipping your car by train, which may be faster and cheaper than sending it on a truck. You may have to purchase a ticket and ride the same train that your car is on.

When considering shipping as an option, it’s also important to consider other potential costs associated with it. For example, you will have to purchase plane tickets for you and your family. If you drive your own car, you can pack it full of items you want to move with you. When you arrive at your destination, you may need to rent a car until your own vehicle arrives.

Recommended: Ways to Be a Frugal Traveler

Cost to Drive a Car

In many cases, it may be cheaper to drive your car than it is to ship it. According to Move.org, it is, on average, about $180 cheaper to drive a car than to have it shipped, factoring in the costs for food, lodging, and fuel for one person.

The longer the distance, however, generally the closer the two costs come together. Driving a car 1,000 miles versus shipping it over the same distance costs $470 and $980 respectively. Driving a car 2,750 miles versus shipping that same distance, on the other hand, runs $1,220 and $1,210 respectively.

Lodging is one of the greatest expenses you will encounter while you’re on the road. The more nights you spend on the road, the more expensive driving your car yourself will become. You can of course consider less expensive options, like staying in an Airbnb or visiting with friends along the way.

Discover real-time vehicle values with Auto Tracker.¹

Now you can instantly monitor vehicle prices in this unprecedented market—to help you make smart money moves.


Making the Decision

As you tackle your moving checklist, the decision to to drive across the country or ship your car will depend on a lot of factors. In some respects it comes down to convenience. Do you have the time to ship your car? Will you need it right away? Do you want to risk driving in poor conditions? In other respects it comes down to cost.

For the most part, driving costs less than shipping. However, the longer the drive, the difference in cost between the two options starts to shrink.

If you decide to ship your car, do your research. Ask friends and family for recommendations and check out company reviews and reports from the Better Business Bureau. Contact multiple shipping companies to make sure you get the best rate.

No matter what you decide, moving is potentially a pricey proposition. If you need a little extra help covering the cost of the move, consider a relocation assistance loan. These loans are personal loans that can cover the cost of shipping your car and other moving related expenses.

Consider funding your move with SoFi.


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.


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 Replace Windows?

Have you noticed a pesky draft in the winter months? Or perhaps the blazing sun heats up your living space in the summertime? It might be time to replace your windows.

The price tag on this type of project will depend on a range of factors, including materials, style, size, number needed, and the cost of installation.

How Much Do Windows Cost?

Count on a bill of thousands.

A standard new window, installed, can cost anywhere from $450 to $1,500, according to HomeGuide. HomeAdvisor puts the costs at $300 to $2,100 per window and $100 to $300 each for labor.

Window frames are commonly made of wood, vinyl, metal, or fiberglass. Of those, vinyl windows are the most popular choice. The average cost of a double-hung, double-pane vinyl window, including installation, is $400 to $2,000, HomeGuide says.

Vinyl windows typically last for 30 years, don’t need to be painted, and are easy to clean. Compared with their cheaper cousin, aluminum, vinyl windows excel when it comes to insulation and improving energy efficiency, and they will not rust.

Fiberglass and fiberglass-composite windows are stronger than vinyl. Like vinyl, they offer a high degree of energy efficiency, and with both types of window, there are options to enhance the energy efficiency. Expect to pay $600 to $1,000 for one fiberglass window, installed, according to The Spruce, though some sites give a lower average cost.

Wood windows can lend a classic look. Expect to pay more — around $800 to $3,800, including installation, according to HomeGuide. Wood windows tend to be harder to maintain than vinyl windows, given that the paint can peel or the wood can start to rot if it gets wet.

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

When Should I Replace My Windows?

If you’re thinking about replacing your windows, consider these questions. First, do your windows show any damage? Are they drafty, or have you noticed an increase in your electrical bills in the winter when the heat is on, or in the summer when the air conditioning is on?

Is there frequent moisture buildup on the outside of the glass, or is moisture trapped between layers of glazing, signaling leaky seals? Can you hear too much noise outside? Are you ready for a new look?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it may be time to consider replacing your windows. Or if you are on a smaller budget, consider repairing them.

If you’re buying a new home, an inspection will be a part of your mortgage process. It’s best to have the windows inspected, and if there are major issues, try to negotiate for their replacement before you close on the house.

Can I Repair Old Windows?

If your windows are in pretty good shape, it may make sense to repair or update them rather than replace them. Doing so can be a cost-effective way to help you save money on energy costs and reduce drafts and moisture in your home.

•   Check windows for air leaks.

•   Caulk and add weather stripping as needed.

•   Consider solar control film that can block heat and reduce glare.

•   If a pane is cracked, in a pinch the glass alone can be replaced with an insulated glass unit.

Recommended: What Are the Most Common Home Repair Costs?

How Long Do Windows Last?

The lifespan of a window depends on a number of factors, such as quality and type of material, local climate, and proper installation.

Wood windows can last a long time, but might require a bit of maintenance on your part, whereas vinyl or fiberglass windows may require none.

Your local weather can play a big part. Extreme heat or cold can shorten the lifespan, salt spray from the ocean can corrode window exteriors, while humidity can lead to warping or rotting.

Whether or not a window is properly installed can also impact how long it lasts. If it is sealed improperly, for example, moisture may get in and damage the frame.

Finally, consider how much a window is used. Normal wear and tear on parts in windows that are opened and closed frequently can lead to replacement more often than windows that are rarely opened.

Should I Replace All My Windows at Once?

Whether or not you decide to replace all of your windows at once will largely depend on your budget. Consider that the price to replace 10 windows in a modest house could be several thousand dollars.

If you don’t have the budget to replace all your windows in one go, it’s common to swap windows out in stages. In this case, windows at the front of the house are generally the first to be replaced. They’re public-facing and add to the curb appeal of the home. The windows in the back of the house tend to come next, followed by any upstairs windows.

There may be economies of scale. After ordering 10 or more windows, the price per window tends to stay the same.

What Type of Window Should I Buy?

The first thing to consider is materials. You might consider wood windows if you’re trying to match them to an existing wood exterior or trim. You might choose fiberglass or composite for its durability and ability to look like painted wood. Or you might decide on vinyl for its affordability.

You’ll also want to consider the many types of windows available. For example, single-hung windows are among the most popular and cheapest options. They have a fixed upper window and allow you to open a lower window sash.

Double-hung windows are pricier but have two moving window sashes that allow for increased airflow and easier cleaning. There are also bay windows, arched windows, sliding windows, and many more to choose from.

The glass option you choose is an important decision. There are a variety of insulating options, such as dual-pane or triple-pane windows. Glass can be treated with a low-emittance coating to reflect heat in the summer and keep it in in the winter.

In climates where you need to cool the house for much of the year, consider three-coat low-e glazing, which best reduces heat from the sun. In colder climates that require more heating, it may make sense to go with a two-coat low-e treatment.

The space between glass may be filled with a nontoxic gas that can provide better insulation than air.

What’s the Best Time of Year for Replacing Windows?

Spring, summer, and fall tend to be the most popular times to replace windows. That’s because in the warmer months, you don’t have to worry about winter air getting into your house, requiring you to jack up your heat or close off rooms to control drafts. These factors can be especially irksome if you’re having multiple windows replaced.

Weather can affect how materials behave. For example, caulk doesn’t adhere well in extreme cold, nor does it cure well in very high temperatures. As a result, you may want to aim to replace windows when temperatures are between 40 and 80 degrees.

If you can stand the cold, you may be able to secure a discount to have windows installed in the winter. A contractor can help you decide on the right time of year to have your new windows installed.

The Takeaway

What does it cost to replace windows? It depends on the materials (wood, vinyl, fiberglass), style, size, and labor costs. Think of new windows as a long-term investment that may provide energy savings, visual appeal, and, potentially, enhanced resale value.

If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get some home repairs or renovations done, see what a SoFi can offer. With a SoFi Home Improvement Loan, you can borrow between $5,000 to $100,000 as an unsecured personal loan, meaning you don’t use your home as collateral and no appraisal is required. Our rates are competitive, and the whole process is easy and speedy.

Turn your home into your dream house with a SoFi Home Improvement Loan.


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.


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.

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

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What Is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)?

The term “accessory dwelling unit” might sound foreign, but chances are you’ve encountered one. Sometimes called an in-law suite, granny flat, or, more romantically, carriage house, an ADU is a secondary dwelling unit on the same lot as a primary single-family home.

Although ADUs have risen in popularity in recent years, they’ve been around for decades, according to a study by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., known as Freddie Mac.

When the suburbs boomed in the 1950s, municipalities across the country created zoning laws prohibiting higher-density residential structures, the Freddie Mac report noted, but in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and others that lacked affordable housing, the practice continued in secret.

As zoning laws across the country have changed to allow ADUs, the trend has boomed in tandem with population growth in the South and the West. “Half of our total 1.4 million ADUs are located in the Sun Belt states of California, Florida, Texas, and Georgia,” Freddie Mac reported.

What’s the attraction? Some property owners add an ADU to generate rental income; others want a place to accommodate guests, and still others need living space for aging parents.

Read on to learn why ADUs are all the rage in pricey cities and what it takes to build one.

ADU Meaning Explained

An ADU goes by many names, but its features make it unique among types of dwellings.

•   ADUs are smaller than the primary residence they accompany. In California, which passed statewide laws making many city restrictions on ADUs obsolete and streamlining the approval process, the size generally ranges from 500 to 1,000 square feet.

•   ADUs are self-contained. They usually include a bathroom, kitchenette, living area, and separate entrance.

•   ADUs require a special permit, which varies by location, according to the American Planning Association. Building codes may limit the size of the ADU and the number of occupants. Some cities, however, are offering an ADU amnesty program to help legalize under-the-radar units.

•   Unlike a duplex, ADUs usually share utility connections with the primary residence.

Recommended: A Guide to Buying a Duplex

What Are the Different Types of ADUs?

All ADUs have to follow ordinances and laws, but they don’t all look the same. Depending on homeowner preference, it might look like one of the following:

•   Detached This is likely new construction, formal or informal.

•   Converted garage This might mean retrofitting the garage or adding a second floor to create an ADU. Fans of Happy Days might recall Fonzie living in the Cunninghams’ converted garage, which was actually an ADU.

•   Attached Typically this is an addition to the existing residence.

•   Interior conversion An existing portion of the house, perhaps the basement, is transformed into an ADU. Fans of Full/Fuller House might recall the Tanners’ attic conversion and the basement/garage living space.

Benefits of an ADU

For the right homeowner, an ADU has upsides.

•   Rental income Choosing to rent out the space could bring in income, whether with a long-term rental or short-term Airbnb.

•   A true mother-in-law suite or adult-child dwelling For multi-generational families, adding an ADU could be a good way to create privacy and be close … but not too close. An ADU can also house an adult child who returns to the nest.

•   A space to age in place Conversely, aging homeowners or empty-nesters might choose to build an ADU for themselves. The homeowners could move into the smaller, more manageable space and rent out the larger property for passive income.

•   Flexibility An ADU could become a home office or art studio. For some homeowners, it might just be a good place to host guests.

•   Enhanced property value Compare the cost of buying a second small home or condo in your area with the cost of adding an ADU. How much value will a permitted habitable accessory dwelling add? A property appraisal will tell the tale.

Drawbacks of an ADU

ADUs may also come with their fair share of potential downsides.

•   Can be expensive A detached ADU may cost as much as a small house to build (though the homeowner already owns the land). An attached ADU or conversion of an existing structure will probably cost less, but still may cause sticker shock. Size, features, and the cost of professional services, permits, and any financing come into play.

•   Occupancy requirements Some local ordinances require that a home that has an ADU be owner-occupied in some capacity. That means a property with an ADU may not be the right fit for someone who wants to rent out the entire property.

•   Higher taxes On one hand, adding value to your property is a good thing. On the other, an ADU can make a property tax bill spike.

•   A smaller yard Unless a homeowner is retrofitting an ADU into their existing dwelling, building an ADU will cut down on outdoor space.

•   Financing Can be tricky. Read on.

Recommended: 8 Steps to Buying a Vacation Home

Ways to Pay for an ADU

While ADUs have different shapes and designs, they have a commonality: a price tag. If homeowners don’t have cash on hand to finance the build, they’ve got a few options to move forward.

A home improvement loan is a personal loan used to pay for a home renovation or update. When a homeowner takes out a home improvement loan, it’s not secured by the property — meaning the home isn’t collateral in the transaction.

A home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC) leverages homeowners’ equity in a property and allows them to borrow money against the value of the home. Unlike a home improvement loan, a home equity loan or credit line is tied to the house, meaning the property is used as collateral. A home equity loan provides you with a lump sum of funds at one time and typically has a fixed interest rate. With a HELOC, homeowners can draw different amounts at different times, typically with a variable interest rate.

With sufficient equity in your home, homeowners could also consider a cash-out refinance.

The Takeaway

Determining if an accessory dwelling unit is the right move for a homeowner comes down to needs, preferences, and finances. ADUs have pros and cons, but many areas have eased the way for this cottage industry.

Homeowners who don’t have much equity in their property or don’t want to use their home as collateral may want to consider a SoFi unsecured personal loan to cover the cost of an ADU. SoFi’s home improvement loans range from $5K to $100K, and offer competitive, fixed rates, as well as a variety of terms. Plus, there are no fees required.

Imagine the possibilities. Then check your rate. It’s easy.


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


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

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.

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

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

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Should I Pay Off Debt Before Buying a House?

Ready to buy your own home? There’s a lot to consider, especially if this is your first time applying for a mortgage and you’re carrying debt. While having debt is not necessarily a deal-breaker when you’re applying for a mortgage, it can be a factor when it comes to how much you’ll be able to borrow, the interest rate you might pay, and other terms of the loan.

Understanding how the home loan process works can help you decide whether it’s better to pay off debt or save up for a downpayment on a home. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Manage Debt before Buying a Home

Understand Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

When lenders want to be sure borrowers can responsibly manage a mortgage payment along with the debt they’re carrying, they typically use a formula called the debt-to-income ratio (DTI).

The DTI ratio is calculated by dividing a borrower’s recurring monthly debt payments (future mortgage, credit cards, student loans, car loans, etc.) by gross monthly income.

The lower the DTI, the less risky borrowers may appear to lenders, who traditionally have hoped to see that all debts combined do not exceed 43% of gross earnings.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say a couple pays $600 combined each month for their auto loans, $240 for a student loan, and $200 toward credit card debt, and they want to have a $2,000 mortgage payment. If their combined gross monthly income is $8,000, their DTI ratio would be 38% ($3,040 is 38% of $8,000).

The couple in our example is on track to get their loan. But if they wanted to qualify for a higher loan amount, they might decide to reduce their credit card balances before applying.

That 43% threshold isn’t set in stone, by the way. Some mortgage lenders will have their own preferred number, and some may make exceptions based on individual circumstances. Still, it can be helpful to know where you stand before you start the homebuying process.

Recommended: How to Prepare for Buying a New Home

Consider How Debt Affects Your Credit Score

A mediocre credit score doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to get a mortgage loan. Lenders also look at employment history, income, and other factors when making their decisions. But your credit score and the information on your credit reports will likely play a major role in determining whether you’ll qualify for the mortgage you want and the interest rate you want to pay.

Typically, a FICO® Score of 620 will be enough to get a conventional mortgage, but someone with a lower score still may be able to qualify. Or they might be eligible for an FHA or VA backed loan. The bottom line: The higher your score, the more options you can expect to have when applying for a loan.

A few factors go into determining a credit score, but payment history and credit usage are the categories that typically hold the most weight. Payment history takes into account your record of making on-time or late payments, or if you’ve filed for bankruptcy.

Credit usage looks at how much you owe in loans and on your credit cards. An important consideration in this category is your credit utilization rate, which is the amount of revolving credit you’re currently using divided by the total amount of revolving credit you have available. Put more simply, it’s how much you currently owe divided by your credit limit. It is generally expressed as a percent. The lower your rate, the better. Many lenders prefer a utilization rate under 30%.

Does that mean you should pay off all credit card debt before buying a house?

Not necessarily. Debt isn’t the devil when it comes to your credit score. Borrowers who show that they can responsibly manage some debt and make timely payments can expect to maintain a good score. Meanwhile, not having any credit history at all could be a problem when applying for a loan.

The key is in consistency — so borrowers may want to avoid making big payments, big purchases, or balance transfers as they go through the loan process. Mortgage underwriters may question any noticeable changes in your credit score during this time.

Recommended: What Credit Score is Required to Buy a House?

Don’t Forget, You May Need Ready Cash

Making big debt payments also could cause problems if it leaves you short of cash for other things you might need as you move through the homebuying process, including the following.

Down Payment

Whether your goal is to put down 20% or a smaller amount, you’ll want to have that money ready when you find the home you hope to buy.

Closing Costs

The cost of home appraisals, inspections, title searches, etc., can add up quickly. Average closing costs are 3% to 6% of the full loan amount.

Moving Expenses

Even a local move can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, so you’ll want to factor relocation expenses into your budget. If you’re moving for work, your employer could offer to cover some or all of those costs, but you may have to pay upfront and wait to be reimbursed.

Remodeling and Redecorating Costs

You may want to leave yourself a little cash to cover any new furniture, paint, renovation projects, or other things you require to move into your home.

Trends in the housing market may help you with prioritizing saving or paying down debt. So it’s a good idea to pay attention to what’s going on with the overall economy, your local real estate market, and real estate trends in general.

Here are some things to watch for.

Interest Rates

When interest rates are low, homeownership is more affordable. A lower interest rate keeps the monthly payment down and reduces the long-term cost of owning a home.

Rising interest rates aren’t necessarily a bad thing, though, especially if you’ve been struggling to find a home in a seller’s market. If higher rates thin the herd of potential buyers, a seller may be more open to negotiating and lowering a home’s listing price.

Either way, it’s good to be aware of where rates are and where they might be going.

Inventory

When you start your home search, you may want to check on the average amount of time homes in your desired location sit on the market. This can be a good indicator of how many houses are for sale in your area and how many buyers are out there looking. (A local real estate agent can help you get this information.)

If inventory is low and buyers are snapping up houses, you may have trouble finding a house at the price you want to pay. If inventory is high, it’s considered a buyer’s market and you may be able to get a lower price on your dream home.

Price

If you pay too much and then decide to sell, you could have a hard time recouping your money.

The goal, of course, is to find the right home at the right price, with the right mortgage and interest rate, when you have your financial ducks in a row.

If the trends are telling you to wait, you may decide to prioritize paying off your debts and working on your credit score.

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Remember, You Can Modify Your Mortgage Terms

If you already have a mortgage, you may be able to make some adjustments to the original loan by refinancing to different terms.

Refinancing can help borrowers who are looking for a lower interest rate, a shorter loan term, or the opportunity to stop paying for private mortgage insurance or a mortgage insurance premium.

Consider a Debt Payoff Plan

If you decide to make paying down your debt your goal, it can be useful to come up with a plan that gets you where you want to be.

Because here’s the thing: All debt is not created equal. Credit card debt interest rates are typically higher than other types of borrowed money, so those balances can be more expensive to carry over time. Also, loans for education are often considered “good debt,” while credit card debt is often viewed as “bad debt.” As a result, lenders may be more understanding about your student loan debt when you apply for a mortgage.

As long as you’re making the required payments on all your obligations, it may make sense to focus on dumping some credit card debt.

Recommended: Beginners Guide to Good and Bad Debt

The Takeaway

Should you pay off debt before buying a house? Not necessarily, but you can expect lenders to take into consideration how much debt you have and what kind it is. Considering a solution that might reduce your payments or lower your interest rate could improve your chances of getting the home loan you want.

When you consolidate your credit card debt, you typically take out a personal loan, ideally with a lower rate than you’re paying your credit cards, and use it to pay off all of your credit cards. You then end up with one balance and one payment to make each month. This simplified the debt repayment process and can also help you save money on interest.

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


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


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


Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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