human law scale

Homestead Exemption Bankruptcy Rules, by State

Despite what the name might suggest, homestead exemptions aren’t some kind of dusty old prospector or settler law. They are statutes that, in a bankruptcy filing, are designed to protect a primary residence from creditors.

If the Smiths file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, how much equity they can protect with an exemption will be one of the factors determining whether they will be able to keep their home.

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, they won’t lose their home, but they will have to pay creditors an amount equal to the value of the property they can’t protect with an exemption, or their disposable income, whichever is more.
Before declaring bankruptcy, it’s best to consider the alternatives.

This guide will provide an overview of homestead exemptions as applied to bankruptcy, state by state.

What Is Homestead Exemption?

If you’re wondering what a homestead exemption is, it’s a provision in a state’s law that can legally protect a home from creditors in situations such as declaring bankruptcy or enduring the death of a homeowner’s spouse.

In these ways, a homestead exemption can both literally provide you with shelter (a roof over your head) and protection financially, possibly avoiding a situation in which you must lose your residence. That said, this exemption will not prevent foreclosure if a homeowner defaults on their mortgage.

You may be curious about what is the Homestead Act and if it’s the same thing as homestead exemption. They are two different things: The Homestead Act was an 1862 law that granted 160 acres of Western land in the U.S. to anyone who promised to farm it. It was designed to settle the West and drive economic growth.

What States Have a Homestead Exemption?

It’s easier to name the states that don’t have a homestead exemption than those that do since the vast majority of them offer this protection.

Currently, the only states without specific homestead exemptions are New Jersey and Pennsylvania. If you live in one of those states, then you know where you stand on potential shields with homestead exemptions.

If you live in any of the other 48 states, know that there are many more asterisks to hunt for, depending on your situation and financial plans.

Even if you live in a state that offers homestead exemptions, you may want to find ways to save money on your mortgage. These strategies can help you weather financial storms, such as considering refinancing a home loan and requesting a new tax assessment.

Recommended: The Pros & Cons of Buying a Starter Home

Which State Has the Best Homestead Exemption?

While there is no literal “best” state to homestead in because there are so many individual factors to weigh in assessing what’s advantageous, it is true that some states are more favorable than others for seeking the exemption.

Before reading the following, an asterisk: Because homestead exemptions are protections for primary residences, you cannot claim an exemption on an investment property or vacation home.

Some states allow bankruptcy filers to use federal bankruptcy exemptions instead of the state exemptions.

The federal homestead exemption amount is calculated every three years. For the period from April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2025, it allows you to protect up to $27,900 of the equity in your home. In cases where you and your spouse file taxes separately, do not live together, maintain separate homesteads, or (according to at least one court) do not have a direct financial connection with each other, each spouse can claim a separate homestead, up to the amount allowed by an individual.

Recommended: Getting Approved for a Personal Loan After Bankruptcy

Also, most states allow a “wildcard” exemption, which allows you to protect any kind of property from bankruptcy proceedings. This can be of particular help if one or more of a debtor’s other exemptions falls short of protecting their equity. A wildcard exemption amount can be divided among multiple items.

As of April 1, 2022, the federal wildcard exemption is $1,475, plus up to $13,950 of any part of the federal homestead exemption that has not been used.

Since there’s so much variability in local, regional, and state codes and how they define the homestead exemption, it’s wise to consult local authorities or websites detailing the law’s specifics when you are in a situation that may trigger these laws.

Recommended: Understanding Bankruptcy: Is It Ever the Right Option?

Here’s a rundown of what you might call homestead states that offer some of the strongest protections via exemptions. “Strongest” here is being interpreted as either affordances for high exemptions or greater flexibilities in the law — but other factors, such as cost of living, should also be a consideration:

1. California. California has two systems for the homestead exemption. Under one system, homeowners can exempt up to $600,000 of equity in a house. In the other system, they can exempt up to $31,950 of home equity. Determining what you can access requires research and/or legal counsel.

2. Florida. Under the Florida exemption system “homeowners may exempt an unlimited amount of value in their home or other property covered by the homestead exemption. However, the property cannot be larger than half an acre in a municipality or 160 acres elsewhere.” The exemption can also be claimed by the spouse or children of a deceased owner.

3. Iowa. An unlimited value in one home or a one-unit apartment can be sought in protection. The property must be in a city or town and is limited to one-half acre or 40 acres elsewhere.

4. Kansas. An unlimited amount of value can be sought in protection, but homeowners are limited in the amount of land they can protect. Homeowners can protect up to 1 acre of property if they live within city limits or up to 160 acres of farmland.

5. Minnesota. You can protect up to $450,000 of equity in your home and land or up to $1,125,000 of equity if your land (up to 160 acres) is used for agricultural purposes.

6. Oklahoma. Residents can exempt the entire value of their homes, but the homestead can’t be larger than a half acre if you live in a city, town, or village or up to 160 acres if you live elsewhere. (If you use more than 25% of the total square footage of your property for business, your exemption is limited to $5,000.)

7. Rhode Island. The exemption applies for up to $500,000 of equity.

8. South Dakota. If your home is less than 1 acre in a town or 160 acres in any other type of area, all of your equity is exempt.

9. Texas. For residences on 10 acres or less in a city, town, or village or 100 acres or less in the country, Texas offers an unlimited homestead exemption.

10. Washington. This state’s generous homestead exemption varies depending on the county the homeowner lives in, from $172,900 in Ferry to $729,600 in King County, where Seattle is.

Recommended: What Is Cost of Living?

Homestead Exemptions in Other States

Here’s all the rest of the states and what homestead exemptions they offer:

1. Alabama. The Alabama Department of Revenue indicates that at the state level, homestead exemptions have a maximum value of $16,450. It only applies on land area that is not more than 160 acres.

2. Alaska. Homeowners may exempt up to $70,200 of their home or other property covered by the homestead exemption.

3. Arizona. Homeowners can exempt up to $150,000 for a house and the land it’s on, a cooperative or condominium, a mobile home and the land it’s on, provided the person lives in the dwelling.

4. Arkansas. You can seek an unlimited amount of equity in 80 rural acres or one-quarter of an urban acre.

5. Colorado. Up to $75,000 of equity in a home or other property, such as a mobile home, is protected. The amount increases to $105,000 if the homeowner, spouse, or dependent is disabled or 60 or older.

6. Connecticut. The state of Connecticut protects up to $75,000 of equity in real property, a co-op, or a manufactured home occupied at the time of filing bankruptcy. The exemption rises to $125,000 if a creditor is collecting for hospital costs.

7. Delaware. Exempts up to $125,000 in real property or a manufactured home that was used as a principal residence.

8. Georgia. Homeowners may exempt up to $21,500 of their home or other property covered by the exemption. They can also apply $10,000 of any unused portion of the exemption to another property they own—a “wildcard” exemption.

9. Hawaii. If you’re the head of a household or over 65, you can exempt up to $30,000 of equity. If you’re not the head of the family, you may protect up to $20,000 of equity in your home.

10. Idaho. A filer can protect up to $175,000 in equity in a home or mobile home.

11. Illinois. Protects up to $15,000 in equity in your home, which includes a farm, mobile home, lot with buildings, condominium, or cooperative.

Recommended: How Often Can You Refinance Your Home?

12. Indiana. A debtor can exempt up to $19,300 in real estate or personal property used as a residence. In addition, if you are married and filing jointly, that figure rises to $38,900.

13. Kentucky. Up to $5,000 of equity can be claimed.

14. Louisiana. Homeowners are allowed to exempt up to $35,000 of home equity, and more if their debts were due to what’s considered a catastrophic or terminal illness or injury.

15. Maine. Up to $80,000 of equity in property used as a residence can be claimed. The amount can be increased to $160,000 in equity if you have a minor dependent residing with you, or if you are 60 or older or disabled.

16. Maryland. Exempts residential property value up to $25,150 (husband and wife may not double).

17. Massachusetts. The state automatically protects up to $125,000 in home equity, and up to $500,000 for those who file and receive the increased exemption (this amount also applies to the elderly or disabled).

18. Michigan. Each homeowner and their dependents can exempt up to $40,475 in a property covered by the homestead exemption. If the homeowner is 65 or older or disabled, the exemption amount increases to $60,725.

19. Mississippi. An exemption of up to $75,000 of equity in the real estate you live in can be claimed, as long as the property is less than 160 acres.

20. Missouri. You can exempt up to $15,000 of equity in the real estate in which you live or will live, and spouses who file a joint bankruptcy can double the exemption.

21. Montana. Up to $350,000 in equity can be protected as applied to up to 320 farm acres, a quarter of a city acre, or one residential acre outside a municipality.

22. Nebraska. Up to $60,000 can be protected on a home, provided the owner is either a head of household, married, or over age 65, and the property does not exceed 160 acres.

Recommended: How Much Does It Cost to Refinance a Mortgage?

23. Nevada. Up to $605,000 in equity in a home can be claimed.

24. New Hampshire. You can protect up to $120,000 in equity.

25. New Mexico. Up to $60,000 of equity in your home can be protected; that increases to $120,000 being available to spouses who co-own property.

26. New York. The homestead exemption amount varies greatly depending on the county. If the property is in the counties of Kings, Queens, New York, Bronx, Richmond, Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Westchester, or Putnam, the exemption is $179,950. If the property is in the counties of Dutchess, Albany, Columbia, Orange, Saratoga, or Ulster, the exemption amount is $149,975. For any other county in the state, the exemption amount is $89,975.

27. North Carolina. Homeowners may exempt up to $35,000 of their home or other personal property. Homeowners who are 65 or older whose spouse is deceased may exempt up to $60,000, provided the property was previously owned by the debtor as a tenant by the entirety or as a joint tenant with rights of survivorship.

28. North Dakota. Homeowners can protect up to $100,000 of equity in their home when declaring bankruptcy.

29. Ohio. The state allows for the protection of up to $145,425 of equity as part of the homestead exemption. Spouses who file a joint bankruptcy may double that amount.

30. Oregon. A property owner may be exempt up to $40,000. Married couples, however, may be exempt up to $50,000.

31. South Carolina. The state’s law protects up to $63,250 in equity in a home or real estate used as a residence, with spouses who file a joint bankruptcy being able to double the exemption.

32. Tennessee. Homeowners can exempt up to $5,000 of equity — and that amount goes up to $7,500 for joint owners and $25,000 if there’s at least one minor child who is a dependent. People 62 and older can exempt up to $12,500 of equity in their home—$20,000 if married, and $25,000 if the spouse is also 62 or older.

33. Utah. Homeowners may exempt up to $43,300 to protect their home, provided it is their primary personal residence.

34. Vermont. An exemption up to $125,000 of the equity in a home, condo, or mobile home can be claimed; it can’t be doubled, however, in cases of joint bankruptcy filing.

35. Virginia. This state allows for protection of $5,000 of real estate or personal property as a “wildcard” exemption. That number doubles to $10,000 if the individual is age 65 or older.

36. West Virginia. Homeowners may exempt up to $35,000 of their home or other property. That figure increases to $70,000 if you are married, you and your spouse both own the property, and you file bankruptcy together.

37. Wisconsin. A single person can protect up to $75,000 of equity in a home; spouses can double the amount to $150,000.

38. Wyoming. In this state, up to $20,000 of equity in a home can be shielded from bankruptcy. This can double if you are married, you and your partner own the property together, and you file for bankruptcy jointly.

Still with us? If you don’t see a state listed above, that means it’s one of the two (New Jersey or Pennsylvania) that doesn’t offer any homestead exemptions for use in a bankruptcy filing.

The Takeaway

Homestead exemption rules can help protect your home in instances of a bankruptcy filing and can be very helpful during a difficult time. These guidelines differ greatly by state, but are worth investigating. If you can’t keep your head above financial water, these exemptions may allow you to keep your home.

Refinancing a mortgage may also provide some relief to a struggling homeowner. In addition to offering an array of mortgage loans, SoFi also can help you refinance at competitive rates and with a hassle-free process.

Find out how smart and simple a SoFi mortgage can be.

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See 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 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.

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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The Cost of Buying a Fixer-Upper

It’s not your imagination: Buying a home has gotten more expensive over the last couple of years. In the fall of 2021, the Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price index rose a stunning 18.6% in a single year. Adding to the high cost of homeownership is the fact that home loan rates also soared. In the fall of 2022, the average interest rate on 30-year mortgages was 6.12%, while a year earlier, it was a super low 3.03%. In other words, you’re going to pay a lot more for both a house and the money you borrow to fund the purchase.

These economic fluctuations are among the reasons that many people are contemplating buying a fixer-upper. They hope to find a lower-priced house that they can rehab (or pay someone else to renovate) in order to own a piece of the American Dream for less.

However, though buying a fixer-upper home may seem like an enticingly affordable option, the cost of remodeling it could wind up being more than you’d planned.

Just how much does it cost to fix up a house? Let’s break down the most common costs associated with gutting a house and remodeling, so you can make an informed buying decision. Read on to learn:

•   What’s a fixer-upper?

•   What are the pros vs. cons of buying a fixer-upper?

•   How can you plan to renovate a home?

•   How much will a fixer-upper really cost?

•   How can you fund fixing up a home?

What Is a Fixer-Upper?

What exactly is a fixer-upper? It’s a home that’s in need of significant work. In many cases, these are older houses with much deferred maintenance or simply a lot of dated, well-worn features.

A fixer-upper might be a home from 100 years ago with an insufficient electrical and heating system, as well as a roof in need of replacement. Or it could be an apartment with a very old and dated kitchen and bathrooms. These residences might be livable, but they require an infusion of cash and work to make them comfortable by today’s standards.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Fixer-Upper

Buying a fixer-upper home has upsides and downsides. For some people, a fixer-upper can be a terrific way to enter the ranks of homeownership. For others, it could wind up being a frustrating source of bills and stress.

First, let’s consider the pros of buying a fixer-upper:

•   Lower price. This can make it easier to become a homeowner.

•   Lesser competition. Many home-shoppers may shy away from taking on this kind of project.

•   Control. The ability to renovate a home to suit your taste.

•   Profit. The opportunity to flip, or resell, the home and make money by doing so.

In terms of negatives, consider these points:

•   Money required to renovate. Although you may be able to buy a fixer-upper at a bargain price, you’ll have to come up with funds for the renovation.

•   Going over budget. Often, when renovations get underway, you’ll hit unexpected situations that require more money to properly complete the job.

•   Taking longer than expected. Closely related to the point above about going over budget financially is the fact that remodeling may take longer than anticipated, which can create issues.

•   Living in a construction site. If you occupy the home as work is done, it can be an uncomfortable experience.

Recommended: Things to Budget for After Buying a Home

Decide If This Is Your Home or a Flip

Many times, people looking to buy a fixer-upper home are in it for the short game of a flip. This means they are hoping to purchase a home well under market value, make a few renovations, and then quickly sell the home for a profit. And that’s all good—you just need to decide which camp you’re in.

If you are hoping to flip a house and make some money, know what you are getting into. As mentioned above, renovations can run over budget and take longer than scheduled. If all you are planning on doing to a house is refresh the paint and flooring and stage it beautifully, things may work out fine. But if you get started on structural work and discover a bigger issue than anticipated, it could wreck your budget for reselling the property. That’s why it’s vital to get a thorough home inspection before you buy a fixer-upper. It’s also wise to walk through with a contractor (if you plan on hiring one) before purchase to size up costs; you’ll learn more about the potential price tag of renovations in a minute.

If you’re planning on buying a fixer-upper home and making it your forever home, you might have a longer timeline to make upgrades. You could tackle the kitchen one year; then redo the bathrooms the next. This could be easier on your budget, but it might mean living amid construction for a while.

And, of course, you don’t get the potential cash infusion by selling the home at a profit, which is the goal of many people who are searching for a fixer-upper. You do get a lovingly restored home to call your own, quite likely at a good price, which can be an excellent reward.

Recommended: How Much House Can I Afford Based on My Income?

Do Your Homework Before You Buy

It’s crucial to add up all the costs of potential renovations before you buy a fixer-upper house. You don’t want the dream of wanting your own home to cloud your judgment about the work that’s needed. If you don’t do a deep dive on pricing before you buy, you may end up in your own version of “The Money Pit” movie.

Consider the following:

•   Assess the upfront cost of the home and add up all potential material and labor needs — think both big and small, like plumbers, electricians, carpenters, all the way down to any new doorknobs you’ll buy along the way. Then, subtract that from the home’s renovated market value. Would this still be a profitable venture?

•   Keep in mind that inflation is currently running high so prices could get higher than what you believe they will cost during the time you are renovating.

•   It’s important to allow room in your budget and your timeline for overages. It’s not uncommon for home renovations to cost more and take longer than anticipated. It’s wise to have at least 3% to 5% extra in your budget (if not more) to cover additional costs, and wiggle room in your timing, too.

Recommended: How Do Home Improvement Loans Work?

Preparing to Invest in Home Renovations

Each home renovation is unique. If you buy a fixer-upper house, the price of rehabbing it can vary tremendously. One house might need new appliances, the walls painted, and the floors sanded. Another might need a new roof and a cracked foundation fixed…plus an electrical upgrade. The size of the home, its age, its location, and condition will all impact how much you’ll need to spend.

But, to give you a ballpark on costs, here are some statistics from Angi, the home renovation and repair site:

•   Renovating a three-bedroom home can cost between $20,000 and $100,000 on average.

•   Renovation costs are typically between $15 and $60 per square foot overall.

•   Remodeling a kitchen or bathroom can cost $100 to $250 per square foot.

•   A kitchen renovation costs $25,000 on average, and a bathroom remodel runs $10,000, but costs can run significantly higher depending on choice of materials, fixtures, and the like. renovation will be different, provides a general cost breakdown for different remodel hypotheticals.

Keep in mind that pricing may be higher if you live in or near a major city, as well.

Recommended: 6 Tips for Doing Home Addition Projects the Right Way

Common Fixer Upper Project Costs

Kitchen Remodels

According to HomeAdvisor’s 2022 data, the average cost of a kitchen remodel currently sits at $25,000, but costs can range from $5,000 to $65,000 or more.

The three elements that contribute most to cost are the countertops, cabinets, and flooring. The more you lean into custom and luxury options, the higher the price will go.

Bathroom Renovation

The average bathroom renovation ranges from $3,000 for small cosmetic updates to $30,000 for a complete gut do-over, with the average price tag coming in at $11,000. A big expense is moving the plumbing lines. If you can keep the layout as-is, you’ll save up to 50%.

Roof Installation

A roof should typically last two to three decades on a home — or longer if you choose the right material. The average cost for replacing a roof is about $8,000, but that will vary with the size of the home and the material you choose.

For instance, if you opt for a premium product, like slate, you’ll find that the average costs for a 3,000-square-foot roof can be $30,000.

Recommended: How to Buy Homeowners Insurance

How to Handle the Cost of a Fixer Upper

These numbers can seem overwhelming, but remember, you’re bringing out your home’s maximum potential, whether for you to enjoy or to capitalize on via a future sale.

You have a few options for how to finance the renovation of a fixer-upper:

•   You could put less money down and take out a larger mortgage. This would allow you to have some cash on hand to pay for the remodeling.

•   You can buy the house and then take out a home improvement loan, which is a kind of personal loan used to finance your home projects.

•   You could purchase the fixer-upper and then apply for a home equity line of credit, or HELOC. These are revolving lines of credit that may offer attractive terms (low interest, long repayment) but keep in mind you are using your home’s equity as collateral. You typically need 15% to 20% equity in your home to qualify.

•   Another option that’s similar to a HELOC is a home equity loan. The difference is that a home equity loan typically distributes a sum of money, which is repaid in installments over a period of time.

The Takeaway

A fixer-upper can be a good investment for some home shoppers, whether they want to renovate the home and live in it or sell it at a profit. However, it’s important to evaluate your costs up front, before signing a contract, to make sure you don’t wind up with a money pit and can make your renovation dreams come true.

One thing that can help you afford your fix-it-up plans is a SoFi home improvement loan. What’s more, these are unsecured loans, meaning you’re not required to put up collateral against the loan. And with fixed monthly payments, you can better plan for the road ahead. Now, all you need is a hammer and you’re ready to go.

Thinking about renovating a fixer-upper? SoFi personal loans can help you turn your new purchase into a dream home.

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See 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 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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Is a 10-Year Mortgage a Good Option?

Mortgages come with different loan terms, and a short 10-year mortgage could be beneficial for some borrowers vs. the common 30-year variety. It’s important to consider your personal finances and goals, since the mortgage length affects the interest rate and monthly payment.

This guide will compare the pros and cons of different mortgage lengths and explore how to get a 10-year mortgage term. Read on to learn if paying off a home loan in a decade is the right fit for you.

How Does a 10-Year Mortgage Work?

A homebuyer or refinancer chooses a mortgage term based largely on the monthly payment they can handle and how long they plan to keep the property. In general, the shorter the term, the higher the payment.

The term length isn’t the only differentiating factor among mortgages. There’s also the choice of fixed-rate vs. adjustable-rate mortgages.

With a 10-year fixed-rate mortgage, the interest rate is set for the life of the loan. Through mortgage amortization, the monthly payment on a fixed-rate mortgage stays the same (excluding changes in taxes or insurance if included in escrow payments), making it easy to budget years worth of housing costs.

The amortization schedule determines how the monthly payment is allocated between the principal and interest. Initially, payments primarily go toward interest. Near the end of the loan term, most of the payment will be on the loan principal, with minimal interest remaining.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) work differently. A 10-year ARM has a fixed interest rate for 10 years, followed by a fluctuating interest rate until the loan is paid off.

You might see a 10/1 ARM or 10/6 ARM. With a 10/1 ARM, the interest rate is fixed for 10 years and then readjusted every year for the remaining term (usually 20 more years). A 10/6 ARM operates similarly but readjusts every six months rather than annually.

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

Recommended: How a 5/1 ARM Works

Reasons to Choose a 10-Year Mortgage

No two homebuyers or refinancers have the same financial goals and situation, but there are some common reasons for choosing a 10-year mortgage.

Borrowers may prefer a 10-year mortgage to save on total interest paid. This could be a good option for buyers with higher incomes who can afford larger monthly payments with money still left over for savings and other expenses.

When interest rates are low, homeowners with an existing 20- or 30-year mortgage might choose to refinance to a 10-year mortgage to get out of debt sooner and pay less interest. This scenario could be more beneficial if you plan to remain in your home longer, allowing time to recoup the closing costs of refinancing.

A shorter mortgage term can be helpful for people who are approaching retirement, too. Paying off a mortgage while you’re still earning a salary (and in less time) allows soon-to-be retirees to save money on interest payments. After 10 years, retirees can enjoy their paid-off house or sell the property to further pad their savings and downsize.

Pros of a 10-Year Mortgage Term

Considering a 10-year mortgage term? Here are some of the potential upsides of going with a decadelong mortgage term.

•   Faster Payoff: You’ll own your home outright in just 10 years.

•   Competitive Rates: 10-year mortgage rates are often lower than rates for mortgages with longer terms.

•   Less Interest Paid: A shorter mortgage term means less interest is accrued, and thus paid, over the life of the loan.

•   Building of Equity: Putting more money toward your mortgage right away can grow home equity faster, which can be borrowed against later for home improvements or other expenses.

Cons of a 10-Year Mortgage Term

Taking out a 10-year mortgage isn’t without its drawbacks. Here are some downsides to be aware of when considering this type of home loan.

•   Higher Monthly Payments: A condensed mortgage term comes with higher monthly payments, putting borrowers at risk if they lose a job or incur emergency expenses.

•   Risk of Becoming “House Poor”: Putting more money toward your mortgage could prevent you from achieving other financial goals, such as saving for retirement or college tuition.

•   Less of a Tax Deduction: Borrowers who use the mortgage interest deduction on taxes will only be able to do so for 10 years.

•   Less Property Choice: Buyers may qualify for a smaller loan amount with a 10-year mortgage than a longer-term loan, reducing the number of homes they can afford.

10-Year Mortgage vs 30-Year Mortgage: How They Compare

It’s helpful to compare mortgage options during the homebuying process. This means looking at different lenders and mortgage term lengths.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is the most popular way to finance a home purchase, with 90% of mortgages lasting 30 years. It’s also the route most borrowers using first-time homebuyer programs take.

Let’s take a closer look at how 10-year mortgages and 30-year mortgages compare.

Interest Rates

Fixed-rate mortgages keep the same interest rate over the life of the loan, helping to make payments predictable.

Lenders use a variety of factors to calculate interest rates, such as credit score, down payment, and economic conditions. Generally speaking, paying the loan back in less time is viewed as less risky for the lender. Thus, 10-year mortgages typically come with lower interest rates than 30-year mortgages.

Monthly Payment

With fixed-rate mortgages, equal installment payments are collected each month by a mortgage servicer.

While 10-year mortgages often have lower interest rates, the monthly payment is significantly higher thanks to the condensed payment schedule. Put another way, the monthly payment for a 10-year mortgage is usually double that of a 30-year mortgage.

For example, a $300,000 mortgage at a fixed rate of 5% with a 10-year term would have a monthly payment of $3,182. Meanwhile, borrowing $300,000 at a fixed rate of 5% with a 30-year term would amount to a $1,610 payment each month. This calculation excludes property taxes, homeowners insurance, and any private mortgage insurance.

You can use this online mortgage calculator tool to estimate your monthly payment.

Getting Qualified

Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), which is calculated by dividing your monthly debts by your gross monthly income, is an important indicator of your ability to repay the loan.

A DTI of 36% or less is recommended for homebuyers, though borrowers with a DTI of 43% may still qualify for a mortgage.

When applying for a 10-year mortgage, the larger monthly payment will increase your DTI, which could affect your ability to qualify, or at least how much you qualify for. Borrowers may qualify for a larger loan amount with a 30-year mortgage because the monthly payment is lower.

Should Inflation Affect Whether You Choose a 10-Year or Longer Mortgage?

Inflation has an impact on the cost of everything. Homebuyers and refinancers need to know that rising inflation affects mortgage rates.

Choosing a longer mortgage term with lower monthly payments can help safeguard a budget from the effects of inflation.

Most borrowers have the option of making extra principal payments, as their finances allow, to repay the loan faster and save on interest. The same ideas behind how to pay off a 30-year mortgage in 15 years apply to paying it off in 10.

Borrowers can also refinance to a 10-year mortgage later if rates are lower and they have the income to manage the higher monthly payment.

Recommended: Home Loan Help Center

The Takeaway

Opting for a 10-year mortgage can help pay off your home quicker and save money on interest. On the flipside, you’ll have to dedicate more of your budget to payments, potentially at the cost of retirement savings and investments.

Still weighing your options? Check out SoFi Mortgages. Qualifying first-time homebuyers can put just 3% down; others, as little as 5% down.

Find your rate in minutes.


Is 10 years the shortest mortgage you can get?

Borrowers may access mortgages with terms of less than 10 years by working with their bank or credit union, since they have more flexibility and an existing customer relationship to customize a loan.

Are there 50-year mortgages?

Though uncommon, 50-year fixed-rate mortgages exist. With such an extended term, borrowers will pay significantly more in interest over the life of the loan than shorter-term home loans.

Photo credit: iStock/fizkes

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See 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 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 Do You Get a Land Loan?

How Do You Get a Land Loan?

Land loans allow borrowers to purchase a piece of land, often with the intention of building a home there or developing it for business.

Because of the inherent risk to lenders, land loans can be challenging to find. The rate and required down payment are typically higher than those of a traditional mortgage loan, and the repayment term is often shorter.

Let’s dig into land loans and look at some alternatives.

What Is a Land Loan?

A land loan, also referred to as a “lot loan,” finances a piece of land. Borrowers may have plans to build a home or start a business on the land, but they might want to keep the plot for just fishing or hunting. Developers can also get land loans to build homes or businesses.

A land loan is different from a construction loan, which is typically a short-term loan to build or rehab a home. With a land loan, the borrower might not have immediate plans to develop the land or build the house.

A land loan can be more challenging to obtain because, unlike with traditional types of mortgage loans, there is no home to serve as collateral for the lender. Thus, lenders may have stricter requirements and higher rates attached to a land loan.

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

Types of Land Loans

The land loan rate and terms you get — and the down payment you’re required to make — may depend on the type of land you’re trying to buy.

Raw Land

Securing financing for raw land can be challenging. Raw land, also called unimproved land, is entirely undeveloped, meaning it lacks roads and electrical, water, and sewage systems.

To improve your chances of loan approval, it’s a good idea to have a comprehensive development plan to show lenders.

Of course raw land is generally cheaper than land that has been partially developed, but because it is virtually untouched, it is not possible to know what major issues await when you start development.

Recommended: How to Find a Contractor for Home Remodeling

Improved Land

Because improved land is developed with utilities and road access, lenders may be more willing to offer financing. But the land typically costs more than raw land.

How to Find Land Loan Lenders

Finding land loan lenders can prove to be more challenging than finding a lender for a traditional mortgage.

Potential land buyers can try these routes for securing financing:

•   Local banks and credit unions: If your personal bank doesn’t issue land loans or you’re struggling to find a big-name financial institution that offers them, you might have more luck with a local bank or credit union.

•   Online lenders: Searching online allows you to compare land loan rates from the comfort of your couch. It also means you can read reviews about the lenders before applying.

•   USDA loans for low-income borrowers: The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers Section 502 direct loans to help low- and very low-income individuals or households purchase homes or buy and prepare sites, including providing water and sewage systems, in rural areas. The rate is well under current market rates. The term is as long as 38 years. No down payment is required.

•   SBA loans: Business owners planning to use land for a business may qualify for a 504 loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA and a lender issue loans for a combined 90% of the land purchase cost. The rate is based on market rates.

Recommended: What Is a USDA Loan?

What Are Typical Land Loan Rates and Terms?

Like any other loan, the interest rate will largely depend on your credit score. That said, land loan rates are typically higher than traditional mortgage rates, thanks to the inherent risk and only the land as collateral.

And the repayment term? A land loan from a bank often is a five-year adjustable-rate loan with a balloon payment at the end. Rarely you might find a 30-year fixed-rate loan through a financial institution in the Farm Credit System.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) recommends loan-to-value (LTV) limits. Lenders may set down payment requirements even greater than the FDIC proposes, however.

•   For raw land, the FDIC advises a 65% LTV, meaning borrowers must put 35% down.

•   For land development, the FDIC recommends a 75% LTV, meaning borrowers must put 25% down.

•   For construction of a one- to four-family residence on improved land, the FDIC calls for an 85% LTV, meaning borrowers must put 15% down on the land loan.

If you don’t plan to develop the land, the rate and down payment could be steep.

If you do build a home on the land, you may be able to refinance the land loan into a traditional mortgage.

Alternatives to Land Loans

A land loan is not your only option when purchasing a lot. One of these alternatives to land loans may be a better choice for you:

Construction-to-Permanent Loans

If you plan to build a house in short order, this kind of loan could work. At first, you would make interest-only payments on the purchase price of the land. The loan then allows for draws until the house is done, usually 12 months from closing. The loan then converts to a permanent mortgage, sometimes with the same rate.

You may need to make a down payment of at least 20% of the total loan amount. The rate for construction loans in general is higher than a regular mortgage.

FHA, VA, and USDA single-close loans are also available to eligible borrowers.

Seller Financing

Though not as common as traditional financing, owner financing is when the current landowner acts as the lender. Also called a land contract, this type of financing does not involve a bank, credit union, or traditional lender.

While it can be beneficial for those who cannot secure a land loan, buyers have fewer consumer protections working in their favor.

Home Equity Loan or HELOC

If you have significant equity in your primary home, you may qualify for a home equity loan. Your home would serve as the collateral for the loan.

Similarly, you may be able to finance the land purchase with a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or a cash-out refinance.

How much home equity can you tap? Many lenders will let you borrow 85% of your home equity, the home’s current value minus the mortgage balance, but some allow more than that.

Personal Loan

Though personal loan rates may be higher than home equity products’ and you may need to pay off the loan in a shorter time, it might be possible to use a personal loan to finance your land purchase.

You’ll receive the funds quickly, and an unsecured personal loan requires no collateral.

What You Need to Know Before Applying for a Land Loan

Before applying for a land loan, it’s important to educate yourself about land development and to understand the details of the specific lot you’re interested in.


When buying a large plot of land, knowing the boundaries can be more challenging. Hiring a surveyor to mark the boundaries can be helpful before applying for the loan.

Recommended: Should I Lock My Mortgage Rate Today?

Utilities and Roads

Unspoiled land may be beautiful, but it can be difficult to develop. Understanding what utilities and roads are available — or how to make them available and how much it will cost to do so — is important before applying.


When considering a land purchase, it’s a good idea to research any zoning restrictions in that area. Before purchasing land, you’ll want to know that you can actually build on it the way you envision.

Recommended: Tiny House Financing

The Takeaway

Land loans allow borrowers to purchase land to develop as they see fit. Because there is more risk involved for the lender, it can be challenging to find a land loan, and the rates and terms tend to be less favorable than those of typical mortgages.

A personal loan, cash-out refinance, home equity loan, or seller financing may also allow a land buyer to hit pay dirt.

SoFi offers fixed-rate personal loans from $5,000 to $100,000 and a cash-out refinance.

And SoFi brokers a home equity line of credit that allows qualified homeowners to access up to 95%, or $500,000, of their home’s equity.

Find your rate and terms on a HELOC today.


Is it hard to get a loan to buy land?

Getting a loan for a land purchase can be more difficult than getting a traditional mortgage. Fewer lenders offer land loans, and because there is more risk involved, they typically require a higher down payment, impose higher interest rates, and offer shorter repayment terms.

Are land loans higher interest?

Land loan rates are typically higher than traditional mortgage rates because there is no home to act as collateral for the lender. Interest rates may vary depending on credit scores and the down payment amount.

What is the first step to apply for a land loan?

First, research land loan lenders. Before applying, it’s also smart to devise a plan that shows the lender how you will develop the land, accounting for things like utilities, land boundaries, roads, and construction costs.

Photo credit: iStock/shapecharge

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See 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 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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Beautiful Small-Kitchen Remodel Ideas

Beautiful Small-Kitchen Remodel Ideas

Navigating a small kitchen can be challenging, especially if you love to entertain or have numerous mouths to feed. If your snug cooking area needs an upgrade, you might be craving ways to create more elbow room and storage areas.

Fortunately, choosing from the buffet of small-kitchen remodel ideas can help you expand your culinary space without breaking the bank.

What Is the Average Size of a Small Kitchen?

Today, the average small kitchen is considered to be 70 square feet. Many apartments in big cities have kitchens of 50 square feet or less.

Isn’t that a shame? Not always. Unsurprisingly, millennial homebuyers, who have constituted the biggest share of buyers for years, are far less likely than baby boomers and Gen Xers to cook dinner at home.

A little kitchen might suit them fine, but they still may like the idea of zhuzhing it up.

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

10 Small-Kitchen Remodel Ideas on a Budget

You don’t need to demo a wall or take out a reverse mortgage to improve your cozy canteen.

At an average of $150 per square foot for both materials and labor, a homeowner might spend $10,500 for a 70-square-foot kitchen remodel. Some will spend much more, and some, much less.

Here are 10 small-kitchen remodel ideas on a budget that will work for most kitchen configurations.

1. Go for a New Backsplash

Installing a festive new backsplash can range from $10 to $95 per square foot. Stick with ceramic tile, brick, or tin for more affordable options than marble or glass.

Adding a backsplash with geometric patterns can make a small kitchen seem larger.

2. Install Open Cabinets and Shelves

Open cabinets and shelves offer a contemporary feel and a chance to display your favorite dishware. The look can also be a less expensive option than traditional cabinets while lending a sense of airiness to a once-cramped kitchen.

3. Change the Flooring

Installing a new floor can be an affordable way to revamp the look of your small kitchen. Vinyl kitchen flooring comes in a variety of snazzy colors and patterns, and costs between $1.85 and $3 per square foot, or up to $10 for high-end materials.

4. Paint With Light Colors

A fresh coat of paint can give an instant facelift to any small kitchen. But dark colors tend to absorb light and constrict the space. By choosing light colors, you can brighten and open up the room.

5. Add Style and Storage Above

Maybe you bought a starter home, and the kitchen isn’t all that.

Maybe downsizing your home seems like the thing to do, little kitchen and all.

Whatever the case, small kitchens generally need more storage space. Inexpensive stylish bins or decorative baskets on top of kitchen cabinets can help.

6. Hang a Ceiling Rack for Pots and Pans

Create vertical storage for your pots and pans with a rack hung from the ceiling. Moderately priced pot racks range from modern to rustic-chic in style.

7. Hang Your Kitchen Utensils

Carve out more room in your kitchen with a magnetic knife rack. Decorate a wall with your most-used wooden spoons and cutting boards.

8. Use the Space Under Your Cabinets

To free up more counter and cabinet space, install a paper towel holder or a wine rack underneath the upper kitchen cabinets. You could also add an extra shelf for spices or coffee mugs.

9. Opt for a Single Sink

If you have a small kitchen, you probably don’t want a sink eating up a big chunk of your counter space. Single butler sinks can provide plenty of depth for dishwashing and come in a variety of prices for the budget-conscious.

10. Choose Compact Appliances

Compact dishwashers are ideal for small kitchens and can cost less than standard size options. And if you are a one- to two-person household, a slimline refrigerator can be a great space saver; they come in fun colors and retro styles.

10 Small U-Shaped Kitchen Remodel Ideas

A U-shaped kitchen, also called C-shaped or horseshoe-shaped kitchen, can provide a great layout for small kitchen spaces, giving one or more chefs more room to maneuver.

Its open configuration offers functionality, but you can lose some storage and counter space.

Here are 10 small U-shaped kitchen remodel ideas to give you a little more whisking room.

1. Implement a Triangle Workflow

To maximize the layout in your small U-shaped kitchen, a triangle workflow plan can allow for the right amount of spacing between your sink, stove, and refrigerator.

Configure your three major “work” areas at adjacent countertops, ideally placing the fridge and the stove across from each other on the peninsulas, with the sink in the connecting, middle counter.

2. Create a Breakfast Bar

Try turning one of the lengths of your U-shaped kitchen into a breakfast bar/seating area. It only needs to be wide enough to hold a cup of morning joe and a cereal bowl, and deep enough to slide in some stools underneath.

3. Install a Window Over the Sink

A window over the kitchen sink is a fantastic way to bring the great outdoors into your U-shaped kitchen. The extra light provides breath to the space and a view while washing the dishes.

4. Get Depth With Contrasting Colors

While dark paint colors aren’t typically the best choice for a small U-shaped kitchen, there are ways to create space by using slightly darker shades.

For example, if you have white cabinets, painting the surrounding walls and backsplash area a light gray can give the illusion of depth.

5. Consider a Darker Countertop

If you have light-colored cabinets, the contrast of a rich brown or black marble countertop can trick the eye into seeing more depth.

6. Install Recessed Lighting

Hanging light fixtures can break up the flow in a small U-shaped kitchen, but recessed lighting can give a chic, streamlined look while increasing the amount of light in the room.

7. Make a Statement With a Black & White Contrast

White cabinets against black countertops and flooring can make a striking design statement while adding dimension. If you choose a reflective black paint or vinyl for the floor, it will give off an illuminating effect when the light hits it.

8. Designate a Wall of Cabinets

You can stretch the space and amount of storage by dedicating an entire wall to cabinets. You’ll lose some counter space but reduce clutter. Try extending the cabinets to the ceiling for an elongated effect.

9. Choose Glass for Your Cabinets

Glass panes on your kitchen cabinets can reflect light, creating the illusion of more space. Their transparency will make it easy for you and your guests to find cookware and wine glasses.

10. Ditch the Cabinet Hardware

If you are replacing your cabinets, consider a style with no handles or knobs. Doing so could offer a sleek, modern look that won’t cramp the design flow.

Ways to Finance a Small-Kitchen Remodel

If you don’t have the cash to pay for your renovations, there are several financing options to help you get that new kitchen sink without draining your savings.

Home Improvement Loan

A personal loan for home improvements allows you to receive a lump sum, often the same day, with no collateral required. You’ll repay the money, plus interest, in monthly installments.

An unsecured loan may come with a fairly high interest rate.


If you have enough home equity, you may be eligible for a home equity line of credit (HELOC) by using your home as collateral. The rate will typically be lower than that of a personal loan or credit card. Plus, you’ll only make payments on the amount borrowed.

But HELOCs may come with closing costs, fees, and a minimum-withdrawal requirement. Most have a variable rate, which could eventually go up. Your home could be at risk if you default on a HELOC.

Still, when rates rise, so does the popularity of HELOCs.

Cash-Out Refinance

With a cash-out refinance, you can use the equity in your home to help redo your small kitchen. You would refinance your mortgage for more than you owe and use part of the difference to cover the project costs.

The downsides of a cash-out refinance? Your overall debt on your house will increase, and closing costs will typically be 2% to 5% of the loan amount.

Credit Card

If you have a 0% or low-rate credit card and can pay off the debt quickly, it could be a smart way to pay for a kitchen remodel while earning some travel miles. But a high-interest card could result in hefty monthly payments, and missing even one payment damages credit scores.

Recommended: Buying? Learn the Different Types of Mortgage Loans

The Takeaway

A small-kitchen remodel can increase the value of your home and raise your joy factor. You can put your little-kitchen project on the front burner with a range of financing options.

SoFi offers a fixed-rate personal loan with no fees as well as a cash-out refinance.

With a HELOC brokered by SoFi, you can access up to 95%, or $500,000, of your home equity to put toward your small-kitchen remodel and other home improvements.

Get cooking to bring your visions to life with a HELOC.


What is the average cost of remodeling a small kitchen?

The average cost of a small-kitchen remodel is $10,500, given an industry average of $150 per square foot for materials and labor and an average small-kitchen size of 70 square feet.

Can you remodel a small kitchen for $5,000?

A do-it-yourselfer can remodel a small kitchen for as little as $5,000 by painting the walls and existing cabinets, installing new hardware (or none at all), laying vinyl flooring, and buying white or black appliances instead of stainless.

What is the best layout for a small kitchen?

U-shaped kitchens are popular because they maximize cabinet and surface areas. If an island won’t fit, try a peninsular breakfast bar connected to the wall. In a narrow kitchen, aim for a double galley.

Can you update an old small kitchen?

Of course you can. Plan it, budget for it, and add about 20% for emergencies.

Photo credit: iStock/martin-dm

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See 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 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.


Read more
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