One Dozen Home Staging Tips for Homeowners Trying to Sell

12 Home Staging Tips for Homeowners Trying to Sell

If you want to sell your home faster and for the highest possible price, you may find that it helps to thoughtfully stage it with potential buyers in mind.

Even in a hot real estate market, staging can be a useful tool. First impressions can be critical as buyers must decide quickly how much to offer or whether to make an offer at all.

A 2021 survey from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) found that 82% of buyers’ agents said staging made it easier for their buyers to visualize a property as their future home.

What Is Home Staging?

Staging your home to sell typically involves cleaning, decluttering, and rearranging furniture — or even replacing your current decor with rented or borrowed pieces that can better showcase the home.

It’s all about making your home as appealing as possible to attract buyers, minimize the amount of time it takes to sell, and maximize your return — goals that can be especially important if you’re trying to buy and sell simultaneously.

How Home Staging Can Affect Time and Price

It’s hard to predict exactly how staging will affect any particular home sale, but here are some factors to consider.

Research Shows Benefits for Sellers

Twenty-three percent of the buyers’ and sellers’ agents who responded to the NAR survey said staging increased the dollar value offered between 1% and 5% compared with similar nonstaged homes on the market. And 31% reported that staging a home for sale greatly decreased the amount of time the home was on the market.

A 2020 Real Estate Staging Association review of 13,000 staged homes found that 85% of those homes sold for 5% to 23% over list price, and they spent an average of 23 days on the market.

You Have Competition

As soon as you list your home for sale — whether you’re selling traditionally or with owner financing — you start competing with every other house in the neighborhood and the surrounding area. Depending on that competition, as well as your goals for getting the house sold and buying a new one, staging could be a worthwhile strategy for making your home stand out.

Recommended: 2022 Home Loans Education Portal

Expectations Can Be High

Buyers who watch home renovation shows may have high expectations for what your house should look like. Sixty-eight percent of the NAR 2021 Profile of Home Staging respondents said buyers were disappointed by how homes they looked at compared with homes they saw on TV.

Should You Hire a Professional Stager?

While some parts of the home staging process may be easy to DIY (paring down the number of personal photos and knickknacks, for example), it may help to hire a professional.

An experienced home stager will likely have more insight into what buyers in your area are looking for and what the current home trends are. A professional also may have access to furniture, art, and other décor items that could transform your home for a quick and/or more lucrative sale. And the amount you get for your current home could directly affect how much you can spend on your next one.

Here are some things to consider when deciding whether or not to hire a home stager.


Professional home staging can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on how much work the stager does, how big your house is, whether you decide to rent staging furniture, and how long the house is on the market. There are ways you might be able to cut the expense, however, including:

•  Meeting with the pro to do a walk-through and consultation on how to stage your home to sell, but then doing the work yourself.

•  Asking the stager to work with your furniture instead of using rented items. (This could also save on storage costs.)

•  Focusing on a few important spaces, such as the entryway, the living room, and the master bedroom, instead of reworking your entire home.

Recommended: SoFi Mortgage Calculator

Fresh Eyes and Objectivity

Of course, you love your family photos, the tchotchkes you’ve collected through the years, and the paint colors you’ve chosen for every room. Buyers, however, might not.

An experienced stager can walk through and objectively point to the things that might need to be put away, cleaned, moved around, or refreshed before the house is photographed for the listing or has its first showing. A professional also may have home-staging tips to help you market to the types of buyers most often found in your area, whether that’s growing families who are upsizing or baby boomers who are downsizing their home.

Living With Someone Else’s ‘Look’

Stagers are trained to give the homes they work on the kind of polished, cohesive look buyers are used to seeing on HGTV. But living in a home that’s been styled for others may be a bit nerve-wracking. And if the furniture is not your own, you may have to keep kids, pets, and glasses of red wine away to avoid any damage.

Exposing Bigger Problems

Moving furniture around to create a more open look could also create some problems, if, for example, those changes expose a crack in the wall or a stain on the carpet. Making those fixes may delay getting your home on the market.

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Professional Home Stager



Marketing focus, objectivity Cost
Eye for detail Reworking décor could expose bigger issues
HGTV-worthy polish Feeling displaced

12 Tips for Home Staging Success

Whether you decide to hire a helper or do the work yourself, here’s a list of home staging ideas to keep in mind.

1. Clear the Clutter

Clutter is distracting and it takes up space. As soon as you hire a real estate agent, they’ll likely nudge you to sell, donate, or throw away anything you no longer use. Things you want to keep but won’t need for a while (seasonal clothing and sports equipment, photo albums and keepsakes, or books you hope to read someday), can be boxed up and stored until you move. But remember: Buyers will want to assess your closet space, so you may want to move those boxes to the basement or rent a storage space.

2. Depersonalize

Framed family photos, souvenirs, your kids’ artwork, and other personal items can get in the way when buyers try to envision themselves living in your home. Even the day-to-day stuff can divert attention from the illusion you’re trying to create. That means no shoes by the front door, no wet towels in the hamper, and trying to keep bathroom counters clear of everything but hand soap and guest towels.

3. Deep Clean

Neat and tidy is good, but crisp and gleaming is better. A clean house sends a message to buyers that you take good care of your home. If your place isn’t new, you still can try to make it look as new as possible. Shine up all the appliances. Scrub the sinks, tubs, floors, and toilets. Check the corners for cobwebs and the baseboards for dog hair. And don’t forget to dust the ceiling fans and bathroom exhaust fans. If you don’t have the time or energy to do it yourself, you may want to hire a cleaning service — or double up on the service you already have.

Recommended: The Ultimate House Maintenance Checklist

4. Repair All Damage

You know all those little dings, stains, and scuff marks you’ve become blind to? They can be a big turnoff for buyers — and they will see them. Why not do a thorough walk-through and make a list of required touch-ups and repairs? Then you can head to the home improvement store, get what you need to make the fixes, and get to work. And if something is beyond your skillset (a running toilet, broken appliance, or finicky fireplace), you can address it before buyers come through.

Recommended: What are the Most Common Home Repair Costs?

5. Focus on Essential Rooms

If you have a limited staging budget, you may want to focus on the rooms buyers tend to prioritize. Respondents to the NAR 2021 survey said staging the living room was most important to homebuyers, followed by the master bedroom and kitchen. And home offices may be gaining importance as more people are working from home: 39% of the survey’s respondents said they had staged a home office.

6. Neutralize the Décor

Decorating with neutrals — think 50 shades of gray — can be another big step toward depersonalizing your home. Your favorite colors may be bright and bold, but that might be a bit much for some buyers. (Their agent probably will tell them it’s an “easy fix.” But if they can’t get past the chartreuse kitchen or the green-striped wallpaper in the dining room, buyers may not be able to see their family using those spaces.)

To break up all the beige, gray, or white, touches that evoke a feeling of comfort can be used sparingly. For example, you can give your bathroom that spa vibe simply by adding a basket filled with crisp white towels. A bowl of lemons, potted orchids, or vases filled with fresh flowers can add a pop of cheer and color in the foyer or kitchen.

7. Let There Be Light

Put your home in the best light by letting in as much sunshine as possible during the day and turning on all the lights for night showings. (No need to make buyers fumble for switches.) Open the curtains and blinds (unless the view is a drawback). Keep pathways and porches well lit when the sun goes down. Replace burned-out bulbs. And think about bouncing a little light around rooms with well-placed mirrors, which can make a room appear larger.

8. Curb Appeal Matters

Why do all that work to fix up your home’s interior if there is a chance buyers won’t even get out of the car? First impressions are lasting, so put out the welcome mat (literally, make sure a clean doormat is outside the door) and freshen up your curb appeal.

Consider power-washing the walkway, and updating (or at least clean) outdoor light fixtures. In the winter, clear the snow. If you need a pop of color, you can do it with plants. And if the front door is dated or just dingy, think about fixing it up. If buyers have to wait a minute for you or an agent to let them in, they’re likely to notice if the door looks great … or doesn’t.

Recommended: Five Curb Appeal Ideas For Your House

9. Look Beyond the Porch

Depending on the weather, buyers may spend time outside checking the exterior of the house — front and back. If weather permits, you may want to sweep the leaves off the roof, try to get rid of any mold or mildew on the house or fences, clean the pool and deck, and wash the windows inside and out. The goal here is to make your home more appealing but also to help buyers focus on the fabulous features of your home instead of potential maintenance.

10. Create Space

To get a more open look, consider removing any oversized or extra pieces of furniture. A small bedroom may look bigger, for example, with just a dresser instead of a dresser and chest, or if you remove a bed’s oversized headboard or footboard. In the living room, smaller pieces may be preferable to an overstuffed sectional that seats 10. Remember, the living room is a key room for buyers, so it may be worth renting furniture that shows off its size and other details, such as built-in bookshelves or a fireplace.

11. Clear the Air

If you have pets, or if there’s a smoker in your home, it may require some extra steps to keep buyers from sniffing them out. You may want to have the rugs cleaned, and if you haven’t done it in a while, it may help to have the ductwork cleaned as well. Mildew may be another odor issue. If odors linger, open the windows if possible, but be sparing with sprays and plug-in air fresheners — some buyers may be sensitive to certain smells. If a quick cover-up is necessary, consider baking some cookies.

12. Define Rooms

Give each room a purpose, even if you don’t use the space that way yourself. Could a spare bedroom be turned into a craft room or office? Would your attic be a great space for a teen hangout room? Could your basement be transformed into a home theater by moving a TV downstairs and adding a popcorn machine? Get buyers excited about the possibilities.

The Takeaway

Any competitive edge a home seller can find is worth considering. Home staging could boost the timeline and bottom line of the deal.

For more tips and homeowner resources, check out SoFi’s 2022 Guide to All Things Home.

Ready to move on to a new home? Look into SoFi’s mortgage loans today.

Photo credit: iStock/FollowTheFlow

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.

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

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

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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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What Is Tenants in Common?

Tenants in common is a way for two or more parties to buy a property or parcel of land. Buying real-estate is expensive, and pooling your resources with others can be a great way to bring the price within reach. Perhaps you are buying a house with relatives that you’ll live in and they’ll stay there when in town. Or maybe you’re eyeing the purchase of several acres of land with some colleagues as an investment.

These are examples of why it may make sense for you to join forces with someone else (or multiple people) when acquiring a property. It can, however, open up a number of other questions and issues.

If you’re buying any kind of property with another person, even family, then you’ll need to consider how you want to co-own or take title to it. Tenants in common is one way to take title to a property.

Taking title as tenants in common first became popular in the 1980s in cities where the price of real estate had increased steeply. Acquiring properties in this manner has grown in popularity, especially in expensive urban areas, where merging money from different individuals became a way to increase purchasing power.

Read on to learn more about tenancy in common, including:

•   What is tenancy in common?

•   How does tenancy in common work?

•   What are the pros and cons of tenancy in common?

•   Is tenancy in common right for you?

What Is Tenancy In Common (TIC)?

Tenants in common, also known sometimes as “tenancy in common,” is a way for multiple people (2 or more) to hold title to a property. Each person owns a percentage of the property, but they are not limited to a certain space on the property.

In other words, you might be tenants in common with one or more persons, each holding a percentage of ownership share (which does not have to be equal), but you have a right to the entire property. There’s no limit to how many people can be tenants in common.

Worth noting: Despite the use of the word “tenant,” tenants in common has nothing to do with renting.

Recommended: First-Time Home Buyer Guide

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

How Tenancy in Common (TIC) Works

Tenancy in common works by people pooling their resources and buying property together. Each tenant, or person who is part of this legal arrangement, may own a different percentage of the real estate, but that doesn’t limit you to, say, just one room of a house.

The TIC relationship can be updated, with new tenants being added. What’s more, each tenant can sell or get a mortgage against their share of the property as they see fit. Each tenant may also name a beneficiary (or beneficiaries) to inherit their share upon their death.

Recommended: Mortgage Calculator

Property Taxes With Tenancy in Common

You may be wondering how tenants pay taxes on TIC properties. In most cases, a single tax bill will turn up, regardless of how many co-owners are involved or how they have divvied up percentages of ownership. It is then up to the tenants to determine who pays how much.

Another facet of tenancy in common arrangements to consider: Tenants can deduct property taxes when filing with the IRS. You might deduct the percentage of the taxes you paid, reflecting your share of ownership, or simply the amount you pitched in.

Recommended: Understanding the Different Types of Mortgage Loans

Tenancy in Common vs Joint Tenancy

When it comes to shared ownership, tenancy in common isn’t the only option. Another way to handle a shared purchase is joint tenancy. Here are some points of comparison for a tenant in common vs. joint tenant:

•   In TIC, the tenants can divide up ownership of property how they see fit. In a joint tenancy, the tenants hold equal shares of a single deed.

•   With a TIC arrangement, when an owner dies, their portion of the property passes to their estate. With joint tenancy, however, the property’s title would go to the surviving owner(s).

Recommended: What Is a Mortgage?

Marriage and Property Ownership

Tenancy in common and joint tenancy are often ways that property is held in marriage. This will vary depending on the state you live in. Some states consider TIC the default way to own property in marriage. Elsewhere, it may be joint tenancy.

There is one other option possible, known as tenants by entirety (TBE). In this case, it’s as if the property is owned by one entity (the married couple) in the eyes of the law. Each spouse is a full owner of the real estate.

Recommended: How to Choose a Mortgage Term

As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to TIC arrangements. First, the benefits:

•   With the rising cost of real estate, especially in expensive markets, taking title as tenants in common can be one way to pool money and buy property you couldn’t otherwise own as an individual. It’s a way to bring home affordability into range.

•   Because tenants in common also allows for flexibility in terms of how you work out the specifics of living arrangements, it lends itself well to situations where friends decide to go in together on a vacation home or property where they won’t all be occupying the property at the same time.

•   You can transfer your share at any time without the consent or approval of the other tenants. You also have the right to mortgage, transfer or assign your interest and so do your partners.

Now, for the disadvantages:

•   Tenants can decide to sell or give away their ownership rights, without the consent of the others, which means you might end up co-owning a property with someone you don’t know or even like.

•   One or more of the tenants can buy out the other tenants if they decide to dissolve the tenancy in common. The property can also be sold and the proceeds split per ownership percentages.

•   In terms of real estate law, one of the main issues with a tenancy in common is that if you all signed the mortgage loan in order to purchase the property, you could end up being liable for someone else not paying their portion of the mortgage or for creditors forcing a sale or foreclosure of the entire property.

   Increasingly, though, some banks and lenders are offering fractional loans for tenants in common on real estate that is easier to divide into separate units. This then allows each tenant to sign their own loan tied just to their percentage of the property.

Recommended: How to Lower Your Mortgage Payment

Example of Tenancy in Common

Here’s an example of how tenancy in common might look in real life: Sam wants to buy a condo in Florida for $300,000 but can’t afford to do so; his limit is $200,000. His sister Emma loves Florida and says she would like to go in on the condo if she can spend a couple of months there in the winter. She adds her $100,000, and together, they can afford the condo.

Sam owns two-thirds and Emma owns one-third. They both have the right to occupy the property. If Emma decides that she wants to get her own place in Florida, she could sell her share in the condo, while Sam retains his interest.

Recommended: What Is Mortgage Principal?

The Takeaway

Buying a house can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Tenancy in common presents one avenue to affordable ownership by purchasing with others. Another way to manage costs is to get the best possible mortgage to suit your needs and budget.

That’s where SoFi can help. With as little as 10% down and competitive rates, our mortgage loans can be a quick, convenient option.

Buying a home? See all that SoFi mortgage loans can offer.


Can tenancy in common be dissolved?

A tenancy in common can be dissolved. A single or multiple tenants may agree to end the arrangement by buying out the others in the shared ownership. If there is a situation in which the tenants can not agree on a path forward, the courts can be involved.

What are the responsibilities of tenants in common?

In a tenancy in common relationship, each tenant must pay their share of the costs involved, which can involve the mortgage principal and interest, homeowners insurance, and property taxes. A tenant’s share of these costs will reflect how much of the property they own. In addition, you may need to manage a portion of the property (say, if you’ve divided a house up or own a plot of land with others). Lastly, a TIC agreement may involve rights of first refusal if any tenants want to sell their share.

What happens when a tenant dies?

When a tenant in a tenants in common agreement dies, their share of the property is passed along to their beneficiary or beneficiaries, not the other tenants.

What are the disadvantages of tenants in common?

Typically, the most important disadvantages of a tenants in common agreement are: each member can sell their share independently, meaning you could be stuck with a tenant you don’t know or like; the TIC could be dissolved by tenants buying out one another; and if the tenants cosigned a mortgage for the property and one or more don’t pay, the other tenant could be stuck with liability for additional costs.

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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15 Ways to Boost Your Curb Appeal for a Winter Open House

15 Ways to Boost Your Curb Appeal for a Winter Open House

If you’re planning a winter open house, you might think there’s not much you can do to boost your curb appeal. In summer, you can clean up the lawn, add new plants, and set out an Adirondack chair in a cool color. But in the depths of winter, it may feel hopeless. However, there’s actually a lot you can do to boost your curb appeal for a winter open house.

How to Prepare for an Open House

No matter the season, there are some things that hold true about how to prepare for an open house. You always want your home to give off a great first impression. Whether it’s raining, snowing, or sunny, that means cleaning up the lawn, tidying the driveway, and doing other basic maintenance.

In winter, you may face some additional challenges. A heavy snowfall can be a high hurdle to overcome. But there are still plenty of people buying a home in the winter, and you can still give those folks a stunning first impression of your house. Let’s look at 15 things you can do that help with a winter open house.

1. Start at the Front Door

No matter what the weather is doing, you can always spruce up your front door. It will greet potential buyers before they ever step inside. A fresh welcome mat and a charming wreath (whether real pine boughs or, say, holiday ornaments) can go a long way in this regard. You can also do some basic cleaning no matter what the season. Basic tidiness can give you more of an edge than you might imagine.

2. Find Plants that Work in Winter

You might think you can only spruce up the garden in summer and spring, but there are several plants that thrive in colder weather. This will depend on where you live; holly is a popular choice that adds color all winter. Another idea is to grab some pots of mums from your local supermarket or garden center to bring some greenery to the front door area on the day of your open house.

3. Don’t Forget the Birds

It isn’t just plants that are surprisingly hardy in winter. If you have birds in spring and summer, they may be around in winter, too. Hanging a bird feeder can entice them to flit about your yard, which will be charming for visitors. Plus, this is a super easy way to prepare for an open house if you already have bird feeders for the warmer months. Just add seeds.

4. Know the Trends

You don’t have to go it alone when trying to figure out how to prepare for an open house. Look up the current housing market trends by city. This can show you not only what’s selling, but perhaps why it’s selling. See what other sellers are doing to improve their curb appeal. Take a look at the listings and let them inspire you.

5. Turn on the Lights

You can use outdoor lighting to not only make your home more attractive, but also safer. You don’t want prospective buyers stumbling through the dark or approaching nervously because you left them in the dark. Add more lighting if you can. You can line a pathway with lights, for example, for both safety and aesthetics.

6. Check the Gutters

In winter, the gutters can take a beating. Make sure you clean out snow, leaves, and other debris that tends to build up during bad weather. Overstuffed gutters just aren’t a good look.

7. Clean the Walkways

A winter open house shouldn’t require snow shoes. If you’ve had snow and other bad weather, make sure the walkways to and from the house are clean and clear. Shoveling snow isn’t fun, but it will make a much better impression when buyers pull up in front of your house.

8. Don’t Hide Those String Lights

You might think that you have to prepare for an open house by hiding all the holiday lighting, but string lights can add a stylish touch to your home. Don’t go overboard like something out of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” but do think about having some in the front of your house, whether around the front door or on some shrubs by the entryway.

9. Put on a Fresh Coat of Paint

There’s no wrong season for a fresh coat of paint. If you get the opportunity and have the budget, try painting your home. It can make your home look crisp and well cared for.

10. Paint Your Front Door a Bright Color

Don’t have the time or budget to repaint the whole house? Even just painting the front door can add a fresh splash of color that boosts your home’s curb appeal. Some colors to consider: bright red, like the color of an English double-decker bus, or sunny yellow.

11. Make Sure the House Number Is Visible

When it comes to curb appeal, you also have to think about the literal curb. Is your house number visible from the street? If not, consider updating those numbers to make them visible and chic.

12. Spruce Up the Mailbox

While you’re looking at your house numbers, why not spruce up your mailbox as well? Perhaps you get a brand-new one, or give your current one a fresh coat of paint or some string lights, so it pops.

13. Do a Quick Roof Fix-Up

Maybe you’ve lived with a few broken or missing roof shingles or tiles for so long, you hardly notice them. Sorry to say, prospective buyers may well zero in on them the second they walk up your front path. It’s wise to get those repaired before you welcome your home shoppers.

💡 Recommended: What Are the Most Common Home Repair Costs?

14. Add Pine Cones to Your Landscaping

You might think of pinecones as a nuisance you have to clear out during winter, but you can use them to your advantage. Line flower and tree beds with pinecones in order to protect the plants and add a seasonal touch to your lawn.

15. Use Fake Plants

You don’t have to be 100% authentic with your decorations. Topiaries made of fake trees or grapevine balls can make your porch more appealing. And they’ll likely stand up to any weather winter can throw at them. You can even add string lights to these kinds of plants for a nice extra touch. And when winter is over, simply store them away.

The Takeaway

You might feel discouraged at first when wondering how to maximize curb appeal for an open house in winter. But it’s a lot easier than it seems. There’s no point trying to fake spring or summer flowers, so opt for cleaning up, some greenery (real or artificial), some lighting, and perhaps a pop of color.

If you’re planning to shop for a new home at the same time you’re selling your current house, you may want to start researching mortgage rates and getting pre-approved. SoFi can help you with your future mortgage loan at competitive rates and with a super simple process.

Photo credit: iStock/Korisbo

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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What Is a No-Closing-Cost Refinance?

A no-closing-cost refinance sounds divine, but it’s important to understand that you will either roll the closing costs into the new mortgage or exchange them for a slightly higher interest rate.

Because you’ll either fatten your loan principal or pay an increased rate, your monthly payments and total interest paid will likely be higher than if you had paid the closing costs with cash.

Still, a no-closing-cost refinance can help some homeowners make their finances more manageable. Read on to decide if a no-closing-cost refinance is right for you.

No-Closing-Cost Refinance: How Does It Work?

You know how they say that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is? Well, that’s true in this case, too.

When you refinance a mortgage, you’re taking out a whole new loan, hopefully with a lower rate or shorter term.

The costs to do so are usually 2% to 5% of the total loan amount. For a refinance loan of $300,000, for example, that is $6,000 to $15,000, a big pill to swallow if the costs are to be paid upfront.

A no-closing-cost refinance means you get to take out a new mortgage without paying closing costs out of pocket or you accept a higher rate for the new loan.

Let’s break it down.

Closing Costs? What Closing Costs?

When a borrower signs mortgage documents, a variety of fees and expenses come along for the ride, which you probably remember from signing your mortgage the first time.

Right away or after a set number of months, depending on the kind of mortgage they have, homeowners can attempt to lower their mortgage rate and shorten their loan term or, if they’re sitting on enough home equity, apply for cash-out refinancing.

They may want to transition from an adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage — or a fixed-rate mortgage to an ARM.

Some may want to refinance their FHA or USDA loan into a conventional loan to get rid of mortgage insurance; others may be looking to refinance their jumbo loan.

If rates have fallen or if your creditworthiness has significantly improved since you took out your mortgage, those are among the signs it might be time for a mortgage refinance.

But there’s no free lunch when it comes to closing costs, even with a “no-closing-cost refinance.” The mortgage refinancing costs add up.

Here are expenses that might be rolled into the refinanced loan:

Lender fees. Borrowing money costs money! Your lender might assess an application fee, processing fee, credit report fee, and underwriting fee. Most but not all lenders charge an origination fee. Any points on the mortgage, aka discount points, may be rolled in.

Title insurance fees. A title search ensures that no one else can claim ownership of your home.

Other closing costs can’t always be rolled into the new loan. They include:

•   Prepaid property taxes

•   Homeowners insurance

•   Any homeowners association dues

•   Appraisal fee. The home appraiser’s fee is usually charged early in the closing process, so you probably won’t be able to add it to the new loan

If you compare no-cost refinance offers, ensure that each lender is willing to cover the same items.

And be aware that a lender that will cover lender fees, third-party charges, and prepaid items will probably charge a higher rate.

The Cost of a ‘No-Cost Refinance’

Given the heft of closing costs, a no-cost refinance might be sounding better and better. But whether you opt to accept a higher rate or roll in the closing costs, you’re still responsible for paying those costs over time.

And depending on their total expense, as well as the interest rate and mortgage term, closing costs can eclipse the savings you stand to gain by refinancing in the first place.

That’s why it’s important, given your anticipated new loan rate and term, to use a mortgage calculator and scour loan estimates you’ll receive after applying for a mortgage refinance to know the full amount you’ll pay over the life of the loan.

With any mortgage refinance that includes closing costs, it’s a good idea to look at the refinance break-even point: closing costs divided by the expected monthly savings. That will give you the number of months it will take to recoup the costs to refinance.

If a refinance adds $100 a month to your mortgage payment and your lender is covering $4,000 in closing costs, you’ll break even after 40 payments, or three years and four months.

Recommended: Mortgage Recast or Mortgage Refinance?

Pros and Cons of a No-Closing-Cost Refinance

So-called no-closing-cost refinances have upsides and downsides to consider.

Benefits of a No-Closing-Cost Refinance

•   This kind of refinance can help keep homeowners from owing a hefty bill all at once, making it possible to refinance if they don’t have a lot of cash on hand.

•   By rolling costs into a home loan, you can keep cash on hand to use for other purposes that may be more important to you.

•   If you opt for a higher rate, you won’t use up home equity on a no-closing-cost refinance.

Drawbacks of a No-Closing-Cost Refinance

•   The closing costs may be compensated for in the form of a higher interest rate, which can be costly over time.

•   If the closing costs are added to the principal loan balance, borrowers very likely will pay more interest over the life of the loan than they would have if they’d paid closing costs upfront.

•   If your refinance lender won’t let you cross the 80% loan-to-value threshold when closing costs are added, you won’t have enough room to include the closing costs. If the lender will allow a higher than 80% LTV ratio, the new mortgage typically will require private mortgage insurance.

Recommended: Cash-Out Refinance vs HELOC

Is a No-Closing-Cost Refinance Right for You?

If you stand to save money by refinancing your home — and if you’ll be in your home long enough that you’ll break even on the refinance — it might be worth footing the elevated interest rate or higher loan principal of a no-closing-cost mortgage refinance.

For those who don’t have the cash on hand to pay for closing costs upfront, this approach is the only feasible way to achieve a refinance at all.

If, however, you’re able to pay the closing costs upfront, doing so can help keep the loan less expensive over its lifetime.

The Takeaway

With a no-closing-cost refinance, closing costs are either added to the new mortgage or exchanged for a higher interest rate. A no-cost refinance can make refinancing possible for those who can’t pay the closing costs upfront, but it’s important to look at costs over the life of the loan and your plans as a homeowner to ensure that it makes financial sense.

SoFi offers a traditional mortgage refinance and cash-out refinance at competitive interest rates.

And SoFi allows qualifying borrowers to roll closing costs into their mortgage.

When you’re ready to refinance, check out SoFi’s options.

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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Second Mortgage, Explained: How It Works, Types, Pros, Cons

For many homeowners who need cash in short order, a second mortgage in the form of a home equity loan or home equity line of credit is a go-to answer.

What’s the point of a second mortgage? It’s a way to fund everything from home improvements to credit card debt payoff, and for some, a HELOC serves as a security blanket.

You can probably think of many things you could use a home equity loan or HELOC for, especially when the rate and terms may be more attractive than those of a cash-out refinance or personal loan.

Just know that you’ll need to have sufficient equity in your home to pull a second mortgage.

What Is a Second Mortgage?

A second mortgage is one typically taken out after your first mortgage. Less commonly, a first and second mortgage may be taken out at the same time in the form of a “piggyback loan.”

Your house serves as collateral.

An “open end” second mortgage is a revolving line of credit that allows you to withdraw money and pay it back as needed, up to an approved limit, over time.

A “closed end” second mortgage is a loan disbursed in a lump sum.

It’s not called a second mortgage just because you probably took it out in that order. The term also refers to the fact that if you can’t make your mortgage payments and your home is sold as a result, the proceeds will go toward paying off your first mortgage and then toward any second mortgage and other liens (if anything is left).

How Does a Second Mortgage Work?

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) and a home equity loan, the two main types of second mortgages, work differently but have a shared purpose: to allow homeowners to borrow against their home equity without having to refinance their first mortgage.


HELOCs may have lower starting interest rates than home equity loans, although HELOC rates are usually variable — fluctuating over time.

Home equity loans have fixed interest rates.

In general, the choice between a fixed- vs variable-rate loan has no one universal winner.


Home equity loans and HELOCs come with closing costs and fees of about 2% to 5% of the loan amount, but if you do your research, you may be able to find a lender that will waive some or all of the closing costs.

Some lenders offer a “no-closing-cost HELOC,” but it will usually come with a higher interest rate.

Example of a Second Mortgage

Let’s say you buy a house for $400,000. You make a 20% down payment of $80,000 and borrow $320,000. Over time you whittle the balance to $250,000.

You apply for a second mortgage. A new appraisal puts the value of the home at $525,000.

The current market value of your home, minus anything owed, is your home equity. In this case, it’s $275,000.

So how much home equity can you tap? Often 85%, although some lenders allow more.

Assuming borrowing 85% of your equity, that could give you a home equity loan or credit line of nearly $234,000.

After closing on your loan, the lender will file a lien against your property. This second mortgage will have separate monthly payments.

Types of Second Mortgages

To qualify for a second mortgage, in addition to seeing if you meet a certain home equity threshold, lenders may review your credit score, credit history, employment history, and debt-to-income ratio when determining your rate and loan amount.

Here are details about the two main forms of a second mortgage.

Home Equity Loan

A home equity loan is issued in a lump sum with a fixed interest rate.

Terms may range from five to 30 years.

Recommended: Exploring the Different Types of Home Equity Loans

Home Equity Line of Credit

A HELOC is a revolving line of credit with a maximum borrowing limit.

You can borrow against the credit limit as many times as you want during the draw period, which is often 10 years. The repayment period is usually 20.

Most HELOCs have a variable interest rate. They typically come with yearly and lifetime rate caps.

Second Mortgage vs Refinance: What’s the Difference?

A mortgage refinance involves taking out a home loan that replaces your existing mortgage. Equity-rich homeowners may choose a cash-out refinance, taking out a mortgage for a larger amount than the existing mortgage and receiving the difference in cash.

Taking on a second mortgage leaves your first mortgage intact. It is a separate loan.

To determine your eligibility for refinancing, lenders look at the loan-to-value ratio, in part. Most lenders favor an LTV of 80% or less. (Current loan balance / current appraised value x 100 = LTV)

Even though the rate for a refinance might be lower than that of a home equity loan or HELOC, refinancing means you’re taking out a new loan, so you face mortgage refinancing costs of 2% to 5% of the new loan amount on average.

Homeowners who secured a low mortgage rate will not benefit from a mortgage refinance when the going rate exceeds theirs.

Pros and Cons of a Second Mortgage

Taking out a second mortgage is a big decision, and it can be helpful to know the advantages and potential downsides before diving in.

Pros of a Second Mortgage

Relatively low interest rate. A second mortgage may come with a lower interest rate than debt not secured by collateral, such as credit cards and personal loans. And when rates are on the rise, a cash-out refinance becomes less appetizing.

Access to money for a big expense. People may take out a second mortgage to get the cash needed to pay for a major expense, from home renovations to medical bills.

Mortgage insurance avoidance via piggyback. A homebuyer may take out a first and second mortgage simultaneously to avoid having to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI).

People generally have to pay PMI when they make a down payment on a conventional loan of less than 20% of the home’s value.

A piggyback loan, or second mortgage, can be issued at the same time as the initial home loan and allow a buyer to meet the 20% threshold and avoid paying PMI.

Cons of a Second Mortgage

Potential closing costs and fees. Closing costs come with a home equity loan or HELOC, but some lenders will reduce or waive them if you meet certain conditions. With a HELOC, for example, some lenders will skip closing costs if you keep the credit line open for three years. It’s a good idea to scrutinize lender offers for fees and penalties and compare the APR vs. interest rate.

Rates. Second mortgages may have higher interest rates than first mortgage loans. And the adjustable interest rate of a HELOC means the rate you start out with can increase — or decrease — over time, making payments unpredictable and possibly difficult to afford.

Risk. If your monthly payments become unaffordable, there’s a lot on the line with a second mortgage: You could lose your home.

Must qualify. Taking out a second mortgage isn’t a breeze just because you already have a mortgage. You’ll probably have to jump through similar qualifying hoops in terms of home appraisal and documentation.

Common Reasons to Get a Second Mortgage

Typical uses of second mortgages include the following:

•   Paying off high-interest credit card debt

•   Financing home improvements

•   Making a down payment on a vacation home or investment property

•   As a security measure in uncertain times

•   For a blow-out wedding (or funeral) with a HELOC chunk

•   College costs

Can you use the proceeds for anything? In general, yes, but each lender gets to set its own guidelines. Some lenders, for example, don’t allow second mortgage funds to be used to start a business.

The Takeaway

What’s the point of a second mortgage? A HELOC or home equity loan can provide qualifying homeowners with cash fairly quickly and at a relatively decent rate.

If you’re looking for a way to put some of your home equity to use, see what SoFi has to offer.

In addition to a cash-out refinance, SoFi offers a brokered home equity line of credit, allowing access to 95%, or $500,000, of your home’s equity.

It’s easy to find your rate.


Does a second mortgage hurt your credit?

Shopping for a second mortgage can cause a small dip in a credit score, but the score will probably rebound within a year if you make on-time mortgage payments.

How much can you borrow on a second mortgage?

Most lenders will allow you to take about 85% of your home’s equity in a second mortgage. Some allow more.

How long does it take to get a second mortgage?

Applying for and obtaining a HELOC or home equity loan takes an average of two to six weeks.

What are alternatives to getting a second mortgage?

A personal loan is one alternative to a second mortgage. A cash-out refinance is another.

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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