Chattel Mortgages: How They Work and When to Get One

Chattel Mortgages: How They Work and When to Get One

Looking to buy a manufactured home, a boat, or a piece of equipment for your business? You may need a chattel mortgage.

Chattel mortgages are used to finance movable assets separately from the land they occupy. They come with a higher cost than a traditional mortgage, so manufactured home dwellers who qualify for a standard mortgage will save money by choosing that route.

Here’s what you need to know about how chattel loans work and when you might want to look for alternative financing.

What Is a Chattel Mortgage?

First of all, a chattel mortgage is used for personal property, not real property. Real property includes land and property that cannot be easily removed from the land.

When a chattel mortgage is used for a large, movable asset like a manufactured home — called a mobile home before June 15, 1976 — or a piece of equipment (the “chattel”), the asset is held as collateral on the loan. If the borrower defaults on the loan, the lender can recoup costs by selling the asset.

A chattel loan may have a lower interest rate than an unsecured personal loan but a higher rate than a traditional mortgage.

How Does a Chattel Mortgage Work?

Chattel mortgages are used in two main instances: when an asset can be moved or when the land the asset sits on, or will, is leased. (In fewer cases, a chattel loan may be used when a borrower doesn’t want to encumber their owned land with a loan, as when land is owned jointly in a trust.)

Applying for a chattel loan is similar to applying for other types of loans, such as home equity loans and personal loans. The lender will look at your creditworthiness and ability to repay the loan before making a decision.

Chattel loans are typically small, with relatively short terms, but usually require no appraisal, title policy, survey, or doc stamps.

What Are Chattel Loans Used For?

Here are some of the most common applications for chattel loans.

Manufactured Homes

Manufactured homes are built in a factory on a permanent chassis and can be transported in one or more sections. Formerly known as mobile homes, they’re designed to be used with or without a permanent foundation, but must be elevated and secured to resist flooding, floatation, collapse, or lateral movement.

Many are titled as personal property. Manufactured housing that is titled as personal property or chattel is only eligible for chattel financing.

When a manufactured home is titled as chattel, you’re also going to pay vehicle taxes to the Department of Motor Vehicles instead of property taxes.

Many consumers may encounter a chattel loan at the sales office of a manufactured home builder. They’re convenient with quick closing times, but come with a higher interest rate and a shorter term than most traditional mortgages.

This makes the financing cost of the manufactured home high, even if the payment is low thanks to the lower cost of a manufactured home compared with a site-built home. Around 42% of loans for manufactured homes are chattel loans, according to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

When you own a manufactured home and rent the land it occupies, such as in a mobile home park, you will need a chattel mortgage, except when an FHA Title I loan is used.

Tiny Houses

A chattel mortgage may be used for tiny house financing when the tiny house is not affixed to a permanent foundation and/or when the land is leased.

Tiny houses are usually too small to meet building codes for a residential home, so even if the home is on a foundation and on owned land, a traditional mortgage is almost always out of the question. Even if Fannie Mae or FHA allows the property, the lender won’t.

Tiny houses on foundations are usually classified as accessory dwelling units.


A chattel loan may finance assets that are not permanently affixed to the property, such as vehicles. Dump trucks and construction vehicles may qualify.


A chattel loan can be used to purchase large equipment for a business, such as a forklift or a tractor. Even livestock can be purchased with a chattel loan.

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

How Much Does a Chattel Mortgage Cost?

Chattel mortgages are more expensive than many other different mortgage types. The Urban Institute concluded that interest rates on chattel loans were several percentage points higher than on non-chattel loans. Owners of manufactured homes would spend thousands more per year in interest compared with a traditional mortgage.

These types of mortgages are not being purchased by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac on the secondary mortgage market. When a conventional mortgage is purchased by one of these entities, the loan originator obtains more liquidity and can provide more loans to more people. This drives the cost of the mortgage down.

A chattel mortgage, on the other hand, must stay on the books of the lender, making the loan riskier and more expensive.

If you qualify, you might want to consider refinancing your chattel mortgage into a traditional mortgage.

Chattel Mortgage vs Traditional Mortgage

To qualify for a conventional or government-backed mortgage instead of a chattel mortgage, you must own the land your home sits on, the home must be permanently affixed to a foundation, and it must have at least 400 square feet of living space (600 for Fannie Mae’s conventional loan for manufactured homes).

Mobile homes built before June 15, 1976, will not qualify for a mortgage loan. A personal loan is about the only option.

You must also meet all other requirements set forth by the lender to qualify for a traditional mortgage. A mortgage calculator tool can help with this.

For some types of assets, a chattel mortgage may be a good option to consider. Take a look at the major differences.

Chattel Loan

Traditional Mortgage

For movable property only Includes the land and all attached structures
May have a lower interest rate than an unsecured personal loan Usually has a lower interest rate than a chattel mortgage
Shorter terms (e.g., 5 years) Longer terms (e.g., 15 years, 30 years)
Lower origination fees Higher loan fees
Shorter close time Longer close time
Lender holds the title, which is only given to the buyer when it is paid off Lender holds a lien on the property, not title

Pros and Cons of a Chattel Mortgage

A chattel mortgage is more expensive than a traditional mortgage, so anyone who can qualify for a traditional mortgage may wish to pursue that option first. It’s not all bad news for chattel mortgages, though, especially for other types of property where a chattel loan is desirable.



Lender only has a security interest in the movable property, not the land If you default on the loan, the lender can take your asset. Also, the lender owns the asset until the loan is paid off
Taxes may be lower on property titled as “chattel” rather than “real” property Higher-cost loan than a traditional mortgage
Possible faster close and lower loan fees than a standard mortgage Fewer consumer protections. Chattel loans are not covered by the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act or CARES Act
Lower interest rate than a personal loan Higher interest rate than a traditional mortgage
Pays down more quickly than a traditional mortgage Shorter term may create higher payments
Interest paid is tax deductible Interest paid is also tax deductible with a traditional mortgage

Consumer Protection and Chattel Mortgages

Chattel mortgages on manufactured homes are a special concern to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau because that type of housing:

•   Serves an important role in low-income housing

•   Is typically taken on by financially vulnerable people

•   Has fewer consumer protections

Manufactured home sellers often have an on-site lender where borrowers can walk away with a chattel loan the same day as the home purchase. In certain scenarios, though, better financing options might be available.

The Takeaway

Buying a manufactured home, a plane, or a dump truck? A chattel loan could be the answer. If, though, you are buying a manufactured home and own the land, a traditional mortgage makes more sense than a chattel mortgage.

Find answers to home financing questions at SoFi’s help center for mortgages.

3 Home Loan Tips

  1. Traditionally, mortgage lenders like to see a 20% down payment. But some lenders, such as SoFi, allow fixed rate mortgages with as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers.
  2. Thinking of using a mortgage broker? That person will try to help you save money by finding the best loan offers you are eligible for. But if you deal directly with a mortgage lender, you won’t have to pay a mortgage broker’s commission, which is usually based on the mortgage amount.
  3. Generally, the lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better loan terms you’ll be offered. One way to improve your ratio is to increase your income (hello, side hustle!). Another way is to consolidate your debt and lower your monthly debt payments.


Where can I get a chattel loan?

Lenders specializing in chattel or manufactured housing loans will offer this type of loan.

How much does a chattel mortgage cost?

The interest rate of a chattel mortgage could be up to 5 percentage points higher than that of a standard mortgage loan.

What happens at the end of a chattel mortgage?

When a chattel mortgage is paid off, the borrower receives legal title to the property or asset borrowed against. It’s also possible for landowners with permanently affixed manufactured homes to refinance into a traditional mortgage to end their chattel loans.

Is a chattel mortgage tax deductible?

A chattel mortgage qualifies for the same tax deductions that a traditional mortgage does. This includes a deduction on mortgage interest paid throughout the tax year.

Photo credit: iStock/MicroStockHub

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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Mortgage Loan Originators: What Do They Do?

Mortgage Loan Originators: What Do They Do?

Guide. Supporter. Educator. A mortgage loan originator wears many hats while finding a residential loan that will work for a borrower and steering the prospective homeowner or refinancer through the whole process.

The person or entity is the original point of contact for borrowers. Their role is regulated to prevent the kind of mortgage fraud that occurred during the housing crisis and financial meltdown of 2008.

Here’s what you should know about what they do, how they’re regulated, and how they can help you get the right loan to the closing table.

What Is a Mortgage Loan Originator?

A mortgage loan originator (MLO) evaluates and recommends approval of residential loan applications on behalf of customers. Some work directly for a mortgage lender; mortgage brokers offer options from several lenders.

MLOs might be paid a salary plus commission, but commission only is far more common. They must be licensed in the states where they do business or under the umbrella of the bank, bank subsidiary, or credit union that employs them.

MLOs work to find a mortgage for each borrower’s unique situation. They must be excellent communicators since they guide people through the mortgage process.

They educate the borrower about different kinds of mortgages, the application process, and how mortgages work, and ensure legal compliance and completeness to close the loan.

Since MLOs often work on commission, it’s usually in their best interests to find a compatible loan for the borrower that will make it to the closing table. They don’t get paid if the loan falls through. To get your business, it’s also in their best interests to offer the most competitive terms possible.

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

What Is the Difference Between a Mortgage Loan Originator and a Mortgage Loan Officer?

The upshot: Regulators and some others refer to mortgage loan officers employed by financial institutions as “mortgage loan originators.”

A mortgage loan originator is anyone who negotiates or takes a residential mortgage application for a client with the expectation that they will be paid for their services.

What Does a Mortgage Loan Originator Do?

MLOs are responsible for taking a loan from application to closing. They may also negotiate terms of a residential mortgage on behalf of a client.

Responsibilities of a mortgage loan originator may include:

•   Processing the customer’s application

•   Explaining the different types of mortgages available to a borrower

•   Asking for documents on the applicant’s background and financial information

•   Keeping track of documents

•   Submitting documents to underwriting

•   Relaying messages from underwriting

•   Scheduling a home appraisal

•   Addressing any home appraisal issues with the client

•   Asking for more documents as closing gets nearer

•   Scheduling the close

•   Answering questions the borrower may have

•   Ensuring compliance with applicable laws

•   Developing relationships with real estate agents, builders, and individual clients

How to become a Mortgage Loan Originator

Becoming a mortgage loan originator typically requires a bachelor’s degree and on-the-job training. Nonbank originators also need to be licensed.


MLOs who are employed by banks, bank subsidiaries, or credit unions do not have to obtain a loan originator license. All others must be licensed in the states they do business in and register with the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry (NMLS).

General state license requirements include:

•   At least 20 hours of pre-licensing education

•   Authorization to provide a credit report and criminal record

•   General character standards and demonstrated financial responsibility

•   Passing the NMLS written test

•   Sponsorship by a company already registered with the NMLS

Licensing became required in 2008 following the housing collapse. It increases consumer protection and reduces mortgage fraud.

Average Salary

The median pay for mortgage loan officers in 2021 was $63,380 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But because mortgage loan originators typically work solely on commission, earnings can vary widely based on the area, the number of closed loans, and the amount of the closed loans. The commission averages 1% of the loan amount.

Do I Need a Mortgage Loan Originator?

A mortgage loan originator is needed when you need a new mortgage. Few mortgages are assumable by a buyer.

You will most likely need a new mortgage for your purchase or refinance and will need a mortgage loan originator.

How Do You Find a Good Mortgage Loan Originator?

A good mortgage loan originator may be able to secure a loan that works for your situation and aptly guide you through the process. Want to know how to find a good loan originator? Here are a few tips.

Shop Around for a Mortgage

One of your most powerful tools for finding a good mortgage loan originator is to shop around for a mortgage. Meet the people who will work with you on your mortgage and get loan estimates for the specific type of mortgage you’re looking for.

•   Ask for quotes from your bank or credit union. Your existing relationship with a bank may be valuable to them and they may offer good terms.

•   Get recommendations from family or friends. From people who have been there and done that, you may find an originator that has great rates and is incredible to work with.

•   Conduct an internet search. You’ll find plenty of mortgage loan originators listed on the internet with a bounty of reviews. Try calling a few and you may find a competent loan officer with competitive rates.

Compare a Direct Lender With a Mortgage Broker

When you’re looking for a good mortgage loan originator, you’ll come across two main ways to find a mortgage for your home: mortgage brokers and direct lenders.

•   Direct lenders are the providers of the mortgage. When you go to a lender and apply for a loan, you’re working directly with the lender, which makes a decision without a middleman.

•   Mortgage brokers work for borrowers to find the best loans and terms for their individual situations. They may be able to point clients to a lender they would not have known about otherwise and save them money in the process. Lender commissions to brokers may span 0.50% to 2.75% of the loan amount, but lenders typically add the costs to the borrower’s loan. It’s a good idea to check credentials with the NMLS.

Both can help get you a mortgage that may work for your situation, but you may find that you prefer one over the other when you’re looking for a good loan mortgage originator.

If you apply for a mortgage with several, it’s smart to compare the loan terms being offered in the loan estimate that you will receive.

Have an Idea of What Type of Mortgage You’re Looking For

Some lenders may specialize in a certain type of mortgage, so if you know what you’re looking for, you may be able to find a good loan originator more easily.

If you’re looking for a renovation loan, for example, you might want to seek out a lender specializing in that type of loan.

Be Wary of Deals and Offers You See in Ads

Some lenders might advertise low payments or low interest rates, but those may not be what you’d end up getting. By law, lenders are required to disclose the loan terms to you on a standard form called a loan estimate after you’ve applied for a mortgage.

Using this form can help you compare loans fairly as it will list the mortgage APR, term, points, and all fees you’ll need to pay to engage the services of a particular lender.

Know What Questions to Ask

If you interview mortgage originators, certain questions can help you determine if you’ll be a match or not. Don’t know what to ask? Take a look at these mortgage questions.

The Takeaway

Finding a good mortgage originator is worth the time it takes to explore your options and interview potential candidates. After all, finding the right mortgage, as an initial borrower or a refinancer, can mean significant savings — not just at origination but over the life of the loan.

Looking for the right mortgage partner? Give SoFi a look. SoFi offers refinancing as well as home mortgage loans with competitive rates, flexible terms, and low down payment options.

Explore the advantages of SoFi Mortgages and find your rate in minutes.

Photo credit: iStock/David Gyung

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.

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


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fireplace white

How to Winterize a House

As winter approaches, it may make sense to prepare for the cold weather by sealing cracks and holes around doors and windows no matter where you live. Proactive steps like these may help cut down on your heating bills.

If you’re bracing for a big chill, or worse, a blizzard — predicted to become more intense in the coming years, despite shorter winters — you’ll be glad you protected or checked the pipes, roof, chimney, heating system, and water heater. Your wallet and physical well-being may benefit from the following ways to winterize a house and how to finance the projects.

Ways to Winterize a House

There are numerous ways to winterize a house beyond sealing cracks in doors and windows. And while the steps to winterize a home may differ in Alaska than in Texas, it still helps to get ahead of any issues that may arise.

You should also know that the timing of the first frost can vary from state to state. It may help to check the National Weather Service’s data that forecasts the first frost for each state to assist in your winterization preparation timeline.

The following tips to winterize a house may help you reduce future repair costs and heating bills. And figuring out ways to lower your heating bills is something to pay attention to due to the potential rise of the price of natural gas, which is often used to heat homes.

Protect Pipes or Pay the Piper

When deciding how to winterize a house, you may first consider how to address plumbing leaks and other issues.

Burst pipes can cause $5,000 or more in damage, according to Consumer Reports , citing information from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety , which has a page of recommendations to help prevent frozen pipes.

Pipes in unheated places inside a home, including basements, attics, and garages, are among the most likely to sustain damage. But pipes running through exterior walls can also freeze in certain conditions, and so can those running through kitchen or bathroom cabinets.

Protecting the plumbing is clearly a situation where being proactive may save a homeowner money.

Pipe insulation can be as inexpensive as 50 cents per linear foot. Compare that to the $5,000 figure above, and the rewards of winterization can quickly become clear.

Adding insulation to attics, crawl spaces, and basements can help to keep those areas warmer, which can also help to keep pipes from freezing.

If sinks are located on exterior walls, it can help to keep the cabinet doors open during frigid temperatures (after removing any dangerous chemicals, including cleaners, if there are children or pets in the home).

Allowing cold water to drip can also help prevent pipes from freezing, making sense in frigid temperatures.

Address HVAC Maintenance and Repair

Nobody wants the heating system to perform poorly during the winter — much less have it break down.

It’s a good idea to schedule a professional maintenance appointment, including a filter change before freezing temperatures arrive. (Then it’s best to change the filter at least every 90 days.)

Additionally, maintenance and repairs to the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system and cleaning out vents can improve airflow in your home.

It may be time to consider a new HVAC system for some people. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star program provides tips to homeowners to decide if replacing an HVAC system makes sense.

Signs that it might be time to replace the unit include:

•   The heat pump is more than 10 years old.

•   The furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old.

•   The system needs frequent repairs, and energy bills are increasing.

•   Rooms in the home can be too hot or too cold.

•   The HVAC system is noisy.

If people in a home are away during reasonably regular times of the day, it can make sense to ask the HVAC professional about a programmable thermostat to save on energy costs.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Home Energy Yardstick can help a homeowner determine if replacing an HVAC system makes sense.

Check the Roof, Gutters, and Chimney

Before winter hits, clearing the roof and gutters of leaves and other debris will help prevent snow and ice from building up and damaging the gutters — or, worse, the roof.

If ice or snow gets beneath roof shingles, it can lead to leaks and interior water damage. You may want to ask yourself if you need to replace your gutters. Do any shingles need to be glued down or replaced? Do any small leaks need to be repaired before they become big ones?

Plus, a chimney inspection can make sense before winter arrives. A chimney could have an animal nest lodged within, and there can also be structural problems. If the home has a wood-burning fireplace, creosote buildup can create a fire hazard. With a gas fireplace, a blocked chimney could lead to carbon monoxide backup, which can be life-threatening.

Addressing all these issues before winter comes can help you prevent future damage, reduce future repair costs and energy bills, and avoid a potential accident.

Examine the Water Heater

You want to check your water heater before temperatures plunge to avoid a chilly shower during winter.

Are areas of the water heater rusting or corroding? If so, this can lead to a leak. A professional can examine it, bleed the system to remove trapped air and mineral deposits, clean the pipes, and recommend and do repairs.

Think About Outdoor Equipment and Plants

Preventive winterization isn’t just about your home. You want to winterize your outdoor equipment, like a lawn mower or other power tools, to protect them as well.

Draining the oil from the appropriate equipment and taking it to a local recycling or hazardous-waste site can be your first step.

You also want to take care of general maintenance on equipment, including replacing old parts. That way, when spring rolls around and you need to mow your lawn or trim your bushes, you should be ready to go.

Additionally, inspect gas caps to ensure O-rings are intact; if not, get replacements from the manufacturer. Also, replace filters and lubricate what needs lubricating.

You may need to bring in the plants you initially placed outside to enjoy the summer sun when temperatures drop. Before doing so, check the plants for mealybugs, aphids, and other insects. Remove them, so they don’t spread to other plants.

Some people prefer to prune plants before transitioning them back into the house. If so, prune no more than one-third of each, pruning an equal amount off the roots. When repotting, pick a container that’s two or more inches bigger than the current one.

Gradually transition your plants to the new environment, which has different light and humidity levels. For a few days, bring the plants inside at dusk and put them back outside in the morning.

Over a period of 14 days or so, increase the indoor time until the process is complete and they’ve become indoor plants again, finishing the transition before temperatures go down to 45 degrees.

What’s the Cost of Winterizing a Home?

Pipe insulation, as noted earlier, can be relatively cheap, perhaps 50 centers per linear foot.

If a homeowner decides to insulate further, perhaps an attic, costs can range between $1.50 and $7.00 per foot, or a total of $1,700 to $2,100.

On average, an attic insulation installer may charge $70 an hour. If electrical work needs to be done for safe insulation around cables or junction boxes, you may expect to pay $80 an hour.

To hire someone to clean gutters and downspouts, you may pay an average of $119 to $227. An HVAC inspection might cost $325 and up, while the cost to replace an HVAC system could run between $5,000 and $10,000, depending upon the size of the home, among other factors.

What each of these services costs will depend on the locale, what types of repairs or unusual circumstances exist, and so forth.

Additionally, there are websites that allow a homeowner to enter a ZIP code and get an estimate of what a winterizing activity may cost. It makes sense to get quotes from local professionals to get an exact price.

Financing Winterization Projects

Some people pay for their home winterization costs out of pocket, while others may decide to get a home improvement loan. If you’re leaning toward a loan, comparing a home equity line of credit (HELOC) and a personal loan can make sense.

Recommended: How Do Home Improvement Loans Work?

A HELOC uses your home as collateral; for this to be an option, there needs to be enough equity in the property to borrow against it. If there is, and the loan amount required is large, it could make sense to apply for a HELOC.

Interest rates may be lower than those for a personal loan. Also, you can typically take draws from a HELOC up to the loan’s limit.

So if winterizing is coupled with indoor projects done through the cold season, for example, this might be a practical solution. In some cases, interest payments could be tax-deductible.

Recommended: The Different Types Of Home Equity Loans

A personal loan can make sense for recent homebuyers who haven’t built enough equity or for people planning smaller projects. Home winterization often fits into this category.

Applying for and receiving money from an unsecured personal loan is typically much faster than with a HELOC, partly because no appraisal is required for the loan.

Having an excellent credit score and cash flow can help a borrower get approved or receive better loan terms.

The Takeaway

Preparing your home for the harsh weather of winter can be one step you take to protect your house and potentially reduce your energy bills. However, many homeowners don’t take steps to winterize a house due to the upfront costs. Fortunately, there are ways to finance any home improvement projects.

If taking out a home improvement loan for home winterization projects makes sense, then here’s more about the fixed-rate unsecured personal loans offered by SoFi:

•   Personal loans have no origination fees and no prepayment penalties.

•   Qualifying borrowers may be eligible for loans up to $100,000.

•   Applying online can be quick and easy.

•   Customer service is available to help seven days a week throughout the process.

Winterize and protect your home with SoFi home improvement loans.

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.

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.

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 to Buy a Condo: 8 Best Tips

Guide to Buying a Condo: 8 Things to Do

Considering a condo? A condo could be a good choice as a starter home, a retirement nest, an investment property, or a dwelling for anyone who wants amenities but little maintenance.

You’ll want to weigh the upsides and potential downsides before taking the plunge and buying a condo.

What Is a Condo?

When a person buys a condo, as opposed to buying into a co-op, they own the unit in the building or complex, but they don’t own anything outside those four walls. That includes the structure of the building, the roof, and the ground the building sits on.

The parts of the property not owned directly by the condo residents are managed by a homeowners association. The HOA maintains the property with fees collected from residents.

If you’re weighing a condo vs. townhouse, you’ll want to know the key differences.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Buying a Condo?

Ultimately, the choice to buy a house or condo will be based on the buyer’s preferences and budget.

Pros of buying a condo include:

•   Affordability. Generally, a condo will cost less than a detached single-family home.

•   Amenities. If it’s important to have access to amenities like a pool, gym, dog park, or parking garage, a condo might fit the bill.

•   Lower home insurance and property taxes. Because condo owners aren’t directly responsible for the exterior of the building, home insurance is less than for a single-family home.

•   Low maintenance. Beyond maintaining the immediate residence, condo owners don’t have to worry about mowing the lawn or replacing the roof on their own.

•   Lower utility bills. As condos are generally smaller than single-family homes, there are lower utility bills.

•   City settings. Condos are more likely to crop up in densely populated areas, making them an affordable entry point for owning property in an urban setting.

Is a particular condo within your means? Check out this home mortgage calculator.

There are plenty of upsides when someone buys a condo, but here are some downsides:

•   Privacy. Condos are shared residences with communal space. If buyers value privacy and their own outdoor space, a condo might not be a good fit.

•   Building rules. Condo boards dictate how a building is run, including if units can be rented, exterior colors, and allowance of pets.

•   HOA fees. Since maintaining the building is a collective responsibility, condo owners pay monthly or quarterly fees to the HOA. The fees are likely to rise every year. A sizable special assessment may be charged for major repairs.

•   Smaller space. Condos vary in size, but they’re unlikely to be as large as most single-family homes.

•   Slow appreciation. Condos tend to appreciate more slowly than single-family homes, but appreciation is also based on location and the market.

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

Things to Do Before Buying a Condo

Still not sure if a condo is the right fit? Before figuring out how to purchase a condo, consider these eight steps.

1. Consider Your Lifestyle

A condo could be a perfect fit for highly social people who prioritize proximity over privacy. Since condos tend to be smaller, the ideal condo owner should enjoy the communal offerings of the building, including everything from pools to rooftop decks.

As condos are often in cities, it could be the right fit if being close to the hustle and bustle is important to a buyer.

People who are downsizing often find a condo a good choice. Buyers who dread upkeep can own a home without mowing a lawn or maintaining a roof.

On the other hand, if a buyer values privacy and space, a condo might clash with their sensibilities. A condo won’t give them that opportunity if they want storage or a garden.

2. Work With an Agent Who Has Experience in Condos

Buying a condo with an agent specializing in single-family homes is like going to the dentist for an earache.

Finding the right agent is about personality fit and experience. When interviewing agents, ask about what types of properties they buy and sell regularly. An agent with a lot of experience in condo sales will be more familiar with buildings in the area and their HOAs, amenities, and property management.

3. Consider the Pros and Cons

The perfect property doesn’t exist, so it’s worth weighing the pros and cons of condo living compared with a single-family home that’s not in an HOA community:


Single-Family Home

Amenities Pool, gym, dog park, deck space, meeting rooms, parking (depending on building) Amenities vary by property
Maintenance Little to no maintenance Owner responsible for entire property
Privacy Shared walls/ceilings and shared amenities Stand-alone property, more private space
Affordability Lower insurance, utility bills.
Generally lower purchase price.
Higher monthly bills.
Typically more expensive than a condo.
Space Smaller Larger

4. Decide What Type of Amenities You Want

If a condo feels like the right fit, it’s time to decide which amenities are musts and which are simply nice to have.

Amenities could include:

•   Pool

•   Dog park

•   Fitness center/spa

•   Covered parking or parking garage

•   Business center/party rooms

•   Rooftop deck

•   Landscape management/gardens

•   Valet

•   Onsite programming or events

Once buyers understand what they need and what they don’t, they can more efficiently narrow down condos in the area based on amenities. Of course, the more amenities, the higher the maintenance fee will be.

5. Find an Approved Condo Community

Condo buyers who qualify for an FHA loan will need to find an FHA-approved condo community, one that meets requirements set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Buyers can search for these properties using HUD’s database .

Buyers wanting to use a VA loan can check a different database .

Most conventional mortgage lenders will require a “limited review” of most condominiums in the form of a questionnaire sent to the HOA. Among the criteria: Ten percent of HOA dues must be allocated to reserves, less than 15% of units must be in arrears with dues, and more than half the units must be owner-occupied.

Want to learn more about mortgages? Visit the help center for home loans.

6. Research the Property Management Company

Diving deep into property management is an important step of what to look for when buying a condo.

Before settling on a property, it’s important to research the property management company hired by the HOA to maintain the building. Consider double-checking on its licensing, reviews, and if there’s any ongoing litigation against the management company.

7. Review HOA Fees and Regulations

Hand in hand with researching the property management company is reviewing the HOA fees and regulations. HOA fees may be charged to condo owners monthly or quarterly, and range from a couple hundred a month to thousands. The fees could cover:

•   General upkeep and maintenance

•   Shared amenities

•   Some utilities

•   Security

•   Future upgrades

•   A master insurance policy to cover liability and repairs for common areas

If possible, request minutes from HOA meetings or inquire about recent hikes in fees. If the HOA doesn’t have much in reserves or is anticipating increases in fees, that can affect a buyer’s monthly housing budget.

In addition to researching fees, take a close look at the covenants, conditions, and restrictions, known as the CC&Rs. HOAs can impose regulations regarding:

•   Pets in the building

•   Renting out property

•   Use of common areas

•   Renovation or maintenance of owner units

Some HOAs have stricter regulations than others. For example, investors may want to avoid buying a unit in a building where rentals, or short-term rentals such as Airbnbs, aren’t allowed.

8. Ask About Special Assessments

Special assessments are one-time payments required of condo owners when reserves won’t cover a major expense. The HOA may require a special assessment if an elevator breaks or the roof unexpectedly begins leaking.

It’s a good idea for any condo hunter to ask when the last special assessment was collected. If there’s a history of frequent payments, it may be a sign of HOA mismanagement. Ideally, the HOA should have money set aside in case of an emergency.

If possible, ask the listing agent for the HOA’s financial statements to reveal how much the building has in reserves. If it’s low, there’s a chance of a special assessment in the future.

The Takeaway

Condo living offers amenities, city living, and affordability. But buying a condo requires research. Working with the right agent and looking beyond the unit for sale can help direct the home search.

Ready to kick the condo search up a notch? SoFi offers low fixed rate mortgages on primary homes, second homes, and investments.

Compare SoFi’s home loan rates, and open the door to a new condo.


What should you avoid when buying a condo?

Red flags to look for when buying a condo include issues with the HOA and ongoing litigation with the property management company. Condo buyers would be smart to review the building’s financial records for reserve funds, lawsuits, and delinquencies.

Are condos hard to resell?

In general, condos don’t appreciate as quickly as single-family homes, but a condo that’s a good value for the current market and that is in a desirable area will likely not be hard to sell.

Should you invest in condos?

Investing in condos will generally be less expensive than investing in single-family homes, but it’s worth examining the HOA bylaws to ensure that the condo can be rented out, and for how long at a time.

Photo credit: iStock/Sundry Photography

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.

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


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Purchase-Money Mortgage: Definition and Example

Purchase-Money Mortgage: Definition and Example

With a purchase-money mortgage, the seller finances part or all of the property for the buyer, who usually does not qualify for traditional financing.

Keep reading to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of a purchase-money mortgage.

What Is a Purchase-Money Mortgage?

A purchase-money mortgage is also known as owner financing. The seller extends credit to the buyer to purchase the property. This can be a portion of the sales price or the full price.

In other words, the buyer borrows from the seller instead of a traditional lender. The seller ultimately determines the interest rate, down payment, and closing costs. Both parties sign a promissory note.

They record a deed of trust or mortgage with the county. The seller usually retains title until the financed amount is paid off.

A purchase-money mortgage is a nontraditional financing method that may be needed when the buyer cannot obtain one of the other different mortgage types for purchasing the property.

The promise to pay is secured by the property, so if the buyer stops paying, the seller can foreclose and get the property back.

Recommended: How to Buy a Foreclosed Home the Simple Way

Purchase-Money Mortgage Example

Not all buyers have financial situations that make it easy for them to get a conventional mortgage. Even shopping for a mortgage may not help them get the loan they need.

If a buyer has a profitable business, for example, but doesn’t have two years of tax returns to prove steady cash flow, most mortgage lenders won’t take on the risk.

Enter a purchase-money mortgage. With the right property, seller, and situation, a buyer could finance the home with a purchase-money mortgage. The seller would offer terms to the buyer — usually a higher interest rate and a short repayment term, with a balloon mortgage payment at the end — and the buyer would enter into the agreement. The seller would hold title until the loan payoff.

Buyers and sellers who work with seller financing often intend for the purchase-money mortgage to be refinanced into a traditional mortgage with a lower mortgage payment at a later date.

Types of Purchase-Money Mortgages

Purchase-money mortgages can come in several forms.

Land Contract

A land contract (also called a contract for deed) is simply a mortgage from the seller. The buyer takes possession of the property immediately and pays the seller in installments.

Land contracts are often for five years or less, ending with a balloon payment.

Lease-Purchase Agreement

In a lease-purchase agreement, the buyer agrees to rent the property for a specified amount of time and then enter into a contract to purchase the property at a price that’s the current market value or a bit higher.

For this and a lease-option, the seller typically requires a substantial upfront fee, an above-market lease rate, or both. Part of the monthly rent payment goes toward the purchase price.

Lease-Option Agreement

A lease-option agreement is similar to a lease-purchase agreement in that the buyer agrees to first rent the property for a specified amount of time. But with this agreement, the buyer has the option to purchase the property instead of a commitment to.

Benefits of Purchase-Money Mortgages for Buyers

•   Buyers, including first-time homebuyers, may be able to obtain housing sooner than if they were to wait to qualify for a traditional mortgage through a lender.

•   The down payment may be more flexible for a purchase-money mortgage.

•   Requirements may be more flexible.

•   No or low closing costs.

Benefits of Purchase-Money Mortgages for Sellers

•   The seller may be able to get the full list price from a buyer who needs the seller’s help to obtain a mortgage.

•   The seller may be able to make some money by acting as the lender, including asking for a down payment and a higher interest rate.

•   Taxes may be lower as the amount is financed over time.

Recommended: How to Navigate the Mortgage Pre-approval Process

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Seller Financing

If you have the option of financing with a purchase-money mortgage, you will want to look at all the angles. It may also be useful to use this mortgage calculator tool to help you determine what a potential payment on a purchase-money mortgage might be.



Buyer may be able to obtain the home with a purchase-money mortgage when other types of financing would be denied Buyer will not have full title until the total amount borrowed is paid off
Flexible financing allows the seller to help the buyer purchase the property Buyer may have little negotiating power when forging the deal
Increased equity may allow buyer to refinance into a traditional mortgage at the end of the purchase-money loan term Seller is able to determine the rate, term, and down payment
Seller can foreclose if the buyer does not meet contractual obligations

The Takeaway

If you’re able to secure financing from a seller, a purchase-money mortgage may be a good fit — if you have an exit plan in a few years. It’s smart for both buyers and sellers to know the risks and rewards of a purchase-money mortgage.

If you need a mortgage or refinance partner, give SoFi a look. SoFi has competitive rates and flexible terms to help people find the right mortgage and close on time.

Qualifying first-time buyers may put just 3% down.

Check out the advantages, and then your rate.


Who holds the title in a purchase-money mortgage?

The seller controls the legal title; the buyer gains equitable title by making payments.

Can a bank issue a purchase-money mortgage?

Yes. A buyer might pay for a house with a bank mortgage, cash, and a property seller mortgage. When the bank is aware of the amount financed by the seller, both the mortgage issued by the third-party lender and the seller financing are considered purchase-money mortgages.

Does a purchase-money mortgage require an appraisal?

Not if the seller does not require one. With owner financing, the seller sets the terms, which may not include an appraisal.

Photo credit: iStock/MicroStockHub

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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