10 Step Guide to Building Your Own Home

10-Step Guide to Building Your Own Home

Most people in the market for a new dwelling will buy an existing home that more or less fits their needs. But new homes don’t come with the problems that old homes might, from lead paint to a kitchen crying out for remodeling. And building a house may seem attractive because you can construct it to fit your specifications, from the number of bathrooms to building an outdoor kitchen.

If you’re ready to build your own house, here are the steps to take.

10 Steps to Building Your Own Home

Condo. Townhouse. Single-family home. Modular or manufactured home. Cabin or even houseboat. A house hunter has all of those types of homes to choose from. If you’re building a home, you’ll have a lot of choices to make as well, starting with where your home will be located. Here are the steps to building your own home:

1. Find a Location

The first thing you’ll need to do is find a site that’s zoned for a residential property. Look into local building regulations to see how much of the site you are allowed to build on and how far from property lines the building must be set back. Check ordinances that might limit size or height. Is there a homeowners association (HOA)? Scour the rules.

It’s generally suggested that you not spend more than 20% of your total budget on the building site. When you purchase the land, you will acquire a property deed, which will also act as the house deed.

2. Obtain Permits

Before a shovelful of earth is turned, the local building department must OK the plans and provide permits for the whole shebang: grading, zoning, construction, electrical work, plumbing, and more. When the permits are in hand, construction can start.

On a related note, at various points during construction, the home will need to be inspected for code compliance. If you are using a loan for new construction, your lender may also send an inspector to keep track of construction status before releasing payments from a construction loan.

3. Prep the Site and Your Finances

Site Prep

Before you start building, you’ll need to prepare the building site. You’ll want to be sure that soil conditions are stable. You may want to engage a civil engineer to give the site a look. A site surveyor can stake the property boundaries. Then you’ll need to clear brush and debris at least to 25 feet around the planned perimeter of the house.

Size and Cost

The cost of building a house averaged $313,884 in 2022, according to HomeAdvisor, the directory of service pros, but a typical range is from around $137,000 to $582,000. Obviously location, materials, and level of detail affect the bottom line.

But size is the biggie. The larger the build, the more labor and material costs you should expect. The average new home in the country has about 2,200 square feet at $150 per square foot, HomeAdvisor notes.

After the peak of the pandemic, there were months-long delays to receive materials, from appliances to garage doors, and construction costs increased. Oil prices significantly increased transportation expenses. Rising inflation left its mark, but prices leveled off in 2023. All of which is to say, cost numbers are a moving target.

Finance Options

When you build a home, you may need a loan that covers the purchase of land, buying materials, and hiring labor. In this case, you may want to look into a construction loan. Unlike mortgage loans, construction loans are not secured by an existing home, so approval might be tricky and take a bit longer.

The money is paid to your builder in installments. You’ll often only pay interest on the portion of the loan that has been withdrawn. After the typical 12 to 18 months of a construction-only loan, the usual route is to take out a mortgage and pay off the construction loan.

Other financing options are a home equity loan, if you already own a home.

A personal loan of up to $100,000 can pay for part of the construction (or maybe all, for a modest build).

If you’re buying the land, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) one-time close loans cover the lot purchase, construction, and permanent mortgage. But the loans can be hard to find and are tougher to qualify for than traditional FHA loans.

Check out these additional resources for homeowners.

Choosing Materials

Only an experienced and highly organized person may want to act as their own general contractor for a new house build. Most people will put the job in a contractor’s hands, and add 20% to 30% for the cost of materials and labor.

General contractors already have priced and sourced many of the materials when making a bid. They usually have relationships with wholesale distributors, lumberyards, and retailers.

That said, you may have some skills that you could apply to cut costs. For example, you could look into how much it costs to paint a house and determine if painting the home’s interior could help you save.

Building a Work Team

If you choose to fly solo, you’ll be on the hook for finding subcontractors yourself.

A general contractor will hire all of the team members needed to complete the project and charge 20% to 30% of the overall cost of the home. However, they also typically have regular relationships with subcontractors, who may charge them less than they would a person who hires them on a one-off basis.

As a result, you may not end up saving much or any money by finding subcontractors yourself.

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


4. Pour the Foundation

Once the building site is cleared, construction can begin, starting with the foundation. Some houses are built on level slabs of concrete that are poured on the ground, leaving space in which to run utilities, like plumbing and electrical.

A home with a full basement requires that a hole is dug and that footings and foundation walls are formed and poured. The concrete will need time to cure, and no construction will take place until it has set properly.

5. Set Up Plumbing

Once the concrete has set, crews install drains, water taps, the sewer system, and any plumbing going into the first-floor slab or basement floor, and then backfill dirt into the gap around the foundation wall.

6. Assemble the Frame, Walls, and Roof

With the foundation complete, framing carpenters will build out the shell of the house, including floors, walls, and the roof. Windows and exterior doors are installed, and the house is wrapped in a plastic sheathing that protects the interior from outside moisture while allowing water vapor from inside the home to escape.

7. Install Insulation, Complete Electric and Plumbing Installs

Now plumbers can install water supply lines and pipes to carry water through the floors and walls. Bathtubs and showers may be added at this time.

Electricians will wire the house for outlets, light fixtures, and major appliances. Ductwork and HVAC systems can be installed.

8. Hang Drywall and Install Interior Fixtures and Trim

With plumbing and electrical complete, the house can be insulated and drywall can be hung. A primary coat of paint goes on, and the house will start to look relatively finished.

Light fixtures and outlets can be installed, as can bathroom and kitchen fixtures, like sinks and toilets. Interior doors, baseboards, door casings, windowsills, cabinets, built-ins, and decorative trim go in. The final coat of paint is applied.

9. Install Exterior Fixtures

Crews begin exterior finishes like brick, stone, stucco or siding. Some builders pour the driveway when the foundation is completed, but many opt to do so toward home completion, along with walkways and patios.

10. Install the Flooring

Wood, ceramic tile, or vinyl floors and/or carpet can be installed at this point.

Recommended: First-Time Homebuyer Guide

Is It Cheaper to Buy or Build a New House?

There are so many variables that it’s hard to say.

The median sales price for new construction in April 2024 was $433,500, according to FRED, or Federal Reserve Economic Data. Can you beat that price with a DIY build? Maybe, if you act as the general contractor and choose cheaper materials.

Keep in mind that HomeAdvisor’s average of $313,884 to build a house does not include the land.

Ultimately, the price of your dream home hinges on location, the cost of labor and materials, and your taste.

3 Home Loan Tips

1.   Since lenders will do what’s called a hard pull on an applicant’s credit, and too many hard pulls in a short period can affect your application, it’s a good idea to know what interest rate a lender will offer you before applying for a personal loan. Viewing your rate with SoFi involves only a soft pull on your credit — and takes one minute.

2.   Before agreeing to take out a personal loan from a lender, you should know if there are origination, prepayment, or other kinds of fees.

3.   Traditionally, mortgage lenders like to see a 20% down payment. But some lenders allow home mortgage loans with as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers.

The Takeaway

Building your own home will allow you maximum flexibility in terms of your choices of everything from floorplan to finishes. But it is a complex process and you’ll want to take it step by step, with careful consideration of your budget and how you plan to finance what you build.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

https://www.sofi.com/home-loans/mortgage/“>

FAQ

How long can you expect to live in a self-built home?

If a home is well built and maintained properly, you can expect it to last a lifetime.

How long will it take to build a home?

The average time it takes to build a home from start to finish is 9.4 months for a contractor build and 12 for an owner build, according to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Is it dangerous to build a home yourself?

If the question means completely DIY — clearing a lot, pouring a foundation, framing, installing electrical, and so on — the answer is “it sure could be.”

Are there safe financing options for self-build projects?

DIY builders and remodelers may use a construction loan, personal loan, home equity loan, or FHA one-time close loan. If you do use a construction-only loan, shop for a mortgage that makes sense once you stand there admiring the finished product.


Photo credit: iStock/Giselleflissak

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


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


*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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.

¹FHA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by FHA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. FHA loans require an Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP), which may be financed or paid at closing, in addition to monthly Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MIP). Maximum loan amounts vary by county. The minimum FHA mortgage down payment is 3.5% for those who qualify financially for a primary purchase. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.

²To obtain a home equity loan, SoFi Bank (NMLS #696891) may assist you obtaining a loan from Spring EQ (NMLS #1464945).

All loan terms, fees, and rates may vary based upon individual financial and personal circumstances and state.

You may discuss with your loan officer whether a SoFi Mortgage or a home equity loan from Spring EQ is appropriate. Please note that the SoFi member discount does not apply to Home Equity Loans or Lines of Credit brokered through SoFi. Terms and conditions will apply. Before you apply for a SoFi Mortgage, please note that not all products are offered in all states, and all loans are subject to eligibility restrictions and limitations, including requirements related to loan applicant’s credit, income, property, and loan amount. Minimum loan amount is $75,000. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. Products, rates, benefits, terms, and conditions are subject to change without notice. Learn more at SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria.

SoFi Mortgages originated through SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Equal Housing Lender. SoFi Bank, N.A. is currently NOT able to accept applications for refinance loans in NY.

In the event SoFi serves as broker to Spring EQ for your loan, SoFi will be paid a fee.

SOHL-Q224-1903446-V1

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What Multi-Family Homes Are and Their Pros & Cons

Multifamily Home Need-to-Knows

Whether shopping for a home or an investment property, buyers may come across multifamily homes.The first need-to-know, especially for financing’s sake, is that multifamily properties with two to four units are generally considered residential buildings, and those with five or more units, commercial.

Let’s look at whether multifamily homes are a good idea for homebuyers or investors.

What Is a Multifamily Home?

Put simply, a multifamily home is in a building that can accommodate more than one family in separate living spaces. Each unit usually has its own bathroom, kitchen, utility meter, entrance, and legal address.

Of the more than 100 million Americans who rent, around two-thirds live in multifamily homes.

Among the different house types are duplexes, which contain two dwelling units, while a triplex and quadruplex consist of three and four units, respectively. A high-rise apartment building is considered a multifamily property.

What about ADUs? A home with an accessory dwelling unit — a private living space within the home or on the same property — might be classified as a one-unit property with an accessory unit, not a two-family property, if the ADU does not have its own utilities and provides living space to a family member.

Multifamily Homes vs Single-Family Homes

On the surface, the differences in property types may seem as straightforward as the number of residential units. But there are other considerations to factor in when comparing single-family vs. multifamily homes as a homebuyer or investor.

Unless you plan to hire a manager, owning a property requires considerable time and work. With either type of property, it’s important to think about how much time you’re able to commit to handling repairs and dealing with tenants.

If you’re weighing your options, here’s what you need to know about single-family and multifamily homes.

Multifamily Homes Single-Family Homes
Comprise about 27% of U.S. housing stock. Represent around 67% of U.S. housing stock.
Can be more difficult to sell due to higher average cost and smaller market share. Bigger pool of potential buyers when you’re ready to sell.
Higher tenant turnover and vacancy can increase costs. Often cheaper to purchase, but higher cost per unit than multifamily.
More potential for cash flow and rental income with multiple units. Less cash flow if renting out, generally speaking.
Usually more expensive to buy, but lower purchase cost per unit. More space and privacy.
Small multifamily homes (2-4 units) may be eligible for traditional financing; 5+ units generally require a commercial real estate loan. Greater range of financing options, including government and conventional loans.

Pros and Cons of Multifamily Homes

There are a number of reasons to buy a multifamily home: Rental income and portfolio expansion are two.

Buying real estate is one ticket to building generational wealth. But there are also downsides to be aware of, especially if you plan to purchase a multifamily home as your own residence.

So what are multifamily homes’ pros and cons? The benefits and drawbacks can depend on whether it’s an investment property or a personal residence.

As Investment

Investing in multifamily homes can come with challenges. Take financing.

A mortgage loan for an investment property tends to have a slightly higher interest rate, the qualification hurdles are higher, and a down payment of 20% or more is usually required, though there are ways to buy a multifamily property with no money down.

Government-backed residential loans don’t apply to non-owner-occupied property, but there is a commercial FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loan for the purchase or refinancing of apartment buildings with at least five units that do not need substantial rehabilitation. Another FHA loan program is for new construction or substantial rehabilitation of rental or cooperative housing of at least five units for moderate-income families, elderly people, and people with disabilities. Yet another FHA loan pertains to residential care facilities. Upfront and annual mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) apply.

Before adding a multifamily home to your real estate portfolio, take note of the pros and cons of this investment strategy.

Pros of Investing in Multifamily Homes Cons of Investing in Multifamily Homes
Reliable cash flow from multiple rental units. Upfront expenses can be cost prohibitive for new investors.
Helpful for scaling a real estate portfolio more quickly. Managing multiple units can be burdensome and may require hiring a property manager.
Opportunity for tax benefits, such as deductions for repairs and depreciation. Property taxes and insurance rates can be high.
Often appreciates over time.

As Residence

Buyers can choose to purchase a multifamily home as their own residence. They will live in one of the units in an owner-occupied multifamily home, while renting out the others.

Owners can use rental income to offset the cost of the mortgage, property taxes, and homeowners insurance while building wealth.

Another advantage is financing. With a multifamily home of two to four units, an owner-occupant may qualify for an FHA, VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs), or conventional loan and put nothing down for a VA loan or little down for a conventional or FHA loan. (It isn’t all hearts and flowers, though. Most VA loans require a one-time funding fee. FHA loans always come with MIP. And putting less than 20% down on a conventional loan for an owner-occupied property, short of a piggyback loan or lender-paid mortgage insurance, means paying private mortgage insurance).

What are multifamily homes’ pros and cons as residences?

Pros of Multifamily Homes as a Residence Cons of Multifamily Homes as a Residence
Reduced cost of living frees up cash for other expenses, investments, or savings. Vacancies can disrupt cash flow and require the owner to cover gaps in rent.
Self-managing the property lowers costs and can be more convenient when living onsite. Being a landlord can be time-consuming and complicate relationships with tenant neighbors.
Potential for federal and state tax deductions. Less privacy when sharing a backyard, driveway, or foyer with tenants.
Owner-occupied properties qualify for more attractive financing terms than investment properties.

It’s worth noting that an owner-occupant can move to a new residence later on and keep the multifamily home as an investment property. This strategy can help lower the barrier to entry for real estate investing, but keep in mind that loan terms may require at least one year of continued occupancy.

Recommended: Tips to Qualify for a Mortgage

Who Are Multifamily Homes Right For?

There are a variety of reasons homebuyers and investors might want a multifamily home.

Multifamily homes can be helpful for entering the real estate investment business or diversifying a larger portfolio. It’s important to either have the time commitment to be a landlord or to pay for a property manager.

For homebuyers in high-priced urban locations, multifamily homes may be more affordable than single-family homes, given the potential for rental income. It might be helpful to crunch some numbers with a mortgage payment calculator.

Multigenerational families who want to live together but maintain some privacy may favor buying a duplex or other type of multifamily home.

What to Look for When Buying a Multifamily Home

There are certain characteristics to factor in when shopping for a multifamily home.

First off, assess what you can realistically earn in rental income from each unit in comparison to your estimated mortgage payment, taxes, and maintenance costs. Besides what the current owner reports in rent, you can look at comparable rental listings in the neighborhood.

When looking at properties, location matters. Proximity to amenities, school rankings, and transportation access can affect a multifamily home’s rental value.

The rental market saturation is another important consideration. Buying a multifamily home in a fast-growing rental market means there are plenty of renters to keep prices up and units filled.

The vacancy rate — the percentage of time units are unoccupied during a given year — at a property or neighborhood is an effective way to estimate rental housing demand.

Depending on your financing, the condition of a multifamily home may be critical. With a VA or FHA loan, for instance, chipped paint or a faulty roof could be a dealbreaker.

Read up on mortgage basics to learn about what home loans you might use for a multifamily home and their terms.

Finding Multifamily Homes

Like single-family homes, multifamily homes are featured on multiple listing services and real estate websites. Browsing rental listings during your multifamily home search can help gauge the market in terms of vacancy rates and rental pricing.

Working with a buyer’s agent who specializes in multifamily homes can help narrow your search and home in on in-demand neighborhoods.

Alternatively, you can look into buying a foreclosed home. This may help get a deal, but it’s not uncommon for foreclosed properties to require renovations and investment.

The Takeaway

Buying a multifamily home as a residence or investment property can provide rental income and build wealth. It’s also a major financial decision. Whether you’re planning to be an owner-occupant or not will affect your financing, so seriously consider this option and run the numbers to see if you stand to recoup your costs — and ideally make a profit — from the building’s rental income.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

https://www.sofi.com/home-loans/mortgage/“>

FAQ

What is the difference between residential and multifamily?

Some multifamily homes — those with fewer than five units — are considered residential real estate. Larger properties with more than five units are commercial real estate.


Photo credit: iStock/krzysiek73

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


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


*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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

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What Is an Apartment? Should You Consider Owning One?

What Is an Apartment? Should You Consider Owning One?

If you’re thinking about buying an apartment, you’ll probably look at co-ops and condos rather than single-family homes.

Read on to understand the difference between condos and co-ops, the forms an apartment might take, and who might be best suited to buy one.

What Is an Apartment?

An apartment is a property within a larger building, and especially in big cities, it’s not uncommon to hear that someone is buying an apartment.

When a buyer is considering different types of homes, the price of an apartment often beats that of a single-family home with land.

Both co-ops and condos allow residents to use the common areas, including pools, gyms, and courtyards. If you buy a condo, you’ll own everything within your unit and have an interest in the common elements. If you “buy a co-op apartment,” that really means you’ll hold shares in the residents’ housing cooperative, a nonprofit corporation that owns the property, and will have the right to live in one of the co-op units. Shares are based on the market value of each unit.

Getting a mortgage loan for a co-op might be harder than for a condo. You aren’t actually buying real estate with the former. (A home loan help center may, well, help.)

And monthly fees tend to be higher at a co-op than for a condo.

Then again, the co-op fee may cover more, co-op units tend to cost less per square foot, and the closing costs of a co-op deal are often lower.

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


What Are the Types of Apartments?

Diving further into the definition, the apartment shape-shifts. While they may all technically be apartments, each comes with its own quirks and defining characteristics. Especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer, you’ll want to get comfortable with the lingo. Layouts or terminology may vary by building or region.

Studio

The ultimate open-concept space, a studio is a one-room apartment with a bathroom. The bedroom, living room, dining room, and kitchen are all in a single room.

Alcove Studio

An alcove studio, if L shaped, has a built-in nook to signify where a bed and small dresser could go. Older units might put the alcove in the middle of the room. If an average studio is 550 square feet, the alcove might add 40 — not much, but a big dose of privacy.

Alcove studio apartments are often more expensive than studios but cheaper than true one-bedroom units.

Convertible Apartment

A step up, size-wise, from a traditional studio, a convertible apartment may have a bedroom or a flex space that could be used as an office. The space might have a sliding glass door or partial wall that has an opening instead of a door.

By some definitions, a convertible apartment is bigger than a typical studio but doesn’t quite have the square footage of a one-bedroom unit. A bedroom, according to New York City regulations, must be at least 80 square feet and have space for at least one window of 12 square feet or larger.

Micro-Apartment

The micro-apartment might be the perfect fit for a minimalist. Usually micro-apartments are even smaller than studios, at about 350 square feet, and are popular in densely populated, high-cost cities. Micro-apartments offer enough space for a bed, sitting area, kitchenette, and tiny bathroom.

A micro-apartment might have a Murphy bed or a futon that folds into a bed at night.

Loft

Lofts are typically retrofitted from a factory or other commercial building. In one open space (except the bathroom), lofts have high ceilings, large windows, and perhaps an overall industrial feel.

Garden Apartment

A garden apartment can refer to two distinct types of units, so buyers should pay attention. A garden apartment can be a unit in the basement or on the ground floor of a small apartment building.

A garden apartment can also mean apartment buildings surrounded by greenery in either an urban or suburban area. These buildings are typically no higher than three stories and have access to green space, such as a park or trail.

High-Rise

A high-rise apartment building has 12 floors or more. When apartment buildings enter high-rise territory, residents can expect one or more elevators.

Mid-Rise

A mid-rise apartment building is between five and 11 stories tall. Expect an elevator in the building.

Low-Rise

A low-rise apartment building is anything shorter than five stories. With a low-rise apartment, there’s no guarantee of an elevator.

Railroad Apartment

A railroad apartment is laid out like a train car, meaning one room leads to the next without a hallway. Railroad apartments are typically found in older buildings or converted properties.

Walk-Up

In a walk-up, residents should expect to, well, walk up to their apartment. The designation implies that the building doesn’t have an elevator.

Walk-up apartments are often more affordable than elevator-accessible units, as stairs may be inconvenient or unmanageable.

Recommended: Tips to Qualify for a Mortgage

Should You Live In an Apartment? Who Are Apartments Best Suited for?

Apartment living isn’t for everyone. Those best suited to an apartment might want some or all of the following:

•   City living. Apartments are often in densely populated areas, meaning residents want to be near the hustle and bustle.

•   Limited space. Apartments typically have less space than traditional family homes, so they are often best suited for small families or singles.

•   Low maintenance. Exterior repairs and maintenance, and even some utilities, are up to the building at large, not the resident.

•   Relatively good price. Apartments are typically more affordable than nearby single-family homes, meaning they could be a good fit for the price-sensitive buyer.

•   Minimal lifestyle. Those who don’t need a lot of space may prefer a condo or co-op unit to a sprawling home.

Pros and Cons of Living in an Apartment

As with any type of home, living in an apartment comes with its benefits and drawbacks.

Pros

Cons

Outdoor space Residents aren’t responsible for maintaining exterior or green space. Limited or no private green outdoor space — or no outdoor space at all.
Maintenance Residents are typically responsible for their unit alone. The monthly fee can be high and on the rise.
Group living Neighborly vibe and shared amenities that could include a gym, pool, rooftop patio, and business center or community room. Close proximity to neighbors, often with one or more shared walls, floors, or ceilings.
Square footage Apartments are often smaller, which means less upkeep, from cleaning to repairs. Smaller spaces can mean less storage and room to spread out.
Affordability Apartments tend to be more affordable than single-family homes in the same area. Condos and co-op units don’t appreciate as quickly as single-family homes.

The Takeaway

If you’re interested in buying an apartment, you’re probably talking about a condo or co-op unit. Apartments come in all shapes and sizes and can sometimes be a little trickier to finance than traditional homes. But with a bit of smart shopping and some good research skills you’re likely to find both the apartment and the mortgage loan that is the best fit for you.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

What are the costs of owning an apartment?

Apartments come with a monthly fee. Condo fees are usually lower than a co-op’s, because the latter fee can include payment for the building’s mortgage and property taxes, utilities, maintenance, and security.

Is it a good idea to buy an apartment?

For a buyer focused on less maintenance and typically limited square footage, an apartment may be the right fit.

What should I look for when renting an apartment?

One of the first things to ask when renting an apartment is what is included. Does rent include any utilities, laundry in the unit, or parking?

It’s a good idea to also ask about credit requirements, application fee, security deposit, and terms of the lease.

What credit score do you need to rent an apartment by yourself?

All landlords are different, but many look for a FICO® score above 600. Not all property managers look at credit scores, though.


Photo credit: iStock/hrabar

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


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


*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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

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Guide to Paying Bills With a Credit Card: Can You Even Do It?

It is possible to pay bills with a credit card. Using a credit card in this way can help you earn rewards like cash back and travel points.

But it’s not always the right financial move. Keep reading to learn what bills you can pay with a credit card and how using a credit card to pay bills works.

Can You Pay Bills With a Credit Card?

Yes, it is possible to pay certain bills with a credit card. However, using a credit card responsibly is key.

When using a credit card to pay bills, it’s important to make sure doing so won’t cause you to rack up a high balance. Paying bills with a credit card makes the most sense when you can easily pay off your credit card balance in full right away.

If done responsibly, a card holder can earn credit card rewards — like cash back, travel points, and gift cards — for spending on purchases they have to make every month without paying interest. Plus, making regular, on-time payments can help build your credit score.

When Should You Not Use a Credit Card to Pay Bills?

As great as the potential to earn rewards is, if someone can’t afford to pay their credit card balance, charging their bills can lead to high interest charges and late fees (which are two ways credit card companies make money).

It also might not make sense to pay bills with a credit card if it leads to paying an extra fee from the merchant.

What Bills Can You Pay With a Credit Card?

There are limitations on which bills you can pay with a credit card. And, as briefly noted earlier, you may owe a fee for using a credit card to pay bills, which could outweigh the benefits earned.

Here are 10 examples of bills you can pay with a credit card, as well as explanations on how paying these bills with a credit card works.

1. Streaming Services

The vast majority of streaming services accept credit card payments to cover the monthly cost of the subscription. To pay this bill with a credit card, all you’ll need to do is enter their credit card number on the streaming service’s website. The card will then automatically get charged each month unless you cancel or suspend your membership.

It’s unlikely any streaming service will charge an extra fee for using a credit card to pay for their subscription.

2. Utilities

Some utilities providers allow credit card payments, so it’s worth investigating this option to determine if it’s accepted. If your utility provider will take a credit card payment, then setting it up is usually as simple as providing your credit card number when you pay your bill online, over the phone, or through the mail. You can often set up autopay as well.

However, watch out for the additional convenience and processing fees that some providers may charge. Higher bills are more likely to offset this fee given the greater earning potential for credit card points or other rewards.

3. Cable

Cable is another bill you can pay with a credit card. To determine how to do so, you’ll want to consult your cable provider. You may be able to enter your credit card number on the online payment portal or provide this information over the phone. Setting up autopay is also usually an option with a credit card.

There is typically no additional processing fee to pay cable bills.

4. Phone

Another bill you might pay with your credit card is your phone bill. You can likely set this up online on your phone provider’s website or by giving them a call. If you’re unsure of how to pay bills with a credit card, simply consult your phone provider.

You’ll typically face no additional processing fees.

5. Internet

Your internet service is another bill that you can cover using your credit card. As with other utilities and services, consult your internet provider if you need assistance getting this set up. In general, however, you can do so through your online payment portal. If you don’t want to go through the legwork each month, you can usually set up autopay with your credit card.

Most internet providers won’t charge an additional processing fee to pay your bill with a credit card, meaning those costs won’t cut into any rewards you earn with a cash back credit card or other type of rewards credit card.

6. Rent

Most landlords don’t allow credit card payments, but there are third-party solutions that can allow someone to pay their rent with a credit card. This includes services such as Plastiq and PlacePay, which act as intermediaries.

However, you’ll generally pay a convenience charge or other fees. You’ll want to assess whether the benefits of using your credit card to pay rent outweigh the costs.

7. Mortgage

Mortgage servicers generally don’t allow credit card payments. However, there are third-party payment processing services through which you could pay your mortgage. Still, some credit card issuers may prohibit you from paying your mortgage through these services.

In addition to restrictions, you’ll want to look out for processing fees. These could cancel out any rewards you could earn from covering your mortgage with a credit card.

8. Car Loan

Just like mortgage services, most auto lenders also don’t accept credit cards for loan payments. If you do find an auto lender who’s willing to accept a credit card for payment, you’ll likely face a hefty processing fee.

Additionally, credit card interest rates tend to be higher than those of auto loans, so if you’re not confident you could immediately pay off your credit card balance in full, you could simply end up paying a lot more in interest.

9. Taxes

It is possible to pay some taxes with a credit card. The IRS allows you to pay on its website using a credit card. However, you’ll face a processing fee ranging from 1.82% to 1.98%, depending on which payment processor you select. If you opt to pay using an integrated IRS e-file and e-pay service provider, such as TurboTax, your fee could range even higher.

10. Medical Bills

While you can pay medical bills with a credit card, it might not be the most cost-effective option. This is because credit cards can charge high interest and fees, and there’s the potential to damage your credit score. Many medical providers may offer interest-free or low-interest payment plans, or a personal loan could offer a lower rate than a credit card.

If you do think the rewards and convenience of using a credit card is worth the risk, the process of paying bills with a credit card will vary by medical institution. Before charging your medical bills to a credit card, you may want to at least try to negotiate medical bills down.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

Benefits of Paying Bills With a Credit Card

There are a few key benefits associated with paying bills with a credit card.

1. Ease of Payment

It may be possible to pay a bill with a credit card online, in an app, or over the phone.

2. Easy to Prove Payment

If a payment dispute arises, paying by credit card is an easy way to keep a record of payments.

3. Identity Theft Protection

If either a credit card or someone’s personal information gets stolen, a credit card issuer will pay back some or all of the charges.

4. Autopay

It’s easy to use a credit card to set up autopay for bills so you never accidentally forget to pay them.

5. Can Build Credit History

Given how credit cards work, using a credit card to make payments and then paying that balance off on time and in full can help build your credit score.

6. Earn Rewards

Purchases made with a credit card helps earn cash back and credit card points.

Downsides of Paying Bills With a Credit Card

There are also some downsides to paying bills with a credit card that are worth keeping in mind.

1. May Cost More

Because many bill services charge fees to pay with a credit card, it’s possible to spend more than necessary on processing fees.

2. Can Lead to High-Interest Debt

If someone can’t afford to pay off their credit card balance after using it to pay for bills, they can end up with high-interest debt on their hands.

3. Processing Fees Can Cancel Out Rewards

It’s important to do the math to make sure that the cost of processing fees isn’t canceling out the cash back you’re earning with the purchase.

4. Leads to Another Bill to Pay

Similar to when you pay a credit card with another credit card, paying a bill with a credit card simply leads to another bill to pay. This can cause more hassle than it’s worth.

5. Can Hurt Credit Utilization Ratio

Carrying a higher balance on a credit card can lead to a higher credit utilization ratio, which is damaging to credit scores. One of the common credit card rules is to keep your utilization below 30%, meaning you’re not using more than this percentage of your total available credit at any given time.

Recommended: What Is a Charge Card

Guide to Using a Credit Card to Pay Bills

At this point, it’s clear that it is possible to pay some bills with a credit card. But should you? In short, it depends.

If the bill provider won’t charge a processing fee and the consumer can afford to pay off their credit card balance in full, then paying their bills with a credit card is a great way to earn rewards and build a credit score.

However, in many cases, the processing fee some merchants charge can outweigh the value of cash back or other rewards earned. Not to mention, carrying a credit card balance can lead to incurring expensive interest and fees.

The Takeaway

It is possible to pay some bills with a credit card, but doing so can lead to paying costly processing fees or even accruing interest charges. It’s important to crunch the numbers to see if paying a bill with a credit will result in earning enough rewards to justify any processing fees.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Should I put non-debt bills on a credit card?

If someone can afford to pay off their credit card balance in full and the processing fee they’ll owe isn’t, it can make sense to put a non-debt bill on their credit card. They just have to remember to then pay their credit card bill to avoid owing any fees or interest, which could undercut the potential benefits.

Is it wise to pay monthly bills with a credit card?

Paying monthly bills with a credit card can lead to processing fees in some scenarios. If someone won’t owe a fee, they can benefit from earning cash back by paying their bills with a credit card. This can be a savvy move to make if they can afford to pay off their credit card bill in full each month, thus avoiding interest charges.

Is it better to pay bills with a credit or debit card?

Paying a bill with a credit card can lead to earning rewards, which a debit card can’t offer. There’s also often purchase protection. However, if you’re worried about handling credit card debt responsibly, you may opt for using a debit card, as this will draw on money you already have in your bank account. With either a debit or credit card, however, you’ll want to look out for fees.

Should I pay off my credit card in full or leave a small balance?

It’s always best to pay off a credit card balance in full if possible before a credit card’s grace period ends. The grace period is the time between when the billing cycle ends and your payment becomes due. You won’t owe interest as long as you pay off your balance in full before the statement due date. Otherwise, you could owe interest charges and fees.

What happens if you pay the full amount on your credit card?

Paying the full amount on a credit card makes it possible to avoid paying interest. After a credit card is paid off in full, the consumer can simply enjoy the rewards they earned by making purchases with their credit card.

Does paying a bill with a credit card count as a purchase?

Yes, paying a bill with a credit card does count as a purchase. This makes it possible to earn cardholder rewards like cash back when paying bills.


Photo credit: iStock/Damir Khabirov

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

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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

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Available Credit vs Credit Limit: What Are the Key Differences?

Available Credit vs Credit Limit: What Are the Key Differences?

Your available credit and the total credit limit on a particular credit card are both tied to the potential amount that you can spend. Your credit limit is the total amount of credit that the card issuer is willing to lend you. On the other hand, your available credit is the potential amount you can spend right now.

Unlike your credit limit, your available credit takes into consideration your outstanding balance and any pending charges. So, for example, if your total credit limit is $10,000, and you have an outstanding balance of $2,000, then your available credit is $8,000.

What Is Available Credit?

Your available credit on a credit card is the total amount that you can spend on your credit card. It is usually calculated as the total credit limit minus any outstanding balance or pending charges. If you attempt a transaction that is larger than your available credit, the credit card company will typically decline the transaction.

What Is a Credit Limit?

The way most credit cards work is that the credit card company issues you a maximum amount that they are willing to lend you. This is called your credit limit. It is usually determined by your financial information, such as your credit score, income, and other items on your credit history.

Why Is Available Credit Important?

Your available credit is one of the most important things about your credit card. The amount of available credit you have is the total amount of money that you can spend on your credit card. If you try to make a purchase that’s more than your total available credit, your credit card company will usually decline your transaction.

Differences Between Credit Limit and Available Credit

The main difference between credit limit and available credit is one of a theoretical limit vs. a limit in practice.

Your credit limit is the theoretical limit that represents how much the credit card company is willing to lend you. If you’ve used a portion of your credit limit, then that amount is subtracted from your total credit limit and becomes your available credit. This is the maximum amount that you can spend right now on your credit card.

In other words, your credit limit will generally remain the same, whereas your available credit will vary based on your spending. When you haven’t spent any money using your credit card, meaning your balance is $0, your credit limit and available credit are the same.

What Happens If You Go Over Your Available Credit?

If you have a credit card balance or outstanding pending charges on your credit card, those amounts are subtracted from the total credit limit that you have on that card. This marks your current available credit, and it’s the maximum amount that you can charge on your credit card at the current point in time.

If you try to make a charge for more than your available credit, it’s likely that your credit card company will decline the charge. With some credit card companies or specific credit cards, it’s possible that the credit card company will allow a charge above your available credit, but they may charge interest and/or additional fees. Check with your credit card company for the specific rules and terms for your particular card.

What Happens If You Go Over Your Credit Limit?

If you continue to spend all of your available credit until you’ve reached your total credit limit, you may not be able to continue to use your credit card. You’ll first need to make payments to lower your total balance and raise your available credit.

In some cases, if you continue to keep your outstanding balance near your total credit limit, the credit card company may choose to close your credit card account. If this doesn’t happen, your card issuer may also increase your interest rate, lower your credit limit, or even raise the minimum payment requested.

Going over your credit limit can also have serious implications for your credit score. This is because credit utilization — how much of your available credit you’re currently using — is a major factor used to determine your score. It’s recommended to keep your credit utilization ratio below 30% to maintain a healthy score; if you’ve reached your credit limit, your utilization will be at 100%.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

How to Increase Your Available Credit

The best way to increase the available credit on your credit card is to spend less on your card and make additional payments toward your total outstanding balance. Every dollar that you pay toward your outstanding balance will increase your available credit.

Ideally, you’d get to a situation where you’d pay off your statement balance in full, each and every month. In that scenario, your available credit and your total credit limit would be equal.

How to Increase Your Credit Limit

You have a few options for increasing your credit limit. Some credit card companies will regularly review the accounts of their cardmembers, and proactively increase their credit limits.

You also have the option to contact your card issuer directly and ask them to increase your credit limit. Keep in mind that most issuers are more likely to increase your credit limit if you’re already using your credit card responsibly.

If you’re not having any luck increasing the credit limit on your existing credit card, another option is to open a new credit card. This could substantially increase your available credit if you’re approved — especially if the new card’s limit is at or above the average credit card limit.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

The Takeaway

Your total credit limit and available credit are two terms that refer to the amount of money that you can spend on your credit card. However, there is a difference between credit limit and available credit. Your credit limit usually refers to the maximum amount that your card’s issuer is willing to lend you. Meanwhile, your available credit is the maximum credit limit, minus any outstanding balance or pending charges on the card.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Why is my available credit less than my credit limit?

Your available credit will often be less than your credit limit based on any outstanding balance or pending charges that you have on your credit card. If you have a total credit limit of $7,500 on a particular card, and an outstanding balance of $1,000, then your available credit is $6,500. The available credit amount is the maximum amount that you can charge on your credit card at the current moment.

Why is my available credit higher than my credit limit?

It’s rare that your available credit will be higher than your total credit limit. Instead, it’s much more common for your available credit to be less than (or equal to) your total credit limit. One scenario where your available credit may be higher is if you have a credit on your account, such as from a refunded transaction.

How is my credit limit determined?

Credit card issuers typically determine your total credit limit based on the financial information that you provide when you apply for the card. This includes your employment information, salary, and overall creditworthiness. If your financial situation has materially changed since you first applied or if you have a history of responsibly using your card, you may be able to contact your issuer and have your credit limit increased.

What is a good amount of available credit?

Currently the average credit card limit was just over $30,000, though credit limits vary widely by card issuer, credit card, and individual. A good amount of available credit is one that allows you to make all of the transactions that you need to make each month, with a little bit of buffer room, and without your utilization going above 30% of your limit. You should aim to put yourself into a financial position where you can pay off each of your credit card statements in full, each and every month.


Photo credit: iStock/Georgii Boronin

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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