18 Mortgage Questions for Your Lender

18 Mortgage Questions for Your Lender

Hiring a knowledgeable mortgage lender is one of the first steps you’ll take on your journey to homeownership. A good lender could help you make a sound decision about a major commitment.

If you want to know what questions to ask a mortgage lender, these can help you feel more confident choosing a lender to navigate the complex home buying process with you.

1. How Much Can You Borrow?

How much you can borrow is the question most buyers have on their minds when they start dreaming about real estate listings online. You may have come across a mortgage calculator tool that estimates how much a mortgage is going to cost.

But that’s just a starting point. A mortgage lender will evaluate the entire spectrum of a homebuyer’s financial situation and find the true amount they’ll be able to borrow. The lender may also make recommendations for programs or loans for each buyer’s unique situation.

So what is a mortgage note? It’s a legal contract between the lender and you that provides all the details about the loan, including the amount you were approved to borrow.

2. How Much of a Down Payment Do You Need?

Another key question your lender can help answer for you is how much are down payments? You’ve probably heard about the ideal 20% down, but a lender may be able to help homebuyers get into a home with a much lower down payment, such as 3% or 5%.

The 20% mark will enable you to forgo mortgage insurance on a conventional loan (one not insured by the federal government), but lower down payment amounts can help homebuyers obtain housing sooner. There are plenty of options to explore with your lender.

3. What Is the Interest Rate and APR?

Your mortgage lender may explain the difference between the interest rate and annual percentage rate.

•   Interest rate. The interest rate is the cost to borrow money each year. It does not include any fees or mortgage insurance premiums.

•   APR. The APR is a more comprehensive reflection of what you’ll pay for the mortgage, which will include the interest rate, points paid, mortgage lender fees, and other fees needed to acquire the mortgage. It’s usually higher than the interest rate.

The interest rate and APR must be disclosed to you in a loan estimate with the other terms and conditions the lender is offering. Pay particular attention to how the APR changes from loan to loan. When you’re looking at APR vs. interest rates for an FHA loan and a conventional mortgage, for instance, you’ll notice the numbers come out very different. (This is just a recent example.)

30-year term

Interest rate

APR

FHA 2.660% 3.530%
Conventional 3.140% 3.300%

In this case, the interest rate on a 30-year FHA loan is lower than on a conventional loan; however, when accounting an upfront mortgage premium for the FHA loan and other fees, the APR is higher on the FHA loan than on the conventional loan.

4. What Are the Differences Between Fixed and Adjustable Rate Mortgages?

The main difference between a fixed and adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) is whether or not the monthly payment will change over the life of the loan.

•   Fixed rate mortgages start with a little higher monthly payment than an ARM, but the rate is secure for the term.

•   An adjustable-rate mortgage will start with a lower interest rate that may increase as the index of interest rates increases. This type of loan may be more appropriate for buyers who know they will not be keeping the mortgage for long.

Fixed Rate Mortgages

ARMs

Interest rate is locked in for the term Interest rate is variable
Monthly payment stays the same Monthly payment is variable
Typically a longer-term mortgage, such as 15 or 30 years Typically a shorter-term mortgage, such as five or seven years
Interest rate is determined when the rate is locked before closing the mortgage When the index of interest rates goes up, the payment goes up

The key to an ARM is to know how it adjusts. How frequently will your rate adjust? How much could your interest and monthly payments increase with each adjustment? Is there a cap on how high your interest rate could go? A good mortgage lender will help you consider all these variables when selecting a fixed rate or adjustable rate mortgage.

5. How Many Points Does the Rate Include?

First, you may wonder, “What are points on a mortgage?” Mortgage points are fees paid to a lender for a lower interest rate. Asking your lender how many points are included in the rate can help you compare loan products accurately.

6. When Can the Interest Rate Be Locked In?

Rate lock policies differ from lender to lender. Check at the top of Page 1 of your loan estimate to see if your rate is locked, and for how long.

You’ll want to ensure that any rate lock agreement gives you enough time to close on your loan. Many lenders have fees for extending a rate lock.

7. How Much Are Estimated Closing Costs?

One of the most important documents you’ll receive from your lender is called a loan estimate. The loan estimate gives a detailed breakdown of the interest rate, monthly payment, fees, and closing costs on the loan you’re applying for. When you ask about closing costs, your lender can provide this document to you.

Common closing costs include:

•   Appraisal fee

•   Loan origination fee

•   Title insurance

•   Prepaid expenses such as homeowners insurance, property taxes, and interest until your first payment is due

Expect to see 2% to 5% of the purchase price in closing costs.

8. Are There Any Other Fees?

Lenders are required to disclose all costs in the loan estimate. They’re also required to use the same standard form so you can compare costs and fees among different lenders accurately. Be sure to ask lenders about other fees and watch for them on your loan estimate.

9. When Will the Closing Happen?

The time to close on a house will depend on your individual circumstances, but the national average is 46 days.

An experienced lender with a digitized process may be able to close a loan more quickly. The time it takes a lender to approve and process the loan are also factors to consider.

10. What Could Delay the Closing?

In the November 2021 National Association of Realtors® Confidence Index survey, 24% of real estate transactions had a delayed settlement. The main reasons for the delays included:

•   Appraisal issues (21%)

•   Issues related to obtaining financing (20%)

•   Home inspection or environmental issues (11%)

•   Titling or deed issues (9%)

•   Contingencies stated in the contract (7%)

The largest culprits — appraisal and financing issues — accounted for more than 40% of the delayed closings. An experienced lender may know how to bring a home to the closing table despite the challenges with financing and appraisals. Be sure to ask upfront how these challenges would be addressed.

11. What Will Fees and Payments Be?

The neat part about obtaining a mortgage since 2015 is that the information is included in a standard form, the loan estimate. The form is used by all lenders and allows borrowers the opportunity to compare costs among lenders quickly and accurately. All fees and payments are required to be clearly outlined in this form.

💡 Recommended: Guide to Mortgage Statements

12. How Good Does Your Credit Need to Be?

You’ll typically need a FICO® credit score of at least 620 to get a conventional mortgage, but lenders consider a credit score just one slice of the qualification pie.

With a lower credit score, a lender may steer you in the direction of an FHA loan, which requires a score of 580 or higher to qualify for a 3.5% down payment. Credit scores lower than 580 require a 10% down payment for an FHA loan.

Borrowers with credit scores above 740 may qualify for the best rates and terms a lender can offer.

13. Do You Need an Escrow Account?

Your lender can set up an escrow account to pay for expenses related to the property you’re purchasing. These may include homeowners insurance and taxes. An escrow account can take monthly deposits from the borrower, hold them, and then disburse them to the proper entities when yearly payments are due. In some locations and with certain lenders, escrow accounts are required.

14. Do You Offer Preapproval or Prequalification?

Lenders have different processes for qualifying mortgage applicants. Preapproval is a much more in-depth analysis of a buyer’s finances than prequalification.

A preapproval letter provided by the lender specifies how much the lender is willing to extend you, and helps to show sellers you’re a qualified buyer. Getting preapproved early in the home buying process can also help you spot and remedy any potential problems in your credit report.

💡 Recommended: Preapproved vs. Prequalified: What’s the Difference? 

15. Is There a Prepayment Penalty?

A prepayment penalty is a fee for paying off all or part of your mortgage early. Avoiding prepayment penalties is easy if you choose a mortgage that doesn’t have any. Ask lenders if your desired loan carries a prepayment penalty. It will also be noted in the loan estimate.

16. When Is the First Payment Due?

A lender will be able to help you get your first payment in, which is typically on the first day of the month after a 30-day period after you close. For example, if you closed on Aug. 15, the first mortgage payment would be due on the 1st of the next month following a 30-day period (Oct. 1).

Each mortgage statement sent every billing cycle includes current information about the loan, including the payment breakdown, payment amount due, and principal balance.

17. Do You Need Mortgage Insurance?

Your mortgage lender will guide you through the process of acquiring private mortgage insurance, commonly called PMI, if you need it. Mortgage insurance is required for most conventional mortgages made with a down payment of less than 20% as well as FHA and USDA loans.

It’s not insurance for the buyer; instead, it protects the lender from risk. A good mortgage lender can also help advise borrowers on dropping PMI as soon as possible.

💡 Recommended: What is PMI & How to Avoid It?

18. How Much Is the Lender Making Off of You?

Lenders are required to be clear and accurate when it comes to the costs of the loan. These should be fully disclosed on your loan estimate and closing documents. If you want to know how much the lender is charging for its services, you’ll find it under “origination fee.”

The Takeaway

If you’re shopping for a home loan or thinking about it, you might have mortgage questions — about down payments, APR, points, PMI, and more. Don’t worry about asking a lender too many, because many buyers need a guide throughout the home buying journey.

If you’re ready to look for a mortgage, view home loans from SoFi. Rates are competitive, and mortgage loan officers are there to answer questions.

If you need more information about mortgages and the home buying process, you can get home loan help from the SoFi Home Loan Help Center.

Find your mortgage rate in just minutes.

Photo credit: iStock/Ridofranz


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.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
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Owner-Financed Homes: What You Need to Know

Owner-Financed Homes: What You Need to Know

Looking to get into a home but can’t qualify for a traditional mortgage? You may want to look at owner financing.

Owner-financed homes aren’t very common, but they have some benefits for unique buyer and seller situations. Owner financing bypasses a traditional mortgage when the seller takes on the role of lender, but seller financing comes with some risks.

Let’s take a deep dive into how owner financing works and when it could make sense.

What Is Owner Financing?

Owner financing, also known as seller financing, is a transaction in which the property owner takes on the role of lender by financing the sale to the buyer. Like the trading of homes, this type of transaction bypasses traditional mortgages (unless the purchase of the home is only partially owner-financed.)

The payments for buyers are typically amortized over 30 years for a smaller monthly payment, but there’s often a large balloon payment at the end of a shorter period of time (usually one to seven years). Owner-financed transactions operate on the belief that the buyer’s finances may improve over time or the property will appreciate to a point where the buyer can get a home loan from a traditional lender.

How Does Owner Financing Work?

Owner-financed homes work much like traditionally financed homes, but with the seller acting as the lender. The seller may require a credit check, loan application, a down payment, an appraisal of the home, and the right to foreclose should the buyer default. Buyers and sellers will need to agree on an interest rate and length of loan.

The buyer and seller sign a promissory note, which contains the loan terms. They also record a mortgage (or deed of trust), and the buyer pays the seller. The buyer should also pay for homeowner’s insurance, taxes, title insurance, and other loan costs. It is typical to hire real estate professionals or lawyers to get more into the details of how to use a home contract in owner financing.

Pros and Cons of Owner Financing

For Sellers

Owner financing isn’t nearly as beneficial for sellers as it is for buyers, but there are still some upsides to consider along with the increased debt load and assumed risk.

Pros for Sellers

Cons for Sellers

Attract a larger buyer pool Carry more debt
Saves money on selling costs Assume more risk; buyers could default
May be able to sidestep inspections, especially if the home needs work or may not pass an inspection for FHA or VA loans Not able to cash out for years
Can earn higher returns by acting as a lender May need to act like a landlord; buyer may not keep up the property and the home may lose value
Faster closing occurs when buyers don’t have to go through the mortgage underwriting process If the seller still has a fairly large mortgage on the property, the lender must agree to the transaction (many are not willing)

For Buyers

There are advantages to buying a house for sale by owner, namely that a buyer can obtain housing sooner under owner financing. A buyer may also be able to lower the down payment needed and pay lower closing costs. But it’s also riskier than borrowing from a traditional mortgage lender. If, for example, buyers are unable to finance the balloon payment, they risk losing all the money they’ve spent during the loan term.

Pros for Homebuyers

Cons for Homebuyers

Opportunity to gain equity Sellers may ask for a hefty down payment to protect themselves against loss
Opportunity to improve finances May pay a higher interest rate than the market rate
Can obtain housing and financing when traditional lenders would issue a denial May pay too much for the home
No mandated credit check from a lender Fewer consumer protections available when a homebuyer purchases from a seller
No mortgage insurance Short loan terms
No minimum down payment Sellers may not follow consumer protection laws
Lower closing costs Buyers may not be protected by contingencies

To reduce risk exposure in an owner-financed transaction, buyers may want to hire an attorney.

Example of Owner Financing

Bob and Vila want to purchase a large, forever home for their family. The purchase price of the home is $965,000, but Bob and Vila can only qualify for $815,000. Part of Bob’s income is from recent self-employment, which is not accounted for by the lender but will help the couple be able to afford the house.

For the remaining $150,000, the seller offers owner financing as a junior mortgage. The buyers will pay both a traditional mortgage lender as well as the seller in this type of owner financing.

💡 Recommended: How Much Home Can I Afford?

Types of Owner Financing

Land contracts, mortgages, and lease-purchase agreements are a few ways to look at owner financing. Here’s how they work and how they’re different from a traditional mortgage.

Land Contracts

Because the title cannot pass to the buyer in owner financing, a land contract creates a shared title for the buyer and seller until the buyer makes the final payment to the seller. The seller maintains the legal title, but the buyer gains an interest in the property.

Mortgages

These are the different ways to structure a mortgage with owner financing.

•   All-inclusive mortgage. The seller carries the promissory note and the balance for the home purchase.

•   Junior mortgage. When a buyer is unable to finance the entire purchase with a lender on one mortgage, the seller carries a junior mortgage (or second mortgage) for the buyer. The seller is put in second position if the buyer defaults, so there is risk to the seller by doing a second mortgage.

•   Assumable mortgage. Some FHA, VA, and conventional adjustable-rate mortgages are assumable, meaning the buyer is able to take the seller’s place on the mortgage.

A mortgage calculator can help you get an idea of what purchase price you may be able to afford.

Lease-Purchase

In a lease-purchase arrangement, both parties agree on a purchase price. The potential buyer leases from the owner for an amount of time, usually one to three years, until a set date, when the renter has the option to purchase the property. In addition to paying rent, the tenant pays an additional fee, known as the rent premium.

It’s typical to see options that credit a percentage of the purchase price (often between 1% and 5%), rents, and rent premiums toward the purchase price. If the option to buy is not used, the buyer will lose the option fee and rent premiums.

They are also known as rent-to-own, lease-to-own, or lease with an option to purchase. They can be used when an aspiring buyer has a lower credit score and needs some time to qualify for traditional financing.

Steps to Structuring a Seller Financing Deal

If you’re thinking about finding a property with owner financing, consider taking these steps to help get you through the process.

1.    Hire a professional. Because owner financing bypasses traditional lending institutions, there’s a lot more risk involved. Hiring a real estate professional and an attorney can help you structure the deal to protect your interests.

2.    Find a property where the owner offers financing. An owner must be willing and able to offer seller financing to make this type of transaction happen. It’s difficult, which is why owner financing is more common between parties that know each other very well. It’s usually required that the property is owned free and clear of any mortgage. A few other ways to look for seller-financed properties:

◦   Asking your current landlord if they’re open to selling their property to you.

◦   Looking for real estate listings with phrases like “seller financing available.”

◦   Contacting the real estate agent for a home you’re interested in. If the home has been on the market a while and the conditions are right, the sellers may be open to this option.

◦   Finding a personal connection who is able to offer owner financing.

3.    Agree to terms. Because seller financing terms are so flexible, there are a lot of details that buyers and sellers need to work out, including:

◦   Sales price

◦   Amount of down payment

◦   Length of the loan

◦   Balloon payment amount

◦   Interest rate

◦   Structure of the contract (land contract, mortgage, or lease-purchase, as described above)

◦   Any late fees, prepayment penalties, and other costs the buyer is responsible for

4.    Complete due diligence. Buyers and sellers would be wise to do their due diligence as if it were a regular purchase. Sellers may want to examine a buyer’s credit, complete a background check, and confirm that buyers have obtained homeowner’s insurance and title insurance to move forward with the transaction. On the buyer’s end, a home inspection and appraisal may be warranted.

5.    Sign and file paperwork. Much like a real estate transaction, the contracts involved in owner financing arrangements can be pretty involved. Depending on how your financing is structured, you may have a promissory note, owner financing contract and addendums, and title paperwork. You’ll also want to be sure your promissory note and deed of trust are filed with the county recorder’s office. An attorney, if you hired one, should be able to complete this process for you.

Alternatives to Owner Financing

Traditional mortgage financing may work better for your individual situation.

•   FHA loans. FHA loans have a low down payment requirement and low closing costs and maybe approved for homebuyers with lower credit scores. They are underwritten by the Federal Housing Administration. Even if you’ve had a bankruptcy, you may be able to get an FHA loan.

•   USDA loans. USDA loans are backed by the Department of Agriculture. Income must meet certain guidelines (as determined by geographic region), and the home purchased must be in an eligible rural area.

•   VA loans. Loans guaranteed by the Department of Veteran Affairs are geared toward military members, veterans, and eligible spouses. The favorable terms include a low or no down payment, lower closing costs, low interest rate, and the ability to use the VA for a home loan multiple times.

•   Conventional loans. A conventional loan simply means the financing is not insured by the federal government as it is with FHA, VA, or USDA loans. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provide the backing for conforming loans: those that have maximum loan amounts that are set by the government.

It’s a good idea to not take interest rates at face value but to compare APRs instead. The annual percentage rate represents the interest rate and loan fees, so even if, for instance, an FHA loan looks better than a conventional mortgage, based on just the rates, an APR comparison may tell a different story.

💡 Recommended: 18 Mortgage Questions for Your Lender

The Takeaway

With owner financing, the seller is the lender. Both buyers and sellers face upsides and downsides when the transaction involves owner-financed homes.

No matter who you buy your home from, SoFi’s help center for mortgages can be a great resource for navigating the mortgage and home buying process.

It might pay off to view SoFi home loans to help you get into the house that’s right for you.

Finding your rate is quick and easy.

Photo credit: iStock/KTStock


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.

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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One Dozen Home Staging Tips for Homeowners Trying to Sell

12 Home Staging Tips for Homeowners Trying to Sell

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

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

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

What Is Home Staging?

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

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

How Home Staging Can Affect Time and Price

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

Research Shows Benefits for Sellers

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

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

You Have Competition

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

Recommended: 2022 Home Loans Education Portal

Expectations Can Be High

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

Should You Hire a Professional Stager?

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

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

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

Cost

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

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

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

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

Recommended: SoFi Mortgage Calculator

Fresh Eyes and Objectivity

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

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

Living With Someone Else’s ‘Look’

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

Exposing Bigger Problems

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

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Professional Home Stager

Pros

Cons

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

12 Tips for Home Staging Success

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

1. Clear the Clutter

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

2. Depersonalize

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

3. Deep Clean

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

Recommended: The Ultimate House Maintenance Checklist

4. Repair All Damage

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

Recommended: What are the Most Common Home Repair Costs?

5. Focus on Essential Rooms

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

6. Neutralize the Décor

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

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

7. Let There Be Light

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

8. Curb Appeal Matters

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

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

Recommended: Five Curb Appeal Ideas For Your House

9. Look Beyond the Porch

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

10. Create Space

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

11. Clear the Air

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

12. Define Rooms

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

Photo credit: iStock/FollowTheFlow


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

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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What Is Tenants in Common?

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

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

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

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

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

•   What is tenancy in common?

•   How does tenancy in common work?

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

•   Is tenancy in common right for you?

What Is Tenancy In Common (TIC)?

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

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

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

Recommended: First-Time Home Buyer Guide

How Tenancy in Common (TIC) Works

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

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

Recommended: Mortgage Calculator

Property Taxes With Tenancy in Common

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

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

Recommended: Understanding the Different Types of Mortgage Loans

Tenancy in Common vs Joint Tenancy

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

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

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

Recommended: What Is a Mortgage?

Marriage and Property Ownership

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

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

Recommended: How to Choose a Mortgage Term

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

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

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

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

Now, for the disadvantages:

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

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

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

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

Recommended: How to Lower Your Mortgage Payment

Example of Tenancy in Common

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

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

Recommended: What Is Mortgage Principal?

The Takeaway

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

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

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

FAQ

Can tenancy in common be dissolved?

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

What are the responsibilities of tenants in common?

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

What happens when a tenant dies?

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

What are the disadvantages of tenants in common?

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


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