How Much Income Is Needed for a $550,000 Mortgage?

If you’re looking at a $550,000 mortgage, you’ll need some solid numbers to help you afford the home you want. Assuming a 7% interest rate, you’ll need to make around $160,000 per year to afford the roughly $4,800 monthly payment on this loan.

This amount includes an estimate for taxes and insurance by Fannie Mae and a 36% total debt ratio. This number also assumes a higher purchase price of $687,500 with a 20% down payment to get the $550,000 mortgage with no private mortgage insurance (PMI).

We’ll run through a few scenarios to help you understand how different factors affect how much you’ll need to make to meet the requirements for this mortgage. As with any advice, it’s best to talk to a good lender, who can help you along the path of home affordability.

Income Needed for a $550,000 Mortgage


It requires a significant amount of income to pay for housing costs around the country. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau obtained from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the national median housing price is $420,800 in the first quarter of 2024. If you have no debt, you’ll need to make around $130,000 for the average house.

For a $550,000 mortgage loan, the amount needed is around $160,000. We arrived at this number by calculating the monthly payment on a $550,000 mortgage with a 7% APR, assuming at least a 20% down payment was already made on the purchase price to eliminate the cost of mortgage insurance. This number is just for the mortgage with taxes and insurance and assumes you have no other debt.

But if you’re a normal human being, you probably have a little debt and need to account for that in determining how much money is required to afford your $550,000 mortgage and your debt obligations. Here’s how to do that.

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


How Much Do You Need to Make to Get a $550K Mortgage?


You need to make a reliable annual income of $160,000 to $200,000 (give or take, depending on your debt level) to get a $550,000 mortgage. A few years ago, it was possible to get a $550,000 loan on a smaller income. Now, given that interest rates have risen, you need to lower your debt, increase your income and savings, and be a salary superstar to afford a $550,000 home.

What Is a Good Debt-to-Income Ratio?


A good debt-to-income ratio is as low as you can get it. Lenders favor levels below 36%, but you may be able to find a lender that allows for a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio around 45%.

What Determines How Much House You Can Afford?


How much house you can afford is determined by a number of factors. To give you a general idea of how they work together, consider the following:

Income

How much you make is the biggest factor in determining how much you can afford. But it’s also the predictability of the income that’s important to a lender. If you’re in business for yourself, but don’t have two years worth of tax returns, it’s hard to prove income, and the lender is less likely to want to lend you money.

Debt

Your debt obligations take away from how much home you can afford. More debt = less money available for a house payment = lower mortgage amount.

Down Payment

If you have a larger down payment, you’ll be able to afford more house. A down payment of 20% is ideal because you can avoid a PMI payment (mortgage insurance for the lender that does nothing for you). However, if you have good credit and a good lender, you may be able to find a loan type that doesn’t require 20% down and still get a good rate. Use a mortgage calculator to see how a down payment affects your home affordability.

Loan Type

The different types of mortgage loans affect how much house you can afford, since your monthly payment will vary. For example, a 15-year mortgage will have a higher monthly payment, which means you’ll have to choose a lower-priced home. You’ll also see your home affordability change when choosing between fixed-rate and adjustable-rate, especially if you compare 5-year ARMs vs. 30-year fixed mortgages.

If you need a loan that exceeds the conforming loan limits for your area, you’re looking at a jumbo loan, which has different requirements (such as a higher credit score and down payment) that will affect home affordability.

Lender and Interest Rate

Even the lender you choose can affect home affordability. This is because lenders offer different rates and have different risk tolerances. For example, if you have a lender that’s willing to underwrite loans with a 45% DTI ratio, you’ll qualify for a larger mortgage than you would with a lender that’s only willing to accept a 36% DTI ratio. That’s one of the many reasons it’s important to shop around for a loan and a lender.

Recommended: Cost of Living by State

What Mortgage Lenders Look For


For a $550,000 mortgage, lenders will look at the following factors in making a lending decision about you.

•   Credit score: Your credit score evaluates how risky your behavior with credit is. The higher, the better. If you make your payments on time, every time, you’ll be well on your way to a great credit score.

•   Debt-to-income ratio: Debt has to be factored into the equation. Lenders want to know that you can meet your monthly obligations. If you have lower amounts of debt, you’ll likely be approved for a larger mortgage amount because you can afford the monthly payment.

•   Income: You need to make enough steady income to qualify for the loan.

•   Down payment: A higher down payment reduces the risk to the lender. They may be able to offer better rates and terms to you if you have a significant down payment. However, even if you have a lower down payment amount, you may still qualify for great terms and rates with a lender.

$550,000 Mortgage Breakdown Examples


Everyone’s financial situation is so different. Perhaps one of these examples with different down payments, debt levels, and interest rates can help you see where you may fall. These numbers were taken from Fannie Mae’s mortgage calculator and include an estimate for taxes and insurance.

$550,000, 30-year mortgage with 20% down payment and 7% interest

•   Principal and interest: $3,513

•   Taxes and insurance: $1,100

•   Total monthly payment: $4,613

$550,000, 30-year mortgage with zero down payment, and PMI, at 7% interest

•   Principal and interest: $3,659

•   Taxes and insurance: $917

•   Mortgage insurance: $504

•   Total monthly payment: $5,080

$550,000, 15-year mortgage with 20% down, at 6.5% interest

•   Principal and interest: $4,599

•   Taxes and insurance: $1,100

•   Total monthly payment: $5,699

Pros and Cons of a $550,000 Mortgage


A $550,000 mortgage has some pros and cons you’ll want to consider.

Pros

•   Helps you buy the home you want

•   Falls under the conforming loan limit so you can qualify for a conventional loan

•   You may be able to put down a low down payment amount

•   Allows you to become a homeowner

Cons

•   You may pay a lot in interest costs

•   High monthly payment

•   Taxes, insurance, mortgage insurance, and other costs will be higher

•   More expensive to maintain a $550,000 home

How Much Will You Need for a Down Payment?


Here’s what you’ll need for a down payment for a roughly $550,000 mortgage on a home costing $567,000.

Loan type

Minimum down payment

Amount for a $550,000 loan

Conventional 3% (first-time homebuyers) $17,010
Federal Housing Administration (FHA) 3.5% $19,845
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 0% 0%
U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 0% 0%

Keep in mind, if you’re able to put down 20% ($110,000), you won’t need to include PMI in your monthly mortgage calculation, which will help you afford more home.

Recommended: Best Affordable Places to Live

Can You Buy a $550K Home With No Money Down?


It is possible to buy a $550,000 home with no money down, especially if you’re able to take advantage of one of the following loan types. These options have 0% down payment requirements for borrowers who qualify.

0% Down Payment Mortgages

•   VA mortgages For qualified veterans and servicemembers, VA mortgages offer excellent rates along with no down payment requirement. Veterans must obtain a certificate of eligibility (COE), which is based on service and duty status.

•   USDA mortgages If you live in a rural area and make a moderate income, you’ll want to look at a USDA mortgage. This type of mortgage doesn’t require a down payment and the interest rate is similar to what you would get with a conventional loan. There are even some options where USDA directly services the loan and provides payment assistance to make it more affordable for the borrower.

Can You Buy a $550K Home With a Small Down Payment?


If you’re looking to keep as much cash in your hands as possible, you might be wondering if you can buy a home with a small down payment. The answer is yes, it is possible to buy a $550,000 home with a small down payment.

•   Conventional mortgages Since a $550,000 mortgage falls under the conforming loan limits, you can qualify for conventional financing, which first-time homebuyers can obtain for as little as 3% down. You will need to pay mortgage insurance (PMI), but if you can afford the monthly payment and it allows you to get into a home, it may be worth it to you.

•   FHA mortgages It’s possible to get an FHA mortgage with as little as 3.5% of the purchase price. You also need to pay mortgage insurance on an FHA loan, and it’s expensive. You’ll want to refinance your mortgage as soon as you’re able just to get rid of it.

The other options for 0% down payment mortgages mentioned previously, VA loans and USDA loans, are also available here.

Is a $550K Mortgage with No Down Payment a Good Idea?


If you desire to move into a home of your own and can afford the higher monthly payment on a $550,000 mortgage with no down payment, don’t let anything hold you back. A 20% down payment is a great idea, but it can be incredibly hard in reality, even in the most affordable states. If you’re in a strong financial position, but don’t have a down payment, talk to a lender to see if you can make it work.

Can’t Afford a $550K Mortgage With No Down Payment?


There are things you can do if you can’t afford a $550,000 mortgage. Take a look at our tips to help you qualify for a mortgage. You can also try the following:

Pay Off Debt


When you pay off debt, you get that much more in your budget to be able to afford a home. Take a look at our home affordability mortgage calculator. You’ll be surprised how much paying off debt can affect your home affordability.

Look into First-Time Homebuyer Programs


Look for first-time homebuyer programs in your area. They’re different from state to state and city to city, but in general, most areas have a program that can help with down payment and closing costs assistance, homebuyer education, and rate buydowns.

Care for Your Credit Score


There are some strategic moves you can make to build your credit history. Try one of these ideas.

•   Check your credit report. You’ll want to know what is in your report and what your score is. You can fix errors, pay off balances, or find out what negative items are impacting your score.

•   Consider opening a credit account. If you’re new to credit, you may need a credit account to build your credit history. Look for secured or student credit cards with low limits. Use it for a few purchases and pay the balance in full every month.

•   Automate your payments. If you’re not using autopay or your bank’s bill pay, get it set up. It’s an easy and stress-free way to build your credit history, which is what most of your credit score consists of.

Start Budgeting


Even if you know what you’re doing when it comes to managing your money, going back to the basics of budgeting can help tremendously. You’ll get laser-focused on the areas you can adjust so you can save money and meet your goals.

Alternatives to Conventional Mortgage Loans


Conventional mortgages aren’t the only ways to finance a home. If you’re looking for nontraditional funding sources, you’ll want to look here:

•   Private lending: A private lender isn’t associated with a bank and offers their own terms and conditions (usually a higher interest rate and a shorter term). Qualifications may also be more flexible.

•   Seller financing: Seller financing is another alternative where the seller acts as the lender. In an arrangement like this, the seller and buyer agree on the details, such as purchase price and payments.

•   Rent-to-own: Similar to seller financing, rent-to-own arrangements are made where the buyer agrees to lease the property before they’re able to buy it.

Mortgage Tips


If you want a great mortgage, you’ll need to do a little homework. A home loan help center is a good place to start, but here are some sample tips:

•   Shop around. Interest rates and terms vary by lender.

•   Compare loan estimates. A loan estimate is a standard form where the lender estimates the fees, interest rates, closing costs, and other terms of the loan you want. By submitting the same information to each lender, you can get a good idea of what each loan would cost during the mortgage preapproval process.

•   Choose a lender who communicates well. A lender who can communicate effectively with you will make the process go much smoother. Ask for recommendations from friends and family and interview prospective lenders.

The Takeaway


To get a $550,000 mortgage, you’ll need enough income, an appropriate DTI ratio, and strong credit. Low- and zero-down-payment mortgages can help you qualify for a mortgage of this size faster, but they do come with a large PMI payment added to your monthly mortgage payment.

If you make it a goal to be able to qualify for a $550,000 mortgage, you’ll need to make the right moves to get there. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

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

How much does a $550,000 mortgage cost over 10 years?

If you borrow $550,000 at a 7% interest rate, you can expect to pay out a total of $766,316 over the decade of payments.

Can I afford a $500K house on a $100K salary?

If your interest rate is good enough, you have a big enough down payment, and you have little or no debt, a $100,000 salary may just be enough to afford a $500,000 house in the eyes of some lenders.


Photo credit: iStock/Pekic

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*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.

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.
Veterans, Service members, and members of the National Guard or Reserve may be eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by VA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. VA loans typically require a one-time funding fee except as may be exempted by VA guidelines. The fee may be financed or paid at closing. The amount of the fee depends on the type of loan, the total amount of the loan, and, depending on loan type, prior use of VA eligibility and down payment amount. The VA funding fee is typically non-refundable. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.

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How Much Income Is Needed for an $800,000 Mortgage?

If you earn at least $240,000 to $300,000 a year, you may be able to afford an $800,000 mortgage, assuming you have no significant other debts. But the exact amount you can qualify to borrow — even if you’re in that salary range or higher — will depend on several other variables, including your credit score.

Read on for a look at how much income may be needed for an $800,000 mortgage, how income fits into the overall mortgage equation, and how lenders typically decide how much mortgage a homebuyer can handle.

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


What Income Is Needed to Get an $800,000 Mortgage?

You might think the loan amount you’ll receive when you apply for a mortgage will be based mostly on your household income. But income is typically just one of several factors a lender will consider when deciding how much someone can borrow.

The home mortgage loan you can qualify for generally depends on how much the lender believes you can reliably pay back. You can expect the loan company to run your financials through a few different checks and calculations to come up with that number. Here are a few things lenders may look at:

Income

Lenders will ask about your salary to help determine if you can make the monthly payments on the amount you want to borrow. They’ll also want to know how reliable that income is — so you may be asked how long you’ve had your job (or your business if you’re self-employed). If you’re wondering if your income is high enough to afford an $800,000 loan, you may want to use an online home affordability calculator before you apply for a mortgage. Or you might try prequalifying with one or more lenders.

Creditworthiness

Lenders will also check your credit score and credit reports to ensure that you’re financially responsible and have a history of paying your bills on time.

Down Payment Amount

Contrary to what many people believe, a 20% down payment isn’t required to get a home loan. You may be able to put much less down, depending on the type of mortgage you get. Still, a larger down payment can indicate to lenders that you’re serious about your investment, and that could impact your chances of qualifying for the loan you want.

Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio

You can also expect lenders to compare your monthly gross income to your existing monthly debts (credit cards, student loans, car payments, etc.) to help assess if you’ll be able to manage all your payments. This is called your debt-to-income ratio, (DTI = monthly debts ÷ gross monthly income.)

What Is a Good Debt-to-Income Ratio?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advises homeowners to maintain a DTI ratio of 36% or less. And in general, that’s the number mortgage lenders are looking for, too. But some lenders may accept a DTI ratio of up to 43% — or even higher if the borrower can meet other criteria on certain types of loans.

What Other Factors Are Mortgage Lenders Looking For?

Here are a few formulas your lender — and you — may use to determine how much house you can afford on your income:

The 28/36 Rule

The 28/36 rule combines two factors that lenders typically look at to determine home affordability: income and debt. The first number sets a limit of 28% of gross income as a homebuyer’s maximum total mortgage payment, including principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. The second number limits the mortgage payment plus any other debts to no more than 36% of gross income.

For example: If your gross annual income is $240,000, that’s $20,000 per month. So with the 28/36 rule, you could aim for a monthly mortgage payment of about $5,000 — as long as your total monthly debt (your mortgage payment plus car payments, credit cards, etc.) isn’t more than $7,200.

The 35/45 Model

Another calculation lenders might look at is the 35/45 method, which recommends spending no more than 35% of your gross income on your mortgage and debt, and no more than 45% of your after-tax income on your mortgage and debt.

Let’s say your gross monthly income is $20,000 and your after-tax income is about $15,000. In this scenario, you might spend $6,750 per month on your debt payments and mortgage combined. This calculation offers a bit more breathing room with your mortgage payment — as long as you aren’t carrying a heavy debt load.

The 25% After-Tax Rule

This formula will give you a more conservative number to work with. With this calculation, you should spend no more than 25% of your after-tax income on your mortgage. So if you earn $280,000 and take home $17,733 a month after taxes, you might plan to spend $4,433 on your mortgage payments.

Keep in mind that these calculations can only give you a rough estimate of how much you can borrow. If you want to be more certain about the overall price tag and monthly payments you can afford, it may help to go through the mortgage preapproval process.

What Determines How Much House You Can Afford?

Here’s something else to consider when determining how much income is needed for an $800,000 mortgage: A house payment isn’t limited to just principal and interest. And the extra costs that may be tacked on every month can add up fast.

Some of the costs covered by a monthly loan payment can include:

Principal

Principal is the original amount borrowed to buy the home, minus the down payment. Each month, a portion of your payment will go toward paying down this amount.

Interest

Interest is the money you pay to the lender each month for giving you the loan. The interest rate you pay can be influenced by personal factors (such as the loan length you choose, your credit score, and your income) as well as general economic and market factors.

Homeowners Insurance

The cost of homeowners insurance also may be rolled into your monthly mortgage payment, with your lender paying the premium when it’s due.

Mortgage Insurance

Depending on the type of loan you get and the amount you put down on your home, you may be required to carry private mortgage insurance (PMI) or some other type of mortgage insurance policy. This insurance is designed to protect the mortgage lender if a borrower can’t make the agreed upon loan payments.

Property Taxes

A portion of your monthly mortgage payment may also go toward the property taxes you’ll need to pay your local government.

Recommended: Home Loan Help Center

$800,000 Mortgage Breakdown Examples

The monthly payment on a $800,000 mortgage can vary based on several factors, including the length of the loan (usually 15, 20, or 30 years) and the interest rate. A mortgage calculator can help you get an idea of what your payments might look like.

Here are some examples of how the payments for a $800,000 mortgage might break down. A mortgage calculator with taxes and insurance can show you how paying taxes and insurance changes the overall cost of your home.

30-Year Loan at 6% Fixed Interest Rate

Total Payment: $5,940
Principal and Interest: $4,796
Other Costs (estimated PMI, homeowners insurance, and property taxes): $1,144

15-Year Loan at 6% Fixed Interest Rate

Total Payment: $7,894
Principal and Interest: $6,751
Other Costs (estimated PMI, homeowners insurance, and property taxes): $1,143

30-Year Loan at 7% Fixed Interest Rate

Total Payment: $6,466
Principal and Interest: $5,322
Other Costs (estimated PMI, homeowners insurance, and property taxes): $1,144

15-Year Loan at 7% Fixed Interest Rate

Total Payment: $8,334
Principal and Interest: $7,191
Other Costs (estimated PMI, homeowners insurance, and property taxes): $1,143

Pros and Cons of an $800,000 Mortgage

According to Redfin, the median home sale price in the U.S. in May 2024 was $433,558. If you can qualify for a mortgage that’s around $800,000, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a pretty nice home. (A lot can depend on where you plan to buy, of course.)

The downside of borrowing $800,000 is that your payments could take a sizable slice out of your income every month. If you’re cutting it close and you experience an unexpected expense or temporary job loss, you may have trouble staying on track. You may want to speak with a financial advisor before committing to a loan of this size, to be sure it fits with your budget and your other goals.

Recommended: Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S.

How Much Will You Need for a Down Payment?

A down payment is generally between 3% and 20% of a home’s purchase price. The amount you’ll need to put down can vary, though, depending on the type of mortgage loan you get.

Can You Buy a $800,000 Home with No Money Down?

You may be able to get a mortgage with no down payment if you can qualify for a government-backed VA home loan (from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) or a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan. These loans are insured by the federal government — which means the government will help pay back the lender if the borrower defaults on the loan.

Borrowers must meet specific requirements to qualify for both VA and USDA no-down-payment loans — and not all lenders offer these programs. But if you think you may be eligible, this could be an option that’s worth looking into.

Can You Buy a $800,000 Home with a Small Down Payment?

If you don’t meet the qualifications for a VA or USDA mortgage program, you might want to check out the requirements for an FHA loan (backed by the Federal Housing Administration) that allows you to make a down payment as low as 3.5%. There may be a limit on how much you can borrow with an FHA loan, depending on where you buy: In 2024, the limit may be as much as $1,149,825 in higher-cost areas. And in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the 2024 limit is $1,724,725.

Some private lenders will accept as little as 3% down on a conventional mortgage — so don’t overlook that opportunity when you begin loan shopping.

Is an $800,000 Mortgage with No Down Payment a Good Idea?

There’s no question that coming up with a down payment can be an obstacle to homeownership — especially for first-time homebuyers — and skipping that step can be appealing. It may help you get into a home faster or allow you to hold onto your savings for renovations, an emergency fund, or other financial goals.

It’s important to remember, though, that without a down payment it can take longer to build up equity in your home. And though you won’t have to pay for mortgage insurance with a no-down-payment government-backed loan, you can expect to pay an upfront funding fee for a VA loan and an upfront and annual guarantee fee for a USDA mortgage. A mortgage professional can help you weigh the pros and cons of different types of mortgage loans and determine the best move for your circumstances.

What If You Can’t Afford an $800,000 Mortgage Even with No Down Payment?

Here are a few steps to consider if it turns out you can’t afford the payments on an $800,000 mortgage:

Look for a Less Expensive Home to Buy

If you can’t find a home that fits your budget in your favorite neighborhood or city, you may want to widen your search area. Or maybe you could trim down your list of “must-haves” to get a home you still like but can better afford.

Wait Until You’re Earning More

If you expect your salary to increase as you continue moving up the ladder, you may want to put homeownership on hold until you’re earning more.

Wait Until You Can Save More

You may also choose to press pause on your home purchase while you save up more money. Creating a budget and trimming other expenses could help you reach your savings goal. If you can come up with a bigger down payment, you may be able to borrow less and limit your monthly payments to a smaller amount.

Alternatives to Conventional Mortgage Loans

If you can’t qualify for a conventional mortgage loan, you may have some alternatives to consider. Here are a few potential options:

Homebuyer Assistance Programs

As mentioned above, some buyers can qualify for a federal, state, or local first-time homebuyer program that can help lower the down payment, closing costs, and other expenses. There might be limits on how much income you can earn to qualify, the type of home you can buy, or the home’s cost.

Rent-to-Own

Another option might be to enter into an agreement to rent-to-own a home. With this type of arrangement, you start out renting, but the landlord agrees to credit a portion of your monthly payment toward purchasing the home.

If you can afford the payments but don’t have enough for a down payment or can’t qualify for the mortgage you want, this may be a way to start working toward homeownership. But it’s important to understand the downsides of the deal — including that you might lose money if you change your mind about buying the home, or if the landlord has second thoughts about selling.

Owner Financing

With owner financing, the person who’s selling the home serves as the lender for all or part of the amount the buyer borrows to make the purchase. Just as with a rent-to-own home, there are risks to this kind of agreement. But it can make homeownership possible if a traditional loan isn’t available.

Mortgage Tips

No matter how much you plan to borrow, buying a home is a big step. Here are a few things you may want to do to prepare:

Check Your Credit

If you aren’t sure where your credit stands these days, you can request a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion). Checking your reports can give you an idea of what lenders might see when they evaluate your credit. If there are any errors, you can take steps to get them fixed. And if you see negative (but true) information in your reports, you can work on improving your credit habits. If you use a credit-score monitoring service, you may already know what your credit score is and if it needs a boost. Conventional lenders typically look for a minimum score of 620 to 640.

Work Out Your Housing Budget

Remember, your housing costs won’t be limited to principal and interest. It’s important to determine how much you might pay for insurance, taxes, homeowners association dues, general upkeep, and other expenses before you make the transition from renting to homeownership.

Find the Mortgage and Terms That Best Suit Your Needs

When you start mortgage shopping, you can decide whether you want a:

•   fixed vs. variable interest rate

•   conventional vs government-backed loan

•   shorter vs longer term loan

Remember that if interest rates drop significantly, if your financial situation changes dramatically, or if there are other loan parameters you wish to change down the line, a mortgage refinance may be an option.

Consider Getting Preapproved

Even if you’ve crunched the numbers yourself, going through the mortgage preapproval process with a lender may provide an even better estimate of how much you can afford to spend on a home. And having preapproval may give you an edge over other house hunters in a tight market.

The Takeaway

Getting a mortgage is just one of many steps in the homebuying process, but it’s an important one. Taking the time to do some research and/or ask for help from a professional could keep you from getting locked into a loan — or a home — that isn’t the right 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

How much would an $800,000 mortgage cost over 10 years?

Paying off a $800,000 mortgage over 10 years would cost a total of $1,090,060, assuming you have a 6.5% interest rate.

How much do you need to make to buy a $900,000 house?

If you earn $240,000 or more annually and/or if you can come up with a hefty down payment, you may be able to buy a home valued at $900,000, But you can expect lenders to look at other factors besides your income when deciding how much you can borrow, including your DTI ratio and credit score.

How do people afford $1.5 million homes?

An income of $500,000 or more a year could allow someone to qualify for a mortgage on a home valued at $1.5 million. Having two incomes contributing to the mortgage each month can help. But some people buy $1.5 million homes by putting down an extremely large down payment — for example after the sale of another residence. There are many factors that dictate what you can ultimately afford.


Photo credit: iStock/vladans

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.

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.
Veterans, Service members, and members of the National Guard or Reserve may be eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by VA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. VA loans typically require a one-time funding fee except as may be exempted by VA guidelines. The fee may be financed or paid at closing. The amount of the fee depends on the type of loan, the total amount of the loan, and, depending on loan type, prior use of VA eligibility and down payment amount. The VA funding fee is typically non-refundable. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.
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.

SOHL-Q224-1841811-V1

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I Make $90,000 a Year, How Much House Can I Afford?

Earning $90,000 a year puts you in a good position to afford a home priced at around $350,000, as long as you don’t already have significant other debts to pay. That’s good news considering the U.S. average home value these days is just above $342,000. But there are many variables in play that could adjust your budget up or down. Let’s examine them to get closer to your personal housing budget number.

What Kind of House Can I Afford With $90K a Year?

Congratulations! At $90,000 a year, your salary is almost $15,000 higher than the American median household income. It makes sense that you’ve set your sights on homeownership. Making $90,000 per year may feel like a lot of money … or not so much, depending on whether you live in an affordable place. The question is less about how much house you can afford than how much you can afford to spend on housing each month.

There’s a basic rule of thumb that you should spend no more than a third of your gross income (i.e., income before taxes) on housing. (Ideally, you’d spend closer to about a quarter.) So someone earning $90,000 per year, can reasonably afford to spend between $22,500 and $29,700 on housing each year — which translates to between $1,875 and $2,475 per month.

That’s a substantial enough chunk of change to cover many mortgage payments. For example, if you took out a home mortgage loan of $310,000 at an interest rate of 7%, your monthly payment might be around $2,060, which falls into your affordable range. (This assumes you make a down payment of $40,000 on a home priced at $350,000.)

However, more factors than your income affect what size loan mortgage lenders will qualify you for — and more factors than the price of the house itself affect whether or not you can afford it.


💡 Quick Tip: You deserve a more zen mortgage loan. When you buy a home, SoFi offers a guarantee that your loan will close on time. Backed by a $5,000 credit.‡

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


What is Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI) — and Why Does It Matter?

Let’s take a second to talk about DTI, or debt-to-income ratio. Your DTI is, as its name suggests, a ratio of how much debt you currently have to how much income you make. It’s calculated by dividing your debts by your gross monthly income, and it’s one of the factors lenders consider when qualifying you for a home loan.

If you’re in a lot of debt — meaning your DTI is higher — it may be harder for you to qualify for a mortgage, no matter how much money you make. Inversely, if your DTI is lower, that’s a favorable mark even if you’re not making huge amounts of money.

Consider how much debt you currently carry before applying for a home loan. If you’re already paying off a car, student loan, credit card balance or all of the above, you may want to work on dialing down your debt; even if you qualify for a mortgage, your interest rate might be higher as a result.

Factoring in Your Down Payment

Along with your DTI and income, mortgage lenders also consider how much money you’re able to pay toward a home up front — otherwise known as your down payment. Although a larger down payment might not significantly shift your monthly payment, it can have an effect on the amount a lender is willing to offer you. (Having a significant amount of money available for a down payment can be a favorable marker for lenders.)

That said, it can take a long time to save up a substantial down payment, even for those earning good income — and you may be sacrificing the opportunity to build equity in the short term if you wait to buy a house.

In any case, remember that responsible homeownership will require a well-set savings habit. (After all, your new home is going to need repairs—and you won’t be able to just call your landlord anymore!)

How to Afford More House With Down Payment Assistance

For many would-be homebuyers — especially first-time homebuyers — the process of saving a downpayment is the single largest obstacle to owning a home. Fortunately, down payment assistance programs offer one way for buyers to give themselves a leg up. Offered through government agencies and nonprofits, down payment assistance programs offer very-low-cost loans or grants that can amplify whatever you’ve already saved up for a down payment.

There are often requirements in order to qualify, such as not out-earning a certain income threshold or having less than a given amount of liquid assets available. Still, these programs can bridge the gap for many first-time buyers trying to leap the down-payment hurdle into homeownership.

Other Factors That Affect Your Ability to Afford a Home

Along with your DTI, the size of your down payment, and the size of the loan you’re hoping to take out, your credit score — and credit history in general — has an impact on your housing budget. Even if you earn good money, a poor credit score may keep you from qualifying for a mortgage, and a score that is fair but not great may push your interest rate higher than it would otherwise be.

Additionally, lenders are interested not only in how much you make, but the stability of your capacity to earn that money. That means they’ll consider not only your job, but how long you’ve had it; most like to see a steady job history of two years. That said, it may still be possible to qualify for a home loan if your job is new to you if you’ve had consistent income over that time, especially if your other markers are favorable.

How to Calculate How Much House You Can Afford

To get the best sense of how much you can afford, consider trying an online mortgage calculator, or home affordability calculator, which will allow you to plug in all of your specific metrics and see how much of a mortgage you’re likely to qualify for (and the size of the associated monthly payment). Keep in mind that your mortgage is just the start. When you buy a house, you’ll also be responsible for any maintenance and upkeep, not to mention property taxes, utility costs, furnishings, and more.

Speaking to a lender is another great way to understand in depth how much house you’re likely to be able to afford based on their algorithm and your specific financial standing.


💡 Quick Tip: A VA loan can make home buying simple for qualified borrowers. Because the VA guarantees a portion of the loan, you could skip a down payment. Plus, you could qualify for lower interest rates, enjoy lower closing costs, and even bypass mortgage insurance.†

Home Affordability Examples

Let’s say you earn $90,000 per year and are interested in buying a house that costs $400,000. You’ve saved up $30,000 for a down payment (7.5% of the purchase price of this home), and you have a credit score of 750.

With interest rates around 7%, as they’ve been lately, your monthly payment for such a home would likely be at or above $3,200—in part because, if your down payment is less than 20%, you’ll need to pay for mortgage insurance, which is an additional monthly cost. That’s substantially more than a third of your gross income at $90,000, so it’s probably not a good idea.

So let’s say you take your $30,000 down payment and look at a significantly cheaper home, perhaps in a significantly cheaper state. This one costs $250,000. In that case, with everything else the same, you’d likely pay less than $2,000 per month, which is a comfortable amount for your income level.

Remember that if your credit score and income trend upward after you purchase a home, and you want to improve your mortgage loan terms, you can always look into a mortgage refinance.

How Your Monthly Payment Affects Your Price Range

As you can see, your monthly payment has a huge effect on the price range of the home you’re comfortably able to afford. Although $90,000 per year may seem like a lot of income (and is, at a national level), it may not translate to being able to afford a very large or costly home.

Types of Home Loans Available to Households with $90,000 in Income

Good news: There are many different types of mortgage loans available to those who earn $90,000. Along with conventional loans from private lenders, you may also be eligible for government-subsidized loans like VA loans, FHA loans, or USDA loans, all of which can lower the qualifying requirements and make the home loan process easier for first-time homebuyers.

The Takeaway

Although $90,000 is a large income, especially for a single person, it doesn’t translate to an unlimited home-buying budget. Aside from income, your credit history, DTI, and available down payment amount also have a significant impact on how much mortgage lenders will be willing to offer 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

Is $90K a good salary for a single person?

A salary of $90,000 is substantially higher than the national median household income, so yes, it’s a good salary for a single person. Exactly how good depends on where you live, as the cost of living varies significantly across the U.S.

What is a comfortable income for a single person?

“Comfortable” is relative! While one person may be comfortable sharing a home with multiple roommates, others might require more space or greater luxuries to feel satisfied. Personal finance is just that—personal—and only you can decide how much income you need to be truly comfortable.

What is a liveable wage in 2024?

The living wage changes substantially based on the cost of living where you live. For example, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, $14.54 per hour is a living wage for a single adult with no children in Pocatello, Idaho, but that figure goes up to $21.58 in Portland, Oregon.

What salary is considered rich for a single person?

While “rich” is relative, the top 5% of people in America earned more than $335,000 in 2021 according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute. However, depending on where you live, $90,000 may feel rich — or not. Cost of living has a major impact.


Photo credit: iStock/andreswd

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.

SoFi On-Time Close Guarantee: If all conditions of the Guarantee are met, and your loan does not close on or before the closing date on your purchase contract accepted by SoFi, and the delay is due to SoFi, SoFi will give you a credit toward closing costs or additional expenses caused by the delay in closing of up to $10,000.^ The following terms and conditions apply. This Guarantee is available only for loan applications submitted after 04/01/2024. Please discuss terms of this Guarantee with your loan officer. The mortgage must be a purchase transaction that is approved and funded by SoFi. This Guarantee does not apply to loans to purchase bank-owned properties or short-sale transactions. To qualify for the Guarantee, you must: (1) Sign up for access to SoFi’s online portal and upload all requested documents, (2) Submit documents requested by SoFi within 5 business days of the initial request and all additional doc requests within 2 business days (3) Submit an executed purchase contract on an eligible property with the closing date at least 25 calendar days from the receipt of executed Intent to Proceed and receipt of credit card deposit for an appraisal (30 days for VA loans; 40 days for Jumbo loans), (4) Lock your loan rate and satisfy all loan requirements and conditions at least 5 business days prior to your closing date as confirmed with your loan officer, and (5) Pay for and schedule an appraisal within 48 hours of the appraiser first contacting you by phone or email. This Guarantee will not be paid if any delays to closing are attributable to: a) the borrower(s), a third party, the seller or any other factors outside of SoFi control; b) if the information provided by the borrower(s) on the loan application could not be verified or was inaccurate or insufficient; c) attempting to fulfill federal/state regulatory requirements and/or agency guidelines; d) or the closing date is missed due to acts of God outside the control of SoFi. SoFi may change or terminate this offer at any time without notice to you. *To redeem the Guarantee if conditions met, see documentation provided by loan officer.
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.

Veterans, Service members, and members of the National Guard or Reserve may be eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by VA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. VA loans typically require a one-time funding fee except as may be exempted by VA guidelines. The fee may be financed or paid at closing. The amount of the fee depends on the type of loan, the total amount of the loan, and, depending on loan type, prior use of VA eligibility and down payment amount. The VA funding fee is typically non-refundable. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.
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.
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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Should Homebuyers Wait for Interest Rates to Drop?

As painful as it can be to see interest rates topping 7% when they hovered over 2% in late 2020, waiting for them to come down again could bite would-be homeowners. Although today’s rates mean homebuyers can expect to spend more on interest over their loan’s lifetime, they’re actually close to the 50-year average — and besides, if they plummet again, the market will once again be flooded by buyers who have been sitting on the sidelines.

Still, interest rates are a big deal when it comes to how much home you can comfortably afford — and the ongoing health of your personal finances. In this article, we’ll walk through a little bit of mortgage rate history and context, as well as offering ways to decide whether you’re ready to buy or not, regardless of the market.

Why Are Mortgage Rates So High?

Since Americans just witnessed a historic mortgage interest rate drop in 2020, today’s 7% and 8% rates seem astronomical. (And, to be fair, coupled with a median national home sales price over $400,000, they can pack a powerful punch: After interest, a 30-year mortgage could easily cost twice the amount of the loan.)

Still, it’s important to remember that when you look at the big picture, today’s rates are actually not that big a deal. Yes, they’re the highest they’ve been since the year 2000, but they’re about on par (or slightly under) the rates buyers saw in the 1990s — and less than half of the 17% and 18% interest rates buyers paid in the early 1980s.

The rise and fall of mortgage rates is tied to complicated economic factors, including inflation, the Federal interest rate, and the yield of 10-year Treasury bonds. It’s not totally predictable, but one thing’s for sure: It will continue to undulate over time. What’s more, attempting to time the market to purchase a house might not be the best financial move, even if it does save you money on interest.


💡 Quick Tip: SoFi’s Lock and Look + feature allows you to lock in a low mortgage financing rate for 90 days while you search for the perfect place to call home.

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


How Low Will Mortgage Rates Drop This Year?

While no one can fully predict the future, experts do weigh in with their predictions for the mortgage interest rate. In 2024, projections suggest a mortgage interest rate drop to about 6%, or slightly lower — but still, we’re likely to stay far from the 2% and 3% free-for-all we saw a few years ago.

How Your Interest Rate Impacts Your Buying Power

So how much do interest rates really impact how much house you can afford? Glad you asked! Let’s do some math.

Say you’re going to buy a $400,000 home — which is just a little less than the U.S. median sale price right now. You’ve saved up a 20% down payment, or $80,000, and plan on taking out a 30-year mortgage.

With a fixed interest rate of 7%, your monthly payment would be about $2,129 per month, before additional costs like homeowners insurance and property taxes. At 6.5%, that payment goes down to $2,023, and at 6% it drops to $1,919. (So a percentage point drop equates to $210 per month in savings, or $2,520 per year.)

However, it’s over the long term that interest really has the opportunity to add up. In the exact same scenario, over the 30-year lifetime of the loan, you’d pay approximately the following amount in total interest:

•   7%: $446,428

•   6.5%: $408,142

•   6%: $370,682

As you can see, just a single percent difference can save you nearly $100,000 in the long run. So while it’s not possible to perfectly time the market, it is worth shopping around for the lowest possible interest rates you can qualify for.

(Keep in mind, too, that you can always pull your own customized numbers using a mortgage calculator.)


💡 Quick Tip: Don’t have a lot of cash on hand for a down payment? The minimum down payment for an FHA mortgage loan is as low as 3.5%.1

Should You Wait to Buy a Home?

The question of whether you’re ready to buy a home — or if it makes more sense to wait — is one that depends on far more than the going market interest rate. Here are some ways for first-time homebuyers to decide what might be the right move, right now.

Reasons to Buy

These are good reasons to consider going ahead with the homebuying process, high interest rates or no:

•   You’re financially (and emotionally) ready. Your credit score is in tip-top shape, you’ve saved up a down payment, and you’re planning to stay in your new home for at least five years — which means you could feasibly refinance once interest rates drop substantially and still break even on closing costs. (A home affordability calculator can help you figure out just how much house you can reasonably afford.)

•   The market looks good to you. These higher interest rates mean the housing market is moving far more slowly than it used to, so the amount of available inventory may give buyers who are ready to buy more time to shop around and find something they really like. This dynamic can also drive home prices down, creating more value for you as the property appreciates over time.

•   It’s time to move. Regardless of the housing market, life goes on — and if you’re expanding your family or relocating, you may not have a choice about moving. If the opportunity is presenting itself and you’re financially ready, this could be a great time to get started on building equity and generational wealth as a homeowner.

Reasons to Wait

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some good reasons to wait on buying a home, even when interest rates are low:

•   You’re not financially (or emotionally) ready. If a monthly mortgage payment would leave you cash-poor, you don’t have a substantial emergency fund saved up, your job security is in question, or you’re not quite sure you’re ready to commit to a given locale, buying a home might not be the right move for you — yet.

•   You can’t get prequalified by a mortgage lender. Perhaps you’re in a decent amount of debt or have an iffy credit history. If you can’t qualify for a loan right now, take the time to work on those factors and get ready for the future.

•   The market looks meh to you. If you can’t find a home you like, you probably shouldn’t buy one. After all, it’s a major investment — and while we’re not suggesting you have to wait for an absolutely perfect house to come along, you should be happy with your purchase!

Should Interest Rates Influence Your Decision?

While interest rates are of course a relevant factor for would-be homeowners, so long as you’re financially prepared and planning on staying in your new home for at least a few years, higher interest rates shouldn’t deter you. After all, you can always refinance once rates drop.

The Takeaway

Waiting for interest rates to drop can be a bit like waiting for Godot: You might get stuck in the in-between. If your finances are in shape and you’ve found your dream home, now could still be the right time to take the leap and become a homeowner.

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

Is it better to wait for interest rates to go down?

Not necessarily. While lower interest rates can subtly lower a monthly mortgage payment — and save buyers potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a loan — it’s not the only factor to consider if you’re otherwise ready to buy a home. (Plus, qualified buyers can always refinance their purchase down the line when rates drop again.)

Will 2024 be a good year to buy a house?

It’s probably as good a year to buy as any. Many experts expect interest rates to drop a bit this year, from their current position between about 7% and 8% to somewhere between 5.5% and 6.5%. And it’s unlikely that interest rates will plummet back down to 2% or 3% as they did a few years ago.

What month is the best time to buy a house?

November and December tend to be favorable times to buy a home for buyers looking for the best deal possible. That’s because the holidays and winter weather may keep some buyers from shopping during this time, which means sellers might be more motivated to make a deal. You won’t get to see your new home in the height of its summer beauty for months — but you’ll get to find out whether it’s well insulated!


Photo credit: iStock/Andrii Yalanskyi

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.

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.
+Lock and Look program: Terms and conditions apply. Applies to conventional purchase loans only. Rate will lock for 91 calendar days at the time of preapproval. An executed purchase contract is required within 60 days of your initial rate lock. If current market pricing improves by 0.25 percentage points or more from the original locked rate, you may request your loan officer to review your loan application to determine if you qualify for a one-time float down. SoFi reserves the right to change or terminate this offer at any time with or without notice to you.

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

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How Does an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Work?

An adjustable-rate mortgage (also called an ARM) is a mortgage where the interest rate changes. Monthly payments may go up or down.

Borrowers may be looking to save money with this type of mortgage because there’s usually an introductory period where the interest rate is lower than what they could get with a fixed-rate loan. The monthly payment is lower as a result.

Adjustable-rate mortgages can make sense in certain situations, such as when buyers only plan to own a home for a few years or for those looking to buy a home in a high-interest-rate environment. However, they’re not your only option if you’re looking at getting a mortgage in a high-interest-rate environment.

In this article, we’ll cover

•   What exactly is an adjustable-rate mortgage and how do they work?

•   What are the different types of ARMs you can apply for?

•   Pros and cons of an ARM

•   How the variable rate on an ARM is determined

•   How an ARM compares with a fixed-rate mortgage

•   Examples of when it does and doesn’t make sense to get an ARM

What Is an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)?

An adjustable-rate mortgage is a type of mortgage loan where the interest rate can change periodically throughout the life of the loan. This means your monthly payment might increase or decrease over time.

They typically come in shorter terms, such as five, seven, or ten years and adjustment periods (how often the interest rate is evaluated and changed) of six months or one year. They may be useful as a financing tool for short-term situations, but there are some things to consider before taking on a mortgage like this.

How Adjustable-Rate Mortgages Work


The terms of an adjustable-rate mortgage are determined at the outset of the loan. You’ll decide on a type of ARM, apply with the lender of your choice, and start making payments once the loan closes.

What’s different about an ARM from other home mortgage loans is the interest rate will adjust periodically and your monthly payment will change. It’s typical to see an introductory period (a number of years) where your interest rate doesn’t change, however.

Types of Adjustable-Rate Mortgages


If you’ve started to look into financing a home purchase, then you’ve probably seen loans labeled with different numerals. Maybe you’re wondering, what is a 5/1 ARM? When you’re choosing mortgage terms, the different types of ARMs you can get correspond to the different terms (with 5, 7, and 10 year ARMs being the most common) and adjustment periods (typically 1 year or six months). An ARM is labeled with two numbers, first with the number of years in the introductory period, followed by the period when the interest rate will reset. A 5/1 ARM, for example, has a 5-year introductory period followed by one adjustment per year to the interest rate.

Here are some other examples:

•   5/6: A five-year term with an adjustment period of six months.

•   7/1: A seven-year term with an adjustment period of one year.

•   7/6: A seven-year term with an adjustment period of six months.

•   10/1: A ten-year term with an adjustment period of one year.

•   10/6: A ten-year term with an adjustment period of six months.

Recommended: Is a 10-Year Mortgage A Good Option?

Pros and Cons of Adjustable-Rate Mortgages


If you’re considering an ARM, you’re probably weighing the lower payment against future financial positions you’ll need to take. There are some other pros and cons to consider.

Pros

•   Many different term lengths to choose from

•   Low annual percentage rate

•   May start with a lower monthly payment than a fixed-rate mortgage

•   May be slightly easier to qualify for

Cons

•   Interest rate can change

•   You could end up with a higher monthly payment

•   If you’re unable to afford the higher monthly payment, your home could be in danger of foreclosure

Recommended: Cost of Living by State

How the Variable Rate on ARMs Is Determined

To fully understand how does an adjustable-rate mortgage work, it helps to see what’s going on behind the scenes of an ARM and how the rate is determined. You’ll be looking at these four components:

   1. Index

   2. Margin

   3. Interest rate cap structure

   4. Initial interest rate period

Index

The cost of an ARM is tied to a market index, generally the secured overnight financing rate (SOFR). These can increase when the federal funds rate rises.

Margin

The margin is the percentage points added to the cost of the index. It is disclosed when you apply for the loan and can vary from lender to lender, so be sure to shop around!

The interest rate on your ARM is equal to the index plus the margin.

Interest rate cap structure

There are three types of rate caps: initial, periodic and lifetime. For the initial period, the cap is on how much interest you’ll be charged in the first period of your loan. For example, in a 5/1 ARM, you’ll have an interest rate that stays the same for the initial period of 5 years.

When your initial period is over, you’ll have periodic adjustments. These will have a separate cap for how much your interest rate can increase over the defined period (usually six months or a year).

You’ll also have a cap on how much your interest rate can increase over the life of the loan.

Initial interest rate period

The cost of an ARM is also determined by how long the interest remains constant for the initial period. ARMs with longer initial periods generally have higher rates. A 7/1 ARM will have a higher APR than a 5/1 ARM, for example.



💡 Quick Tip: Generally, the lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better loan terms you’ll be offered. One way to improve your ratio is to increase your income (hello, side hustle!). Another way is to consolidate your debt and lower your monthly debt payments.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage vs. Fixed-Interest Mortgage

When it comes to fixed-rate vs adjustable-rate mortgages, the mortgages are structured very differently. Here’s a quick breakdown of the major differences:

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage

Fixed-Rate Mortgage

Interest rate adjusts Interest rate stays the same
Terms are usually shorter, such as 5 to 7 years Terms are usually longer, such as 15 or 30 years
Loans are often refinanced at a later date Loan can be paid off
May have lower interest rate initially Interest rate does not change
Monthly payment changes Predictable monthly payment
Interest rate you pay is tied to economic conditions Interest rate determined at the origination of the mortgage

The main difference between fixed-rate and adjustable mortgages is in how you pay interest on the loan. With a fixed loan, the interest is paid with regular monthly payments, which are fairly set (except for fluctuations with escrow items). With an adjustable-rate mortgage, the interest you pay can change.

The other major difference between the two types of mortgages is the term length. Fixed mortgages are often financed at 15- or 30-year terms. ARMs are usually held for shorter periods of time.



💡 Quick Tip: A major home purchase may mean a jumbo loan, but it doesn’t have to mean a jumbo down payment. Apply for a jumbo mortgage with SoFi, and you could put as little as 10% down.

Example of When Adjustable-Rate Mortgages Makes Sense


There are a few scenarios where an ARM makes sense.

•   If you’re only planning to keep the home (or keep the mortgage) for a few years.

•   Interest rates are very high.

In each of these situations, borrowers — including first-time homebuyers — don’t plan to hold onto the mortgage long-term. They’re looking to sell the property or refinance at a future date.

However, there are times where an ARM doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Example of When Adjustable-Rate Mortgages Doesn’t Make Sense


An ARM may not make sense when the interest rate for a fixed-rate mortgage is low. This was common just a few years ago, and buyers who have these low-interest, fixed-rate mortgages don’t need to worry about getting another mortgage.

If you’re considering purchasing a home with an ARM, you may also want to look at buying down the interest rate on a fixed-rate mortgage with points, especially if you plan on staying in the home long-term.

Can You Refinance an ARM?


Many borrowers get an ARM with the expectation that they will be able to refinance into a different mortgage at a later date. Refinancing any mortgage, including an ARM, will depend on your ability to qualify for it. If your credit score or income take a serious hit, for example, you may not be able to refinance an ARM to get a more attractive rate. It’s also possible market conditions may change and the property could decline in value to the point that it isn’t a good candidate for a refinance.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Tips


To keep your ARM manageable, you may want to consider some of the following tips:

•   Look at the rate cap structure. Make sure you can handle the monthly payment all the way to the cap rate, which is the limit on how much your interest rate will increase.

•   Watch for fees or penalties. If you pay off the ARM early, you may be subject to several thousand dollars in penalties or fees. Be aware of what you could be on the hook for.

•   Shop around for mortgage rates. The interest rate caps and margins will be different from lender to lender. Get a loan estimate to ensure you’re comparing apples to apples.

•   Work with someone you trust. It’s incredibly valuable to work with a lender you trust to give you good advice.

The Takeaway


Many borrowers may be considering an ARM at the moment, but you still need to make sure it’s the right financial tool for you. Adjustable-rate mortgages can increase when interest rates increase and make your monthly mortgage payments unmanageable. However, it is possible that an ARM could be the right solution for buyers who don’t plan on keeping the home long-term, or for those who believe they’ll be able to refinance into a less expensive mortgage in a few years.

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

Is it ever a good idea to get an adjustable-rate mortgage?

You should get in contact with a lender if you’re wondering about whether or not an adjustable-rate mortgage is right for you. Some borrowers find it makes sense if they’re looking for financing that’s geared toward short-term situations.

What is the main downside of an adjustable-rate mortgage?

Adjustable-rate mortgages have interest rates that can rise periodically, either at 6 months or a year. You could end up with a higher mortgage payment.

What is the major risk of an ARM mortgage?

The major risk of an ARM is when it becomes unaffordable after an adjustment period. If a payment can’t be made, the risk is going down the path to foreclosure. This can happen after the introductory period ends or if an adjustment significantly raises the monthly payment.


Photo credit: iStock/Andrii Yalanskyi

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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.


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*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.

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