Homeownership and the Race Gap

Examining the Race Gap in Homeownership

Despite the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and other federal laws, a large race gap in homeownership continues to exist across the United States. The Black homeownership rate in the fourth quarter of 2022 stood at 44.9%, compared with 74.5% for non-Hispanic whites, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Black-white race gap in homeownership rates widened as the Federal Reserve attempted to bring inflation under control — going from 29.3 percentage points in the first quarter of 2022 to 29.6 percentage points in Q4. Average mortgage interest rates generally increased in 2022 after the Fed implemented a series of rate hikes.

These racial disparities are not new. Historical records confirm a large race gap in homeownership rates has existed since the abolition of slavery. Below we further examine the race gap in homeownership and identify possible solutions.

History of Racial Housing Disparities

The United States has a long history of systemic racism that presents itself in a number of ways, including housing disparities. In January 2022, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition released its home mortgage report examining racial disparities in homeownership from 1900 to 2020.

The NCRC found the gap in homeownership rates between Black and white families reached its lowest level of 23 percentage points in 1980 and its highest level of 30 percentage points in 2015.

In the fourth quarter of 2021, the Black-white race gap in homeownership rates exceeded 31 percentage points. This gap narrowed to 29.6 percentage points in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The homeownership rate as of Q4 2022 stood at 74.5% for non-Hispanic white households; 61.9% for Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander families; 48.5% for Hispanic families of any race; and 44.9% among Black households, according to the Census data.

A number of factors have contributed to the race gap in homeownership, including the legacy of race-based discrimination in the housing market.

Lasting Effects of Redlining

Redlining, the discriminatory practice of denying home loans and other credit services to ethnically diverse neighborhoods based on the race, color, or national origin of the residents of those neighborhoods, is one of the factors explaining America’s long-standing race gap in homeownership.

The federal government institutionalized redlining in the 1930s when a now-defunct federal agency, the Home Owners’ Loan Corp., created “residential security maps” in dozens of cities across the country to systematically deny mortgages in neighborhoods of color.

HOLC ceased to exist in 1951, and Congress later outlawed redlining with the Fair Housing Act of 1968, but lending discrimination in the housing market has persisted.

An article published in the journal SSM-Population Health in June 2021 found that “redlining has continued to influence racialized perceptions of neighborhood value and practices that have perpetuated racial inequities in lending.”

“Decades of racism in the housing market,” the article adds, “have prevented people of color, particularly Black Americans, equal access to capital, low-cost loans, and homeownership.”

The Department of Justice continues to enforce the Fair Housing Act to address ongoing allegations of modern-day redlining.

Current Black Homeownership Gap

As mentioned, the current race gap in homeownership rates between Black and white families is 29.6 percentage points as of Q4 2022. The vast majority of white families own residential property, while the majority of Black families do not, data shows.

Homeownership is often regarded as the American dream, but not everyone who wants to buy a house is able to get financing. The overall denial rate for home-purchase loans among all applicants in 2021 stood at 8.3%, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Bureau data shows that 15.3% of Black applicants had their mortgage loan requests denied in 2021, compared with 6.3% of non-Hispanic white applicants.

This first-time homebuyer guide recommends downloading your credit reports before submitting any applications for home loans. Creditworthy applicants who have home loan applications denied may be victims of discrimination. You can get free credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com and can check your credit scores in several ways.

Homeownership by Race

The below table highlights homeownership data by race as of Q4 2022

Race Homeownership rate
Non-Hispanic white alone 74.5%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander 61.9%
Hispanic (of any race) 48.5%
Black alone 44.9%
Other (including mixed races) 58.7%
All (nationwide population) 65.9%

Homeownership Race Gap 1940-2020

Fixing the Black Homeownership Gap

The Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization, has a five-point framework aimed at reducing the Black homeownership gap. Here are the five points:

1. Advance Local Policy Solutions

Local policy reforms, including the removal of any discriminatory terms in homeowner and condominium associations and possible property tax relief for low-income and moderate-income taxpayers, can help reduce the Black homeownership gap.

Expanding small-dollar mortgages could also make a difference.

2. Tackle Housing Supply Constraints and Affordability

Promoting affordable housing nationwide, including new investments in historically segregated and devalued neighborhoods, may help reduce the Black homeownership gap.

Public policy leaders could also review the viability of lease-to-own programs as a pathway to homeownership.

3. Promote an Equitable and Accessible Housing Finance System

Greater access to down payment assistance programs for economically disadvantaged consumers may reduce the Black homeownership gap.

This online mortgage calculator shows how home loan seekers can lower their monthly mortgage payments and total interest charges by making a larger down payment on a home.

Recommended: Do You Still Need to Put a 20% Down Payment On a House?

4. Accelerate Outreach for Mortgage-Ready Millennials

Reaching out to mortgage-ready millennials and improving tax credit incentives for renters to become homeowners may help reduce the Black homeownership gap.

Public-private partnerships can scale up additional programs aimed at bolstering homeownership among low-income people.

5. Focus on Sustainable Homeownership and Preservation

Funded programs that prevent foreclosures in the United States may particularly help Black homeowners maintain their wealth.

Providing homeowners of color with financial literacy may also help preserve homeownership among Black families.

The Takeaway

Racial housing disparities persist, despite federal laws designed to equal the playing field. The effects of redlining echo today, when 74.5% of white families own residential property and just 44.9% of Black families do. Solving this social inequity may require significant action and reform. See how employers can help first-time homebuyers.

If you’re looking for a mortgage lender, SoFi can help you achieve the American dream. Qualified first-time homebuyers can put as little as 3% down.

Explore SoFi fixed-rate mortgage options and view your rate in minutes.


Photo credit: iStock/Morsa Images

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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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How to Qualify for a Mortgage: 9 Requirements for a Mortgage Loan

Many first-time house hunters lie awake at night worrying, Will I qualify for a mortgage? With the wide variety of loan programs, down payment requirements, and credit thresholds out there, qualifying for a mortgage can feel like a lame choose-your-own-adventure story: “Didn’t prequalify? Return to page 1.”

Let’s take some of the mystery out of how to qualify for a mortgage.

6 Mortgage Qualification Factors

What goes into qualifying for a home loan can be especially confusing. Here are some things that may come into play when qualifying for a home loan.

1. Down Payment

Down payment requirements vary based on the type of mortgage you’re applying for.

Conventional Loan Down Payment

You may have heard that 20% down is the ideal. But the median down payment across all homebuyers is 13%. And some conventional loans require just 3% down.

The 20% figure comes from buyers trying to avoid the added cost of private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is required if your down payment is less than 20%. But you can also avoid PMI by seeking a “piggyback” mortgage or lender-paid mortgage insurance.

If you’re getting help from loved ones for your down payment, you’ll need to document that with a gift letter.

FHA Loan Down Payments

An FHA loan is a government-backed mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration. FHA loans are popular with first-time homebuyers. Over 80% of FHA mortgages are issued to first-time buyers each year.

If your credit score is at least 580, you may qualify for a down payment of 3.5% on an FHA loan. (FHA 203(k) loans for fixer-uppers also ask for 3.5% down.) With a score between 500 and 579, you’ll need at least 10% down.

Upfront and annual mortgage insurance is required for FHA loans, usually for the entire term.

USDA Loan Down Payment

A loan insured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is aimed at moderate-income households that purchase or build in eligible rural areas. Incredibly, no down payment is required. The USDA also directly issues loans to low- and very-low-income buyers in eligible rural areas and provides payment assistance.

USDA loans require an upfront guarantee fee and an annual premium for the life of the loan, but it’s lower than FHA loan mortgage insurance rates.

VA Loan Down Payment

The great perk of VA loans is that no down payment is usually required, but a sizable one-time funding fee is. (You may be exempt from the funding fee if you’re eligible for VA disability compensation for a service-connected disability or meet other conditions.)

💡 Recommended: First-Time Home Buyer Programs

2. Credit Score

Credit scores attempt to distill an individual’s financial history down to a single number that indicates your worthiness to lenders.

The FICO® Score range of 300 to 850 is categorized like this:

•   Exceptional: 800 to 850

•   Very Good: 740 to 799

•   Good: 670 to 739

•   Fair: 580 to 669

•   Poor: 300 to 579

Borrowers seeking a conventional loan will likely need a credit score of at least 620. For an FHA loan, applicants with a score as low as 500 may be considered. But 580 is the minimum credit score to qualify for the 3.5% down payment advantage.

A USDA loan usually requires a score of 640; a VA loan, a minimum of 580 to 620. In some cases, you don’t have to have a FICO Score to qualify for a home loan. Fannie Mae’s nontraditional credit program and government loan programs allow for a credit profile to be built based on things like rent payments and utility bills.

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


3. Income

Technically, there’s no minimum income required to apply for a mortgage. But your income can limit the amount you’ll qualify for. Lenders also like to see evidence that your income is stable, and will look at an applicant’s last two years of employment. That means you’ll need to provide pay stubs, W-2s or 1099s, and tax returns.

Many types of income count toward a mortgage application: overtime, commissions, bonuses, dividends, Social Security, alimony, and child support. Lenders may ask for documentation (such as a letter from your employer) that such income is expected to continue for the next several years.

Self-employed homebuyers should keep in mind that lenders look at your income after deductions. Taking too many deductions, however deserved, can lower the size of the loan you’ll qualify for.

For some types of loans, there can be upper income limits. Conventional, FHA, and VA loans have no upper limits. But with USDA loans, your income must not exceed 115% of the median income in your area.

4. Debt-to-Income Ratio

Typically, your income doesn’t matter as much as your debt to income ratio. Your DTI is calculated by dividing your total monthly debt, including your proposed house payment, by your gross monthly income, expressed as a percentage.

For example, say you pay $1,500 a month for a mortgage, $100 a month for a car loan, and $400 a month on a student loan. Your total monthly debt comes to $2,000. If you make $6,000 a month before taxes and deductions, your debt-to-income ratio is 33% ($2000 divided by $6000, multiplied by 100).

Depending on your credit score, down payment, and cash reserves, your DTI ratio may weigh heavier or lighter in the qualification process.

•   Conventional Loan DTI: The maximum DTI for a conventional loan is 45%, but exceptions can be made for strong compensating factors.

•   FHA DTI: FHA guidelines allow for a DTI of 43%, but higher ratios are allowed with compensating factors.

•   USDA Loan DTI: The USDA usually allows a maximum DTI of 41% but may make exceptions for those with higher credit scores and stable employment.

•   VA Loan DTI: VA guidelines call for a maximum DTI of 41%, but lenders set their own limits based on an applicant’s financial health.

💡 Recommended: How to Afford a Down Payment on Your First Home

5. Assets

Lenders will want to know about any valuable assets you hold. The idea is that these assets can be converted to cash in the event you face financial hardship down the road. Assets can include cash accounts, retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, cars, boats, RVs, jewelry, artwork, and collectibles. You’ll be asked to provide proof of ownership and value, such as appraisal letters.

6. Documentation

Not having the proper documentation in the mortgage loan process can hold things up. As noted above, lenders usually ask for:

•   Tax returns from the past two years.

•   Two years’ worth of W-2s or year-end pay stubs. If you are self-employed, other evidence of income.

•   Child support or divorce documents.

•   Bank statements.

•   Statements from additional assets.

•   Gift letters.

•   Photo ID.

•   Rental history and contact information.

7. Property Type and Purpose

Up to now, we’ve discussed mortgage qualification factors that are based on the buyer’s financial history. But lenders also consider the purpose of the property you want to buy. A “primary residence,” meaning a home that a buyer purchases with the intention of living in it, will usually qualify for a lower interest rate and better terms than a vacation home or investment property.

The type of home you purchase also makes a difference. Single-family houses secure the best rates. Other types of housing that may incur special fees include condos, co-ops, manufactured houses, log homes, mixed-use developments, and nontraditional architecture. Homes shaped like dinosaurs or flying saucers just make lenders a little nervous.

8. Mortgage Type

The type of mortgage you may want to seek as a primary-home owner will depend on your credit scores, income, the lender’s loan menu, and more. Government-backed mortgages (FHA, VA, and USDA loans) are acquired through approved lenders, and conventional home loans are issued by a bank, credit union, or other private lender.

•   FHA loan: Mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration have lower credit requirements than conventional loans but tend to be more expensive for borrowers with good credit and a medium down payment.

•   VA loan: Loans insured by the Department of Veterans Affairs are for active-duty service members, veterans, and some surviving spouses. The VA also has a Native American Direct Loan program, which allows Native Americans to buy, build, or improve a home on federal trust land.

•   USDA loan: Loans backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are for moderate-income buyers who choose a home in a designated rural area. The USDA offers direct loans for low-income households.

Most mortgages come with a fixed interest rate, but a variable rate can be an option for some conventional loans, as can a variety of mortgage terms or lengths. The fixed-rate 30-year mortgage dominates the U.S. landscape.

One last wrinkle: There are conforming loans and nonconforming loans. By meeting loan limits, a conventional conforming loan is eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. If it isn’t eligible, it’s a nonconforming mortgage — like the government loans or a jumbo loan.

9. Other Mortgage Qualification Considerations

When browsing for a home, you might consider loan prequalification or preapproval.

Prequalification is a simpler version of preapproval. You’ll provide basic information, which can be by phone or online, and a lender will estimate what size loan you might be approved for. No information is verified at this point.

For preapproval, you’re required to give a lender access to your financial history. After reviewing your credit, income, and assets, the lender will offer a loan up to a specific amount. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be approved when you formally apply, though.

Prequalification and preapproval can be great ways to dip your toe into the home-buying waters. Then you may apply with more than one lender. Comparing loan estimates can help you determine which option is best for you financially.

Do I Qualify For a Mortgage?

To help you determine how big a home loan you might qualify for, there are a variety of online mortgage calculators to help get you started:

•   Mortgage Calculator

•   Home Affordability Calculator

The Takeaway

You know there are many factors that can help or hurt your chances of getting approved for a mortgage loan. Here, we lay them all out in one place: your down payment, credit score, income, debt-to-income ratio, assets, documentation, property type and purpose, mortgage type, and prequalification or preapproval. Some of these factors can compensate for weaknesses in other areas. For instance, a lower income is less of a problem if you have plenty of valuable assets to draw on. And a high down payment can counter a middling credit score.

Home shoppers with stable finances would be smart to look into SoFi home mortgage loans with competitive fixed rates. Qualifying first-time homebuyers can put as little as3% down, and others, 5% down.

Our online application is simple, and our dedicated Mortgage Loan Officers can guide you through the process from start to finish.

FAQ

What are the four things you need to qualify for a mortgage loan?

To qualify for a mortgage loan, you’ll need a stable income, strong credit score, modest debt-to-income ratio, and documentation of your employment and assets. Believe it or not, some loan programs do not require a down payment!

What is the lowest income needed to qualify for a mortgage?

There is no minimum income required to apply for a mortgage. However, your income will determine how large a loan you’ll qualify for. Sometimes, your assets can compensate for a lower income. And there are government-backed programs, especially for low-income borrowers.

At what age do you not qualify for a mortgage?

There is no maximum age limit to qualify for a mortgage loan. In fact, lenders legally cannot deny someone a loan term based on their age. For instance, a 70-year-old can still qualify for a 30-year mortgage term.

What do banks check before giving a mortgage?

Just about everything. Banks check your credit history and score, proof of employment and income (W-2s, 1099s, tax returns), your assets (bank statements), your debts (credit card bills), and anything else that will give them a picture of your overall financial health and future prospects.

Do mortgage lenders look at your spending?

Yes, mortgage lenders may look at your bank and credit card statements for the last two years to see whether your spending habits are consistent and where your money goes.

Is everyone eligible for a mortgage?

Pretty much anyone who can afford to carry a mortgage can qualify for one. However, it’s possible that someone who earns money under the table or holds their assets in offshore accounts wouldn’t be able to document their financial qualifications to satisfy a 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 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.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.
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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The Mortgage Loan Process Step-by-Step

Mortgage Loan Process Explained in 11 Steps

There are few things more exciting than buying a home. But before most house hunters can do that, they need to qualify for a mortgage. The mortgage application process is one of those things that may be more complicated to explain than to experience. Still, learning about the steps in advance can help applicants feel better prepared and avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Here’s what you need to know about the mortgage process, including moves you can make that may expedite your approval.

Step-by-Step Guide to the Mortgage Loan Process

1. Estimate Your Budget

Below are the main cost considerations when determining your budget.

Down Payment

When determining how much you’ll put down, keep in mind that the lower your down payment is, the higher your monthly mortgage bill will be — and the more interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.

Your credit score can be a factor in your down payment options. FHA loans with a low 3.5% down payment require a score of 580. If you can manage a 10% down payment, however, your score can be as low as 500.

A down payment greater than 20% can help you avoid expensive mortgage insurance.

Closing Costs

Many costs come up during the mortgage loan process. Some can be rolled into the loan; the rest make up your closing costs. They can include a home inspection fee, appraisal fee, prepaid property taxes, prepaid homeowners insurance, title insurance, prepaid interest, origination fee, discount points, and FHA, USDA, or VA fees if you choose one of those loans.

Plan on paying between 2% and 5% of the loan principal in closing costs, and set money aside to cover them.

Affordability Rules of Thumb

Certain budgeting guidelines can help you determine what kind of monthly mortgage payment you can afford. You’ll also want to figure in homeowners insurance, any homeowners association (HOA) fees, and possibly mortgage insurance, or PMI.

•   The 28% Rule. This rule advises spending no more than 28% of your gross monthly income on a mortgage payment. If your income is $10,000 a month, for example, your payment should be $2,800 or less.

•   The 35% / 45% Guideline. Some lenders prefer that your total monthly debt be no more than 35% of your pre-tax income or 45% of your after-tax income. This is also known as your debt-to-income ratio.

2. Choose a Mortgage Type and Term

There are many different mortgage types, and choosing one will depend on your income, down payment, location, financial approach, and lifestyle.

Some choices you’ll need to make are:

•   A fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage

•   A conventional or government-insured loan (FHA, USDA, or VA loan)

•   A conforming or nonconforming loan (such as a jumbo loan)

•   If you should opt for an interest-only mortgage

•   Your repayment term: typically 15, 20, or 30 years

A good lender will walk you through your options, whether it’s a HUD home requiring an FHA mortgage or a high-priced home with a jumbo loan.

3. Choose Your Lender

Your lender will have an impact on your financial life for as long as you’re responsible for that mortgage. Finding one who not only offers a great rate but can also help you navigate the mortgage process is one of the smartest things you can do.

These questions to ask a lender can help you narrow down your list.

4. Get Pre-Approved

In the mortgage pre-approval process, homebuyers complete a full mortgage application. The lender will perform a hard credit inquiry and issue a letter confirming your ability to borrow a certain amount of money.

In general, the better your credit score, the better the mortgage rate you’ll be approved for. If your score is above 740, you’ll qualify for the best rates.

A pre-approval letter, usually good for 60 to 90 days, can improve your odds of winning over a seller in a bidding war. In competitive markets, having a pre-approval letter may even be a requirement.

Recommended: What’s the Difference Between a Hard and Soft Credit Inquiry?

5. Find a Property and Make an Offer

Your real estate agent will guide you through the process of finding a property and making an offer. The offer is typically written by the buyer’s agent on a standardized form.

Be sure you only make offers on properties that fall under the amount you’ve been pre-approved for. Otherwise, the lender will need to re-process your full application again. If you don’t qualify for the new, larger amount, you may not be able to secure any loan on the property.

If your offer is accepted, you’ll send the signed paperwork to your lender.

6. Apply for a Mortgage

Lenders are required to do a second credit check before final loan approval and will likely ask for further documentation. If you’ve opened a new account, changed jobs, or made a major purchase since pre-approval, those actions will have to be vetted.

Responding quickly to your lender’s requests for documentation can help keep your application on track.

7. What Mortgage Lenders Look At

Mortgage lenders value creditworthy borrowers. Those with higher incomes, low debt, a healthy amount in savings, and high credit scores are ideal borrowers.

Lenders also take a deep dive into the details on your credit reports, including your payment history, recent applications, credit utilization, major derogatory reports, disputes, and authorized users.

Income, Savings, Assets

A lender’s primary job is to verify that you have enough income, savings, and assets to afford the mortgage you’re applying for. When you submit your mortgage application, you’ll submit bank statements, tax returns, W-2s, retirement account statements, and other documents that show you’ll be able to afford the mortgage.

If you received help from a family member to fund your down payment, you’ll need to provide a gift letter to the lender. This is to verify the source and intention of the funds given to you.

Employment

Mortgage lenders prefer borrowers who have stable, predictable incomes. A steady employment history signals to the lender that you have regular income coming in to make the monthly payments of a mortgage. That’s why it’s easier to get approval as a W-2 employee than as a self-employed worker.

In general, lenders like to see two years of employment in a loan application. Self-employed individuals will submit two years of tax returns.

Credit Score

Buyers often wonder what credit score is needed to buy a house. A homebuyer usually needs a credit score of at least 620 to get a conventional mortgage (one not insured by a government agency).

8. Be Patient and Avoid New Debt

The average time between submitting a mortgage application and closing is 52 days. During this period, it’s wise to observe a self-imposed “credit freeze.” That is, don’t run up your credit cards beyond what you usually spend each month. Put off major purchases. Don’t apply for new credit cards, HELOCs, auto loans, or other new debt. And, of course, make sure to pay all your bills on time.

If there’s any significant change in your credit history, your closing may be delayed or even derailed. Should something major come up (like an expensive medical emergency), call your lender to let them know.

It can be tough feeling like your life is on hold while you’re waiting for your mortgage application to be processed. Try to be patient and just let the process play out. Now is a good time to reach out to friends and family who have been through the mortgage loan process before and commiserate. Consider this your orientation into the homeownership club.

9. Get an Appraisal and Home Inspection

Once your lender has received your contract and full application, they will order an appraisal. This is an independent property evaluation of a home’s value. The appraisal will describe the home and what makes it valuable. Factors that affect the appraisal value include the location, condition, amenities and features, and market conditions in the area.

A lender requires a home appraisal to ensure that it isn’t lending more than the property is worth. If the appraisal comes in too low, the lender won’t lend extra money to cover the gap. Buyers will need to cover the difference with their own money or renegotiate the price with the seller to match the appraisal.

At this point, you’ll want to run through your home inspection checklist. Typically, buyers will hire an inspector to thoroughly check the property inside and out for undisclosed problems. If expensive issues are unearthed, the buyers may negotiate for a price reduction or back out of the deal without penalty.

10. Mortgage Underwriting and Processing

The underwriting process begins after you complete your mortgage application and ends after all the documentation has been completed. The underwriter examines the borrower’s financials, as well as the appraisal, title search, and proof of homeowners insurance.

Once all documentation has been reviewed and verified, the underwriter will recommend approval, denial, or pending. A pending decision is given when information is incomplete. You may still be able to get the loan by providing the documentation asked for.

After underwriting approval with a “clear to close,” you’re set to close on your loan.

11. Close on Your New Home

Closing day is when all parties sign the final documents, and ownership is legally transferred from the sellers. In the days prior to your close, the lender should provide a final list of closing costs. The buyer can pay them by wire transfer a day or two before, or by cashier’s check or certified check that day.

In the past, buyers and sellers, their agents, and lawyers would gather in the same room to sign the paperwork. In recent years, remote online closings have become more common.

SoFi Mortgage Rates

If you’re ready to launch the mortgage loan process, include SoFi in your hunt for a home mortgage loan.

Why SoFi? You’ll find competitive fixed rates on mortgages. Qualified first-time buyers can put just 3% down. And you can get access to a range of member benefits at no cost.

Getting pre-qualified is quick and easy.


Photo credit: iStock/MicroStockHub

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.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.
This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.
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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Avoiding Loan Origination Fees

One thing you should always look out for — regardless of the type of loan you’re applying for — is loan origination fees. Many lenders charge origination fees for new loans to help cover costs on their end. However, what these fees are called and the amount of these fees can vary quite a bit from lender to lender.

Before you settle on a lender, here are some things you need to know about origination fees, so you can make the best borrowing decision for your financial situation.

What Is a Loan Origination Fee?

An origination fee is a cost the lender charges for a new loan. It’s a one-time fee charged at the time the loan closes. The fee covers the costs the lender incurs for processing and closing the loan.

How Are Origination Fees Determined?

Loan origination fees depend on a number of factors. This includes:

•   Loan type

•   Loan amount

•   Credit score

•   Inclusion of a cosigner

•   Your financial situation, including assets, liabilities, and total income

Do I Have to Pay Origination Fees?

You don’t necessarily have to pay origination fees — while most lenders charge this fee, not all do. Additionally, origination fees may be negotiable. If you ask, a lender could simply lower the fee, or they could offer a credit to offset at least a portion of the origination fee. Or, they might agree to lower the fees if you’ll pay a higher interest rate.

To minimize the sting of loan origination fees, it also pays to research your loan options. Make sure to compare how much you’d pay overall for different loan offers, factoring in the term of the loan, the interest rate, and any fees.

One way to effectively compare and contrast different loan options is to check each loan’s annual percentage rate (APR), an important mortgage basic to understand. A loan’s APR provides a more comprehensive look at the cost you’ll incur over the life of the loan. This is because APR factors in the fees and costs associated with the loan, in addition to the loan’s interest rate.

The Truth in Lending Act requires all lenders to disclose an APR for all types of loans. You’ll also see any fees that a lender may charge listed there, including prepayment penalties.

How Much Are Loan Origination Fees?

How much a lender charges (and what the fee is called) varies based on the type of loan and the lender.

A traditional origination fee is usually calculated based on a percentage of the loan amount — and that percentage depends on the type of loan. For a mortgage, for instance, an origination fee is generally 0.50% to 1%. Origination fees for personal loans, on the other hand, can range from 1% to 8% of the loan amount, depending on a borrower’s credit score as well as the length, amount, and sometimes intended use of the loan.

There are a variety of other origination fees that lenders may charge, and these can be a flat amount rather than a percentage of the loan amount. Other fees that lenders may charge to originate a loan could be called processing, underwriting, administration, or document preparation fees.

Can Loan Origination Fees Affect Your Taxes?

Loan origination fees, categorized by the IRS as points, can be deductible as home mortgage interest. This can be the case even if the seller pays them. Borrowers who can deduct all of the interest on their mortgage may even be able to deduct all of the points, or loan origination fees, paid on their mortgage.

To claim this deduction, borrowers must meet certain conditions laid out by the IRS. They’ll then need to itemize deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040), Itemized Deductions.

The Takeaway

Loan origination fees are important to consider when shopping for a loan during the home-buying process. These fees are charged by lenders to help cover their costs of processing and closing a new loan application. While many lenders do charge origination fees, not all do, and some may be willing to negotiate.

Origination fees are just one reason it’s important to take the time to shop around and compare home loans. With a SoFi Home Loan, for instance, qualified first-time homebuyers can make a down payment as low as 3%.

Ready to get started with the home-buying process? Check out SoFi Mortgages.


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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.

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

For sellers, the idea of multiple offers on the home they’ve put on the market is a dream. But for buyers, it can be a big source of stress: How can you get your bid to stand out and be the one selected? This is especially challenging in today’s seller’s market, when bidding wars and stiff competition has become more common.

So do you want to know how to compete against multiple offers on your dream house? You’re in the right place.
Here, you’ll learn some strategies and secrets that can help give you a competitive edge, from boosting your earnest money to waiving contingencies.

Read on to find out:

•   How to compete against multiple offers in a buyer’s and a seller’s market

•   How to collaborate most effectively with a buyer’s agent

•   How to increase your chances of competing against multiple offers on a house.

Multiple Offers in a Seller’s Market

A seller’s market means the demand for houses is greater than the supply for sale, causing home prices to increase and often giving sellers a serious advantage.

It can get pretty competitive for those who need to buy a house, and multiple offers on a house become the new norm.

Seller’s markets and the frequency of multiple offers can happen for a few reasons:

•   More houses typically go up for sale during peak homebuying season in the summer, so seller’s markets are more common in the winter when inventory is low.

•   Cities that see steady population growth and increased job opportunities often experience a higher demand for housing, leading to multiple interested buyers making offers on limited inventory.

•   A decrease in interest rates could mean more people are able to qualify for mortgages, causing an uptick in homebuyers that might work to the seller’s advantage. More interested parties can mean more negotiation power.

As of the end of 2022, despite rising interest rates and waning home construction, there has nevertheless been a hot market, with demand outstripping supply. According to NAR (the National Association of Realtors®), one in four houses on the market receives enough bids to sell above asking price – a significant amount of competition.

Multiple Offers in a Buyer’s Market

In a buyer’s market, there’s a greater number of houses than buyers demanding them. In this case, homebuyers can be more selective about their terms, and sellers might have to compete with one another to be the most sought-after house on the block.

In a buyer’s market, house hunters typically have more negotiating power. The number of offers on the table is usually lower than in a seller’s market, and the winning bid is often lower than the listing price.

In other words, you are likely to be better positioned to get a good deal.

Are Buyers’ Agents Aware of Other Offers?

Unless house hunters are buying a house without an agent, there are certain cases where the buyer’s agent could be tipped off to other offers on the house. This insight could help you hone your offer to be the winning bid.

A lot of it depends on the strategy of the sellers’ agent and whether it’s designed to stir up a bidding war with obscurity or transparency. Either way, the sellers and their agent could choose to:

•   Not disclose whether or not other buyers have made offers on the property.

•   Disclose the fact that there are other offers, but give no further transparency about how many or how much they’re offering.

•   Disclose the number of competing offers and their exact terms and/or amounts.

It’s up to the sellers and their agent to decide which strategy works best for their situation and, according to the National Association of Realtors® 2020 Code of Ethics & Standards of Practice, only with seller approval can an agent disclose the existence of other offers to potential buyers.

However, as you might guess, it can stir up more heated bidding if it is revealed that there are multiple offers. A prospective buyer might learn that intel and hike up their bid or offer other concessions, such as foregoing an inspection.

How Do Multiple Offers Affect a Home Appraisal?

What happens in the event of an all-out bidding war? Say a house comes on the market where few other properties are available, and it has all kinds of dream amenities: an outdoor pizza oven and slate patio, the perfect family room with a wall begging for a ginormous flat screen, a spa-style bathroom with soaking tub, and all kinds of energy-efficient bells and whistles.

Some buyers may be tempted to keep increasing their offer to one-up the competition. Unfortunately, this could lead to drastically overpaying for the house. And when it comes time for the mortgage lender to approve the loan, they may think the home isn’t worth all that money.

In these cases, buyers can add an appraisal contingency to their offer, asserting that the appraised value of the property must meet or exceed the price they agreed to pay for it or they can walk away from the deal without losing their deposit.

But what about in competitive seller’s markets when making mortgage contingencies could mean losing the deal? In those cases, buyers might have to put down extra money to bridge the gap between what their lender is willing to give and what they offered.

Think carefully in this situation about what you would do if the only way to nab your dream home would be to come up with more cash. For some people, it might be possible (perhaps by borrowing from family); for others, it would mean walking away or risk overextending oneself and blowing one’s budget.

Recommended: Home Affordability Calculator

How Can Buyers Beat Other Offers on a House?

Are you wondering, “But how can I compete against multiple offers on a house?” There are a few things homebuyers can do to improve their odds of winning when there are multiple offers on a house. Consider the following options:

A Sizable Earnest Money Deposit

Earnest money is a deposit made to the sellers that serves as the buyers’ good faith gesture to purchase the house, typically while they work on getting their full financing in order.

The amount of the earnest money deposit generally ranges between 1% and 3% of the purchase price, but in hot housing markets, it could go up to 5% to 10% of the home’s sale price.

By offering on the higher end of the spectrum, homebuyers can beat out contenders who offer less attractive earnest money deposits.

Best and Final Offer

Going into a multiple-offer situation and expecting negotiation can be tricky. It’s typically suggested that buyers go in right away with their strongest offer; one they can still live with if they lose to a contender — aka, they know they gave it their all.

In some cases, sellers deliberately list the home for less than comparable sales in the area in an attempt to stir up a bidding war. By going in with their highest offers, buyers could end up paying what the house is actually worth while still winning the deal.

Recommended: 7 Steps to Buying a Home

All-Cash Offer

By offering to pay cash upfront for the property, homebuyers effectively eliminate the need for third party (lender) involvement in the transaction. This can be appealing to sellers who are looking to streamline the sale and close ASAP.

However, this is obviously not possible for all homebuyers. It requires having quite a chunk of change on reserve to make this kind of offer. For some though (including those who just sold another property), it could be an option.

Waived Contingencies

Whether it’s offering the sellers extra time to move out or waiving the home inspection, potential homebuyers can gain wiggle room when they start to waive contingencies.

Contingencies are conditions that must be met in order to close on a house. If they’re not met, the buyers can back out of the deal without losing their earnest money deposit.

By waiving certain contingencies, buyers show that they’re willing to take on a level of risk to close the deal.
This can be appealing to some sellers. Of course, if you are the prospective buyer in a multiple-bidding situation, it means you are taking on risk.

What if, say, after you purchase the home, you discover that there’s $10,000 worth of HVAC work that needs to be done? An inspection would likely have revealed this, and you would have been able to negotiate with the sellers about this. But when you waive the inspection, you will be on the hook for this kind of upgrade.

Recommended: 6 First-time Home-Buying Mistakes to Avoid

Signs of Sincerity and Respect

Because many sellers have pride in and a deep affection for their home, buyers who show sincerity, respect, and sentiment may score extra points.

In some cases, it may be helpful for bidders to write a letter that details what they love about the home, which adds to the positive interactions with the sellers and their agent. It can make the sellers feel as if their home will be in good hands, with people who appreciate it rather than want to do a gut reno and strip away all the features they treasure.

This could lead to winning in a multiple-offer situation, but seek your real estate agent’s advice before penning such a letter. It could be a turn-off to some sellers.

An Offer of Extra Time to Move Out

In some cases, sellers might appreciate (or even require) a bit of a buffer between the closing date and when they formally move out of the house.

By offering them a few extra days post-closing without asking for compensation, flexible buyers can get ahead of contenders who might have stricter buyer possession policies.

Or you might offer to lease back the property for a month or more, if that would help the sellers get settled in their next residence. This kind of flexibility could tip the balance in your favor.

A Mortgage Pre-Approval Letter

Most offers are submitted with a lender-drafted letter that indicates the purchasers are pre-qualified for a loan.

But did you know there’s a difference between getting pre-qualified vs. pre-approved? A pre-approval letter can take it a step further by showing that the buyers are able to procure borrowed funds after deep financial, background, and credit history screening.

Pre-approval signifies to some sellers that the buyers can put their money where their mouth is, lessening the possibility of future financing falling through.

Recommended: Guide to Buying, Selling, and Updating Your Home

Kick-Starting the Homebuying Process

If you’re shopping for a home or plan to do so in the near future, it’s a wise move to get a jump on the process by exploring your mortgage options. For instance, how much of a loan do you qualify for and at what interest rate? How much would you have to put down?

As you move through this process, see what SoFi Mortgage Loans can offer. Our loans are convenient loans and have competitive rates. Plus, they can be available to qualifying first-time homebuyers with as little as 3% down. By knowing what your home loan funding looks like, you may be able to bid with greater confidence.

Get a leg up on buying a home, and find your rate in minutes with SoFi Mortgage Loans.


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.
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.
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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