How Much Income Is Needed for a $175,000 Mortgage?

Homeownership continues to be a key part of the American dream. But exactly how much money do you need to make if living the dream means taking on a $175,000 mortgage? While the specific income figures required vary depending on other financial factors, a $175,000 mortgage will likely require an income in the neighborhood of $60,000.

There are several rules of thumb you can follow to get an estimate of how much mortgage you can afford. Let’s take a closer look.

Income Needed for a $175,000 Mortgage

Unfortunately there is not a simple answer to the question of how much income you need to qualify for a mortgage. That’s because mortgage qualification involves a complex calculation that factors in other finance figures like your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, how much money you have for a down payment, your credit score, and even your location.

However, there are generally accepted formulas that can help us get a ballpark income estimate, all other things being equal.

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 $175K Mortgage?

That formula we were talking about states your housing payment should be about 30% of your gross income — that is, the amount you earn each month before taking out taxes and deductions. From here, we can do some reverse engineering. Using an online mortgage calculator, you can estimate the monthly payment on a $175,000 mortgage. (Along with the property’s total value and your projected down payment, you’ll also need to put in an estimated interest rate. Keep in mind that the rate you qualify for will depend on your credit score, and that baseline interest rates change regularly as the market fluctuates.)

Say you’re buying a $200,000 house with a $25,000 down payment, leading to your $175,000 mortgage. At an estimated 7% interest rate, your monthly mortgage loan payment would be around $1,170. When you add taxes, insurance, and private mortgage insurance (PMI), your total monthly payment will be around $1,600. For simplicity’s sake, we can multiply that total by three to find out an approximate minimum monthly gross income at which such a mortgage is affordable. When we do, we get $4,800, or about $58,000 in annual income.

Still, keep in mind that a home affordability calculator can provide only an estimate. Many other factors play into your actual monthly mortgage payment, including property taxes in your area, and your DTI ratio.

This last piece is a big enough deal in the world of home-lending that it’s worth taking some time to explore, so let’s do that now.

What Is a Good Debt-to-Income Ratio?

Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is the amount of debt you owe each month versus your available income. It’s calculated by dividing your monthly debt payments by your gross monthly income. For instance, if you earn $3,500 per month and pay $500 toward your car payment and $350 toward student loans, your DTI ratio would be calculated like so:

(500+350)/3,500 = 0.24, or a DTI of 24%

While each lender has its own specific qualifying criteria, generally speaking, a lower DTI is better. Most lenders will begin to disapprove applicants whose DTI hits 36% or so, though you may be able to get approved with a DTI of up to 50% in some cases. (Still, even if you can get approved, a higher DTI ratio likely means your housing payment will be more difficult to make each month.)

What Determines How Much House You Can Afford?

As we’ve seen already, there are lots of different factors that determine how much house you can afford. A few of those include:

•   Your income

•   Your DTI ratio

•   Your credit score

•   Your down payment

•   The cost of living in your location

What Mortgage Lenders Look For

While, again, each specific mortgage lender has its own qualifying criteria (and these may also shift depending on what kind of mortgage you’re applying for), some of the primary factors lenders look as an applicant goes through the mortgage preapproval process include:

•   Reliable and sufficient income

•   Favorable credit history and credit score

•   Sufficient existing assets, such as cash and investments

•   Reasonable levels of existing debt (DTI ratio)

$175,000 Mortgage Breakdown Examples

A little-understood characteristic of mortgages: Although each monthly payment is identical (in the case of a fixed-rate mortgage, at least), the proportional amount of each payment that goes toward interest varies over the life of the loan. Toward the beginning of your loan, the bulk of your monthly payment is going toward interest rather than principal, which helps ensure the lender gets paid for its services. This breakdown is known as the amortization of the loan, and it’s well worth looking up ahead of time so you understand exactly how much of your money is going where.

Looking up the amortization schedule ahead of time can also reveal how much you’ll pay in interest over the entire lifetime of the loan, which depends on your interest rate and loan term. Here are two examples of how the same $175,000 loan breaks down differently depending on these factors:

10-year fixed rate loan at 7.00%
Monthly payment: $2,032
Total paid over the life of the loan: $243,828
Total interest paid: $68,828

30-year fixed rate loan at 7.00%
Monthly payment: $1,164
Total paid over the life of the loan: $419,140
Total interest paid: $244,140

Pros and Cons of a $175,000 Mortgage

Like any decision in life, financial or otherwise, there are both drawbacks and benefits to consider when you’re contemplating taking out a $175,000 mortgage. Here are a few of them at a glance:

Pros

•   A $175,000 mortgage is substantially lower than the median sale price of homes in the United States as per the first quarter of 2024 ($420,800).

•   Although there’s no guarantee, homes do tend to appreciate over time, which means the debt may be worth it in the long run, even with interest.

•   Owning your own home offers stability and can help build generational wealth.

•   The interest on your housing payment may be tax deductible.

•   If you pay your mortgage on time each month, your credit score may improve.

Cons

•   Interest means you’ll likely pay far more than the home is worth today over the lifetime of the loan.

•   If you fall behind on your mortgage payments, you’re at risk of having your home go into foreclosure.

•   As a homeowner, you’ll be responsible for any and all maintenance and repairs your home requires.

•   Along with your mortgage, you’ll also need to pay property taxes, homeowners insurance, and other related costs.

How Much Will You Need for a Down Payment?

While a well-known rule of thumb states that homebuyers should save up a 20% down payment before they make a purchase, these days you can put down far less than that. For example, many conventional mortgages allow first-time borrowers to put down as little as 3%, which, for a $200,000 home purchase, adds up to $6,000. (A 20% down payment would be $40,000.)

However, keep in mind that a lower down payment means you’ll likely need to pay for PMI. This cost can add a few hundred dollars to your monthly payment, which can make it harder for some borrowers to make ends meet each month.

Is a $175K Mortgage With No Down Payment a Good Idea?

There are some programs, such as VA loans (from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs), that allow borrowers to take out a mortgage with no down payment at all. However, even if you qualify for such a loan, it’s important to consider its potential drawbacks before you agree.

Because a low- or no-down-payment mortgage may be seen as a riskier prospect to the lender, it may come at a higher interest rate — which could drive up how much you pay in total over the lifetime of the loan. It also means you’ll start out your homeownership journey with no equity in your house, meaning the value of your share of the ownership will build more slowly over time.

Still, these programs can help some borrowers buy a house far sooner than they might otherwise be able to, while keeping some funds freed up for other costs (including potential home maintenance and repair). In short, only you can decide if a no-down-payment mortgage is a good move for you, but be sure you’re making the decision with knowledge on your side.

Can’t Afford a $175K Mortgage With No Down Payment?

If you’re having trouble qualifying for a $175,000 mortgage, even without a down payment, there are some steps you can take to help get your ducks in a row — and make your homeownership dreams possible in the not-too-distant future.

Pay Off Debt

Given how important DTI is when it comes to qualifying mortgage applicants, paying off existing debt can be a huge boon toward getting your application approved — and it’ll also make paying your monthly mortgage a lot easier.

Look Into First-Time Homebuyer Programs

There are many first-time homebuyer programs out there that are specifically designed to help people whose financial histories may be a little shorter or spottier. For instance, depending on your income, your local government may offer low-cost down payment assistance loans, and you can also look into an FHA mortgage, which is backed by the Federal Housing Administration and can help those with lower credit scores get qualified.

Build Up Credit

While it’s possible to qualify for a home loan with a lower credit score, if you build it up, it’s a whole lot easier — and you’ll likely get a better interest rate, which will lower your overall costs. Some reliable ways to build your credit include making on-time payments and lowering your overall revolving balance.

Start Budgeting

Budgeting is the best way to meet just about any financial goal — because when you do, you’ve got a blueprint for where your money is going. If you’ve yet to create a budget, do so, and look for areas where you might be able to make cuts that could go toward your new-home savings fund.

Alternatives to Conventional Mortgage Loans

While conventional mortgages are available from many different lenders, they’re not the only ones on the market — or necessarily the best for all borrowers. You may also qualify for different types of mortgage loans, such as:

•   FHA loans, which are designed specifically for first-time home buyers

•   VA loans, which are for service members, veterans, and qualifying surviving family members

•   U.S. Department of Agriculture loans, which help households under certain income thresholds purchase homes in eligible rural areas

Mortgage Tips

No matter which mortgage program you go with, the best tip is to shop around. Different lenders may be able to qualify you for different rates, and as we’ve seen above, interest can really add up. Even a fraction of a percentage difference could translate to thousands of dollars over a 30-year loan! Remember that if you can’t qualify for the lowest rate initially, you may find that you can do a mortgage refinance in the future.

The Takeaway

As we’ve seen, there’s no one simple answer to the question, “How much money do I need to make to take out a $175,000 mortgage?” Rather, the mortgage qualification process is a more complex and holistic process that involves your debt level, income, credit history, and many other factors. However, with the many different programs available for first-time homebuyers, there’s a good chance you may be able to find a way to qualify.

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 mortgage can I afford with a $175,000 income?

If you’re earning $175,000 per year, that’s about $14,500 per month. Your housing payment should be no more than 30% of your monthly gross income — which calculates to $4,350 per month. With an income like this, you can probably afford a mortgage around $550,000 depending on your other debts and how much you have available for a down payment.

How much is a $175,000 mortgage per month?

Your exact mortgage payment will depend on many factors, including your interest rate. Borrow $175,000 with a 7% interest rate and a 30-year term, and the monthly payment will be around $1,164, excluding taxes and insurance.

Is $2,000 a lot for a mortgage?

Whether $2,000 per month is a lot to pay on a mortgage depends on how much you’re earning and how much of a squeeze you feel when you make that monthly payment. Most people would need to be earning about $6,000 per month or $72,000 per year — with little to no other debts — for a $2,000 mortgage payment to feel comfortable.


Photo credit: iStock/FG Trade

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


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


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

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

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

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

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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Mortgage Commitment Letter: Overview, Types, and If You Need One

A mortgage commitment letter is a step beyond prequalification and preapproval and could give a homebuyer an edge in a competitive market. It lays out the loan details and indicates that a buyer has an agreement for a mortgage.

But who should obtain a mortgage commitment letter and when? Let’s take a look at those answers and more.

What Is a Mortgage Commitment Letter?

A mortgage commitment letter — conditional or final — is a step closer to finalizing a mortgage but short of “cleared to close.” The letter signals to the seller that the buyer and a chosen financial institution have forged an agreement.

Buyers may seek a conditional mortgage commitment letter when they’re house hunting, and a final commitment letter when they’re ready to make an offer on a specific home.

In both types of loan commitments, the lender outlines the terms of the mortgage.

Recommended: Buying in a Seller’s Market With a Low Down Payment

Types of Mortgage Loan Approvals

In the mortgage loan process, buyers will hear “approval” thrown around a lot. But not all approvals are built equally, and each type signifies a different part of the process.

Prequalification

Getting prequalified is often an early step for buyers in the home search. It’s quick, can be done online, and doesn’t require a hard credit inquiry.

To get prequalified, buyers provide financial details, including income, debt, and assets, but no documentation, so this step serves as an estimate of how much home they can afford.

Prequalification can help buyers create a realistic budget, but the amount, interest rate, and loan program might change as the lender gets more information.

Preapproval

Preapproval is slightly more complicated, requiring a hard credit inquiry and documentation from the buyer. Lenders may ask for the following:

•   Identification

•   Recent pay stubs

•   W-2 statements

•   Tax returns

•   Activity from checking, savings, and investment accounts

•   Residential history

Armed with this information, a lender will give buyers a specific amount they’ll likely qualify for.

Preapproval also shows sellers that a buyer is serious about a home, as it means a lender is willing to approve them for a mortgage.

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


Conditional vs Final Commitment

Prequalification and preapproval can be important steps during the home search. But especially in a seller’s market and in certain cities, the mortgage commitment letter can become an important tool.

While a mortgage loan commitment letter can show a seller that the buyer is serious, not all letters are the same.

A conditional mortgage approval letter, the most common type, means that the lender will approve buyers as long as they meet certain conditions.

Conditions could include:

•   No change to the buyer’s finances before the closing date

•   Proof of funds to cover the down payment and closing costs

•   Passing of a home inspection

•   An appraisal

•   Proof of homeowners insurance

•   No liens or other problems with the property title

A final commitment letter means the lender has unconditionally approved the buyer for a loan to purchase a home. However, this doesn’t mean the buyer is guaranteed a loan; it just means the lender is ready to approve the mortgage.

Having a mortgage commitment letter in hand is a good way to ensure that nothing will go wrong during underwriting.

Recommended: See Local Housing Market Trends by City

How to Know If You Need a Mortgage Commitment Letter

Buyers don’t need to provide a mortgage commitment letter to a seller. Still, that extra step beyond preapproval indicates how serious they are about a property.

Since it may require a little extra work, it shows sellers that a buyer is less likely to back out, especially due to financing issues.

A mortgage commitment letter could convince a seller to take a buyer more seriously in a seller’s market. And it could calm the nerves of buyers who face home-buying angst, including the challenge of covering a down payment and closing costs (even if they plan to roll closing costs into the loan).

How to Get a Mortgage Commitment Letter

Getting a mortgage commitment letter might sound like a hassle during an already stressful home-buying process, but doing so could save buyers time and provide a sense of relief as they creep closer to closing.

First off, buyers will need to be preapproved. If they have chosen a home, once under contract, their lender or underwriter will want more information, which may include:

•   A gift letter if another party is helping with the down payment

•   Employment verification

•   Explanation of any late payments

•   Proof of debts paid and settled

From there, it could be a back-and-forth between the lender and buyer, with the lender asking for clarification or additional documentation. Common issues that arise include:

•   Tax returns with errors or inconsistencies

•   Unexplained deposits into buyer bank accounts

•   Multiple late payments or collections on a credit report

•   Unclear pay stubs

At this point, the lender may grant a conditional commitment letter, with the caveat of additional information and an appraisal. If the buyer has an appraisal and meets lender expectations with documentation, they’re likely to get a final commitment.

Contents of a Commitment Letter

A commitment letter will vary from lender to lender but generally include the following details:

•   Loan amount

•   Loan number

•   What the loan is for

•   Mortgage loan term

•   Type of loan

•   Lender information

•   Expiration date of the commitment letter

What happens after the commitment letter? The lender and underwriter will continue to iron out the mortgage details, aiming for cleared-to-close status before the closing date on the property.

The Takeaway

A mortgage commitment letter is like a short engagement before the wedding: It signals an agreement before the real deal. Buyers in an active seller’s market might find a mortgage commitment letter advantageous.

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 long does it take to get a mortgage commitment letter?

It typically takes 20 to 45 days to get a mortgage commitment letter. The average closing process takes 50 days.

Does a mortgage commitment letter expire?

Yes.

How long is a mortgage commitment letter valid?

Timing can vary by lender, but the length of commitment is typically 30 days.


Photo credit: iStock/MartinPrescott

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


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


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

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

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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couple standing outside of their home

Preapproved vs Prequalified: What’s the Difference?

What does it mean to be prequalified or preapproved for a mortgage? One lets a future homebuyer dream, and the other takes that homebuyer one giant step closer to reality. Here’s a look at how these two steps vary, how each can play a part in a home-buying strategy, and how one in particular can increase the chances of having a purchase offer accepted.

What Does Prequalified Mean?

Getting prequalified is a way of finding out how much you might be able to borrow to purchase a home, using the most basic information about your finances. Getting prequalified by phone or online usually takes just minutes.

Here’s how it goes: You provide a few financial details to mortgage lenders. The lenders use this unverified information, usually along with a soft credit inquiry, which does not affect your credit scores, to let you know how much you may be able to borrow and at what interest rate.

Getting prequalified can give homebuyers a general idea of loan programs, the amount they may be eligible for, and what monthly payments might look like, the way a home affordability calculator provides an estimate based on a few factors.

You might want to get prequalified with several lenders to compare monthly payments and interest rates, which vary by mortgage term. But because the information provided has not been verified, there’s no guarantee that the mortgage or the amount will be approved.

What Does It Mean to Be Preapproved?

After you get prequalified, you can consider the options before you from a range of lenders. You’ll want to brush up on types of mortgage loans, and then zero in on the lender — and loan — you feel is the best fit. Then you’ll face the probe known as mortgage preapproval.

Preapproval for a mortgage loan requires a more thorough investigation of your income sources, debts, employment history, assets, and credit history. Verification of this information, along with a hard credit pull from all three credit bureaus (which may cause a small, temporary reduction in your credit scores) allows the lender to conditionally preapprove a mortgage before you shop for homes.

A preapproval letter from a lender stating that you qualify for a loan of a specific amount can be useful or essential in a competitive real estate market. When sellers are getting multiple offers, some will disregard a purchase offer if it isn’t accompanied by a preapproval letter.

When seeking preapproval, besides filling out an application, you will likely be asked to submit the following to a lender for verification:

•   Social Security number and card

•   Photo ID

•   Recent pay stubs

•   Tax returns, including W-2 statements, for the past two years

•   Two to three months’ worth of documentation for checking and savings accounts

•   Recent investment account statements

•   List of fixed debts

•   Residential addresses from the past two years

•   Down payment amount and a gift letter, if applicable

The lender may require backup documentation for certain types of income. Freelancers may be asked to provide 1099 forms, a profit and loss statement, a client list, or work contracts. Rental property owners may be asked to show lease agreements.

You should be ready to explain any negative information that might show up in a credit check. To avoid surprises, you might want to order free credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com. A credit report shows all balances, payments, and derogatory information but does not give credit scores.

Knowing your scores is also helpful. There are a few ways to check your credit scores without paying.

Those who have filed for bankruptcy may have to show documentation that it has been discharged.

Calculate Your Potential Mortgage

Use the following mortgage calculator to get an idea of what your monthly mortgage payment would look like.

Do Preapproval and Prequalification Affect Credit Scores?

Getting prequalified shouldn’t affect your credit scores. Only preapproval requires a hard credit inquiry, which can affect scores. But the good news for mortgage shoppers is that multiple hard pulls are typically counted as a single inquiry as long as they’re made within the same 14 to 45 days.

Newer versions of FICO® allow a 45-day window for rate shoppers to enjoy the single-inquiry advantage; older versions of FICO and VantageScore 3.0 narrow the time to 14 days.

You might want to ask each lender you apply with which credit scoring model they use.

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


Do I Have to Spend How Much I’m Preapproved for?

No! The preapproval amount is your maximum house-hunting budget. Staying well under that number can’t hurt and might free up money for, say, a college fund, retirement, or — groan — emergency home repairs.

Recommended: Guide to First-Time Home Buying

Are Prequalification and Preapproval the Same Thing?

By now you know that they are not one and the same. Here’s a visual on what’s needed for each:

Prequalification

Preapproval

Info about income Recent pay stubs
Basic bank account information Bank account numbers and/or recent bank statements
Down payment amount Down payment amount and desired mortgage amount
No tax information needed Tax returns and W-2s for past two years

Do I Need a Prequalification Letter to Buy a House?

No. Nor do you have to have a preapproval letter when making an offer on a house.

But getting prequalified can allow you to quickly get a ballpark figure on a mortgage amount and an interest rate you qualify for, and preapproval has at least three selling points:

1.    Preapproval lets you know the specific amount you are qualified to borrow from a particular lender.

2.    Going through preapproval before house hunting could take some stress out of the loan process by easing the mortgage underwriting step. Underwriting, the final say on mortgage approval or disapproval, comes after you’ve been preapproved, found a house you love and agreed on a price, and applied for the mortgage.

3.    Being preapproved for a loan helps to show sellers that you’re a vetted buyer.

The Takeaway

Prequalified vs. preapproved: If you’re serious about buying a house, it’s important to know the difference. Getting prequalified and then preapproved may increase the odds that your house hunt will lead to a set of jangling keys.

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.


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


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


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

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

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

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

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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10 Step Guide to Building Your Own Home

10-Step Guide to Building Your Own Home

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

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

10 Steps to Building Your Own Home

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

1. Find a Location

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

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

2. Obtain Permits

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

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

3. Prep the Site and Your Finances

Site Prep

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

Size and Cost

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

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

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

Finance Options

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

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

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

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

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

Check out these additional resources for homeowners.

Choosing Materials

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

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

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

Building a Work Team

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

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

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

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


4. Pour the Foundation

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

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

5. Set Up Plumbing

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

6. Assemble the Frame, Walls, and Roof

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

7. Install Insulation, Complete Electric and Plumbing Installs

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

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

8. Hang Drywall and Install Interior Fixtures and Trim

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

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

9. Install Exterior Fixtures

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

10. Install the Flooring

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

Recommended: First-Time Homebuyer Guide

Is It Cheaper to Buy or Build a New House?

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

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

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

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

3 Home Loan Tips

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

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

FAQ

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

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

How long will it take to build a home?

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

Is it dangerous to build a home yourself?

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

Are there safe financing options for self-build projects?

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


Photo credit: iStock/Giselleflissak

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Multi-Family Homes Are and Their Pros & Cons

Multifamily Home Need-to-Knows

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

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

What Is a Multifamily Home?

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

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

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

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

Multifamily Homes vs Single-Family Homes

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

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

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

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

Pros and Cons of Multifamily Homes

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

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

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

As Investment

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

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

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

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

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

As Residence

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

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

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

What are multifamily homes’ pros and cons as residences?

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

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

Recommended: Tips to Qualify for a Mortgage

Who Are Multifamily Homes Right For?

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

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

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

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

What to Look for When Buying a Multifamily Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Multifamily Homes

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

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

FAQ

What is the difference between residential and multifamily?

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


Photo credit: iStock/krzysiek73

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


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


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

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

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

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

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