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Strategies for Lowering Your Student Loan Interest Rate

When you’re in college, you don’t have a lot of control over the interest rates on your student loans. With federal loans, the U.S. Department of Education sets the rate each year for all borrowers. And if you get private student loans, a limited credit history can make it hard for young people to score favorable terms.

But once you graduate, there are a few things you can try to save money on interest. Here are a few tips that may lower your interest rate on student loans.

Refinancing Your Student Loans

Scoring discounts with your current servicer can help you get a lower student loan interest rate, but there is another option to consider. Depending on your financial profile, you may qualify for a lower student loan interest rate than what you’re currently paying with student loan refinancing.

There are multiple advantages to refinancing student loans. You can potentially lower your interest rate by bundling several loans (federal and private) into one new loan. And if you shorten your loan term, you may be able to pay off your student loans much faster and pay less in interest over the life of your loan.

Student Loan RefinancingStudent Loan Refinancing

Student loan refinancing is ideal for borrowers with high-interest student loans who have good credit scores and know they won’t use any of the federal loan benefits, like student loan forgiveness. (All federal loan benefits, including income-based repayment, will be lost if you refinance.)

Here are a few things that can help you improve your chances of getting a lower student loan interest rate with refinancing:

•   A high credit score: Lenders typically have a minimum credit score requirement, so the higher your score, the better your chances of getting a low rate usually are.

•   A low debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: Your income is also an important factor that lenders consider, especially as it relates to your overall debt burden. If a smaller portion of your monthly income goes toward debt payments, it shows you may have more income to dedicate to your new loan’s payments.

•   A co-signer: Even if your credit and income situation is in good shape, having a co-signer with great credit and a solid income might help your case.

•   A variable rate: Some student loan refinance lenders offer both variable and fixed interest rates. Variable interest rates may start out lower but increase over time with market fluctuations. Fixed rates, stay the same over the life of the loan. If you’re planning on paying off your student loans quickly, a variable rate might save you money.

•   The right lender: Each lender has its own criteria for setting interest rates, so it’s important to shop around to find the best lender for your needs. Some lenders, including SoFi, even allow you to view rate offers before you officially apply.

💡 Quick Tip: Enjoy no hidden fees and special member benefits when you refinance student loans with SoFi.

Consolidate Your Student Loans

Have multiple student loans floating around that you’d love to combine into one? Consider loan consolidation, where you’ll merge all your student loans into one easy monthly payment with a single interest rate. Here’s the rub, though: Consolidation alone does not necessarily get you a lower student loan interest rate. It just offers you one payment instead of multiple.

When consolidating federal student loans, you can use a Direct Consolidation Loan. Your new interest rate is simply the weighted average of all your current student loan interest rates. The weighted average might be a smidge higher than the interest rates you were paying previously. Often folks utilize consolidation to stretch out the life of their student loan, which lowers your payments but may increase the amount you owe over time.

Even though consolidation itself is not a direct way to get a better rate on your student loans, it can be helpful if you’re having trouble keeping track of your monthly payments. Consolidation may also be useful if you want to merge non-direct federal loans (like Perkins loans) with direct loans, in order to qualify for income-driven repayment and/or loan forgiveness programs.

By the way, the term “consolidating” is often used interchangeably with “refinancing,” but they technically mean different things. When refinancing student loans, you also happen to be consolidating, but it is done with the goal of achieving a more favorable interest rate on your student loans.

Recommended: The Basics of the Student Loans

Set Up Automatic Payments

Many student loan servicers — both federal and private — offer an interest rate discount if you set up autopay on your account. Depending on the servicer, you can lower your student loan interest rate. SoFi, for example, offers a 0.25% autopay discount.

The reason servicers offer this discount is that by setting up automatic payments, you’re less likely to miss payments and default on the loan.

In addition to getting a lower student loan interest rate, you’ll also (hopefully!) have peace of mind knowing that you won’t accidentally miss a payment. If you feel you’re putting a little too much money toward student loans, check with your loan servicer to see whether they offer an autopay discount.

💡 Quick Tip: Refinancing could be a great choice for working graduates who have higher-interest graduate PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans.

Get a Loyalty Discount

In addition to an autopay discount, some private student loan companies also offer a loyalty discount when you have another eligible account with them.

If you’re already a member with SoFi, for instance, you receive an interest rate discount of 0.125% on all new loans.

Other lenders may require that you have an eligible checking or savings account with them to qualify for the bonus, and you may even get a bigger discount if you make your monthly payments from that account.

To get an idea of how a change in interest rate would impact your loan, take advantage of a student loan refinance calculator to see what your new payments could be.

Choose the Right Repayment Plan

If you don’t choose a specific repayment path, you’re typically opted into the Standard Repayment Plan. In this plan, your payments are generally based on a 10-year timeline. But this one-size-fits-all plan is not the best option for everyone.

The federal government also offers four income-driven repayment (IDR) plans — Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), and Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) — where the monthly payments are based on your income and family size. While choosing one of these plans may lower your monthly payments, it will likely not alleviate how much interest you pay over time. In fact, you might even pay significantly more.

After 20 or 25 years, depending on the IDR plan, any remaining balance is forgiven. However, the amount forgiven may be considered taxable income by the IRS. So even though your student loan debt goes away, prepare yourself for a big tax bill that year.

Another money-saving repayment option for federal student loans is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. If you work in a qualifying public service job — for the government or a nonprofit organization — you might be eligible to have your student loans forgiven after 10 years of service.

You can confirm whether your work qualifies here. You’ll want to submit an Employment Certification as soon as possible to be sure that you’re on track to qualify.

Recommended: 4 Student Loan Repayment Options, and How to Choose

Lower Your Student Loan Interest Rate

There are several ways to get a lower student loan interest rate. It can be as easy as calling your servicer to find out what discounts are available. You can also choose a new repayment plan, consolidate your federal loans, or refinance federal and private loans. With refinancing, you may secure a lower interest rate if you have a high credit score, low debt-to-income ratio, a cosigner, or a variable interest rate. Just know that when refinancing federal student loans, borrowers lose federal protections and forgiveness.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

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 Equal Housing Lender.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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.

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 Complete Guide to Out of State Tuition

When considering colleges, admissions rates can seem like the biggest hurdle. But as acceptances roll in and you begin to look at tuition rates, you may see a huge difference between in-state and out-of-state options.

If you’re considering out-of-state schools, tuition can be much more expensive than it is for in-state students. In some cases, it may seem more on par with what you might have expected to pay for private schools.

Does that mean you should exclusively look within your state? That depends on your goals, finances, and what you want out of your college experience. Some people decide to go out of state for programs that aren’t offered in local institutions, some are drawn to a new adventure, and some the opportunity to move away from home.

Regardless of where your first choice college may be, understanding the financial implications of your decision can help you decide on financial aid packages and know what you’re getting into, finance — wise, before you make a final decision.

What Does Out-of-State Tuition Mean?

As you decide which colleges you’ll apply to, you may have public and private colleges on your list. Public colleges are colleges that are funded by a state and receive significant public funds, including taxpayer dollars, to function. Private colleges are not owned by the state and are privately held, with funding coming from tuition, research grants, endowment funds, and charitable donations.

Private colleges do not differentiate their tuition plans based on residency. Public colleges and universities, on the other hand, rely on tax dollars, so they do base their tuition plans on residency. That’s because residents are already “paying” for the university or college through their tax dollars. Out-of-state students, who are not paying local or state colleges, are given a higher price tag.

Whether you’re applying in-state or out-of-state, it’s important to remember that the “price tag” of college tuition is independent of any financial aid, scholarships, loans, or grants you might have available.

Recommended: Private vs. Public College: What to Know When Deciding

Lowering the Bills on Out-of-State Tuition

Out-of-state tuition can cause sticker shock — and may lead to sizable loans. According to Education Data, the average cost of tuition at a public out-of-state college or university is $26,382. In-state tuition averages around $9,212 for the same degree. This number is independent of additional costs, such as housing and books.

While the sticker shock is real, there may be some workarounds that open up your options without piling on unnecessary expenses.

Reciprocal Tuition and Tuition Exchanges

Some states, such as Wisconsin and Minnesota, offer what’s called reciprocal tuition — in-state tuition offered for residents of both states. There are also some tuition exchanges and discount programs.

For example, the New England Board of Higher Education offers a tuition break program that offers discounts to New England residents when they enroll in another New England college. This savings may be as much as $8,000. Certain rules and restrictions apply. For example, you may have to prove the degree you wish to receive is not offered within public universities in your state.

Speaking with your guidance counselor or your financial aid office may be helpful in determining whether these types of programs are available and eligible for you.

Becoming a Resident

“Residency” for in-state tuition isn’t as simple as moving into the dorms. Residency rules vary by state and university. In some cases, residency requires that individuals live in the state for at least twelve months, be financially independent (if your parents/guardians aren’t living in the same state), and have “intent”— i.e., there’s a reason why you’re living in-state beyond just attending school. In some cases, intent to remain in a state can include getting a driver’s license, filing taxes, or registering to vote in that state. States may have differing requirements for defining intent, so it can be worth confirming requirements for the state in which you plan to attend school.

Because residency rules can be strict, establishing residency may not make sense for everyone. But if you’re considering grad school or are going to undergrad as an independent or nontraditional student (someone who doesn’t fit the mold of a recent high school graduate attending college), then it may make sense to establish residency first. This can also help you familiarize yourself with the university and assess whether it’s where you want to spend the next few years.

Starting at Community College

If you have your heart set on a pricey out-of-state school, one way to potentially save is to begin your education at a community college. Like public colleges and universities, community colleges receive government subsidies that can make tuition more affordable. By commuting to a community college and obtaining general education credits, you can then potentially transfer to an out-of-state institution to finish your education and potentially minimize loans.

Considering aid packages

Some private and public schools offer free or reduced-cost college tuition. These “free tuitions” are generally earmarked for students coming from families who make less than a set adjusted gross income, usually around $65,000 per year.

Some public universities also may offer generous scholarship packages to out-of-state students who reflect academic or athletic talent. If you get accepted to a school and receive a financial aid package, it may be worth speaking with the financial aid office to make sure you understand what the package entails. Typically, financial aid packages encompass grants, scholarships, and federal student loans.

Should You Go Out-of-State for College?

There is no right answer when it comes to which college is the best choice for you. But to prepare for college decisions, it can be a good idea to look beyond the honor of admission and consider the financials.

Comparing financial aid packages, assessing additional sources of tuition payment, including family contributions and private scholarships, and assessing how you might pay back your loans can all help you decide the best option for your future and for your wallet. It’s also important to remember that nothing is set in stone.

Regularly assessing your college experience — including the financials — can help determine whether you’re on a path that makes sense for you.

There is no “right” or “wrong” school or path and the right plan for you depends on a variety of factors. Speaking with people who graduated from your prospective school in your intended major can give you an idea of career paths. It can also be helpful to take advantage of any financial aid talk or info session available to get a realistic look at what it may be like when you begin to pay back loans.

The Takeaway

At the end of the day, the best decision for you may be the one that addresses your goals and your finances. Understanding different avenues for tuition discounts, including geographic-based tuition exchanges, can open up avenues to less-expensive degree paths. For some students, including grad students, establishing residency may make sense to obtain in-state tuition.

Tuition is complicated, and scholarships, grants, federal loans, private loans, and family contributions are all part of paying for school. You also may use this time to assess the what-ifs: What if circumstances change and a tuition fee that was possible this year becomes impossible next year due to job loss or other change in circumstance? What sort of private loans are available, and what terms do they offer?

For example, students who did take out student loans for college or graduate school may consider refinancing after they graduate. In some cases, refinancing your student loans can help qualifying borrowers secure a lower interest rate, which may make the loan more affordable in the long-term.

Refinancing federal loans eliminates them from borrower protections, like income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness, so it’s not the right choice for all borrowers.

Assessing the tuition price of each place you’re accepted — and considering private loan options, if necessary — can be an integral factor in making a decision that makes sense for all aspects of the next step in your educational journey.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

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 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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Where Do You Pay off Student Loans?

If you’re wondering where you go to pay off your student loans, you’ll first need to contact your loan servicer. If you aren’t sure who your loan servicer or loan holder is, you can contact the U.S. Department of Education for federal loans. For private student loans, you can contact the bank or lender who originated your loans.

Contact Your Student Loan Servicer

Before paying back student loans, graduates will have to figure out who their student loan servicer is. A student loan servicer is the company assigned by the U.S. Department of Education (federal student loan creator) to take care of the day to day servicing of a federal student loan. If a person needs to talk to someone about their federal student loan, they can reach out to the servicers instead of traveling to a government office.

Students don’t have to do anything for their loan to be transferred to a loan servicer. The federal student loan will be transferred to a servicer after its first disbursement. Once that happens, students should expect to be contacted by the servicer.

But, unexpected moves or outdated contact information could mean the servicer doesn’t reach you. If a student needs help figuring out who their servicer is, one option is to call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC): 1-800-433-3243.

However, the FSAIC can only help students figure out their servicer if they hold federal student loans, not private student loans.

Another option for borrowers with federal student loans is to log into their Federal Student Aid account. From this portal, borrowers can access information on their student loan servicer.

Federal student loan borrowers can also check the National Student Loan Data System to find information about their loan servicer.

Once a student figures out their loan student servicer and contacts them, they can begin sorting through the repayment process. A loan servicer should help a student figure out how to repay loans free of charge.

Be warned, any federal loan servicer that asks for payment may be a scam, warns the U.S. Department of Education.

Recommended: How to Find Out Who Your Student Loan Lender Is

Grace Periods

A loan servicer can help students and graduates figure out when their loan repayment will begin. Most, but not all, federal student loans have a six-month grace period, or an allotted amount of time before a student has to start paying back the loan.

The student loan grace period generally begins once a student graduates, leaves school, or enrolls in class less than part-time. This time is meant for students to get in contact with their loan servicer and begin setting up a repayment plan so they don’t have to scramble post-graduation when so many other changes are happening.

Students should be aware that interest on their unsubsidized loans may be accruing during their grace period. For that reason, some students may decide to begin repayment before the grace period is up in order to keep the interest capitalization down.

Borrowers with subsidized student loans will not accrue interest on their loans during their grace period.

There are some circumstances that can extend or end a grace period early:

•   Being called into active military duty. This will restart the grace period, which will begin again once the student returns.

•   Going back to school before the end of the grace period. If a student goes back to school at least part-time, then they won’t have to repay their loans until they finish school, in which case they’ll have another six-month grace period.

•   Consolidating loans. If a student decides to consolidate or refinance a loan before the end of the grace period, they’ll start their repayment as soon as the paperwork is processed.

Selecting a Repayment Plan

During the grace period, students can work with their loan servicer and other online tools to figure out the right repayment plan for them.

There are several student loan repayment plans a student can choose from, depending on their finances and the type of federal student loans they have.

•   Standard Repayment Plan. All federal loan borrowers are eligible for this repayment plan. Payments are in a fixed amount each month and sets borrowers up to pay off their loan within 10 years.

•   Graduated Repayment Plan. This plan starts out with low monthly payments that gradually increase every two years. Payments are made monthly for up to 10 years for most loans (10-30 years for consolidated loans).

•   Extended Repayment Plan. In this plan, standard or graduated payments are made monthly, but at a lower rate over a longer period of time, typically 25 years.

•   SAVE. The Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan is the newest income-driven repayment plan. Payments are calculated as 10% of a person’s discretionary income; starting in July 2024, that will drop to 5%, and some participating borrowers will see their loan balances forgiven in as little as 10 years.

•   Income-Based Repayment Plan. The income-based repayment plan allows for monthly payments that are roughly 10-15% of a person’s monthly income, but borrowers must have a high debt-to-income ratio to qualify.

•   Income-Contingent Repayment Plan. In the Income-Contingent Repayment Plan, eligible borrowers will make monthly payments based on the lesser value of either 20% of their income, or the “amount you would pay on a repayment plan with a fixed payment over 12 years, adjusted according to your income,” according to the Department of Education.

•   Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan. This plan is only available under a few federal loan programs. Payments are based on annual income, and the loan will be paid off within 15 years.

Depending on a borrower’s income and the type of loan they took out, they can work with their servicer to determine which student loan repayment plan might be the best course of action. If a borrower doesn’t reach out to their servicer to coordinate a repayment plan before the end of the grace period, they will be on the Standard Repayment Plan by default.

Start Repaying Student Loans

Once a repayment plan is selected and the grace period draws to a close, borrowers will begin making payments on their student loans.

Where a borrower will make their payment is dependent upon who their student loan servicer is. Most student loan servicers make it possible for borrowers to make monthly payments online, but it’s best to confirm that with the servicer before payments begin.

Most servicers also have an automatic payments set-up, where monthly payments are automatically debited out of borrowers’ accounts each month. Setting up automatic payments can help borrowers avoid missing a payment or racking up late fees.

Additionally, some federal student loans provide a discount when a borrower sets up automatic repayment online. For example, if a borrower has a Direct Loan, their interest rate is reduced by 0.25% when they choose automatic debit.

Repaying Private Student Loans

Private student loans are generally repaid directly to the bank or financial institution that issued them. Borrowers can check their statements to see who the loan servicer is. Generally, payments can be made online.

Refinancing with SoFi

When a borrower works with their student loan servicer, they can take advantage of free tools that might help them pay back their student loans quicker.

But, for some student loan borrowers, the existing interest rates and repayment plans offered by a servicer might not be the best fit.

In that case, borrowers may have the option of refinancing student loans. This can be helpful when there are multiple loans to pay off since refinancing allows borrowers to combine multiple loans into a new single loan and qualifying borrowers may be able to secure a lower interest rate.

Refinancing federal student loans eliminates them from all federal benefits and borrower protections, such as income-driven repayment plans and deferment. If you are or plan on using federal benefits, it is not recommended to refinance student loans.

SoFi’s student loan refinancing offers flexible terms and competitive interest rates. With no hidden fees or pre-payment penalties, borrowers can apply for refinancing in an easy online process — no phone calls required.

The first step to figuring out student loan repayment is figuring out who holds the loan, but with the right help, borrowers can have a plan set up to conquer their loans before the grace period is even finished.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

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 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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What Is a Mortgage? Understanding the Basics

If you’re dreaming of owning your own home, whether that means a cute Colonial or a loft-style condo, you are likely contemplating financing, and that can mean a mortgage. A home loan can give you the funds required to purchase a property, but there can be a learning curve involved, especially if you are a first-time homebuyer. For instance, what term should you select? How do mortgage interest rates work, and is a fixed rate typically best?

In this guide, you’ll get the scoop on how home loans work, what kind of options you have, and how to assess which loan could be right for you.

What is a Mortgage?

A mortgage loan, also known simply as a mortgage, is issued to a borrower who is either buying or refinancing real estate.

The borrower signs a legal agreement that gives the lender the ability to take ownership of the property if the loan holder doesn’t make payments according to the agreed-upon terms.

Once issued a mortgage, the homebuyer will pay monthly principal (that’s the lump sum of the loan) and interest payments for a specific term. The most common term for a fixed-rate mortgage is 30 years, but terms of 20, 15, and even 10 years are available.

A shorter-term translates to a higher monthly payment but lower total interest costs. Put another way, you pay more every month, but the amount of interest over the life of the loan is lower.

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

A Buffet of Mortgage Choices

When homebuyers apply for a loan, they’ll need to choose whether they want a fixed interest rate or an adjustable rate and the length of the loan.

Fixed-Rate Mortgage

The interest rate on the home loan doesn’t change, so the monthly principal and interest payment remains the same for the life of the loan. Whether mortgage rates increase or decrease, the loan holder is locked in for their monthly payment.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)

With an ARM, the interest rate is generally fixed for an initial period of time, such as five, seven, or 10 years, and then switches to a variable rate of interest. The rate fluctuates with the rate index that it’s tied to.

As the rate changes, monthly payments may increase or decrease. These loans generally have yearly and lifetime interest rate caps (or maximums) that limit how high the variable rate can adjust to.

Next, borrowers will need to decide what type of mortgage loan works best for them.

Conventional Loans

Conventional loans are loans that are not backed by a government agency and must adhere to the requirements of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or other investors. Typically, conventional loans are issued with at least 3% down. However, it’s worth noting that private mortgage insurance (commonly known as PMI) is generally required on loans with a down payment of less than 20%.

The coverage protects the lender against the risk of default. Your mortgage servicer must cancel your PMI when the mortgage balance reaches 78% of the home’s value or when the mortgage hits the halfway point of the loan term, if you’re in good standing.

PMI typically costs 0.2% to 2% of the loan amount per year.

Down payment: Generally between 3% and 20% of the purchase price or appraised value of the home, depending on the lender’s requirements.

FHA Loans

Loans insured by the Federal Housing Authority, or FHA loans, can be attractive to first-time homebuyers or those who struggle to meet the minimum requirements for a conventional loan.

These loans usually require a one-time upfront mortgage insurance premium (or MIP vs. PMI), which typically can be added to the mortgage, and an annual insurance premium, which is collected in monthly installments for the life of the loan in most cases.

Down payment: Starts at 3.5%

Recommended: First-Time Homebuyer Guide

VA Loans

Loans guaranteed by the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs are available to veterans, active-duty service members, and eligible surviving spouses.

VA-backed loans require a one-time “VA funding fee,” which can be rolled into the loan. The fee is based on a percentage of the loan amount and may be waived for certain disabled vets. The current range is from 1.5% to 3.3% of the loan amount.

Down payment: None for approximately 80% of VA-backed home loans.

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

How Does a Mortgage Work?

There are several components to a monthly mortgage payment.

Principal: The principal is the value of the loan. The portion of the payment made toward the principal reduces how much a borrower owes on the loan.

Interest: Each month, interest will be factored into payments according to an amortization schedule. Even though a borrower’s fixed payment may stay the same over the course of the loan, the amount allocated toward interest generally decreases over time while the portion allocated to principal increases.

Taxes: To ensure that a borrower makes annual property tax payments, a lender may collect monthly property taxes with the monthly mortgage payment. This money can be kept in an escrow account until the property tax bill is due, and the lender can make the property tax payment at that time.

Homeowners insurance: Mortgage lenders usually require evidence of homeowners insurance, which can cover damage from catastrophes such as fire and storms. As with property taxes, many lenders collect the insurance premiums as part of the monthly payment and pay for the annual insurance premium out of an escrow account. Depending on your property location, you may have to add flood, wind, or other additional insurance.

Mortgage insurance: When a borrower presents a down payment of less than 20% of the value of the home, mortgage lenders typically require private mortgage insurance. When developing a budget for owning a home, it’s important to know the difference between mortgage insurance and homeowners insurance and whether both are required.

Reverse Mortgage Loans: What Are They?

A reverse mortgage is available to homeowners 62 and older to supplement their income or pay for healthcare expenses by tapping into their home equity.

The loan can come in the form of a lump-sum payment, monthly payments, a line of credit, or a combination, usually tax-free. Interest accrues on the loan balance, but no payments are required. When a borrower dies, sells the property, or moves out permanently, the loan must be repaid entirely.

The fees for an FHA-insured home equity conversion mortgage, typically the most common type of reverse mortgage, can add up:

•  An initial mortgage insurance premium of 2% and an annual MIP that equals 0.5% of the outstanding mortgage balance

•  Third-party charges for closing costs

•  Loan origination fee

•  Loan servicing fees

You can pay for most of the costs of the loan from the proceeds, which will reduce the net loan amount available to you.

You remain responsible for property taxes, homeowners insurance, utilities, maintenance, and other expenses.

A HUD site details all the criteria for borrowers, financial requirements, eligible property types, and how to find an HECM counselor, a mandatory step.

If you’re considering a reverse mortgage, learn as much as you can about this often complicated kind of mortgage before talking to a counselor or lender, the Federal Trade Commission advises.

How to Get A Mortgage

For many people, it can be a good idea to shop around to get an idea of what is out there.

Not only will you need to choose the lender, but you’ll need to decide on the length of the loan, whether to go with a fixed or variable interest rate, and weigh the applicable loan fees.

The first step is to have an idea of what you want and then seek out quotes from a few lenders. That way, you can do a side-by-side comparison of the loans.

Once you’ve selected a few lenders to get started with, the next step is to get prequalified or preapproved for a loan. Based on a limited amount of information, a lender will estimate how much it is willing to lend you.

When you’re serious about taking out a mortgage loan and putting an offer on a house, the next step is to get preapproved with a lender.

During the preapproval process, the lender will take a closer look at your finances, including your credit, employment, income, and assets to determine exactly what you qualify for. Once you’re preapproved, you’re likely to be considered a more serious buyer by home sellers.

When shopping around for a mortgage, it can be a good idea to consider the overall cost of the mortgage and any fees.

For example, some lenders may charge an origination fee for creating the loan, or a prepayment penalty if you want to pay back the loan ahead of schedule. There may also be fees to third parties that provide information or services required to process, approve, and close your loan.

To compare the true cost of two or more mortgage loans, it’s best to look at the annual percentage rate, or APR, not just the interest rate. The interest rate is the rate used to calculate your monthly payment, but the APR is an approximation of all of the costs associated with a loan, including the interest rate and other fees, expressed as a percentage. The APR makes it easier to compare the total cost of a loan across different offerings so you can assess what is a good mortgage rate for your budget.

The Takeaway

If the world of mortgages feels like a mystery to you, you are not alone. Before taking on this colossal commitment, it can be best to soak up as much as you can about how mortgage loans work, what kinds of mortgages are available, potential challenges, and steps to qualify. You’ll be better prepared to take on what can be a major step in your personal financial journey.

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.

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.
SoFi On-Time Close Guarantee: If all conditions of the Guarantee are met, and your loan does not close on or before the closing date on your purchase contract accepted by SoFi, and the delay is due to SoFi, SoFi will provide you $2,000.^ Terms and conditions apply. This Guarantee is available only for loan applications submitted after 6/15/22 for the purchase of a primary residence. Please discuss terms of this Guarantee with your loan officer. The property must be owner-occupied, single-family residence (no condos), and the loan amount must meet the Fannie Mae conventional guidelines. No bank-owned or short-sale transactions. To qualify for the Guarantee, you must: (1) Have employment income supported by W-2, (2) Receive written approval by SoFi for the loan and you lock the rate, (3) submit an executed purchase contract on an eligible property at least 30 days prior to the closing date in the purchase contract, (4) provide to SoFi (by upload) all required documentation within 24 hours of SoFi requesting your documentation and upload any follow-up required documents within 36 hours of the request, and (5) pay for and schedule an appraisal within 48 hours of the appraiser first contacting you by phone or email. The Guarantee will be void and not paid if any delays to closing are due to factors outside of SoFi control, including delays scheduling or completing the appraisal appointment, appraised value disputes, completing a property inspection, making repairs to the property by any party, addressing possible title defects, natural disasters, further negotiation of or changes to the purchase contract, changes to the loan terms, or changes in borrower’s eligibility for the loan (e.g., changes in credit profile or employment), or if property purchase does not occur. SoFi may change or terminate this offer at any time without notice to you. ^To redeem the Guarantee if conditions met, see documentation provided by loan officer.

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

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

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

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

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.

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


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How to Pay for Emergency Home Repairs, So You Can Move on ASAP

If you’re a homeowner, you may know those “uh-oh” moments when the basement floods or the roof leaks. If you’re in that situation, you may well need a considerable amount of cash to pay for repairs ASAP.

In this guide, you’ll learn the ballpark prices for some of the most common home repairs so you are better prepared if an emergency strikes. You’ll also gain insight into some financing options so if you find yourself dealing with an unexpected and significant bill, you can decide which source of funding is best for your needs.

How Much Do Common Home Repairs Cost?

From the roof to foundation, there are a lot of things in and on a home that might need to be repaired. Among these features are things that might be emergency home repairs at some point, whether that means you’ve discovered black mold in the basement or a kitchen appliance has conked out. Here, learn about some of the most common home repair costs.

💡 Quick Tip: Some lenders can release funds as quickly as the same day your loan is approved. SoFi personal loans offer same-day funding for qualified borrowers.


A home’s roof has a certain life expectancy, generally based on the material used. A roof made of asphalt shingles might last from 15 to 30 years, while concrete- or clay-tiled roof could last for more than 50 years.

Regular roof inspections are a good way to identify any minor problems, which may typically cost about $220, but can vary with your specific home and the region you live in. Minor repairs might include:

•   Gutter cleaning.

•   Patching leaks.

•   Replacing shingles.

•   Repairing flashing.

Issues found during a roof inspection might average $1,100. Replacing a roof, a major expense, may be necessary at some point in the life of a home. For an average-sized home, a completely new roof can cost $9,217 on average.


Foundation issues can show up as cracks in a home’s walls, floors that are not level, gaps around windows, or doors that don’t close properly. Fixing these symptoms of a foundation issue won’t solve the underlying problem, but repairing the foundation at the earliest sign of the symptoms may mean a less costly foundation repair.

Hiring a structural engineer can be a good first step if there appear to be major foundation problems, as they won’t be trying to sell a product to fix any potential problems, so will likely be unbiased. A structural inspection typically costs about $600.

•   Cracks in a foundation that don’t affect the structure are minor repairs but are best not ignored, lest they lead to major issues. Potential cost: between $250 and $800.

•   A leaking foundation might be the cause of those cracks. Waterproofing a foundation, which may involve excavating around the foundation, installing tile drains, filling cracks, and then coating the structure with a sealant, can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000.

•   A house with a settling or sinking foundation may have flooring that is warped or sloping, doors and windows that don’t open and close properly, or even exterior cracks, or other apparent issues. The cost generally depends on the type of repair. Raising a house using piers can cost between $1,000 and $3,000, while jacking might be between $600 and $1,600.

Water Damage

Water damage in a basement might be due to flooding from a storm or broken water line, for example, and is best fixed quickly so mold doesn’t grow and become another issue to take care of. In addition to being an unpleasant sight, standing water can cause structural or electrical issues in a home. Extraction of the water is generally the first step in this type of repair, followed by any necessary structural repairs.

•   For simple fixes, such as cleaning up after an overflowing toilet, the cost might be around $150.

•   Water damage restoration, though, is a bigger ticket item, averaging between $1,300 and $5,600, though it could go higher. If your entire home’s wood flooring is warped by water damage or basement flooding wrecks your electrical panel, that could spiral into five figures.

Recommended: How Much Does It Cost to Finish a Basement?


If the above water issues are not fixed in a timely manner, mold can grow on the surfaces, requiring additional necessary repairs. In addition to damaging any surface mold grows on, it’s also a serious health hazard, potentially causing allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and skin irritation.

Mold remediation costs average between $5,000 and $30,000 for a 2,000 square foot home. If the mold issue is localized (say, just in the attic or basement), your costs could be anywhere from $500 to $7,500 on average, depending on the specifics of your situation.

Pests and Rodents

Pests and rodents in a home can be more than just annoying. Infestations might cause major damage to a home if left untreated. One-time pest control costs around $450 on average. Ongoing services may cost $50 or more a month.

Attics can be inviting spaces to rodents like mice, rats, or squirrels, or other animals such as raccoons or bats. Eliminating the problem can cost $200 to $600 typically.

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A home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems control the regulation and movement of air throughout the building. Like other components in a home, it’s wise to have an HVAC system inspected regularly to catch any problems before they become serious (as in, needing to pull together the cost of replacing an HVAC system). A standard tune-up for an HVAC system might cost between $150 and $450, with any potential repairs added to that. Some companies might offer ongoing maintenance plans, which could be a cost saver over time.

And what if the entire HVAC system needs replacing? Your price tag could be between $5,000 and $12,000 or higher. This could be a good opportunity to investigate any rebates available. For instance, if you buy an eco-conscious heat pump, you might find rebates as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

💡 Quick Tip: Unsecured home improvement loans don’t use your house as collateral — a relief for many homeowners.


Electrical issues in a house can vary from minor repairs, such as replacing an outlet, to wiring overhauls that may require professional help.

•   Hiring an electrician to replace a home’s outlets, light fixtures, and switches can cost around $280 on average. For someone who is confident in their DIY skills, this relatively simple job can be done for about $5 per outlet.

•   Replacing a circuit breaker or the entire electrical panel is something homeowners might leave to a professional. Costs will depend on the number of breakers being replaced or, in the case of replacing the electrical panel, how many amps. Panel replacement or upgrade can be anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000.

•   Rewiring a home can be quite expensive and include other repairs, such as plaster or drywall repair. To rewire an entire home, a homeowner might expect to pay between $2,500 and $6,000 for a three-bedroom house.

Ways To Finance an Emergency Home Repair

Even with regular inspections and maintenance, sometimes emergency home repairs are necessary. Some roof tiles may blow away, allowing rain in, or mold can take root in a damp basement. How to pay for home repairs (especially major ones) might involve using a variety of sources, depending on what is available and a person’s individual financial circumstances.

Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners insurance may be the first source most homeowners look to when needing to pay for emergency home repairs. The policy will stipulate what is covered, how much the company will pay, and any amount the homeowner might be responsible for, such as a deductible.

Some things a typical homeowners insurance policy might cover are costs to repair or rebuild after a disaster, replacement of personal belongings that were destroyed because of a disaster, or the costs of alternative housing while repairs are being made or a house is being rebuilt.

Emergency Fund

If there is a sufficient amount in an emergency fund, paying for an unexpected home repair with cash on hand is an option that won’t incur interest. How much to save in a home repair emergency fund will depend on the home’s size, age, and value. Older or more expensive homes might mean higher repair costs.

A typical recommendation is to save between 1% and 3% of a home’s value in a home repair emergency fund. So for a home valued at $500,000, this means having between $5,000 and $15,000 saved for emergency home repairs. This is a goal to work toward, but even having $1,000 in savings can be helpful.

If you do dip into your fund to fix your house, it can be like an emergency home repair loan, without any interest charged or monthly repayment schedule.

Home Equity

Homeowners who have built up equity in their homes may choose to use that equity to get money for home repairs. Using this type of financing, however, does come with some risk because the home is used as collateral. If the borrower defaults, the lender may seize the home as a way to repay the debt.

There are two types of loans that are based on a home’s equity: home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).

•   A home equity loan is a fixed-rate, lump-sum loan. It has a set repayment term, and the borrower makes regular, fixed payments consisting of principal and interest.

•   A HELOC also uses the equity a homeowner has built up, but the borrower does not receive a lump sum. Instead, they access the loan funds as needed until the loan term ends. Funds can be borrowed, repaid, and borrowed again, up to the limits of the loan.

HELOCs are variable-rate loans and consist of two periods: a draw period and a repayment period. The draw period is the time during which money can be borrowed, and might be 10 years. The repayment period is the time during which the loan is repaid and might last for 20 years. The combination of the two would make this example a 30-year HELOC.

Recommended: The Different Types Of Home Equity Loans

Assistance Programs

If emergency home repairs are required but the homeowner can’t afford to pay for them, assistance programs might be an option to look into.

•   Government loan or grant assistance. The U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) , Agriculture (USDA), and Veterans Affairs (VA) offer grants and loans to eligible homeowners for home repairs and improvements.

•   Disaster relief. HUD offers several programs for homeowners affected by federally declared disaster areas. HUD partners with other federal and state agencies to provide relief in the form of mortgage assistance, relocation, food distribution, and other types of disaster relief.

•   Community Assistance Programs. Funding assistance may be able to be found by looking at local sources, such as county or city governments or charities. A good place to start a search is through HUD’s state listings .

Credit Card

Using a credit card to finance unexpected and urgent work on your home may seem like an easy fix. It can certainly be a quick way to pay for such repairs and a viable option if you’re thinking of how to pay for home repairs with no money withdrawn from your bank account. There are pros and cons to using a credit card for this purpose.

•   On the positive side: If the credit card is a zero-percent-interest card — and the balance can be paid in full before the promotional period ends — this can be a way to pay for an emergency home repair without paying interest.

•   As for disadvantages, credit cards are more likely to have high-interest rates, which can add a significant amount to the account balance if not paid off quickly.

•   Credit cards also come with borrowing limits. A major emergency home repair might max out this limit or even exceed it.

•   In addition, using all available credit can potentially have a negative effect on a borrower’s credit score. It can raise a person’s credit-utilization ratio. And if they are applying for a loan, it could raise their debt-to-income ratio, which might make getting a favorable loan rate a challenge.

Should I Get a Home Repair Loan?

Another option to pay for emergency home repairs might be a home improvement loan, which is a type of personal loan.

•   An unsecured personal loan does not use collateral, like a home equity loan or HELOC, so the borrower is not risking losing their home if they can’t repay the loan. The potential loan value is also not limited by the amount of equity in the home.

•   An unsecured personal loan may be funded more quickly than a home equity loan or HELOC. Because there is no collateral to determine a value for, this cuts out a potentially time-consuming step included in secured loans.

•   How can you use a personal loan? They can be tapped for a variety of reasons, not just emergency home repairs. If there are expected repairs, planned repairs, or home renovations that might make a home more livable, an unsecured loan can be a good option.

The Takeaway

It’s probably safe to say that nobody likes to think about emergencies. But it’s wise to be prepared in the event that one arises. When pricey home repairs are required, a personal loan may be the option that works best for your financial situation.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2023 winner for Best Online Personal Loan overall.

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 Equal Housing Lender.

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

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.

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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