green and white toy houses

FHA Loans: Requirements, Loan Limits, and Rates

Conventional loans are the most popular kind of mortgage, but a government-backed mortgage like an FHA loan is easier to qualify for and may have a lower interest rate. FHA home loans have attractive qualities, but borrowers should know that mortgage insurance usually tags along for the life of the loan.

As of March 2023, new FHA borrowers will pay less for insurance. The Biden-Harris Administration announced it was reducing premiums by .30 percentage points, lowering annual homeowner costs by $800 on average. The administration hopes the cuts will help offset rising interest rates.

What Is an FHA Loan?

The Federal Housing Administration has been insuring mortgages originated by approved private lenders for single-family and multifamily properties, as well as residential care facilities, since 1934.

The FHA backs a variety of loans that cater to the specific needs of a borrower, such as FHA reverse mortgages for people 62 and older and FHA Energy Efficient Mortgages for those looking to finance home improvements that will increase energy efficiency (and therefore lower housing costs).

But FHA loans are most popular among first-time homebuyers, in large part because of the relaxed credit requirements.

Recommended: Tips to Qualify for a Mortgage

FHA Loan Requirements

If you’re interested in an FHA home loan to buy a single-family home or an owner-occupied property with up to four units, here are the details on qualifying.

FHA Loan Credit Scores and Down Payments

Borrowers with FICO® credit scores of 580 or more may qualify for a down payment of 3.5% of the sales price or the appraised value, whichever is less.

Those with a poor credit score range of 500 to 579 are required to put 10% down.

The FHA allows your entire down payment to be a gift, from a family member, close friend, employer or labor union, charity, or government homebuyer program. The money will need to be documented with a mortgage gift letter.


Besides your credit score, lenders will look at your debt-to-income ratio, or monthly debt payments compared with your monthly gross income.

FHA loans allow a DTI ratio of up to 50% in some cases, vs. a typical 45% maximum for a conventional loan.

FHA Mortgage Insurance

FHA loans require an upfront mortgage insurance premium (MIP) of 1.75% of the base loan amount, which can be rolled into the loan. As of March 2023, monthly MIP for new homebuyers is 0.15% to .75% — most often 0.55%.

For a $300,000 mortgage balance, that’s upfront MIP of $5,250 and monthly MIP of $137.50 at the 0.55% rate.

That reality can be painful, but MIP becomes less expensive each year as the loan balance is paid off.

There’s no getting around mortgage insurance with an FHA home loan, no matter the down payment. And it’s usually only shed by refinancing to a conventional loan or selling the house.

FHA Loan Limits

In 2023, FHA loan limits in most of the country are as follows:

•   Single unit: $472,030

•   Duplex: $604,400

•   Three-unit property: $730,525

•   Four-unit property: $$907,900

The range in high-cost areas is $1,089,300 (for single unit) to $2,095,200 (four-unit property); for Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the range is $1,633,950 (for single unit) to $3,142,800 (for four-unit property).

FHA Interest Rates

FHA loans usually have lower rates than comparable conventional loans.

The annual percentage rate (APR) — the annual cost of a loan to a borrower, including fees — may look higher on paper than the APR for a conventional loan because FHA rate estimates include MIP, whereas conventional rate estimates assume 20% down and no private mortgage insurance.

The APR will be similar, though, for an FHA loan with 3.5% down and a 3% down conventional loan.

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

FHA Income Requirements

There are none. High and low earners may apply for an FHA loan, but they must have at least two established credit accounts.

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

Types of FHA Home Loans


That’s the kind of loan that has been described.

FHA Simple Refinance

By refinancing, FHA loan borrowers can get out of an adjustable-rate mortgage or lower their interest rate.

They must qualify by credit score and income, and have an appraisal of the property. Closing costs and prepaids can usually be rolled into the new loan.

FHA Streamline Refinance

Homeowners who have an FHA loan also may lower their interest rate or opt for a fixed-rate FHA loan with an FHA Streamline Refinance. Living up to the name, this program does not require a home appraisal or verification of income or credit.

The new loan may carry an MIP discount, but you’ll pay the upfront MIP in addition to monthly premiums. An exception: The upfront MIP fee of 1.75% is refundable if you refinance into an FHA Streamline Refinance or FHA Cash-out Refinance within three years of closing on your FHA home loan.

Closing costs are involved with almost any refinance, and the FHA doesn’t allow lenders to roll them into a Streamline Refinance loan. If you see a no closing cost refinance for an FHA loan, that means that instead of closing costs, a lender will charge a higher interest rate on the new loan.

You’ll continue to pay MIP after refinancing unless you convert your FHA loan to a conventional mortgage.

FHA Cash-Out Refinance

You don’t need to have an FHA loan to apply for an FHA Cash-Out Refinance. Whatever kind of loan the current mortgage is, if the eligible borrower has 20% equity in the home, the refinanced loan, with cash back, becomes an FHA loan.

The good news: Homeowners with lower credit scores may be approved. The not-great news: They will have to pay mortgage insurance for 11 years.

Any cash-out refi can trigger mortgage insurance until a borrower is back below the 80% equity threshold.

FHA 203(k) Loan

In addition to its straightforward home loan program, the FHA offers FHA 203(k) loans, which help buyers of older residences finance both the home purchase and repairs with one mortgage.

An FHA 203(k) loan can be a 15- or 30-year fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage.

Some homeowners take out an additional home improvement loan when the need arises.

FHA vs Conventional Loans

Is an FHA loan right for you? If your credit score is between 500 and 620, an FHA home loan could be your only option. But if your credit score is 620 or above, you might look into a conventional loan with a low down payment.

You can also buy more house with a conventional conforming loan than with an FHA loan. Conforming loan limits in 2023 are $726,200 for a one-unit property and $1,089,300 in high-cost areas.

Borrowers who put less than 20% down on a conventional loan may have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) until they reach 20% loan-to-value. But borrowers with at least very good credit scores may be able to avoid PMI by using a piggyback mortgage; others, by opting for lender-paid mortgage insurance.

One perk of an FHA loan is that it’s an assumable mortgage. That can be a draw to a buyer in a market with rising rates.

The Takeaway

An FHA home loan can secure housing when it otherwise could be out of reach, and FHA loans are available for refinancing and special purposes. But mortgage insurance often endures for the life of an FHA loan. The Biden-Harris Administration recently reduced monthly MIP for new homebuyers to help offset higher interest rates.

Some mortgage hunters might be surprised to learn that they qualify for a conventional purchase loan with finite mortgage insurance instead. And some FHA loan holders who have gained equity may want to convert to a conventional loan through mortgage refinancing.

SoFi offers conventional fixed-rate mortgages with competitive interest rates and cancellable PMI, as well as refinancing. Check out SoFi’s low rate home mortgages.

Qualifying first-time homebuyers can put as little as 3% down, and others, 5%.

View your rate today.

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

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

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

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Can You Buy a Second Home Without a Down Payment?

While it is possible to buy a second home without a down payment, the scenarios where you can do so are quite rare.

Traditional zero-down payment programs may not be available to you because you’re no longer a first-time homebuyer. Lenders are also hesitant to offer second home mortgages with low down payments. The down payment requirements for a second home are usually 10% or more.

But you may be in luck: Sometimes you can figure out how to buy a second home with no down payment. Read on to learn:

•   What does buying a second home involve?

•   What are the usual down payment requirements for a second home?

•   How can you buy a second home with no down payment?

What to Know About Buying a Second Home

Buying a second home comes with a different set of guidelines and rules than purchasing your first home. You’re no longer considered a first-time homebuyer, which disqualifies you from many down payment assistance programs. However, your situation will be treated differently depending on how you want to use the property. Consider the following possibilities:

Moving into the Second Home

If your plan is to keep your first home as a rental property and move into the second home, you may have some options. A low interest mortgage loan may be available in one of two ways.

•   USDA loans in approved areas have zero down payment options. You’re allowed to get a second home with a zero-down USDA loan if you meet certain requirements involving citizenship, income, and other factors. You must live in the property as your principal residence, and you cannot have a USDA loan on your first property. In addition, you must financially qualify for both homes. To count rental income for the first home, USDA requires 24 months of rental income history.

Other qualifiers for this kind of loan include:

•   The current home no longer meets your needs for certain reasons (for example, if your family is growing and you live in a two-bedroom home, you’re relocating for a new job, or you’re getting divorced).

•   You don’t have another way to obtain the property without the USDA loan.

•   You can only keep one other house besides the new second home.

If, say, you’re moving from to a new region for a job opportunity and USDA loans are available in the area you’re moving to, it’s possible to keep your first home and buy a second if you meet the above conditions.

Worth noting: An obstacle for borrowers can be that lenders need a way to verify rental income. A signed lease and bank statements may not be enough. Your lender may want to see the rental income reported on your taxes for two years to count.

•   VA Loans may also offer zero down payment options. Available to veterans, service members, and surviving spouses, these government-backed loans can only be used to purchase property that will be a primary residence. So, if you’re moving from one place to another and qualify, you can use a VA loan to purchase the next property with no money down.

Buying the Second Home as a Vacation Home or Rental

Is there a way to buy a second home with no down payment if you plan to use it as a vacation home or rental? Options are few and far between if you’re not planning to use the property as your principal residence. When you’re looking at non-owner-occupied financing, lenders usually want a bigger down payment, not a smaller one.

That said, here are a couple of options that could answer the question of how to buy a second home with no down payment:

•   Private loans: If you finance through a relative or other private source, it’s possible to obtain a no-money-down mortgage. Terms are agreed upon by both parties.

•   Seller financing: Much like a private loan, the conditions of seller financing (aka owner financing) a loan are whatever the two parties agree on. If the seller is willing to let you buy the property with no money down, you might be able to make this work. However, seller financing usually comes with a bigger down payment, not a smaller one.

Do You Need a Down Payment on a Second Home?

Down payment requirements for a second home are usually higher. Lenders also look for a higher credit score. The loftier down payment requirement and credit score reflect the fact that the lender is taking on elevated risk since borrowers are more likely to default on a second home than a first home. A lender may expect your down payment to be right around the average down payment on a house, which is currently 13%.

Yet, your mortgage lender is also looking for a loan that accommodates your unique situation to help you to buy a second home. Though no down payment options are rare, your lender may have access to financial products that allow for a smaller down payment.

Can You Buy Another Home When You Have a Current Mortgage?

If you financially qualify, buying another house when you have a mortgage is possible. Generally speaking, lenders look for a strong credit history and enough income to cover your debts (including the cost of the new mortgage) to determine if you qualify for an additional mortgage.

Recommended: What Is a Second Mortgage?

Using Home Equity as a Down Payment Source

If you don’t have enough cash for a down payment on a second home, you may be able to tap your home equity. A home equity loan or a home equity line of credit (HELOC) can help you access money to use for a down payment on a second home.

Though not all lenders will permit this, using home equity may be possible if you want to keep your first home and have no other way of obtaining enough money for a down payment on your second.

It may be advisable to get a home equity loan or HELOC while you are still living in your first house. This allows you to qualify for owner-occupant rates, which are typically much lower than non-owner-occupied rates.

Recommended: HELOC vs. Home Equity Loan: How They Compare

The Takeaway

While there aren’t many options for financing a second home with no down payment, you may be in luck. There are some no down payment loans available to qualified buyers, and these loans can help you preserve cash for renovations, improvements, and other expenses. Even if you can’t find a no down payment mortgage for a second home, you will likely have a number of financing options you can tap into that may allow you to snag another property.

When you’re thinking about home financing options, whether for a mortgage or a HELOC, you’ll want a flexible, helpful partner to help you through the process. SoFi can do just that. In addition to mortgage loans, we offer a home equity line of credit that can help you tap into your home’s value and use the funds for a variety of purposes. You can access up to 95% of your home’s equity up to $500,000, enjoy low interest rates, and have a dedicated SoFi Mortgage Loan Officer to guide you.

Unlock your home’s value with a home equity loan brokered by SoFi today.


What is the minimum down payment for a second home?

For a second that is not going to be your primary residence, most lenders look for at least a 10% down payment.

How do I buy a second home without 20% down?

With a higher credit score and other financial qualifications, you may be able to find a lender or a program with a required down payment less than 20%.

Can I buy another house if I already have a mortgage?

If you’re a qualified buyer with good debt and income levels with a strong credit history, a lender may be able to approve you for a second mortgage.

Can I use my equity to buy another house?

It may be possible to use home equity to buy another home. Contact a lender to go over your unique situation.

Photo credit: iStock/Nuttawan Jayawan

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

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

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

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Should You Buy or Rent a Home?

For many people, purchasing a home is the very definition of living their best life and achieving the American dream. But it’s not the right choice for everyone or might not be the right move to make at a given moment.

Owning a home may be the biggest financial commitment you’ll ever make, so it makes sense to carefully consider the upsides and downsides of buying vs. renting. Sometimes, the flexibility and affordability possible with renting can be a good fit.

Read on for advice that will help you answer, “Should I rent or buy a house?”

•   Learn the pros and cons of buying vs. renting a home

•   Take a quiz to help you decide if you should buy or rent a home

•   Find out the steps to take when you’re ready to start hitting the open houses

Rent or Buy a Home: Pros and Cons

Deciding whether to rent vs. buy is a very individual decision. There’s no rule about which is better; much will depend on your personal goals and your financial situation.

Here, take a closer look at whether it is better to buy or rent a house.

Advantages of Renting

Here, the upside of being a renter:

•   Low-maintenance lifestyle. Your landlord is typically responsible for repairs and maintenance, so your time and money can be spent elsewhere.

•   Potentially lower monthly expenses. Your landlord may also pay some of your monthly utilities, and you aren’t responsible for paying property taxes.

•   Flexibility. When your lease is up, you can renegotiate or move…across the street or across the country. If you aren’t ready to lock into a location for at least a few years, renting can be a smart step.

•   Low investment. You don’t need to make a big investment (like the down payment and closing costs associated with home buying) when you move into a rental. You might have to put down a security deposit, but that will typically be much less costly.

Disadvantages of Renting

Now, consider the downside of being a renter vs. a homeowner.

•   Rules to follow. Your landlord may have restrictions that you don’t like, such as no pets or no remodeling.

•   Not building wealth. The rent you pay each month doesn’t give you any equity in a property. It just goes to the owner, unless you set up a rent-to-own agreement.

•   Lack of control over your monthly charges. Your rent could spike due to inflation, the housing market heating up in your area, and other factors.

•   Uncertainty. If the owners decide to sell the building you live in, you may need to move unexpectedly and quickly, which can also get expensive.

Advantages of Buying

If you decide to buy vs. rent, here are some of the benefits you may enjoy.

•   Building wealth. As you make mortgage payments, you are usually building home equity.

•   Tax advantages. Homeowners may be able to deduct both mortgage interest and their property tax payments (plus possibly other related expenses) from their federal income taxes if they choose to itemize their deductions.

•   Freedom. You have far fewer restrictions involving remodeling, pet ownership, and so forth. Want to paint a bathroom purple, rip out a wall, or adopt five rescue dogs? Go for it.

•   Stability. You can put down roots in a community and school district. When you decide to move, it’s your decision.

•   Affordability. Sometimes a mortgage payment can be cheaper than rent, especially if you get a good mortgage rate.

Looking at the price-to-rent ratio of a city helps gauge whether it makes more sense to buy or pay a landlord. The housing market dynamics of your location may determine this aspect of whether to buy or rent a house.

Disadvantages of Buying

Now that you know the potential upsides of owning your own home, take a look at the potential drawbacks.

•   High costs. The price of homeownership may be painful in a hot market.

What’s more, accumulating the cash to make a down payment can be challenging and take years of saving. Plus, the closing costs when securing a home can be considerable.

•   Credit score. You typically need to qualify for a mortgage, and your credit score will be a factor. Those with excellent credit scores will get better rates; those with lesser scores may want to wait to build their rating before buying.

•   Maintenance. You’re generally responsible for all repairs, maintenance, and utilities, plus homeowners insurance, property taxes, and any homeowner association (HOA) dues. These can not only impact your finances but also your lifestyle. Taking care of a home and property can require an investment of time and energy.

•   Locked in place. You probably can’t pick up and move on a whim. If you decide to move, until your home is sold, you’re still responsible for mortgage payments and the expenses attached to your new place.

Take the Rent or Buy Quiz

Are You Really Ready to Buy?

When deciding between renting vs. buying a house, the answer may already be clear to you. If you’ve decided to buy, it might make sense to take the following steps.

•   Make sure you’re ready for a long-term commitment. If you’ve saved enough for a down payment and know how much house you can afford, those are good signs. Otherwise, create a home-buying budget and saving plan to get started.

•   Consider if your line of work allows for job continuity with steady income. Have you had this type of income for the past two years or more? That kind of stability can be important to lenders.

•   If your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) appears too high for a loan program you would like to apply for, you may need to consider paying down some debt. To calculate your DTI ratio, divide your monthly debt payments by your monthly gross (pretax) income. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advises renters to consider keeping a DTI ratio of 15% to 20% or less (rent is not included in this ratio). However, mortgage lenders usually like to see a DTI ratio of no more than 36%, though that is not necessarily the maximum.

•   Save money for a down payment, closing costs, and other fees, plus some funds for moving expenses and any remodeling/repairs.

•   Check if your credit score is good enough to buy a house, and, if yours falls short, work on building it.

•   Do a gut check to see if you’re really ready to be your own landlord, meaning being responsible for your own home maintenance, inside and out.

•   Get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage by providing a few financial details to lenders, who usually will do a soft credit check and estimate how much you may be able to borrow and the terms. A pre-qualification or even a pre-approval can also help give you a leg up when you start home shopping.

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

The Takeaway

Should you buy or rent a home? That will be a personal decision, reflecting your finances, the housing market’s dynamics, your willingness to take on the responsibilities of homeownership, and your inclination to put down roots in a certain location. Both owning and renting have pros and cons, and making the right decision will likely require deep thinking and thorough planning.

If you’re ready to become a bona fide homeowner, getting pre-qualified for a mortgage loan with SoFi is quick and convenient. SoFi offers competitive rates and may require as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers.

SoFi: The smart and simple way to find your home mortgage rate.


Is it better to rent or buy a home?

There isn’t a simple yes/no answer to whether it is better to rent or buy a home. Each has its advantages and disadvantages and may or may not suit a person’s needs at a given moment. For instance, owning a home can allow you to build equity and personal wealth, but the maintenance responsibilities and expenses may offset that. Renting may be cheaper, but you may not be able to personalize your space the way you’d like or perhaps own pets.

Is renting cheaper than owning a home?

Renting can be cheaper than owning a home, though that can depend upon housing market conditions in a given area and the particulars of the home in question. In general, people who rent don’t have to pay property taxes and they may not be responsible for the cost of improvements and repairs, which can make things more affordable.

Is homeownership a good investment?

Buying a home can be a good investment. It allows you to build equity and may offer tax deduction opportunities. However, if property taxes rise steeply or major home repairs loom (like a new roof), home ownership could prove financially challenging.

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

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

Mortgage Preapproval Need to Knows

If you’re planning on buying a home, getting mortgage preapproval can give you an edge, especially when the housing market is tight. A mortgage preapproval from a lender lets sellers know that you have tentatively been approved for a specific loan type and amount. Not only does this show that you’re a serious home shopper, it also helps give you a good sense of your budget as you go house-hunting.

Here, you’ll learn the ins and outs of the full mortgage preapproval process, including:

•   What is mortgage preapproval?

•   How does mortgage preapproval vs. prequalification compare?

•   What are the pros and cons of mortgage preapproval?

•   How can you improve your chances of getting preapproved for a mortgage loan?

•   What can you do if you aren’t preapproved for a mortgage?

What Is Mortgage Preapproval?

Mortgage preapproval involves a review of your credit and financial history. If you look like a good candidate for a mortgage, a lender will issue a letter stating that you qualify for a loan of a certain loan amount and at a certain interest rate. The letter is an offer, but not a commitment, to lend you a specific amount. It’s good for up to 90 days, depending on the lender.

You’ll want to shop for homes within the price range of your pre-approved mortgage. Armed with your preapproval for a home loan (which typically arrives as a letter), you can show sellers that you are a serious buyer with the means to purchase a property. In the eyes of the seller, preapproval can often push you ahead of other potential buyers who have not yet been approved for a mortgage.

Once you find a house that you want to buy, you can make an offer. And if the seller accepts, it’s time to finalize your mortgage application. At this point, a loan underwriter will review your application and conduct other due diligence measures, such as having the house appraised to make sure it is valued at the price it’s selling for. If all goes well, the lender will issue a commitment letter, which officially seals the deal on your loan, and you can schedule a closing date.

Preapproval vs Prequalification

If you are house hunting, you will likely hear two different terms regarding early mortgage moves: preapproval and prequalification.

Prequalification involves the review of a few financial details — usually self-reported — such as income, assets, and debt, and then estimates how much of a mortgage the lender thinks you can afford.

When you prequalify for a home loan, you get an idea of what your monthly payment might be and can shop around and see what types of terms and interest rates various lenders offer. While prequalification is not a guarantee that you will actually qualify for a mortgage, it can still be useful as it gives you an idea of how much house you can afford.

Preapproval is a more complicated process than when you prequalify for a home loan. You’ll have to fill out an application with your chosen lender, agree to a credit check, and provide information about your income and assets. Again, preapproval doesn’t mean it’s a done deal that you’ll get the loan, but it is a solid indication of your financial situation and ability to purchase a home.

Preapproval for a home loan is a more in-depth review of your finances to state that your loan application will likely move forward smoothly. Prequalification is a simpler, less involved view of your financial qualifications to get a mortgage. Here are the basic comparison points in chart form:

The Difference Between Preapproval vs. Prequalification

Preapproval Prequalification

•   Can provide leverage when you’re ready to get serious about buying

•   Requires a full application, documentation, and a credit check

•   Tentatively approves you for a loan amount and type

•   Can give you an idea of what you can afford as you start the process

•   Simpler process that just looks at a few financial details you provide

•   Not a guarantee that you will get approved for a mortgage

Recommended: Preapproval vs. Prequalification: Key Differences to Know

Calculate Your Potential Mortgage

To help with the prequalification and preapproval process, use the mortgage calculator below to see what your estimated monthly mortgage would be based on down payment, interest rate, and loan terms.

Mortgage Preapproval Pros and Cons

There are a number of advantages to getting preapproval for a home loan, especially if you’re shopping in a fast-moving market.

Pros of Mortgage Preapproval: The benefits include:

•   An edge in the home-buying process, as sellers will see that you are a serious buyer and have assurance that your financing won’t fall through and sink the deal.

•   More time to shop around for lenders and rates before you’re in a crunch once you’ve found the house you’d like to buy. This can help ensure you get the best deal you can. Plus, your home search might be better targeted because you’ll know how much house you can actually afford.

Cons of Mortgage Preapproval: There are some potential downsides to consider as well:

•   A mortgage preapproval expires. How long does a mortgage preapproval last? The letter is only good for a certain period of time, usually 90 days, so you’ll want to make sure you’re seriously ready to start shopping once you have your mortgage preapproval in hand.

•   Time-consuming application. You’ll need to provide a lot of documentation to get a mortgage preapproval and agree to a hard credit inquiry, which can drag down your credit score, though usually only by a bit.

•   Not guaranteed. Even though your home loan preapproval letter likely has details on your loan amount and type, it is only tentative approval — you still aren’t 100% sure that you will get the loan.

Here are the pros and cons of mortgage preapproval in chart form:

Pros and Cons of Mortgage Preapproval

Pros Cons

•   Can give you an edge in the home-buying process

•   Offers time to compare lenders and rates

•   Lets you know the home loan amount you can afford

•   Only lasts for a set amount of time

•   Requires a hard credit inquiry, which can ding your score

•   Does not guarantee you’ll get the loan

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

Upping Your Odds of Preapproval

There are a number of steps you can take to increase your chances of preapproval or to increase the amount your lender may approve you for.

Build Your Credit

When you apply for any type of loan, lenders want to see that you have a history of properly managing your debt before offering you credit themselves.

You can build your credit history by opening and using a credit card and paying your bills on time. Or you could consider having regular payments, such as your rent, tracked and added to your credit score.

Recommended: What Credit Score Is Needed to Buy a House?

Check Your Credit

If you’ve established a credit history, a first step before applying for a mortgage is to check your credit reports, which are a history of your credit compiled from sources like banks, credit card companies, collection agencies and the government.

The information is collected by the three main credit reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. You’ll want to make sure that the information on your credit reports is correct. Ordering the reports is free once a year through .

If you find any mistakes in your credit report, contact the credit reporting agencies immediately to let them know. You don’t want any incorrect information weighing down your credit score, putting your chances for preapproval at risk.

The free credit reports provided by the nationwide credit reporting agencies do not include your credit score, a number typically between 300 and 850. You can purchase your score directly from the credit reporting agencies, or from FICO®. Your credit card company also may provide your credit score for free, or you could try a money tracker app that updates your credit score weekly and tracks your spending at no cost.

Stay on Top of Debt

Your ability to pay your bills on time has a big impact on your credit score. And if your budget allows, you should aim to make payments in full.

If you have any debts that are dragging down your credit score — for example, debts that are in collection — it’s smart to work on paying them off first, as this could help build your score.

Recommended: Fixed-Rate vs. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

Watch Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio is your monthly debt payments divided by your monthly gross income. If you have $1,000 a month in debt payments and make $5,000 a month, your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is $1,000 divided by $5,000, or 20%.

Mortgage lenders typically like to see a DTI ratio of 36% or less. Some may qualify borrowers with a higher DTI, up to 43%. Lenders may assume that borrowers with a high DTI ratio will have a harder time making their mortgage payments.

If you’re seeking preapproval for a mortgage, it may be beneficial to keep the ratio in check by avoiding large purchases. For example, you may want to hold off on buying a new car until you’ve been preapproved.

Prove Consistent Income

Your lender will want to know that you have enough money coming in each month to cover a potential mortgage payment, so the lender will likely want proof of consistent income for at least two years (that means pay stubs, W-2s, etc.).

For some potential borrowers, such as freelancers, this may be a tricky process since they may have income from various sources. Keep all pay stubs, tax returns, and other proof of income, and be prepared to show those to your lender.

What Happens If Your Mortgage Preapproval is Rejected?

Rejection hurts. But if you aren’t preapproved or you aren’t approved for a large enough mortgage to buy the house you want, you also aren’t powerless. You can ask the lender why it said “no.” This will give you an idea about what you might need to work on in order to secure the mortgage you want.

Then you may want to work on the factors that your lender saw as a sticking point to preapproval. You can continue to work to boost your credit score, lower your DTI ratio, or save for a higher down payment.

If you’re able to pay more upfront, you will typically lower your monthly mortgage payments. Once you’ve worked to make yourself a better candidate for a mortgage, you can apply for preapproval again.

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

The Takeaway

In a competitive market, having a mortgage preapproval letter in hand may give a house hunter an edge. After all, the letter states that the would-be buyer tentatively qualifies for a home loan of a certain amount.

If you’re shopping for a mortgage, give SoFi a look. SoFi Mortgage Loans come with competitive rates, flexible terms, and require as little as 3% down for first-time homebuyers.

SoFi Mortgage Loans: Your smart and simple solution.

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

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

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What is the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation?

The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, or FHLMC, is known as Freddie Mac, the entity created by Congress for the purpose of buying mortgages from lenders to increase liquidity in the market. Freddie Mac was created in 1970 and expressly authorized to create mortgage-backed securities (MBS) to help manage interest-rate risk.

Because the FHLMC buys mortgages, lenders don’t have to keep loans they originate on their books. In turn, these lenders are able to originate more mortgages for new customers. The mortgage market is able to keep capital flowing and offer competitive financing terms to borrowers because of this system. In other words, the market runs more smoothly because of Freddie Mac and its sister company, Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA).

If you want to know more about how this government-sponsored enterprise works and how it affects your money, read on for details on:

•   What is the FHLMC and what are FHLMC loans?

•   What is the difference between Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae?

•   What are Freddie Mac mortgages?

•   How does the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation work?

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae

These organizations, with their friendly-sounding nicknames, serve a very important purpose. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were created for the purpose of stabilizing the mortgage market and improving housing affordability. These government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) do this by increasing the liquidity (the free flow of money) in the market by buying mortgages from lenders. Mortgages are then pooled together into a mortgage-backed security (MBS) and sold to investors. The process created the secondary mortgage market, where lenders, homebuyers, and investors are connected in a single system.

In the past, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae operated as private companies, though they were created by Congress. Fannie Mae came first in 1938, followed by Freddie Mac in 1970. Freddie Mac’s addition in 1970 resulted in the creation of the first mortgage-backed security.

The federal government took over operations at both companies following the financial crisis in 2008. According to the National Association of Realtors, without government support of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, there wouldn’t be very much money available to lend for mortgages.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has oversight of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. On a yearly basis, they assess the financial soundness and risk management of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

What Is the Purpose of the FHLMC?

As mentioned above, the FHLMC, or Freddie Mac, makes the housing market more affordable, stable, and liquid by buying mortgages on the secondary market. When they buy these loans, the retail lenders they buy them from are able to originate more mortgages to new customers and keep the mortgage market flowing smoothly.

There are many types of mortgage loans; the ones that Freddie Mac buys are known as conventional loans. The mortgage loan must meet certain standards (such as loan limits) for Freddie Mac to guarantee they will buy these loans.

In general, the process of successfully obtaining a mortgage usually looks something like this once the buyer has made an offer on a house that’s been accepted:

•   The consumer finds a lender, if they haven’t already done so, and will apply for a mortgage.

•   The lender collects documentation required by the loan type and submits it to underwriting.

•   The underwriter approves the loan.

•   The homebuyer closes on the loan, and mortgage servicing begins

•   The lender sells the loan on the secondary mortgage market to Freddie Mac (or Fannie Mae or Ginnie Mae, depending on what type of loan it is and from what type of lender it originated).

From a homebuyer standpoint, they will see the outward mortgage servicing, which is the entity to which they will send their monthly payment and who takes care of the escrow account. The mortgage servicer is the one who forwards the different parts of the mortgage payment to the appropriate parties.

Mortgage servicing can also be sold from servicer to servicer, but this is different from the sale of a mortgage to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Freddie Mac is also tasked with the responsibility of making housing affordable. There are specific mortgage programs guaranteed by Freddie Mac and offered by lenders.

•   HomeOne®. HomeOne is a mortgage program that offers low down payment options for first-time homebuyers. There are no income or geographic limits.

•   Home Possible®. Home Possible is a program for first-time homebuyers and low- to moderate-income homebuyers. It offers discounted fees and low down payment options.

•   Construction Conversion and Renovation Mortgage. This type of loan combines the costs of purchasing, building, and remodeling into one loan.

•   Manufactured Home Mortgage. For qualified buyers, Freddie Mac can guarantee mortgages when buying manufactured homes that meet their criteria.

•   Relief Refinance/Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). For borrowers with a good repayment history but little equity, loans are available to refinance into a more affordable rate.

Recommended: What Is the Average Down Payment on a House?

Understanding Mortgage-Backed Securities

After a mortgage is acquired from a lender, Freddie Mac can do one of two things: either keep the mortgage on its books or pool it with other, similar loans and create a mortgage-backed security (MBS). These MBS are then sold to investors on the secondary mortgage market.

What’s attractive about a mortgage-backed security to an investor is how secure it is. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee payment of principal and interest. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issue mortgage backed securities now.

Does the FHLMC offer Mortgage Loans?

Freddie Mac does not sell mortgages directly to consumers. You won’t see a Freddie Mac mortgage or an FHLMC loan advertised to consumers. Instead, the FHLMC buys mortgages from approved lenders that meet their standards.

Recommended: What Are the Conforming Loan Limits?

The Takeaway

The housing market in the United States arguably benefits from the role of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. Lenders can essentially originate mortgages to as many borrowers as can qualify. The free flow of capital created by the FHLMC also means mortgages are less expensive for homebuyers all around. In short, the smooth operation of the housing market owes much of its success to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

If you’re shopping for a home and looking for a lending partner, consider what SoFi has to offer. With dedicated loan officers, competitive interest rates, flexible terms, and low down payment options, SoFi Mortgage Loans can offer something for nearly every borrower.

SoFi Mortgage Loans: Simple, smart, flexible.


What does FHLMC stand for?

FHLMC is an abbreviation of Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. It is commonly referred to as Freddie Mac.

What type of loan is FHLMC?

Freddie Mac guarantees conventional loans that adhere to funding criteria, but it does not offer Freddie Mac mortgages directly to consumers.

What is the difference between FNMA and FHLMC?

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac originated in different decades and initially had different purposes, but for the most part, they serve the same purpose today of helping to improve mortgage liquidity and availability.

Photo credit: iStock/Andrii Yalanskyi

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

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

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

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