moving boxes

The Ultimate Moving Checklist

So, you’ve decided to move. Be it for a new job, a fresh start, or just for an adventure in an exciting new locale, moving can be a great way to kick off change in your life.

But before you start assembling boxes, folding clothes, and bubble wrapping your most prized possessions, there are a few key steps — some financial and some practical — you might want to take to ensure a seamless transition. Here’s a moving checklist that can help you get from your old home to your new place with relative ease.

3 Months Before the Move

Pick a Date and Make a Moving Budget

Pick a Day to Move

Assuming your new place is ready to go and you’ve already discussed the move with your current landlord (or have sold your current home), a good first step is to decide on a moving day.

The least expensive times to move are typically during the week. Moving companies will often offer better rates on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday because they aren’t typically as busy as on weekends.

You might also want to try to schedule your move in the morning. This is helpful during the summer, since temperatures aren’t as hot. Also, if you aren’t moving far, an early move will give you a good portion of the day to start getting settled in your new home.

Choose a Moving Company

Once you’ve picked the day, it’s time to pick the mover. You might start your search by asking people you know who have recently moved for recommendations. You can also check out the reviews online and send out a few quote requests to local movers. It can be a good idea to interview and get estimates from at least three movers before making a choice.

Create a Budget

Moving can be costly, and movers may be one of your biggest expenses. The average per-hour cost for a local move is $25 to $50 per mover, per hour. So if you use a two-person team for four hours, it can run at least $200 to $400, just for labor. You may also have to pay for transportation fees, materials, and gas.

For a long-distance move, costs go up considerably. You may need to factor gas, tolls, and lodging if the trip is more than one day, along with additional fees for drivers. All told, a long-distance move can run anywhere from $600 to $10,000 (or more), depending on the moving company you choose, the distance, and the size and amount of your belongings.

When you create your moving budget, you’ll want to factor in other moving costs, which may include:

•  Any penalties you might incur for leaving a lease early

•  Ending a phone, cable, or internet package early

•  Any and all repairs you need to make for your new home

•  Transportation cost to get to your new place

•  Any additional items you need to buy for your new place

Recommended: Things to Budget for After Buying a Home

Inform the Important People in Your Life

Now might be the time to share the news of your move. Your friends and family may already know, but don’t forget to tell other important people about your departure schedule, such as your children’s school and your employer. That way they have plenty of time to make any necessary arrangements.

You may also want to contact a few government agencies. For example, the U.S. Postal Service recommends setting up mail forwarding about two weeks in advance of a move. The service may be in place in as few as three days, but it’s smart to have some wiggle room.

If you’re moving to a new state, you may also want to set up an appointment at your new state’s department of motor vehicles, as you may be required to get a new driver’s license or register your vehicle in that state. And, if you’re moving during election season, reach out to your new area’s voter registration office to ensure you’re all set up to cast your ballot.

Need help financing your move?
Check out SoFi’s relocation loans.


1 Month Before the Move

Evaluate Your Belongings and Declutter

Walkthrough

You might want to do a walkthrough of your current home and look at each and every item you own. Then grab two sticky note pads with different colors, one to represent the things you want to keep and one to represent the things that must go. Every single item should get a sticky note.

Start Selling

Instead of simply throwing away the things you no longer want, you could try to sell them online. After all, your trash could certainly be another person’s treasure. And this way you could have a few dollars in your pocket to spend on buying new things for your new home.

Donate Unwanted, but Still Usable, Items

If you’d prefer to donate some or all of your gently used but no-longer-needed possessions, you may want to reach out to The Salvation Army, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, a local thrift store, or a nearby homeless shelter to arrange for a pickup or delivery.

Recommended: 23 Easy Ideas to Pay It Forward

Call Your Cable, Internet, and Utility Providers

Now might be a good time to call your current cable, internet, and utility providers to let them know when you will be cutting off service. You’ll also want to reach out to providers that service your new home to set up services. That way, you’ll have electricity, WiFi, and everything you need up and running as soon as you get there.

Cancel Other Subscription Services

If you belong to a gym, community supported agriculture (CSA), or any other local group or subscription service, you’ll want to be sure to cancel your membership so you don’t continue to get charged after you move.

Three Weeks to One Week Before the Move

Collect Boxes and Start Packing

Collect Boxes

As the moving date gets closer, it’s time to acquire boxes. You can buy them or, to save money, start hunting down free boxes. Good sources include local restaurants, liquor stores, coffee shops, and supermarkets. Simply call or stop in and ask what days they typically get deliveries and if you can come to take the used boxes off their hands. Then, over the week or so, stop in and collect as many boxes as you can.

Buy the Moving Supplies You Need

You’ll also need to pick up some other items for packing, including heavy-duty packing tape, a marker for labeling things, and bubble wrap for fragile items. If you’re not hiring a moving company, you might consider renting a dolly, which can make moving heavy items much easier, plus furniture pads to protect your belongings from scratches and dings. Sheets and towels can also be used to protect furniture and as padding inside of boxes.

Start Packing

At this point, it’s probably safe to start packing the things you aren’t currently using — out of season clothes, most of your dishes, extra blankets, towels, framed photos, and decorations. You’ll want to leave out the essentials so you’re not looking through boxes to find things you use on a daily basis.

Recommended: How to Move Across the Country

1 Week Before the Move

Tie Up Any Loose Ends

Finalize Important Details

By now, you’ve likely already canceled your local services, subscriptions and memberships, but there will likely still be a few loose ends to tie up. Think about how you can make the transition into your new life as seamless as possible. For example, do you need to switch banks? If you have a pet, you may want to select a vet in your new neighborhood in case your pet needs care soon after you move.

Confirm Bookings

You’ll have a lot of things to do before moving, but it’s important to take some time to double check all of your bookings. Confirm when your movers are coming, what time your flights are booked (if applicable), and that you’ve arranged for your new utilities to turn on. There are a lot of moving parts that come with a move, so it’s easy to get booking details mixed up or to let things fall through the cracks.

1 Day Before the Move

Pack Your Final Belongings and Say Goodbye

Pack Up

Pack up any of the remaining items you’ve left out for day-to-day living and make sure all your boxes and suitcases are ready to go for the move.

Create a Folder of Important Documents

Have a folder ready for the move that includes your old lease (if you’re renting), along with the new signed lease, the contract for the movers, and all receipts from the move.

Say Goodbye — Your Way

Consider ordering your favorite local takeout, having friends over for a farewell drink, and giving thanks to everything this home has provided for you. It deserves it.

Move-In Day Checklist

Embrace a Blank Slate

Make Sure Everything Arrived

On move-in day, you’ll want to focus on finalizing your move. There will be plenty of time later to rearrange furniture and to organize your new walk-in closet. Instead, you may want to concentrate on making sure all of your belongings made it from your old home to your new one, so you can start fresh tomorrow without making a trip back to grab that last box you forgot.

Clean Up

As tempting as it can be to start unpacking right away, this can be a great time to give your new home a deep clean. Once you unpack, it won’t be so easy to clean the inside of every cabinet and to vacuum every inch of carpet. This may not be one of the most fun things to do when moving, but it can be a good way to make your new house more homey.

Recommended: 32 Inexpensive Ways to Refresh Your Home Room by Room

Unpacking Checklist

Unpack and Get To Know Your New Home

Unpack

Now that the hustle and bustle of the move is over, you can focus on unpacking and taking your time to find the right spots for all of your belongings. Unpacking in the reverse order of how you packed allows you to access your most-needed belongings first.

Think Ahead

While you’re unpacking, you’ll get a lot more familiar with your new home and all of its needs. Keep a pen and paper at hand so you can create a post-moving to-do list. Take note of any repairs you want to make now and create a maintenance checklist you can refer back to in the future.

The Takeaway

Moving can be stressful, but you avoid ever feeling completely overwhelmed by making a moving checklist well ahead of your move date, then tackling each project one at a time.

Moving can also be costly, so you may also want to make a plan for how you’ll pay for your move well in advance. This gives you time to save up what you’ll need or, if necessary, explore financing options. You may be able to get an unsecured personal loan to cover the cost of a move. Sometimes referred to a moving or relocation loan, this type of financing typically comes with fixed rates and set repayment terms, and rates tend to be much lower than credit cards.

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 2024 winner for Best 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 SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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.

SOPL0423016

Read more

How Do Valuations of Property Work?

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or you’re thinking about putting your home on the market, it’s critical to know the value of the property. Property valuation also comes into play in home financing, property taxes, real estate investing, and home insurance. But who does the valuation, and how do they determine the value of a home?

The answers to both questions will depend on the situation. Read on to learn more about property valuations, including what they are and why they matter.

What Is a Property Valuation?

Broadly defined, a property valuation is a method of determining how much a property is worth for purposes of pricing it for sale, qualifying for a mortgage, or determining a property tax bill.

Someone selling their home, for example, may use a property valuation to determine how much their house is worth and how much they can charge on the open market.

If you are applying for a mortgage, the lender will typically do a home appraisal to determine if the price you are paying for the house reflects its actual fair market value. Insurance companies and local tax authorities also do property valuations.

Typically, property valuations are done by an independent third party, such as a licensed appraiser. The lender, buyer, seller, tax authority, or insurer generally cannot have any relationship with the appraiser so that the valuation is unbiased.

The value of a property is determined by many factors, including its location, its size, the condition of the inside and outside of the building, and the current real estate market.

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


Types of Property Valuations

There are several different types of property valuations. Here are some of the most common you may encounter.

Appraised Value

When you are looking to qualify for a mortgage to buy a home, your lender will usually need to know the appraised value of the house you want to buy. The appraised value of a home is determined by a licensed appraiser who thoroughly evaluates the property’s size and features, market conditions, and comparable sales data. Typically, a lender will offer a loan for no more than 80% of the home’s appraised value (though some lenders and loan programs will allow you to borrow more).

💡 Quick Tip: When house hunting, don’t forget to lock in your mortgage loan rate so there are no surprises if your offer is accepted.

Assessed Value

The assessed value of your home is used in determining your property taxes. Depending on where you live, a municipal or county tax assessor will perform a property value assessment based on a number of factors, which may include sales of similar homes, square footage, current market conditions, and findings on a home inspection.

Local tax officials will use your home’s assessed value to calculate your property taxes. The higher your home’s tax-assessed value, generally the higher your property taxes will be. It is important to note that assessed values may not always accurately reflect the property’s market value, as they can vary depending on the jurisdiction’s assessment practices.

Recommended: Are Property Taxes Included in Your Mortgage Payments?

Fair Market Value

Fair market value of a property refers to the price at which a property would change hands in the open market between a willing buyer and a willing seller in an open market, not under any pressure to buy or sell. Put another way, it’s the amount you could expect to buy or sell a property based on the current real estate market. This value is considered the most objective and widely used in real estate transactions.

Recommended: The Top Home Improvements to Increase Your Home’s Value

Actual Cash Value and Replacement Cost Value

Actual cash value and replacement cost value are methods used by home insurance companies to determine how they will pay out when you file a claim. Actual cash value takes into account depreciation and wear and tear when determining a property’s value. Replacement cost value estimates the cost of rebuilding or replacing a property with a similar one, considering current construction costs.

What If You Get a Low Appraisal?

If you’re buying a home and the lender’s appraised value is as much as the agreed-upon price or more, the lender will likely move forward with the home loan, assuming that the other aspects of the property and your application are in order.

If the appraisal comes in under the agreed-upon price, the lender may reduce the amount of the loan it’s willing to offer.

At that point, you or the sellers can dispute the appraisal with the lender or ask for a second look. If the value is still too low, there are a few different routes:

•  You can try to get the seller to reduce the price.

•  You can agree to contribute the difference in cash.

•  You and the seller may agree to split the difference.

If the purchase agreement contains an appraisal contingency, you are protected in the case of a low appraisal. This means that If you can’t get the seller to adjust the price or come up with the difference in cash, you can walk away from the sale and get your earnest money deposit returned to you.

Property Valuation Methods

There are different ways to assess the value of a property. Which method will be used will depend on the situation.

Sales Comparison Approach

The sales comparison approach determines a property’s value by comparing it to recently sold properties with similar characteristics in the same area, also known as “comps.” Appraisers make adjustments for differences in size, condition, and amenities to arrive at an estimated value. The sales comparison approach is the one most often used by realtors in determining the value of a property for sale.

Income Approach

The income approach is primarily used for investment properties that result in a stream of income, such as rental apartments or commercial buildings. It estimates the property’s value based on its income potential, taking into consideration factors such as expense statements, rental rates, vacancy rates, and market conditions.

Cost Approach

The cost approach evaluates a property’s value by estimating the cost required to rebuild or replace it on its current plot of land. This appraiser determines the replacement cost by considering the cost of materials and labor, then subtracts depreciation and adds in the value of the land to determine the property’s worth. This method is often used by insurance companies.

💡 Quick Tip: A appraisal waiver, which saves the borrower the cost of the appraisal and uses an AVM instead.

There are commercial AVM providers, including Freddie Mac and Equifax®, as well as free AVMs available online, such as Zillow’s “Zestimate.”

Because AVMs are based on existing data, the property valuations they produce are only as good as the information available. An AVM may be inaccurate if the data is outdated or incorrect.

The Takeaway

Understanding property valuations is essential for navigating any kind of real estate transaction, whether you are on the buying, selling, investing, or financing side of the deal. There are many different types of home valuations, including appraised value, assessed value, fair market value, actual cash value, and replacement cost value. There are also different ways of doing property valuations, such as the sales comparison approach, income approach, and cost approach. For a quick valuation, you can even use an online computer-generated valuation tool or AVM.

Whatever approach you take, a property valuation can help you confidently make informed decisions and negotiate effectively in the real estate market.

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.

FAQs

How do you determine the value of a property?

The value of a property is typically determined by an independent licensed appraiser who considers factors such as the property’s location, size, condition, amenities, and recent comparable sales data in the area.

What are the 4 ways to value a property?

The four primary ways to value a property are:

•  Market comparison approach This approach compares the property to similar recently sold properties in the same area.

•  Income approach With this method, an appraiser estimates the value based on the property’s income potential.

•  Cost approach This valuation strategy involves evaluating the cost to replace or rebuild the property on the same land.

•  Appraised value With this method, the value of a property is determined by a qualified appraiser through a comprehensive evaluation.

How does valuation work?

Valuation of a home typically involves inspecting the property, analyzing relevant data, and applying appropriate valuation methods (such as the market comparison approach or cost approach).

Appraisers will generally assess factors such as location, condition, amenities, recent sales, and market trends to determine the property’s value. A comprehensive report is then prepared, detailing the value, data, and reasoning behind the valuation. Valuation serves as a crucial step in real estate transactions, providing objective estimates of property worth.


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


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


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

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

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

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

SOHL0723036

Read more
Understanding the Different Types of Mortgage Loans

What Are the Different Types of Home Mortgage

If you’re in the market for a mortgage, you may be overwhelmed by all the different options — conventional vs. government-backed, fixed vs. adjustable rate, 15-year vs 30-year. Which one is best?

The answer will depend on how much you have to put down on a home, the price of the home you want to buy, your income and credit history, and how long you plan to live in the home. Below, we break down some of the most common types of home mortgages, including how each one works and their pros and cons.

Fixed-Rate vs. Adjustable-Rate Loans

When choosing the best type of mortgage for your needs, it helps to understand the difference between adjustable-rate mortgages and fixed-rate mortgages. Each option has advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a closer look.

Pros

Cons

Fixed-Rate Mortgage Your monthly payment is fixed, and therefore predictable. If rates drop, you have to refinance to get the lower rate.
Adjustable-Rate Mortgage The initial interest rate is usually lower than a fixed-rate mortgage. Once the intro period is over, ARM rates adjust, potentially raising your mortgage payment.

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


Fixed-Rate Mortgage

With a fixed-rate mortgage loan, the interest is exactly that — fixed. No matter what happens to benchmark interest rates or the overall economy, the interest rate will remain the same for the life of the loan. Fixed loans typically come in terms of 15 years or 30 years, though some lenders allow more options.

This type of mortgage can be a good choice if you think rates are going to go up, or if you plan on staying in your home for at least five to seven years and want to avoid any potential for changes to your monthly payments.

Pro: The monthly payment is fixed, and therefore predictable.

Con: If interest rates drop after you take out your loan, you won’t get the lower rate unless you’re able to refinance.

💡 Quick Tip: SoFi Home Loans are available with flexible term options and down payments as low as 3%.*

30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage

A 30-year fixed-rate home loan is the most common type of mortgage and the longest term length available for mortgages.

Monthly payments are generally lower than shorter-term mortgages because the loan is stretched out over a longer term. However, the overall amount of interest you’ll pay is typically higher, since you’re paying interest for a longer period of time. Also, interest rates tend to be higher for 30-year home loans than shorter-term mortgages, since the longer term poses more risk to the lender.

15-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage

A 15-year loan allows you to build equity more quickly and pay less total interest. Loans with shorter terms also tend to come with lower interest rates, since they pose less risk to the lender.

On the flipside, the shorter term means monthly payments may be much higher than a 30-year mortgage. This type of loan can be a good choice for borrowers who can handle an aggressive repayment schedule and want to save on interest.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage

An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) has an interest rate that fluctuates according to market conditions.

Many ARMs have a fixed-rate period to start and are expressed in two numbers, such as 7/1, 5/1, or 7/6. A 7/1 ARM loan has a fixed rate for seven years; after that, the fixed rate converts to a variable rate. It stays variable for the remaining life of the loan, adjusting every year in line with an index rate. A 7/6 ARM, on the other hand, means that your rate will remain the same for the first seven years and will adjust every six months after that initial period. A 5/1 ARM has a rate that’s fixed for five years and then adjusts every year.

Many ARMs have rate caps, meaning the rate will never exceed a certain number over the life of the loan. If you consider an ARM, you’ll want to be sure you understand exactly how much your rate can increase and how much you could wind up paying after the introductory period expires.

Pro: The initial interest rate of an ARM is usually lower than the rate on a fixed-rate loan. This can make it a good deal for borrowers who expect to sell the property before the rate adjusts.

Con: Even if the loan starts out with a low rate, subsequent rate increases could make this loan more expensive than a fixed-rate loan.

Recommended: First-Time Home Buyer’s Guide

Conventional vs. Government-Insured Loans

Mortgages can also be broken down into two other categories: conventional loans, which are offered by banks or other private lenders, and government-backed loans, which are guaranteed by a government agency. Here’s a breakdown of conventional vs. government-insured loans, including how each works, and their pros and cons.

Conventional Loan

This is the most common type of home loan. Conventional mortgages must meet standards that allow lenders to resell them to the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This is advantageous to lenders (who can make money by selling their loans to GSEs) but means stiffer qualifications for borrowers.

Pro: Down payments can be as low as 3%, though borrowers with down payments under 20% have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Con: Conventional loans tend to have stricter requirements for qualification than government-backed loans. You typically need a credit score of at least 620 and a debt-to-income ratio under 36%.

Government-Insured Loan

If you have trouble qualifying for a conventional loan, you may want to look into a government-insured loan. This type of mortgage is insured by a government agency, such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

FHA Loan

FHA loans are not directly issued from the government but, rather, insured by the FHA. This protects mortgage lenders, since if the borrower becomes unable to repay the loan, the agency has to handle the default. Having that guarantee significantly lowers risk for the lender.

As a result, qualifying for an FHA loan is often less difficult than qualifying for a conventional mortgage. This makes an FHA mortgage a good choice if you have less-than-stellar credit scores or a high debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.

Pro: With a FICO® credit score of 500 to 579, you may be able to put just 10% down on a home; with a score of 580 or higher, you may qualify to put just 3.5% payment.

Con: FHA mortgages require you to purchase FHA mortgage insurance, which is called a mortgage insurance premium (MIP). Depending on the size of your down payment, the insurance lasts for 11 years or the life of the loan.

💡 Quick Tip: Check out our Mortgage Calculator to get a basic estimate of your monthly payment.

VA Loan

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs backs home loans for members and veterans of the U.S. military and eligible surviving spouses. Similar to FHA loans, the government doesn’t directly issue these loans; instead, they are processed by private lenders and guaranteed by the VA.

Most VA loans require no down payment. However, you’ll need to pay a VA funding fee unless you are exempt. Although there’s no minimum credit score requirement on the VA side, private lenders may have a minimum in the low to mid 600s.

Pro: You don’t have to put any money down or purchase mortgage insurance.

Con: Only available to veterans, current service members, and eligible spouses.

FHA 203(k)

Got your eye on a fixer-upper? An FHA 203(k) loan allows you to roll the cost of the home as well as the rehab into one loan. Current homeowners can also qualify for an FHA 203(k) loan to refinance their property and fund the costs of an upcoming renovation through a single mortgage.

The generous credit score and down payment rules that make FHA loans appealing for borrowers often apply here, too, though some lenders might require a minimum credit score of 500.

With a standard 203(k), typically used for renovations exceeding $35,000, a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) consultant must be hired to oversee the project. A streamlined 203(k) loan, on the other hand, allows you to fund a less costly renovation with anyone overseeing the project.

Pro: If you have a credit score of 580 or above, you only need to put down 3.5% on an FHA 203(k) loan.

Con: These loans require you to qualify for the value of the property, plus the costs of planned renovations.

USDA Loan

A USDA loan is a type of mortgage designed to help borrowers who meet certain income limits buy homes in rural areas. The loans are issued through the USDA loan program by the United States Department of Agriculture as part of its rural development program.

Pro: There’s no down payment required, and interest rates tend to be low due to the USDA guarantee.

Con: These loans are limited to areas designated as rural, and borrowers who meet certain income requirements.

Conforming vs. Nonconforming Loans

Conventional loans, which are not backed by the federal government, come in two forms: conforming and non-conforming.

Conforming Loans

Mortgages that conform to the guidelines set by government-backed agencies (such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) are called conforming loans. There are a number of criteria that borrowers must meet to qualify for a conforming loan, including the loan amount.

For 2023, the ceiling for a single-family, conforming home loan is $726,200 in most parts of the U.S. However, there is a higher limit — $1,089,300 — for areas that are considered “high-cost,” a designation based on an area’s median home values.

Typically, conforming loans also require a minimum credit score of 630­ to 650, a DTI ratio no higher than 41%, and a minimum down payment of 3%.

Pro: Conforming loans tend to have lower interest rates and fees than nonconforming loans.

Con: You must meet the qualification criteria, and borrowing amounts may not be sufficient in high-priced areas.

Nonconforming Loans

Nonconforming mortgage loans are loans that don’t meet the requirements for a conforming loan. For example, jumbo loans are nonconforming loans that exceed the maximum loan limit for a conforming loan.

Nonconforming loans aren’t as standardized as conforming loans, so there is more variety of loan types and features to choose from. They also tend to have a faster, more streamlined application process.

Pro: Nonconforming loans are available in higher amounts and can widen your housing options by allowing you to buy in a more expensive area, or a type of home that isn’t eligible for a conforming loan.

Con: These loans tend to have higher interest rates than nonconforming loans.

Common Types of Mortgages: Conventional, Fixed-Rate, Government Backed, Adjustable-Rate

Reverse Mortgage

A reverse mortgage allows homeowners 62 or older (typically those who have paid off their mortgage) to borrow part of their home equity as income. Unlike a regular mortgage, the homeowner doesn’t make payments to the lender — the lender makes payments to the homeowner. Homeowners who take out a reverse mortgage can still live in their homes. However, the loan must be repaid when the borrower dies, moves out, or sells the home.

Pro: A reverse mortgage can provide additional income during your retirement years and/or help cover the cost of medical expenses or improvements.

Con: If the loan balance exceeds the home’s value at the time of your death or departure from the home, your heirs may need to hand ownership of the home back to the lender.

Jumbo Mortgage

A jumbo loan is a mortgage used to finance a property that is too expensive for a conventional conforming loan. If you need a loan that exceeds the conforming loan limit (typically $726,200), you’ll likely need a jumbo loan.

Jumbo loans are considered riskier for lenders because of their larger amounts and the fact that these loans aren’t guaranteed by any government agency. As a result, qualification criteria tends to be stricter than other types of mortgages. Also, in some cases, rates may be higher.

You can typically find jumbo loans with either a fixed or adjustable rate and with a range of terms.

Pro: Jumbo loans make it possible for buyers to purchase a more expensive property.

Con: You generally need excellent credit to qualify for a jumbo loan.

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

Interest-Only Mortgage

With an interest-only mortgage, you only make interest payments for a set period, which may be five or seven years. Your principal stays the same during this time. After that initial period ends, you can end the loan by selling or refinancing, or begin to make monthly payments that cover principal and interest.

Pro: The initial monthly payments are usually lower than other mortgages, which may allow you to afford a pricier home.

Con: You won’t build equity as quickly with this loan, since you’re initially only paying back interest.

Recommended: What’s Mortgage Amortization and How Do You Calculate It?

The Takeaway

There are many different types of mortgages, including fixed-rate, variable rate, conforming, nonconforming, conventional, government-backed, jumbo, and reverse mortgages. It’s a good idea to research and compare different loan programs, consult with lenders, and, if needed, seek advice from a mortgage professional to determine the best type of home loan for your specific circumstances.

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


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

What are the different types of mortgages?

There are several types of mortgages available to homebuyers, each with its own characteristics and requirements. Some of the most common types include:

•  Conventional mortgage This type of mortgage is not insured or guaranteed by a government agency.

•  FHA loan Insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), FHA loans are popular among first-time homebuyers. They offer more lenient credit requirements and allow for a lower down payment (as low as 3.5%).

•  VA loan These loans are available to eligible veterans, active-duty service members, and eligible surviving spouses, and come with favorable rates and terms.

•  USDA Loan Issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these loans are designed for low- and moderate-income homebuyers in rural areas. They offer low interest rates and may require no down payment.

•  Jumbo mortgage A jumbo mortgage is a loan that exceeds the loan limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

•  Fixed-rate mortgage The rate stays the same for the entire life of the mortgage.

•  Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) The interest rate is initially fixed for a specific period, then typically adjusts annually based on market conditions.

What are the 4 types of qualified mortgages?

Qualified mortgages are mortgages that meet certain criteria set by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to ensure borrowers can afford the loans they obtain. The four main types of qualified mortgages are:

•  General qualified mortgages These mortgages adhere to basic criteria set by the CFPB.

•  Small creditor qualified mortgages These loans have more flexible requirements for small lenders.

•  Balloon payment qualified mortgages These mortgages allow for a balloon payment at the end of the term.

•  Temporary qualified mortgages This type of qualified mortgage provides a transition period for loans that were eligible for purchase or guarantee by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac but no longer meet those standards.

Which type of home loan is best?

The best type of home loan depends on your financial situation, goals, and preferences.

If you have a significant down payment and strong credit, you might consider a conventional mortgage. If, on the other hand, you have limited funds for a down payment and lower credit scores, you might consider a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) home loan.

VA loans benefit eligible veterans and service members, while USDA loans are for homebuyers in rural areas.

Whether to choose a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage will depend on your long-term plans and tolerance for risk.


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


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


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

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

SOHL0723018

Read more
couple at home

Do You Qualify as a First-Time Homebuyer?

A first-time homebuyer isn’t just someone purchasing a first home. It can be anyone who has not owned a principal residence in the past three years, some single parents, a spouse who has not owned a home, and more.

If the thought of a down payment and closing costs put a chill down your spine, realize that first-time homebuyers often have access to special grants, loans, and programs.

‘First-Time Homebuyer’ Under the Microscope

To get a sense of who qualifies for a mortgage as a first-time homebuyer, let’s take a look at the government’s definition.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says first-time buyers meet any of these criteria:

•   An individual who has not held ownership in a principal residence during the three-year period ending on the date of the purchase.

•   A single parent who has only owned a home with a former spouse.

•   An individual who is a displaced homemaker (has worked only in the home for a substantial number of years providing unpaid household services for family members) and has only owned a home with a spouse.

•   Both spouses if one spouse is or was a homeowner but the other has not owned a home.

•   A person who has only owned a principal residence that was not permanently attached to a foundation (such as a mobile home when the wheels are in place).

•   An individual who has owned a property that is not in compliance with state, local, or model building codes and that cannot be brought into compliance for less than the cost of constructing a permanent structure.

For conventional (nongovernment) financing through private lenders, Fannie Mae’s criteria are similar.

💡 Recommended: The Complete First-Time Home Buyer Guide

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


Options for First-Time Homebuyers

First-time homebuyers may not realize that they, like other buyers, may qualify to buy a home with much less than 20% down.

They also have access to first-time homebuyer programs that may ease the credit requirements of homeownership.

Federal Government-Backed Mortgages

When the federal government insures mortgages, the loans pose less of a risk to lenders. This means lenders may offer you a lower interest rate.

There are three government-backed home loan options: FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans. In exchange for a low down payment, you’ll pay an upfront and annual mortgage insurance premium for FHA loans, an upfront guarantee fee and annual fee for USDA loans, or a one-time funding fee for VA loans.

FHA Loans

The Federal Housing Administration, part of HUD, insures fixed-rate mortgages issued by approved lenders. On average, more than 80% of FHA-insured mortgages are for first-time homebuyers each year.

If you have a FICO® credit score of 580 or higher, you could get an FHA loan with just 3.5% down. If you have a score between 500 and 579, you may still qualify for a loan with 10% down.

USDA Loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers assistance to buy (or, in some cases, even build) a home in certain rural areas. Your income has to be within a certain percentage of the average median income for the area.

If you qualify, the loan requires no down payment and offers a fixed interest rate.

VA Loans

A mortgage guaranteed in part by the Department of Veterans Affairs requires no down payment and is available for military members, veterans, and certain surviving military spouses.

Although a VA loan does not state a minimum credit score, lenders who make the loan will set their minimum score for the product based on their risk tolerance.

💡 Quick Tip: When house hunting, don’t forget to lock in your home mortgage loan rate so there are no surprises if your offer is accepted.

Government-Backed Conventional Mortgages

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government-backed mortgage companies, do not originate home loans. Instead, they buy and guarantee mortgages issued through lenders in the secondary mortgage market.

They make mortgages available that are geared toward lower-income, lower-credit score borrowers.

Freddie Mac’s Home Possible program offers down payment options as low as 3%. There are also sweat equity down payment options and flexible terms.

Fannie Mae’s 97% LTV (loan-to-value) program also offers 3% down payment loans.

A Mortgage for Certain Civil Servants

If you’re a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or EMT working for a federal, state, local, or Indian tribal government agency, or a teacher at a public or private school, the HUD-backed Good Neighbor Next Door Program could be a good fit. It provides 50% off the listing price of a foreclosed home in specific revitalization areas. In turn, you have to commit to living there for 36 months.

Homes are listed on the HUD website each week, and you have to put an offer in within seven days. Only a registered HUD broker can submit a bid for you on a property.

If using an FHA loan to buy a home in the Good Neighbor Next Door Program, the down payment will be $100. If using a VA loan to purchase a house through the program, buyers will receive 100% financing. If using a conventional home loan, the usual down payment requirements stay the same.

State, County, and City Assistance

It isn’t just the federal government that helps to get first-time buyers into homes. State, county, and city governments and nonprofit organizations run many down payment assistance programs.

HUD is the gatekeeper, steering buyers to state and local programs and offering advice from HUD home assistance counselors.

The National Council of State Housing Agencies has a state-by-state list of housing finance agencies, which cater to low- and middle-income households. Contact the agency to learn about the programs it offers and to get answers to housing finance questions.


💡 Quick Tip: Jumbo mortgage loans are the answer for borrowers who need to borrow more than the conforming loan limit values set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency ($766,550 in most places, or $1,149,825 in many high-cost areas). If you have your eye on a pricier property, a jumbo loan could be a good solution.

Using Gift Money

First-time homebuyers might also want to think about seeking down payment and closing cost help from family members.

If you’re using a cash gift, your lender will want a formal gift letter, and the gift cannot be a loan. Home loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac only allow down payment gifts from someone related to the borrower. Government-backed loans have looser requirements.

Want to use your 401(k) to make a down payment? You could, but financial advisors frown on the idea. Borrowing from your 401(k) can do damage to your retirement savings.

The Takeaway

First-time homebuyers are in the catbird seat if they don’t have much of a down payment or their credit isn’t stellar. Lots of programs, from local to federal, give first-time homeowners a break.

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


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.


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


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


*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.

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.

SOHL0623081

Read more
20 Renter Friendly House Updates

20 Renter-Friendly House Updates

When you’re a renter, it can feel like all the transformative DIY projects are reserved for homeowners. But just because you rent doesn’t mean you can’t spruce up your space.

That’s right: Rental-friendly upgrades exist. And the best part? Many improvements can have a major impact on your space without blowing your budget.

1. Create an Accent Wall

Spicing up your walls doesn’t have to cost a fortune, nor must it require gallons of paint. For just a few bucks a roll, you can buy washi tape and create a custom accent wall that won’t ruin the paint job. Or, if you’re able to spend a few extra dollars, you could also invest in removable wallpaper.

2. Update Light Fixtures

Light fixtures in rentals are notoriously drab and tend to provide uneven lighting. Fortunately, there is no shortage of lighting options to help you brighten up your space. A recessed lighting conversion kit, for instance, is fairly inexpensive, easy to install, and allows you to hang a pendant or other light fixture. Not sure your landlord would approve? You can always buy some decorative lamps or even string lights to help amp up the brightness and style of any room.

3. Install Radiator Shelving

In older units, rusty radiators can be a renter’s nightmare. But luckily, there are some rental upgrades — like installing radiator shelving — that can disguise even the most unattractive units. You can DIY a custom shelving unit to work around your radiator, upgrade some shelving from a local thrift store, or even order one online.

4. Buy Matching Bookshelves

Bookshelves are a simple way to upgrade the decor and add much-needed storage space. Placing tall, matching shelves on either side of a TV, couch, or even a bed could bring some serious style (and space) to a small room, plus allow you to display photos or art without putting holes in the wall.

5. Apply Contact Paper

Do you have older appliances you’d like to freshen up? For just a couple bucks, you can invest in some stainless steel contact paper to make them at least look shiny and new again! Contact paper also comes in a wide variety of colors and styles that you can use to liven up your cabinets and refresh your countertops.

6. Replace Pulls & Knobs

This is another budget-savvy, rental-friendly upgrade that can add some flair to your home. Replace your door handles, kitchen cabinet knobs, and any other pulls with something more your style. Affordable, stylish knobs can be found on sites like Etsy and Amazon, and in stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Be sure to hang on to the original knobs so you can swap them back in before you move out.

7. Install a Bike Mount

If you own a bike but are short on storage, install a bike mount or other bike storage solution. Just make sure your landlord is okay with the installation since it may require some drilling.

8. Try Large Floor Mirrors

Sometimes more is more. Exhibit A: an oversized leaning mirror, which can serve double-duty as a luxe decoration and a functional mirror.

9. Invest in Houseplants

Want to add some life to your rental — literally? Look no further than a houseplant. If you don’t have a green thumb, explore hardy varieties, like air plants or even artificial plants.

10. Upgrade Your Showerhead

Installing a new showerhead is a quick, effective way to upgrade your bathroom. You could start reaping the rewards the very first time you turn on the faucet. Make sure to hang on to that original showerhead so you can reinstall it when you move out.

Recommended: How Much Does a Shower Remodel Cost?

11. Set up Room Dividers

Need to carve out space for a home office? Or maybe even make room for a closet? Buying or creating stylish room dividers can provide an instant rental update. And when you need a larger space, simply close the dividers.

12. Use a Pantry Organization System

Help bring order to the busiest spot in your home: the kitchen. Pantry organization systems come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and varieties, so you should be able to find one that works for your home and budget.

13. Update Your Blinds

It can be easy to forget about window coverings. But freshening up your blinds or curtains can add a new visual element to the room, frame a window, or help brighten the space.

14. Install Sticker Flooring

When you’re considering places to upgrade, don’t forget to look down. Changing up the flooring — even temporarily — can make a room feel brand-new. One option to consider if you have a tile floor is removable tile stickers, which come in a variety of styles, sizes, and price points.

15. Create a Kitchen Backsplash

You can also use removable stickers to freshen up a kitchen backsplash, which is a much easier and cheaper option than replacing the tiles. New to this type of project? There are online video tutorials you can watch that will show you how to get the job done.

Recommended: Renovation vs. Remodel: What’s the Difference?

16. Replace Light Switch Covers

Don’t sleep on the small details — sometimes, they can have a major impact. One example of this is swapping out basic light switch covers with ones that match the decor of your rental. Plus, new covers are generally affordable and easy to install.

17. Buy a New Kitchen Faucet

There’s something to be said for upgrading the items in your rental that you use every day, such as the kitchen faucet. Installing a new faucet is a fairly simple DIY project, provided you know how to shut off the water to your sink and use a wrench. If you’re unsure how to do either, though, you can enlist the help of a plumber. Just be sure to put the old faucet in storage so you can swap it back before moving.

18. Find a Stylish Toilet Seat

Let’s be honest: Most rentals come with a basic toilet seat. When yours just won’t do anymore, it may be time to upgrade to something more modern and comfy. You can find a wide variety of options online or in stores.

19. Paint the Molding and Trim

Before selecting color swatches, you may want to double-check with your landlord that painting is allowed. Many landlords welcome you painting your molding and trim, since it’s an easy, affordable way to update a rental.

20. Invest in Good Rugs

Quality rugs can run well into the thousands of dollars. But there are less-expensive options that are also durable and stylish. Besides protecting your flooring, a good rug can also visually anchor a room and help absorb sound.

No matter the price of your rug, you may want to consider purchasing renters insurance to protect it and your other valuables against losses.

The Takeaway

When you’re a renter, you may not be able to rip out walls or change out kitchen cabinets. But there are still simple, effective ways to transform your space without breaking the terms of your lease. While these sorts of jobs tend to be affordable, you can easily rack up quite the bill if you plan on tackling several home improvement projects at once.

That said, if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get some renter-friendly updates done, see what SoFi can offer. With a SoFi Home Improvement Loan, you can borrow between $5K to $100K as an unsecured personal loan, meaning you don’t use your home as collateral and no appraisal is required. Our rates are competitive, and the whole process is easy and speedy.

Turn your home into your dream house with a SoFi Home Improvement Loan.


Photo credit: iStock/CreativaStudio

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


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.

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.

SOPL0723013

Read more
TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender