What Is a Single-Family Home? Should You Consider Owning One?

What Is a Single-Family Home? Should You Consider Owning One?

The single-family residence, by some definitions, includes more than the traditional house with a yard that comes to mind. Disputing the phrase may be expected, but what’s important is that the single-family classification positively affects financing.

Here’s a look at the defining characteristics of a single-family home and some of the benefits of owning one.

What Is a Single-Family Home

Generally speaking, when considering a single-family vs. multi-family home, a single-family home is one designed, built, and maintained for one person or household. A multi-family home, on the other hand, is one building set up for multiple occupants to live in separately.

That said, definitions of a single-family residence may vary according to real estate experts and government sources.

For example, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which tracks residential construction, single-family structures include fully detached and semi-detached homes, row houses, duplexes, quadruplexes, and townhouses.

Attached units are only considered a single-family home if each unit is separated by a wall that runs from the ground to the roof, has a separate heating system, is individually metered for public utilities, and has no units above or below, the Census Bureau says.

Each attached unit must meet these conditions. If not, the building is considered to be a multi-family residential structure.

According to other definitions of a single-family home, there can be no shared walls; the building or single dwelling unit must stand alone on its own parcel of land and have its own entrance to the street.

In some places, a single-family home is defined in part by how many kitchens it has. Depending on zoning laws, adding a second kitchen to an in-laws apartment, for example, can cause a house to be redefined as a multi-family building. If you’re planning on doing this type of renovation, be sure to check local zoning laws beforehand.

Why is it important to know how a home is classified? It can have an impact on the types of mortgages you qualify for and how much money you will be able to borrow.

Like detached single-family homes, financing for two- to four-unit properties falls under residential lending guidelines. (A property with five or more units is considered commercial property.)

In low-cost areas, the conventional loan limit for one-unit properties in 2022 rose to $647,200. Conventional loan limits on two- to four-unit properties also saw increases.

In 2022, you can get an FHA loan of $420,680 for a single unit in a low-cost area and up to $970,800 in a high-cost area. If you were purchasing a two-unit building, you could get an FHA loan worth $538,650 in a low-cost area or $1,243,050 in a high-cost area.

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

Pros and Cons of a Single-Family Home

As you shop for homes, it’s important to consider the various advantages and disadvantages of a single-family residence.

Some of the advantages are:

•   More space: Single-family homes tend to offer more space than other types of housing, and it belongs to you alone. They may have large yards in which children and dogs can play or where you can plant a vegetable garden. They may also have storage in attics, garages, or basements, which aren’t shared between multiple units.

•   Privacy: Single-family units that don’t share walls with neighbors offer more privacy. You are less likely to hear neighbors’ activities, and they are less likely to be bothered by yours.

•   More design features: Single-family homes may be available in a broader range of designs and layouts, from Cape Cods or colonials to ranch homes and contemporary designs. You can also make changes to the building or landscape design without input from neighbors with a shared interest in the space.

•   Room to grow: Single-family homes may offer you more options for additions if you have a growing family or if aging parents may come to live with you. For example, single family detached homes with larger plots of land may allow additions that wouldn’t be possible in condo units.

•   May offer higher appreciation: Single-family homes tend to appreciate in value more than condos and townhouses.

•   Option to rent: As the sole owner of a single-family unit, you have direct access to greater opportunities to rent out the house if you decide to move and wish to hang on to the property.

While these factors are attractive, it’s important to weigh potential disadvantages as well.

•   More expensive: Single-family homes tend to be more expensive than other types of houses. That means a larger down payment and higher closing costs, and your mortgage payments may be higher.

•   More maintenance: With no shared spaces, you’ll be in charge of all home maintenance like lawn mowing and roof repairs. You’ll either have to take the time to do it yourself or hire others.

•   Possible HOA fees: Planned developments usually require HOA fees to cover the upkeep of common areas and shared structures.

Finding a Single-Family Home

Before you start looking for a single-family home, first determine how much home you can afford. You may want to start calculating mortgage costs and getting prequalified for a home loan, which takes minutes and provides an estimate of how much you might be able to borrow and at what rate.

A help center for home loans could prove valuable, as could a look at housing market trends in many U.S. hot spots. You’re probably already searching real estate listings online and noting the property types.

You may also want to engage a real estate agent. They have expertise in local housing and zoning laws, know whether a list price is fair or above or below average, and can help you negotiate the price of a home you’re interested in buying.

If there’s any question about how a house is zoned, you can often look up zoning information through a particular city’s website.

Check out these homeowner resources for more about what you’ll need to know to find the home that’s right for you.

Who Should Get a Single-Family Home?

Single-family homes are a good fit for people who can cover the higher price tag, want privacy and flexibility, and are willing to take on a lot of responsibility.

If you qualify as a first-time homebuyer, there may be help available to buy a single-family home in the form of down payment assistance and low- or no-interest loans.

This guide to first-time home buying features lots of tips to make that big first purchase.

If You’re Thinking of Purchasing a Single-Family Home, SoFi Home Loans Can Help

Whether you’re a seasoned homebuyer or a first-timer, purchasing a single-family home is an exciting step.

If you’re looking for options for getting an online mortgage, it’s easy to get a quick rate quote from SoFi.

SoFi offers home loans for primary residences, second homes, and investment properties. Single-family homes, townhomes, and properties of two to four units are included. And rates are competitive.


How much does a single-family home cost?

The average price of a new single-family home as of December 2021 was $457,300, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The average sales price of existing single-family homes that month was $378,800, the National Association of Realtors® noted.

Clearly, the price of a single-family home will vary widely depending on factors like size and location.

How much do I need to build a single-family home?

Realtor.com put the price of building a 2,600-square-foot home at about $332,500, including a pandemic-related hike in the cost of materials. Building a home on your own may cost less than buying an existing home.

Can you get a loan to build a single-family home?

If you’re planning to build a single-family home from scratch, you can apply for a construction loan. Another option is a personal loan of up to $100,000, for at least some of the build.

Photo credit: iStock/Dean Mitchell

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

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

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

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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Tips for Buying a Single-Family Home

How to Buy a Single-Family Home: Step-by-Step Guide

It’s no secret that the price tags of single-family homes — the ideal dwelling in terms of space, independence, and resale value — have spiked, and many current homeowners have been reluctant to let go, but a buyer whose heart is set on a single-family home may be able to follow a playbook to find their prize.

Buying a single-family home isn’t dramatically different from purchasing another type of property, but the process has a few variations.

Here are some guidelines.

What Is a Single-Family Home?

The definition would seem easy enough, but it does vary according to real estate experts and government sources.

The U.S. Census Bureau says single-family homes include fully detached and semi-detached homes, row houses, duplexes, quadruplexes, and townhouses. Each unit has a separate heating system and meter for public utilities, and has no units above or below.

According to other definitions of a single-family home, the building has no shared walls; it stands alone on its own parcel of land. In some places, the number of kitchens the home has informs the definition.

Unlike a multi-family property, a single-family home is meant for one person or household. Among the types of houses out there, including condos, co-ops, townhouses, and manufactured homes, the single-family home remains the holy grail for many Americans.

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

Recommended: How to Buy a Multifamily Property

Benefits of Purchasing a Single-Family Home

While condos and townhouses may come with shared amenities and lower maintenance, traditional detached single-family homes come with different perks. When people buy a single-family home, they’re looking for benefits specific to this property type.

Spacious, Quiet, and Intimate

A single-family home is typically larger than a condo or townhome. Moreover, since the property is often on its own lot without shared walls, a single-family home offers more space and more privacy inside and outside the home.

Possibly No HOA

A co-op association or a condo or townhouse homeowners association sets and enforces rules and collects fees to pay for shared amenities. Anyone who buys into an HOA community must live by the CC&Rs: the covenants, conditions, and restrictions. They can be lengthy, and the ongoing fees can constantly rise.

You may be able to buy a detached single-family home with no HOA and paint your mailbox, or house, pink or purple, unless you live in a city like Palm Coast, Florida, that allows only earth tones and light or pastel hues but no colors that are deemed “loud, clashing, or garish.”

Then again, HOAs are becoming more common for detached single-family homes in planned communities. In fact, about 65% of single-family homes built in 2020 were in an HOA, Census Bureau data shows.

Single-Family Home Appreciation

Generally, single-family homes are in higher demand than multi-family or other properties. Because of both the building and demand, when a person buys a single-family home, the value may faster.

Possibilities for Renovation and Expansion

When people buy single-family homes, they’re buying into the potential to expand or renovate extensively. If the lot is big enough, single-family homeowners could put an addition on the property.

Single-family homes can be an attractive buy simply because of the option to expand in the future, unlike properties with shared lots or walls.

How to Buy a Single-Family Home

Ready to buy a single-family home? Anyone from a first-time buyer to a seasoned investor may find appeal in a single-family home.

Recommended: First-Time Homebuyers Guide

1. Draw Up Your Financial Priorities

First, it’s important to look at finances. Your credit scores can have a significant impact on getting approved for a mortgage.

To get a clear read on credit, but not scores, buyers can request free credit reports from the three major credit bureaus.

Additionally, it can be helpful for a qualified first-time homebuyer — who can be anyone who has not owned a principal residence in three years, some single parents, and others — to look into specialty mortgages to see if they qualify for them.

An FHA loan may allow a down payment as low as 3.5%. A USDA loan requires nothing down, and a VA loan, usually nothing down. Some conventional lenders allow qualifying first-time buyers to put just 3% down.

It’s important to know, though, that all FHA loans require an upfront and annual mortgage insurance premium, regardless of the down payment size. VA loans require a one-time “funding fee.” And borrowers with conventional conforming loans who put down less than 20% will pay private mortgage insurance until their loan-to-value ratio drops to 80% and they request removal, or to 78%, when it falls off.

2. Decide on Your Preferred Type of Housing

No two houses are alike, just as no two homebuyers are. Everyone has different tastes and priorities about where they want to call home.

Before hitting every open house in town, consider deciding on must-haves for a single family detached home, including privacy, proximity to businesses, size, and style. This could help determine if a single-family home is the right fit.

3. Arrive at Your Price Point

Armed with an understanding of the type of house, it’s time to think about the price point. In addition to thinking about the down payment, buyers will want to calculate a monthly mortgage payment and total loan costs.

Figuring out a price point before looking at homes can take the emotion out of the process. That way, buyers have a budget in mind and a “do not exceed” amount before they fall for a home.

4. Search for a Good Real Estate Agent

Buying a single-family home can be fun, stressful, and fast-paced. Working with a trusted real estate agent can make the process a little easier.

To find a real estate agent, you might consider:

•   Reaching out to friends for referrals

•   Checking out local real estate association websites

•   Using an agent selling homes in the area you want to buy in

You might want to interview more than one agent, asking about their experience, availability, and philosophy. The choice of agent will likely come down to a combination of personality match and experience.

5. Find Your Neighborhood

Armed with an agent and budget, it’s time to dive deeper into neighborhoods. Once again, the choice of where to search will come down to the buyer; there’s no one “right” place to buy a single-family home.

As buyers explore neighborhoods, they might prioritize the following:

•   School district

•   Walkability

•   Proximity to workplace

•   Community resources

•   Budget

An experienced agent can help buyers distill their priorities and even point them in the right direction. Typically, buyers will have to balance the above elements, as it might not be possible to check all the boxes in a single neighborhood.

6. Tour Homes With Your Agent

Once buyers decide what neighborhoods they want to buy a single-family home in, it’s time to start touring properties.

When touring a single-family home with an agent, try to allot between half an hour to an hour. In the case of open houses, prospective buyers can walk in at any time, but private home tours require a buyer’s agent to gain access to the property.

When buying a single-family home, everyone will have their own checklist of what they want, which might include:

•   Listing price

•   Number of bedrooms and bathrooms

•   Storage space

•   Floorplan

•   Plot of land

•   Deck and porch

•   Garage and driveway

It could help to take photos or notes while touring a home to refer to them long after you’ve left the property.

7. Choose a House and Bid

Found a place and ready to make an offer? Time to get a home loan in order. Luckily, buyers will have a good idea of what they can offer on a property based on their finances with the upfront legwork.

Your agent can help with negotiating a house price.

How to make an offer? It pays to understand comps and the temperature of the market, and then:

•   Figure out the offer price

•   Determine fees

•   Budget for an earnest money deposit

•   Craft contingencies

With an offer drawn up, it’s time to submit it to the seller and wait for the next steps.

8. Review the Process and Get Ready to Move

Buying a single-family home isn’t a done deal once an offer is submitted. Typically there will be a back and forth, perhaps over offer price or contingencies.

Once everything is agreed on, and the inspection is resolved, it’s time to tally moving expenses and pack up.

9. Head to Closing and Move Into Your New Property

The final part of buying a single-family home is closing day. During closing, the buyer and seller meet with their agents to go over paperwork, and settle any outstanding costs, and formally turn over property ownership.

Next, it’s just moving everything in and settling in. Even after closing, homeownership may feel overwhelming, but there are plenty of resources to make it easier.

SoFi’s Home Financing Options

Ready to buy a single-family home? SoFi Mortgages can help make that dream a reality. With a variety of terms and competitive rates, home sweet home may be closer than you think.

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

Kickstart your single-family home search by finding your rate.


How much does it cost to buy a single-family home?

Zillow put the typical cost of a single-family home at $337,560 in March 2022. The National Association of Realtors® gave the median sales price of existing single-family homes as $382,000 for the same month.

New construction costs more. The average sales price of new houses sold in February 2022 was $511,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Can you buy a single-family home with no money down?

If a buyer qualifies for a mortgage-backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs or Department of Agriculture, or one issued directly by those agencies, they may be able to purchase a home with no down payment.

What are the most important things to consider when buying a house?

Location (including property tax rate, quality of schools, walkability, crime rate, access to green space, and the general vibe), your ability to cover all the costs, duration of your stay, and square footage may be important.

How much should you have in savings to buy a single-family house?

Enough to cover a down payment, closing costs, and moving fees while ideally preserving an emergency fund.

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

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

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

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.

Photo credit: iStock/jhorrocks

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couple on laptop together

Buying a House When Unmarried? Tips for Unmarried Couples

Lusting for buying a house together, with a non-spouse? Buying a home with a significant other is a big investment and commitment, but it can more easily open the door to homeownership.

If you’re buying a house with a lover, or a friend, parent, or sibling, here are a few things to know.

What You Should Know When Buying a House Unmarried

Before sharing a mortgage and house, a few heart-to-hearts about your purchase partner’s financial health and yours are in order. Being frank about debts, income, and projected job security is important. It’s a good idea to explore what-ifs as well.

Here’s a list of suggested questions to answer before crafting a legally binding cohabitation agreement:

•   Is the down payment to be evenly divided?

•   Will mortgage payments, insurance, property taxes, any mortgage insurance and HOA dues, repairs, and utilities be split evenly? If not, how will they be divided up?

•   What will happen if one person is unable to save money enough to make mortgage payments for a while?

•   What will happen if one homeowner dies or unmarried couple decides to move?

•   If one person leaves and the mortgage is refinanced to remove one of the signers, who pays for the refinancing?

Most lenders underwrite each individual on the home loan. The weaker link will most likely determine the rate at which you can borrow money as a duo. Here’s why: When lenders pull credit scores from the three main credit reporting agencies, they usually focus on the middle score. Let’s say your middle score is 720, and your co-borrower’s is 650. Lenders will use the lower of the two for the application.

Fannie Mae is an exception. For a conventional conforming loan, a lender will average the middle credit scores of the borrowers.

Even a small change in interest rate can result in significantly more money paid over time. (See for yourself with this online mortgage calculator.)

Buying a Home Married vs Unmarried

Married couples often merge their finances and operate as a single unit. If spouses are pulling from the same pool of money, they don’t generally mind shortages from a partner when the mortgage payment is due.

Unmarried co-borrowers going in on a house together may need each party to pull its weight each and every month.

Then there’s this: What if a co-owner dies?

For the most part, a spouse has the legal right to inherit property from their partner whether or not the deceased spouse had a will. Domestic couples may have no automatic right to inheritance if a co-owner dies without a will in place (dying intestate).

Additionally, depending on the state and the way the married couple holds title, the surviving spouse will receive a partial or full step-up in basis upon the first title owner’s death, meaning the property’s cost basis will be reset to fair market value when one spouse dies. If the inheriting spouse decides to sell the property, the stepped-up basis will greatly minimize capital gains taxes owed or translate to none owed at all.

The step-up in basis is one way that some families harness generational wealth through homeownership. Unmarried co-owners should be clear about how they hold title and what that means in case one partner dies.

How to Handle the Title

Two or more unmarried people can take title to a house. The main two forms are:

Tenancy in common. This arrangement allows equal or unequal ownership; that is, one person may own 60% of the property and the other person, 40%. If one owner dies, their share of the property passes to their heirs. It does not pass automatically to the surviving co-owner.

Tenancy in common allows one owner to transfer their interest to another buyer or use their share as collateral for financial transactions. And creditors may place liens on that person’s share of the property.

Joint tenancy with right of survivorship. Each person owns 50% of the house. Upon the death of one of the tenants, the property passes automatically to the surviving owner.

If you want to sell your share, you don’t have to ask for permission to do so. Any financing involving the property must be approved by both parties. Creditors trying to collect a debt from one of the homeowners may petition the court to force a sale in order to collect.

A third option is sole ownership, when only one person is on the title. The person left off the title risks walking away with nothing if the relationship sours.

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

Preparing for the Mortgage Application

The mortgage process is mostly the same whether applying solo or with a co-borrower.

It begins by getting a feel for how much house both of you can afford. Getting pre-qualified and using a home affordability calculator are quick ways to estimate your maximum budget.

Are you aware of each other’s credit scores, incomes, and debt burdens?

Is each of your debt-to-income ratios around 36%, max? If so, good, because this is a team effort.

Have you agreed on the type of loan that fits your needs? If not, a mortgage broker or direct lender can guide you.

Do you want the standard 30-year mortgage term, or is it in the budget to seek a shorter term, which will mean higher monthly payments but less interest paid?

Combining forces can make homeownership possible, especially for first-time homebuyers and anyone in a hot market. That’s exciting.

How to Make the Property Purchase 50/50

When each co-owner has a 50% share of the property, the status is joint tenants with right of survivorship.

Your real estate agent or attorney will need to be careful about the wording in the deed. It should reflect the desire to create joint tenancy, not tenancy in common.

What Happens If You Part Ways?

It’s a good idea to go into the deal with a written buyout agreement, just in case.

But if a pact is not in place, here are steps you could take to acquire the co-borrower’s share:

1.    Hire an independent appraiser to determine the property value.

2.    Find the difference between the mortgage balance and appraised value. That’s the equity in the house. If you each have a 50% share in the house, divide equity by two.

3.    Negotiate the buyout price. If you can’t come up with cash, take any refinancing costs into consideration and …

4.    Apply for a cash-out refinance. You’ll need to qualify on your own.

5.    Have a real estate agent create a detailed purchase agreement. You are the buyer, and the co-owner is the seller.

6.    If your refinance is approved, you will sign a deed transferring the seller’s interest in the property to you. The cash-out refi loan will pay off the original loan and, with luck, will provide the cash to pay your former co-borrower.

7.    The former co-owner signs a certificate of title, deed of sale, loan payoff, and statement of closing costs to make you the sole owner.

If that route is not viable, you may need to get the co-borrower to agree to sell the house. If yours is an assumable mortgage, good. They’re in demand.

The Takeaway

Buying a house with someone you are not married to works similarly to purchasing a property when married. Hopeful co-owners will apply for a mortgage as individuals. In general, the more solid each is financially, the better the chances of a “yes” and a good rate.

SoFi welcomes co-borrowers. Look into the advantages of an online mortgage lender like SoFi, which include low down payments, low fixed rates, and refinancing.

Finding your rate takes just minutes.


What happens if one of us is not on the mortgage?

If two people’s names are on the deed but just one is on the mortgage, both are owners of the home but only one is liable for repaying the mortgage loan.

What needs to change if I get married?

If co-borrowers marry, the deed will need to be updated.

To add a spouse’s name to the deed, you must file a quitclaim deed. You can transfer the ownership rights from yourself to yourself as well as other people. Once a couple marries, they may want to hold title with rights of survivorship if they do not already.

Can I add my partner’s name to the mortgage after buying the house?

No. You’ll need to refinance your mortgage.

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

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

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

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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How to Buy a Multifamily Property and What to Look For

How to Buy a Multifamily Property and What to Look For

Multifamily property has the power to generate cash flow and build wealth. Yet it also has the power to drain you of your free time and become the biggest money pit of your life.

If you’re looking to buy a multifamily property and avoid common headaches, you have your research cut out for you.

What Is a Multifamily Property?

Multifamily property consists of multiple units in a single building. This includes duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, condominium buildings, student housing, apartment complexes, age-restricted communities, low-income housing, and townhomes.

The units in a full multifamily housing property must have separate entrances, kitchens, bathrooms, and utility meters.

Multifamily property investing is more popular than ever. In fact, 2021 saw more than $890 billion in loans originated for commercial real estate — a 45% increase over 2020. Multifamily properties accounted for $376 billion of that.

There’s a reason that individual investors gravitate toward two- to four-unit properties, other than ease of management. Residential loans of 30 years with a fixed rate are available for properties with one to four dwelling units. FHA, VA, and USDA loans are available for those properties if they are owner-occupied.

For five or more units, a commercial loan is required. Commercial loans usually come with a higher down payment requirement, higher interest rate, and shorter-term, meaning significantly higher mortgage payments.

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

Why Buy a Multifamily Property?

Buying a multifamily home can jump-start your own real estate portfolio and investment portfolio. Here’s how.

Recommended: First-Time Homebuyers Guide

Income From Flipping

Multifamily homes can be improved and then resold for a profit: ”flipped.” Buying a multifamily property, remodeling, and then reselling can be even more profitable than flipping single-family homes because as you remodel, you can increase rents.

Once you increase rents, the property becomes more valuable, both in terms of monthly income, cash flow and overall worth.

The ‘BRRRR’ Method

BRRRR stands for buy, rehab, rent, refinance, repeat. An investor buys a property, renovates it, and rents out the newly refurbished units for more money. After that, they can refinance the property to take out extra cash to buy a new property to renovate.

This method works well with larger multifamily properties because the rehabbing of multiple units can be done while other units that are not being renovated can still bring in some income.

Cash Flow

Multifamily homes were designed for cash flow. Space and amenities are optimized to bring in money for the investor. On the other hand, single-family homes are designed for comfort. The added space of a single-family home may not bring as high of a return as a multifamily property.

Quick Portfolio Expansion

Buying multifamily properties allows investors to acquire multiple units with one transaction, so they may have a favorite in the single-family vs. multifamily comparison. Additionally, investing in multifamily properties can allow an investor to quickly generate income, which could be enough to acquire more properties.

Reduced Risk

A multifamily property lessens risk exposure. When you have single-family homes, vacancies have a bigger effect on your monthly cash flow. With one or more multifamily properties, the risk is spread across a number of properties. In other words, there are units still rented that can help cover the costs of the units that are vacant.

Analyzing the Investment Potential of a Multifamily Property

Investors can use a number of methods to determine if it makes sense to buy a multifamily property or not. Here are some of the most common calculations you can use to make that determination for yourself.

Cash Flow

In real estate investing, cash flow is money that’s generated by the property and money spent on the property. Positive cash flow means income exceeds expenses. You could also call it profit.

Investors have differing amounts that they consider acceptable. Some real estate investors bank on the appreciation of the property instead of the amount of cash flow.

The 1% Rule

The 1% rule states that the gross rents should be 1% or more of the purchase price. The 1% rule is hard to apply in high-income areas where the purchase price of a property is high relative to the rents it generates.

Gross Rent Multiplier

The gross rent multiplier (GRM) compares the gross annual rents to the fair market value of a property. It doesn’t take expenses into consideration and is meant to be a simple calculation to determine if a property is worth exploring further.

The lower the GRM, the more gross rent there is compared with the purchase price.

Cash on Cash Return

The cash on cash return is the annual amount earned compared with the amount of cash invested. It’s expressed as a formula: annual net cash flow divided by cash investment. This is helpful for investors who want to know how much cash is brought in by their cash investment each year.

Capitalization Rate

The capitalization rate, or cap rate, is the amount of net operating income divided by the purchase price. This number indicates how long it will take to get back all your money in an investment.

Recommended: What Is Cap Rate and How Do You Calculate It?

Internal Rate of Return

The IRR measures the rate of return over an amount of time. It takes into account both cash flow and expected appreciation.

Recommended: Mortgage Payment Calculator

How to Buy a Multifamily Property

You may be able to use 75% of documented rental income to help finance mortgage interest on your loan.
And again, multifamily homes with four or fewer units can be financed more traditionally, while five or more units require a commercial mortgage.

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage for your multifamily investment property is one of the best things you can do to get started. After a mortgage officer has examined your finances and greenlighted an amount, you can go shopping for your multifamily investment properties.

Find a Multifamily Home

To narrow your search for a new multifamily property here, you’ll want to decide what it is you’re looking for. Keep a few of these factors in mind:

•   Location: Do you have an area that you have expertise in? Are you going to manage the property yourself? These are some questions you’ll want to ask yourself to determine if you can buy a multifamily property near or far.

•   Price range: After you’ve looked at where you want to potentially invest, you’ll get a good sense of what properties will cost by looking at real estate listings. Keep in mind that you can count 75% of documented rents toward the purchase price for many loan types, so the price you’ll be looking at will be much different than if you were looking for a single-family home.

•   Type of property: Are you looking for a fourplex or an apartment complex? Duplex or 55+ community? There are a lot of choices to make between different property types and whether or not they’ll bring you a profit.

•   Profit potential: Are you looking to invest for appreciation or cash flow? Many properties with a lower price tag in the Midwest may be better for cash flow, while properties on the West Coast may appreciate more. Take a look at both and decide on your investment strategy.

•   Condition: Do you have the resources and team in place to take on a multifamily property that needs a lot of work? Or would you rather have something turnkey? You’ll want to be sure you know what resources you can commit to the project before you get in over your head.

Choose a Loan

The type of rental property used may determine what type of loan you’re able to get. If this is your first rental, you may want to consider living in one of the units so you can qualify for owner-occupied financing, which usually comes with lower rates and down payment requirements.

Choose a lender that can answer your questions about mortgages.

Make an Offer and Close

Working with an a real estate agent, you’ll submit a competitive offer for the property you’ve chosen. Some buyers use cash to make the most competitive offer, while others need financing.

Renovate and Get Ready for Your Tenants

No matter what class of property you buy, the rental units will almost always require some work. Whether it’s a simple clean or a major renovation, these things are both tax-deductible and will improve the value, not to mention rentability, of your property.

Create a Management Plan

To make sure you’re running a business, and it’s not running you, you need to have a solid plan in place for how the rentals will be managed. How are repairs going to be taken care of? What’s your process when a rental turns over? How are you going to keep up with laws and ordinances?

Having a plan helps. Even so, you’ll learn as you go and will need to adjust this plan.

The Takeaway

How to buy a multifamily property? Do your research and choose a property that you’ll have the ability to finance and manage. Investing in rental properties and multifamily investing is not easy, but it can generate cash flow and create family wealth.

If you need help buying a multifamily home, give SoFi Mortgages a look. SoFi offers financing for two- to four-unit properties, single-family homes, condos, and townhouses.


Is buying a multifamily property a good investment?

Finding a multifamily property that is a good investment will depend on the investor’s analysis of the property. This can include the price, condition, gross rent multiplier, capitalization rate, and a number of other factors that will make renting the units successfully.

What are the different kinds of multifamily properties?

•   Duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes

•   Townhouses

•   Apartment buildings

•   Condominiums

•   Bungalow courts

•   Mixed-use buildings

•   Student housing

•   Age-restricted housing units

•   Low-income housing units

What is the best way to finance a multifamily home?

Some would argue that an FHA loan with 3.5% down is one of the best ways to finance a home with up to four units. The owner must live in one of the units to qualify for this type of financing.

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: iStock/Andrey Sayfutdinov

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Secured Overnight Financing Rate: Transitioning to SOFR

Secured Overnight Financing Rate Explained

The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) is the benchmark interest rate that has replaced the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) in the U.S. In fact, for the past several years, lenders have been gradually switching from using LIBOR to determine rates for consumer loans, such as student loans, to using SOFR.

Here’s what you need to know about SOFR, including how it differs from LIBOR, and how you might be impacted by the change.

What Is the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR)?

Financial institutions now use Secured Overnight Financing Rate, or SOFR, as a tool for pricing corporate and consumer loans, including business loans, student loans, mortgages, and credit cards. SOFR sets rates based on the rates that financial institutions pay one another for overnight loans (hence the name). The SOFR rate is published daily by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

SOFR is a popular benchmark because it is risk-free and transparent. It is based on more than $1 trillion in cleared marketplace transactions. This in contrast to the index it has replaced, the London Interbank Offered Rate, better known as LIBOR. LIBOR was based on hypothetical short-term loan rates. This has historically made LIBOR less reliable and more vulnerable to insider manipulation.

💡 Quick Tip: You can fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.

How Does the SOFR Work?

When large financial institutions lend money to one another, they must adhere to reserve and liquidity requirements. They do this by using Treasury bond repurchase agreements, known as “repos”. Using repo agreements, Treasurys are used as collateral and banks are able to make overnight loans.

The SOFR interest rate index is made up of the weighted averages of the interest rates used in real, finalized repo transactions. Every morning, the New York Federal Reserve Bank publishes the SOFR rate it has calculated for repo transactions on the previous business day.

Current SOFR Rates

The New York Federal Reserve publishes the SOFR rate every business day. The latest rate is:

5.06% on July 25, 2023

The History of SOFR

Financial institutions, banks, and lenders rely on certain indexes to determine interest rates. Before the 1980s, there wasn’t one particular index that was used internationally. However, during the 1980s, increased complexity in the market resulted in the need for more standardized use of a benchmark tool for determining adjustable rates.

The international financial industry adopted LIBOR as the standard because it was viewed as a trusted, accurate, and reliable index. Other indexes were still used, but the majority of institutions used LIBOR. LIBOR rates were once the basis for about $300 trillion in assets around the world.

Fast forward to around 2008, and certain large financial institutions were manipulating interest rates illegally in order to increase their profits. This was possible in part because LIBOR is based on hypothetical rates. Manipulation of rates was one factor that led to the financial crisis.

Once that manipulation was discovered, there was a global demand for a new rate benchmark and a call to end the use of LIBOR. As a result of the 2008 financial crisis, banking regulations led to less borrowing and a lessening of trading activity. Less trading made LIBOR even less reliable.

In 2017, the Federal Reserve formed a group of large financial institutions known as the Alternative Reference Rate Committee (ARRC) to work on finding an alternative to LIBOR. They ultimately chose SOFR.

Both LIBOR and SOFR were being used by banks and lenders until June 2023, when SOFR became the standard in the U.S.

How SOFR Is Different From LIBOR

There are some key differences between SOFR and LIBOR, which help explain the shift towards SOFR and away from LIBOR. Here’s a look at some of the biggest.

•   SOFR is based on completed transactions, whereas LIBOR is based on the rates that financial institutions said they would offer each other for short-term loans. Because it’s based on hypotheticals, LIBOR is more vulnerable to manipulation.

•   Lending based on LIBOR doesn’t use collateral, making it unsecured. Loans using LIBOR include a premium due to credit risk. SOFR, on the other hand, is secured, as it is based on transactions backed with Treasurys. Therefore, there is no premium included in the interest rates.

•   SOFR is a daily (overnight) rate, while LIBOR has seven variable rates.

Recommended: What’s the Average Student Loan Interest Rate?

How SOFR Could Affect You

There has been some concern that the shift away from LIBOR would cause great market disruption. However, the changeover was designed to be slow and gradual and, generally, hasn’t caused any sudden changes for borrowers.

In fact, if you have a federal student loan or a private student loan with a fixed-rate, the change from LIBOR to SOFR has not — and will not — have any impact on your loan, since the rate is fixed for the life of the loan. If you are entering into a new loan, SOFR rates are already being used.

If you have a student loan (or any other type of loan) with a variable rate, the shift from LIBOR to SOFR may have impacted your loan — but likely not in any noticeable way. Switching from one index (LIBOR) to another, largely similar index (SOFR) — in the absence of any other market changes — won’t have much impact on a loan’s interest rate, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau .

The rate on an adjustable-rate loan can go up and down over time. These changes, however, are largely due to general ups and downs in interest rates across the economy. Loan rates have been going up across the board, but that is not due to the shift from LIBOR to SOFR. Rather, it’s the result of efforts by the Federal Reserve to tamp down inflation.

💡 Quick Tip: It’s a good idea to understand the pros and cons of private student loans and federal student loans before committing to them.

The Takeaway

If you have a student loan, you may have received a notice from your lender or servicer about a change in the index rate for your loan. Instead of LIBOR, lenders in the U.S. are now using SOFR. The indexes work in a similar way and it should not have a major impact on your loan. If you’re in the market for a new loan, you won’t be affected by the switch, since U.S. lenders have already made the shift to SOFR.

Keep in mind, though, that interest rates on loans are based on numerous factors, including general market conditions and your (or your cosigner’s) qualifications as a borrower.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

Photo credit: iStock/Nicholas Ahonen

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 Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

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

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


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