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Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) vs. Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP)

If you’re buying a home and have a down payment of less than 20%, you may have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI) or a mortgage insurance premium (MIP). This insurance does represent an additional charge you must pay for part or all of the life of the loan, but it can unlock homeownership for you.

Private mortgage insurance may be required for conventional home loans, those not backed by the government. Mortgage insurance premium is always a part of FHA-insured loans, at least for a number of years.

Each is intended to protect lenders against losses if borrowers default. Here’s a guide to how they work, how they differ, how much they cost, and when they can possibly be dropped.

What Is Mortgage Insurance Premium?

Borrowers pay MIP if they’re securing a loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration, no matter the down payment amount or loan term.

MIP runs for the loan’s full term or 11 years. There’s a one-time upfront premium of 1.75% of the base loan amount, which can be rolled into the loan, and an annual premium divided by 12 that is part of the monthly mortgage payment.

A key reason people choose FHA loans is the ability to put down as little as 3.5%.

Additionally, if your heart pounds with excitement when you think about buying a fixer-upper and making it beautiful and functional again, FHA offers the FHA 203(k) home loan for that — something that many lenders won’t do, especially if the home isn’t in good enough shape to be lived in.

With an FHA 203(k) loan, a single source of funding, the interest rate may be slightly higher than other mortgage rates, and the loan can require more coordination. It makes sense to choose contractors to rehab the home who are familiar with the program’s requirements.

Recommended: Different Types of Mortgage Loans, Explained

How Much Is MIP on an FHA Loan?

The ongoing annual MIP of 0.45% to 1.05% is divided by 12 and added to your monthly mortgage payment. What you’ll pay depends on your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio (think: down payment) and length of the loan.

Taking out an FHA loan for the common 30 years, or anything greater than 15 years, will result in the following rates for 2023 (measured in basis points, or bps):

Base Loan Amount

LTV

Annual MIP

≤ $726,200 ≤ 95% 50 bps (0.50%)
≤ $726,200 > 95% 55 bps (0.55%)
> $726,200 ≤ 95% 70 bps (0.70%)
> $726,200 > 75% 75 bps (0.75%)

Here’s an example: Let’s say you borrow less than or equal to $726,200 and have a down payment of 5% or less. You’ll pay an annual MIP of 0.50%. On a home loan of $300,000, that’s $1,500 per year, or $125 per month. (0.0050 x 300,000 = 1,500, divided by 12.)

Some homeowners can pay off their loans quicker so they choose a shorter term, such as 15 years. As a result, they can take advantage of lower MIP, like this:

Base Loan Amount

LTV

Annual MIP

≤ $726,200 ≤ 90% 15 bps (0.15%)
≤ $726,200 > 95% 40 bps (0.40%)
> $726,200 ≤ 78% 15 bps (0.15%)
> $726,200 78.01% – 90% 40 bps (0.40%)
> $726,200 > 90% 65 bps (0.65%)

So if you were to borrow less than or equal to $625,500 and put down 10% or less, you’d pay an annual MIP of 0.15%. On a $300,000 home loan, that’s $450 a year, or $37.50 a month.

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

Can You Get Rid of MIP?

Maybe.

If you took out an FHA loan before June 3, 2013, you may be able to cancel MIP if you have 22% equity in your home and have made all payments on time. (FHA lenders do not automatically cancel your MIP once you reach that home equity threshold. You’ll need to ask.)

If you purchased or refinanced a home with an FHA loan on or after June 3, 2013, and your down payment was less than 10%, MIP will last for the entire loan term.

If you put down 10% or more, you’ll pay MIP for 11 years.

Here’s a chart that sums it up. For loans with FHA case numbers assigned on or after June 3, 2013, FHA will collect the annual MIP as follows:

Term

LTV

Previous

New
≤ 15 years ≤ 78% No Annual MIP 11 Years
≤ 15 years 78.01% to 90% Canceled at 78% LTV 11 Years
≤ 15 years > 90% Loan Term Loan Term
> 15 years ≤ 78% 5 Years 11 Years
> 15 years 78.01% to 90% Canceled at 78% LTV and 5 Years 11 Years
> 15 years > 90% Canceled at 78% LTV and 5 Years Loan Term

One way to get rid of MIP is to refinance the FHA loan into a conventional loan with a private lender. Many FHA homeowners have enough equity to refi into a conventional loan and give mortgage insurance the heave-ho.

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


What Is Private Mortgage Insurance?

PMI is typically required when you’re putting less than 20% down on a conventional conforming loan. Most conventional mortgages are “conforming,” which means they meet the requirements to be sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

One kind of nonconforming loan, the jumbo loan, which starts at over half a million for a single-family home, does not always require PMI.

Usually, homeowners choose to pay PMI monthly, rather than annually, and it is included in monthly mortgage payments. A few may opt for lender-paid mortgage insurance, but for that convenience a homebuyer will usually pay a slightly higher interest rate.

Although PMI adds costs, it can allow you to qualify for a loan that you otherwise might not. And it can help you to buy a house without putting 20% down.

How Much Does PMI Cost?

PMI varies but often is 0.5% to 2% of the total loan amount annually. The premium amount depends on the type of mortgage you get, LTV, your credit score, and more. It also depends on the amount of PMI that your loan program or lender requires.

According to an Urban Institute report, PMI may be more economical than FHA loans for borrowers with a FICO score of 720 or above and who put 3.5% down.

When Can You Stop Paying PMI?

Buying a home may require you to pay a PMI premium, but there are four methods available to stop paying it.

First, there is a legal end to PMI. Under the Homeowners Protection Act, also known as the PMI Cancellation Act, your lender is required to cancel PMI automatically once your mortgage balance is at 78% of the home’s original value. “Original value” generally means either the contract sales price or the appraised value of your home at the time you purchased it, whichever is lower (or, if you have refinanced, the appraised value at the time you refinanced). Which figure is used for the original value can vary by state.

Second, you can reappraise your home, which will likely result in a new value. Thus, you can ask your servicer to cancel PMI based on your built equity and the current value. Owners of homes that appreciated, either over time or thanks to home improvements, may benefit from this. You may need to be proactive with your lender and meet specific eligibility requirements to help make that happen.

Third, you may be able to refinance your mortgage. If you have at least 20% equity, you can possibly qualify for a conventional loan without the need for PMI.

Finally, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes another way in which PMI can be canceled: If you’re current on your payments and you’ve reached the halfway point of the loan’s schedule, even if your mortgage balance hasn’t yet reached 78% of the home’s original value.

💡 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.

What About Refinancing?

If you have a mortgage that includes PMI or MIP and your property value has increased significantly, one option to consider is refinancing.

Some borrowers may find that they are now able to qualify for a conventional home loan without mortgage insurance.

Refinancing holds appeal because of the possibility of locking in a better rate and reducing your monthly payment. Equity-rich homeowners sometimes like a cash-out refinance.

But as with your original mortgage, you’ll face closing costs if you refinance.

What about a “no cost refinance” you might see advertised? You’ll either add the closing costs to the principal or get an increased interest rate.

The Takeaway

Glass half-full: Private mortgage insurance and mortgage insurance premium open the door to homeownership to many who otherwise could not buy a property. Glass half-empty: PMI and MIP can really add up.

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

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


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


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.

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.

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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LTV 101: Why Your Loan-to-Value Ratio Matters

If you are planning on applying for a home loan or for a mortgage refinance, you are likely going to want to know your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. This is calculated by dividing the loan principal by the value of the property. It’s an important metric when getting a mortgage approved because it reflects how much of the property’s value you are borrowing. A higher number may be seen as a riskier proposition by prospective lenders.

Here, you’ll learn the ins and outs of calculating LTV, why it matters, and how it can have a financial impact over the life of a loan.

LTV, a Pertinent Percentage

The relationship between the loan amount and the value of the asset securing that loan constitutes LTV.

To find the loan-to-value ratio, divide the loan amount (aka the loan principal) by the value of the property.

LTV = (Loan Value / Property Value) x 100

Here’s an example: Say you want to buy a $200,000 home. You have $20,000 set aside as a down payment and need to take out a $180,000 mortgage. So here’s what your LTV calculation looks like:

180,000 / 200,000 = 0.9 or 90%

Here’s another example: You want to refinance your mortgage (which means getting a new home loan, hopefully at a lower interest rate). Your home is valued at $350,000, and your mortgage balance is $220,000.

220,000 / 350,000 = 0.628 or 63%

As the LTV percentage increases, the risk to the lender increases.

Why Does LTV Matter?

Two major components of a mortgage loan can be affected by LTV: the interest rate and private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Interest Rate

LTV, in conjunction with your income, financial history, and credit score, is a major factor in determining how much a loan will cost.

When a lender writes a loan that is close to the value of the property, the perceived risk of default is higher because the borrower has little equity built up and therefore little to lose.

Should the property go into foreclosure, the lender may be unable to recoup the money it lent. Because of this, lenders prefer borrowers with lower LTVs and will often reward them with better interest rates.

Though a 20% down payment is not essential for loan approval, someone with an 80% LTV or lower is likely to get a more competitive rate than a similar borrower with a 90% LTV.

The same goes for a refinance or home equity line of credit: If you have 20% equity in your home, or at least 80% LTV, you’re more likely to get a better rate.

If you’ve ever run the numbers on mortgage loans, you know that a rate difference of 1% could amount to thousands of dollars paid in interest over the life of the loan.

Let’s look at an example, where two people are applying for loans on identical $300,000 properties.

Person One, Barb:

•  Puts 20%, or $60,000, down, so their LTV is 80%. (240,000 / 300,000 = 80%)

•  Gets approved for a 4.5% interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage

•  Will pay $197,778 in interest over the life of the loan

Person Two, Bill:

•  Puts 10%, or $30,000, down, so their LTV is 90%. (270,000 / 300,000 = 90%)

•  Gets approved for a 5.5% interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage

•  Will pay $281,891 in interest over the life of the loan

Bill will pay $84,113 more in interest than Barb, though it is true that Bill also has a larger loan and pays more in interest because of that.

So let’s compare apples to apples: Let’s assume that Bill is also putting $60,000 down and taking out a $240,000 loan, but that loan interest rate remains at 5.5%. Now, Bill pays $250,571 in interest;

The 1% difference in interest rates means Bill will pay nearly $53,000 more over the life of the loan than Barb will. (It’s worth noting that there are costs when you refinance a mortgage; it’s a new loan, with closing expenses.)

Mortgage CalculatorMortgage Calculator



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

PMI or Private Mortgage Insurance

Your LTV ratio also determines whether you’ll be required to pay for private mortgage insurance, or PMI. PMI helps protect your lender in the event that your house is foreclosed on and the lender assumes a loss in the process.

Your lender will charge you for PMI until your LTV reaches 78% (by law, if payments are current) or 80% (by request).

PMI can be a substantial added cost, typically ranging anywhere from 0.1% to 2% of the value of the loan per year. Using our example from above, a $270,000 loan at 5.5% with a 1% PMI rate translates to $225 per month for PMI, or about $18,800 in PMI paid until 20% equity is reached.

Recommended: Understanding the Different Types of Mortgage Loans

How Does LTV Change?

LTV changes when either the value of the property or the value of the loan changes.

If you’re a homeowner, the value of your property fluctuates with evolving market pressures. If you thought the value of your property increased significantly since your last home appraisal, you could have another appraisal done to document this. You could also potentially increase your home value through remodels or additions.

The balance of your loan should decrease over time as you make monthly mortgage payments, and this will lower your LTV. If you made a large payment toward your mortgage, that would significantly lower your LTV.

Whether through an increase in your property value or by reducing the loan, decreasing your LTV provides you with at least two possible money-saving options: the removal of PMI and/or refinancing to a lower rate.

💡 Quick Tip: Generally, the lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better loan terms you’ll be offered. One way to improve your ratio is to increase your income (hello, side hustle!). Another way is to consolidate your debt and lower your monthly debt payments.

The Takeaway

The loan-to-value ratio affects two big components of a mortgage loan: the interest rate and private mortgage insurance. A lower LTV percentage typically translates into more borrower benefits and less money spent over the life of the loan.

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

SoFi On-Time Close Guarantee: If all conditions of the Guarantee are met, and your loan does not close on or before the closing date on your purchase contract accepted by SoFi, and the delay is due to SoFi, SoFi will give you a credit toward closing costs or additional expenses caused by the delay in closing of up to $10,000.^ The following terms and conditions apply. This Guarantee is available only for loan applications submitted after 04/01/2024. Please discuss terms of this Guarantee with your loan officer. The mortgage must be a purchase transaction that is approved and funded by SoFi. This Guarantee does not apply to loans to purchase bank-owned properties or short-sale transactions. To qualify for the Guarantee, you must: (1) Sign up for access to SoFi’s online portal and upload all requested documents, (2) Submit documents requested by SoFi within 5 business days of the initial request and all additional doc requests within 2 business days (3) Submit an executed purchase contract on an eligible property with the closing date at least 25 calendar days from the receipt of executed Intent to Proceed and receipt of credit card deposit for an appraisal (30 days for VA loans; 40 days for Jumbo loans), (4) Lock your loan rate and satisfy all loan requirements and conditions at least 5 business days prior to your closing date as confirmed with your loan officer, and (5) Pay for and schedule an appraisal within 48 hours of the appraiser first contacting you by phone or email. This Guarantee will not be paid if any delays to closing are attributable to: a) the borrower(s), a third party, the seller or any other factors outside of SoFi control; b) if the information provided by the borrower(s) on the loan application could not be verified or was inaccurate or insufficient; c) attempting to fulfill federal/state regulatory requirements and/or agency guidelines; d) or the closing date is missed due to acts of God outside the control of SoFi. SoFi may change or terminate this offer at any time without notice to you. *To redeem the Guarantee if conditions met, see documentation provided by loan officer.
SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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


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

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

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The Ultimate House Maintenance Checklist

If spending big money on home repairs isn’t your thing, creating and keeping a solid house maintenance routine probably should be.

Regularly monitoring, cleaning, and caring for your roof, windows, plumbing, and appliances could help avoid costly leaks and breakdowns, make your home more energy efficient, and protect its value.

Not sure what needs to be done or when to do it? Check out the suggestions on this ultimate house maintenance checklist.

House Maintenance Checklist for Every Season

Many of the tasks on this list should be pretty easy to do yourself. Others might require phoning a friend with the proper tools and know-how. And there’s nothing wrong with calling in a pro if the job is too time-consuming or beyond your capabilities.

Monthly Home Maintenance Tasks

If the only time you remove the gunk from your gutters, garbage disposal, and dryer vent is when you notice they’re no longer working properly, you could be facing a hefty bill to fix the problem and repair any damage to your home.

Doing a little upkeep every month, instead of once or twice a year, can help keep small tasks from becoming major projects. Here are some things that can benefit from monthly maintenance:

•  Check the shower, tub, and sink drains for clogs. (If hair is your main headache, you may want to do this every week or more. Or you might want to consider purchasing a hair catcher for problematic drains.)
•  Clean showerheads and faucet aerators (that little mesh screen the water pours through) to keep sediment from slowing the flow. While you’re at it, check if any faucets are dripping when they shouldn’t and replace washers if necessary.
•  De-gunk the garbage disposal.
•  And give the dishwasher a deep cleaning. Good Housekeeping recommends using dishwasher cleaning tablets according to the label’s directions. Prefer the DIY route? Place a dishwasher-safe bowl filled with one cup of distilled vinegar on the top rack of an empty dishwasher, and run it through the pots-and-pans or heavy (hot) cycle.
•  Check and clean air conditioner and furnace filters, and kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans.
•  Make sure the dryer vent is free of debris. Doing so can help keep it running efficiently. And if there’s a bird’s nest or lint blocking hot air from escaping, it could become a fire hazard. You also may want to have your dryer duct inspected and cleaned once a year. (Most manufacturers recommend cleaning your lint screen, the piece near the door that’s easy to remove, after every dryer load.)
•  Vacuum HVAC registers and vents. Regular maintenance can keep some dust from building up, but you may want to call in a pro for a more thorough duct inspection if you suspect mold or if you have pets.
•  Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Test safety equipment every month and replace the batteries twice a year. (Many people use the change to and from daylight saving time as a reminder.) According to statistics from the National Fire Prevention Association, nearly three out of every five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.
•  Check electrical cords and outlets for damage. Replace or repair cords that are showing wear. And if an outlet cover is cracked, the prongs on an electrical cord won’t sit firmly in the outlet, or if the outlet is loose, don’t use it until you have a chance to repair it.

Seasonal Maintenance: Fall Tasks

Spring gets all the love when it comes to going all-in on sprucing up a house, but fall can also be a good time to take care of tasks both inside and out.

•  Do a top-to-bottom tour of the home’s exterior. If it’s a cool, sunny, and dry day, head outside and check out the roof for damaged or missing shingles or tiles. Inspect the exterior of the house (siding or stucco) and the foundation for any problems.
•  Check the chimney for exterior damage and clean the fireplace flue.
•  Give windows a once-over. Seal gaps, and if the windows are old and drafty, it might be time to replace them with a more energy-efficient model. (Keep in mind that you may need to get a building permit to install new windows that are bigger than what you had.)
•  Make sure exterior doors aren’t letting any cold air inside. You can get DIY weatherstripping materials at your local hardware store.
•  Wash windows and siding. If you notice any cracks or gaps during your walking tour, it may help to fix those first, especially if you’re pulling out the power washer. And if you see mildew or a buildup of dirt, check if it’s a symptom of a more serious problem.
•  Clean those gutters. If you’re ladder-phobic, there are pros out there who will be happy to clean your gutters and windows.
•  Winterize exterior plumbing. Drain hoses and sprinkler systems if you live in a colder climate. And drain, clean, and cover your swimming pool.
•  Remove and store or insulate window air conditioning units.
•  Give carpets and floors a thorough cleaning, and get your home ready for the holidays. If you haven’t cleaned your garbage disposal or dishwasher lately, this might be a good time to give them some love. And if you’re hosting Thanksgiving, maybe do a quick check to be sure all appliances are ready for the challenge.
•  Winterize your garden and lawn equipment. Depending on your climate and the type of grass you have, fall (not spring) may be the right time to fertilize your lawn. Bring in any delicate plants you hope to save from the cold. (Make sure no insects come along for the ride.) Clean garden tools. Empty gas-powered equipment before storing.
•  How’s your curb appeal? Raking leaves, aerating the lawn, patching the driveway or walkway, and touching up the exterior paint are fairly simple tasks that can make you house proud, improve your property, deter pests, and keep your family and visitors safe.
•  Flush the water heater and check for leaks. Manufacturers generally recommend flushing your water heater at least once per year to avoid sediment buildup.
•  Reverse ceiling fans to a clockwise rotation. This can help move the cooler air off the floor of your home and push warmer air down. Look for the switch on the fan’s housing, or you may be able to make the change with a remote or by giving the correct command to a smart device.
•  Remember to change the smoke detector batteries.

Seasonal Maintenance: Winter Tasks

If winter weather is a factor in your neck of the woods, prepare to hunker down.

•  Cover the barbecue or store it in the shed or garage.
•  Cover your outdoor air conditioning unit.
•  Store patio furniture and cushions in the garage or shed. If you prefer to leave heavy pieces in place, try to keep them covered.
•  Inspect the roof, gutters, and downspouts for damage after a heavy snow.
•  Check the basement for dampness or leaks when there’s a thaw.
•  Clear the driveway and walkways of snow so passersby can get by safely.
•  Focus on indoor tasks when you’re trapped by the weather. Clean the attic, caulk the tub, paint a room, and/or clean the refrigerator (inside and out, including the drip pans and coils).

Seasonal Maintenance: Spring Tasks

Shake off the winter blues, stow the alpaca throws, and get ready to enjoy warmer weather. Spring is for cleaning up, inside and out.

•  Throw those fall tasks into reverse. As soon as the last of the cold weather is past, uncover the outside air conditioning unit and have it serviced. If you have window air conditioning units, clean and return them to their rightful rooms. Bring the barbecue out from hibernation and make sure it’s in good working order. Prep the pool and outdoor sprinkler system for warm weather use. Return ceiling fans to a counter-clockwise rotation to bring cool air down. (And while you’re up there, maybe give those fans a good dusting).
•  Set up a termite inspection. There’s no wrong time of year to have your house inspected for termites, but since spring is when they tend to swarm, it may be a good way to tell if there’s a problem. It’s also an opportune time to check for carpenter ants, which can damage a home.
•  Clean and refinish the deck.
•  Look into any necessary lawn care. If you live in a warmer climate and have Bermuda, St. Augustine, or some other warm-season grass, it may be time to fertilize your turf.
•  Clean up fallen branches or leaves you missed in the fall. And clean out gutters and downspouts.
•  Inspect the roof, chimney, and siding for any winter damage.
•  Inspect indoor plumbing.
•  Check the attic for uninvited guests. Critters can invade your space almost any time of year, but squirrels, raccoons, bats, and rats are most likely to show up in the spring.
•  Wash windows and screens.
•  Clean patio furniture and cushions.
•  Call a professional about inspecting and pumping the septic tank. Some pros recommend emptying the tank every three to five years, but larger households may need more frequent pumpings.
•  Clear the clutter, and do a traditional spring cleaning. Dust everything. Polish furniture. Clean out closets, and donate or sell anything you no longer need. Clean the refrigerator, pantry, and cabinets. Scrub the floors, or have the carpets cleaned to get rid of late-winter’s muddy mess. Scrub the bathrooms and laundry room. As you go, you can check to see if anything is damaged and needs to be repaired or replaced.
•  Inspect and maintain the garage door opener. Listen for grating noises, and look for a jerky motion when the door goes up and down. Make sure the tracks are clear of debris. Some maintenance may be simple for DIYers (including spraying moving parts with lubricant, or repairing damaged weatherstripping). But if you suspect there’s an operational problem, you might want to bring in a pro.
•  Clear the garage of clutter and possible food sources. The garage may be another home for critters. Clean out the clutter and look for damage from pests, including rodents and ants.
•  Time to change the smoke detector batteries. (Yes, we listed it three times. It’s that important.)

Seasonal Maintenance: Summer Tasks

Because summer is so hot in many parts of the country, it can be a good season for inside repairs and outside jobs that might involve getting wet. For example, you could:

•  Pressure clean the house, driveway, and walkways.
•  Inspect the pool and pool equipment to be sure everything is clean and running well.
•  Check the sprinkler system to minimize water waste and maximize the benefits to the landscape.
•  Plant trees or shrubs to provide shade for your home, deck, and patio. Or consider installing a canopy or some other type of shade structure.
•  Install curtains, shades, or window film to minimize sun damage to indoor furnishings.
•  Inside, check for leaks around kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, and toilets.
•  Keep your air conditioner clean, and consider upgrading for better energy efficiency. Change the filter. Clean air ducts. Make sure nothing is blocking the outside unit.

Recommended: Home Improvement Cost Calculator

You’ll Probably Need Some Tools

Even if you plan to hire pros to take care of most of your home maintenance tasks, it can be a good idea to keep a few basic tools around for DIY jobs. Here are some items that could come in handy:

Basic Tools for Home Maintenance

•  Step ladder or fold-up work platform. Why risk falling off a wobbly chair when a step ladder can give you extra height and stability?
•  Extension ladder. If you’re planning to clean your gutters or get up on the roof, you’ll likely want to borrow or purchase an extension ladder to safely get the height you need.
•  Tape measure.
•  Hammer and assorted nails.
•  Screwdrivers and assorted screws. Both flat-head and Phillips-head screwdrivers (in a few different sizes) will likely get plenty of use; or you can pick up one screwdriver with interchangeable heads.
•  Drill and assorted drill bits. A light-duty, battery-operated drill and a set of bits should be able to handle most beginner-level repair jobs.
•  Indoor and outdoor extension cords.
•  Hacksaw or reciprocating saw. For quick cuts on wood, metal, PVC pipes, tree limbs, and more.
•  Putty knife. You can use it for patching holes, applying drywall mud, and for scraping away paint or dirt.
•  Pliers. Great for holding, bending, or reaching in to grab something.
•  Sandpaper. The grit or coarseness of the paper will vary depending on the job and the results you’re looking for. It may save time to have a few different types on hand.
•  Safety goggles and gloves. These basic pieces of safety equipment could protect you from a DIY disaster.

Paying for Home Improvements

One great reason to keep up with regular home maintenance is to avoid the high cost of major repairs or replacements. But from time to time, you may find you have to—or want to—take on a bigger project.

According to a 2022 study from the home services website Angi, homeowners spent an average of $2,467 on home maintenance projects and $1,953 on unexpected repairs. If your budget can’t handle those kinds of expenses right now, you may want to look into a home improvement loan, especially if you don’t have a lot of equity built up in your home.

A home improvement loan is an unsecured personal loan that can be used to cover the costs of renovations, upgrades, or repairs. It’s different from a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC), because you don’t have to use your home as collateral. Instead, the interest rate and amount you qualify for are based largely on the applicant’s credit history, income, and employment.

If you need to move quickly on a project or repair and need to borrow a small sum, such as $3,000 or $5,000, a home improvement personal loan can be especially appealing. The application process is a little less involved than for a home equity loan or HELOC. Note that repayment terms are typically shorter than with the other options and will vary with the lender. You may find terms of anywhere from one to seven years or possibly longer.

Recommended: How Much Does It Cost to Remodel or Renovate a House?

The Takeaway

Maintaining a home is a year-round job, one made easier by taking on a set number of tasks each month or season. The regular monitoring, care, and cleaning of the interior and exterior of your house doesn’t just keep your place looking good — it can also help prevent costly breakdowns and protect your investment. However, even the most vigilant homeowner will likely take on a costly repair at some point. If your budget can’t handle the extra expense, a home improvement personal loan might be one option to consider, as the application is usually a little less involved and you don’t have to use your home as collateral.

If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get some home repairs or renovations done, see what a SoFi personal loan 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.



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.

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What to Know About Getting Preapproved for a Home Loan

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

Here, you’ll learn the ins and outs of how to get preapproved for a home loan, including:

•   What is mortgage preapproval?

•   How do mortgage preapproval and prequalification compare?

•   What are the pros and cons of mortgage preapproval?

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

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

Key Points

•   Mortgage pre-approval is an important step in the homebuying process that helps determine how much you can afford.

•   Pre-approval involves submitting financial documents and undergoing a credit check to assess your eligibility for a mortgage.

•   It’s recommended to get pre-approved before house hunting to have a clear budget and show sellers you’re a serious buyer.

•   Pre-approval letters typically have an expiration date and may require updating if your financial situation changes.

•   Keep in mind that pre-approval is not a guarantee of a loan, and final approval will depend on additional factors.

What Is Mortgage Preapproval?

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

You’ll want to shop for homes within the price range of your preapproved mortgage. Armed with your preapproval for a home loan, you can show sellers that you are a serious buyer with the means to purchase a property. In the eyes of the seller, preapproval can often push you ahead of other potential buyers who have not yet been approved for a mortgage and make it easier to compete when there are multiple offers on a house.

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

When Should I Get Preapproved for a Home Loan?

Preapproval typically lasts for 90 days, at most, so you want to seek it when you are actively in the market for a new home. Maybe you’ve done some initial online research into available properties. Hopefully, you’ve also had a good look at your finances and thought about how much you have available to spend on a down payment as well as what amount of monthly mortgage payments you can afford long-term. It takes around 10 days after you submit a request to be preapproved, so factor that timing into your house search as well.

Mortgage Preapproval vs. Prequalification

If you are house hunting, you will likely hear two different terms regarding early mortgage moves: prequalification vs. preapproval. Prequalification is a simple, less involved view of your financial qualifications for a mortgage. Preapproval for a home loan is a more in-depth review of your finances and an indicator that your loan application will likely move forward smoothly. Each has its advantages, and its moment.

Mortgage Prequalification

Getting prequalified for a home loan involves a review of a few financial details — usually self-reported — such as income, assets, and debt. The lender will then estimate how much of a mortgage you can afford.

Pros of Mortgage Prequalification

•   It’s fast. The process can often be done in minutes, by phone or online.

•   You’ll zero in on house prices. Prequalifying for a home loan quickly gives you an idea of what your monthly payment might be and how much house you can afford.

•   You can shop around. You can prequalify with multiple lenders to see what types of terms and interest rates they offer.

•   It’s easy on your credit score. Prequalification will not affect your credit score because it only requires a “soft inquiry” into your credit record.

Cons of Mortgage Prequalification

•   It’s no guarantee. Because it is an unverified, high-level look at your finances, prequalification doesn’t ensure that you will actually qualify for a mortgage.

•   It won’t help you bargain. Being prequalified won’t help you negotiate a lower price with a seller or compete against other bidders in a competitive market.

Mortgage Preapproval

Requesting a mortgage preapproval is a more complicated process than getting prequalified. You’ll have to fill out an application with your chosen lender and agree to a credit check. The credit check will be a “hard pull” which will ding your credit score by a few points. You’ll also provide information about your income and assets. The evaluation process can take 10 days or more. Again, preapproval doesn’t mean it’s a done deal that you’ll get the loan, but it is a solid indication of your financial situation and ability to purchase a home.

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

Pros of Mortgage Preapproval:

•   It gives you an edge. Sellers will see that you are a serious buyer and have assurance that your financing won’t fall through and sink the deal.

•   It helps you get loan shopping done. When you’ve found your dream house, you don’t want to delay putting in an offer because you have to spend time getting your documents together and pursuing a loan. Going through the preapproval process helps you take care of these details before you’re in a fast-moving market.

Cons of Mortgage Preapproval:

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

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

•   Nothing is guaranteed. Even though your home loan preapproval letter likely has details on your loan amount and type, it is only tentative approval — you still can’t be 100% sure that you will get the loan.

Here are the basic comparison points of prequalification vs. preapproval:

The Difference Between Prequalification and Preapproval

Prequalification Preapproval
Process

•   Simple process that takes only a few minutes online or by phone.

•   You’ll fill out a thorough application and provide documents. The process can take 10 days or more.

Required materials

•   High-level financial details you provide; sometimes a “soft” credit check which won’t impact your rating.

•   Full application and supporting financial documents, as well as a “hard pull” credit check that will ding your rating.

Benefits

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

•   Lets you compare lenders and rates.

•   Tentatively approves you for a loan amount and type.

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

Drawbacks

•   Won’t give you an advantage in negotiations or a bidding war.

•   It’s no guarantee you’ll get a mortgage.

•   Preapproval is good for 90 days so your home-finding timeline may be affected.

•   Does not guarantee you’ll get the loan.

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


Steps to Get Preapproved for a Home Loan

Getting preapproved for a home loan will take some time, so it’s good to get the process started before you are ready to make an offer on a home. Here are some important steps along the way.

Check Your Credit Score

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

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

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

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

Calculate Your Potential Mortgage

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

Gather Documentation

Your credit score is only one of many factors a potential lender will consider when deciding on your mortgage qualification. So collect the many other documents you will need to paint a full picture of your financial life. Ask the lender what is needed, specifically. The list will likely include:

•   Recent pay stubs

•   Recent bank and investment account statements

•   Two years of tax returns and/or W2s, possibly more if you are self-employed

•   Verification of alimony or child support payments received and the court documents spelling out the terms of the payments

•   Social Security award letter, if you derive income from Social Security

•   Certificate of Eligibility from the VA, if you are applying for a VA loan

•   Gift letter documenting any money you are receiving from family or other sources toward a down payment

Receive Your Mortgage Preapproval Letter

Your first instinct when you receive preapproval will likely be to jump for joy. Next, take a moment to ask the lender if they made any assumptions about your finances in order to issue the letter, or if they flagged anything that could lead to you being denied a mortgage later on, or that could increase your costs. Doing this could help you head off future problems that might scuttle a deal.

Upping Your Odds of Mortgage Preapproval

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

Build Your Credit

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

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

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

Stay on Top of Debt

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

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

Recommended: Fixed-Rate vs. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

Watch Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

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

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

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

Prove Consistent Income

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

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

What Happens If Your Mortgage Preapproval is Rejected?

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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 happens during the preapproval process?

During the mortgage preapproval process you’ll provide lots of background information on your finances. A potential lender will also check your credit score. If the lender feels you’re a suitable candidate for a loan, you’ll receive a letter that you can show a seller to better your chances when making an offer on a home.

Do preapprovals hurt your credit score?

The lender will do a “hard pull” to obtain your credit score prior to a preapproval. This may cause your rating to drop by a few points, but it should rebound quickly if you pay your bills on time.

How far in advance should I get preapproved for a mortgage?

Get preapproved for a mortgage when you have a sense of the housing costs where you are shopping for a home, and you are ready to start looking in earnest.

Which is better preapproval or prequalification?

Prequalification and preapproval each have a place in the homebuying process. Prequalification is helpful when you are trying to get a sense of what you can afford and which lender might offer the best terms. It’s time for preapproval when you are serious about searching for a home and have researched possible lenders.

Is it OK to get multiple preapprovals?

You only need one preapproval, but it is fine to get a few if you want to see what loan amounts and rates you might qualify for. Make all applications within a 45-day window — the time frame during which multiple lenders can check your credit without each check having an additional impact on your score.


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

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


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


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.

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

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

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

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What Is the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit & How Much Is It?

What Is the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit & How Much Is It?

Legislation providing for a tax credit for first-time homebuyers was introduced in Congress in 2021 but is still making its way through Congress as of June, 2023. A revamp of the first-time homebuyer tax credit from 2008, the proposed First-Time Homebuyer Act of 2021, would modify the first-time homebuyer tax credit, increasing the allowable dollar amount of the credit from $8,000 to $15,000.

Unfortunately, this bill hasn’t passed, so there is currently no federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers. (A separate bill, the Downpayment Toward Equity Act of 2021, was introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2021, provides financial assistance specifically to first-generation homebuyers to help them purchase a home that they would occupy. This hasn’t passed either.)

Here’s everything you need to know about the history of the first-time homebuyer credit and what the future may hold.

What Is the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit?

The first-time homebuyer tax credit refers to a tax credit given in tax years 2008, 2009, and 2010 worth up to $8,000. It’s possible the term may also be used in the future as legislation for a new first-time homebuyer tax credit was introduced in the House of Representatives in April 2021.

The new proposed first-time homebuyer tax credit would typically be worth up to $15,000 for buyers whose adjusted gross income doesn’t exceed 160% of the median income for the area.

Recommended: The Cost of Living By State

First-Time Homebuyer Act of 2008

For first-time homebuyers who purchased a home between April 9, 2008, and May 1, 2010, a one-time tax credit of 10% of the purchase price, up to $7,500 in 2008 and increased to $8,000 in the next two years, was available. It was part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. The credit was for home purchases of up to $800,000 and phased out for individual taxpayers with higher incomes.

For home purchases made between April 9 and Dec. 31, 2008, the credit had to be repaid over 15 years, making it more of an interest-free loan than a true credit. Homebuyers taking advantage of the tax credit in the following years had repayment of the credit waived. Homebuyers who left the property before a three-year period were required to repay a portion of the credit back to the IRS.

Proposed First-Time Homebuyer Act of 2021

The First-Time Homebuyer Act of 2021 would allow qualified buyers a refundable tax credit of $7,500 for individuals and $15,000 for married couples filing jointly.

This bill amends the 2008 law to allow for higher purchase prices, revises the formulas for income, and revises rules pertaining to recapture of the credit and to members of the armed forces. It was introduced in the House by Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon in April 2021 but is not yet law as of June 2023.

What Can Be Deducted After Buying a Home?

Amounts eligible for the proposed tax credit would include the purchase price of the home. The amount of the credit is 10% of the purchase price.

Given that the maximum is $7,500 per individual and $15,000 per married couple filing jointly, if you and your spouse purchased a home with a mortgage loan of $500,000, the 10% credit would amount to $50,000. You would receive a tax credit of $15,000 if you filed jointly.

If you purchased a home for $102,000 with a spouse, 10% of that would be $10,200. You would be able to claim $10,200 for the credit if you filed jointly.

Here are some possible deductions now for homeowners who itemize, though most taxpayers take the standard deduction instead:

•   Mortgage interest on up to $750,000 of mortgage debt (or up to $375,000 if married and filing separately), including discount points paid to reduce the interest rate on the mortgage.

•   Up to $10,000 of property taxes when combined with state and local taxes.

•   Home office if you’re self-employed or a business owner but not an employee of a company.

If you sell your main home and have a capital gain, you may qualify to exclude up to $250,000 of that gain from your income, or up to $500,000 if you file a joint return with your spouse.

Recommended: Mortgage Interest Deduction Explained

Who Is Eligible for the First-Time Homebuyer Act of 2021?

First-time homebuyers purchasing a principal residence would be eligible for the tax credit. Not your first time buying a house? You may still be able to qualify.

A first-time homebuyer is defined as someone who has not owned an interest in a property for the past three years. So even if you had owned a home in the past, you might be eligible to receive this credit if it hadn’t been in the last three years.

Other qualifications include:

•   A modified adjusted gross income that is under 160% of the area median income.

•   Purchase of a property that is not above 125% of the area median purchase price.

•   Must live in the home as a principal residence for the tax year.

•   Must be over 18 years of age.

To note: If you claimed a first-time homebuyer credit under the 2008 law, you would be able to claim it again. But you could claim the new credit only once, for a first purchase. Also be aware that a copy of the settlement statement must be attached to your taxes.

How Does the Tax Credit Work?

If the bill passed, the new homeowner would file for the first-time homebuyer tax credit on their taxes. The credit would first be used to offset any taxes owed by the homebuyer. Then, as a refundable tax credit, the homebuyer would get money back on top of the amount of the credit after their tax bill had been paid.

For example, if you owed $4,000 in taxes after accounting for withholdings, and you qualified for a $15,000 tax credit, you’d apply that toward the amount you owe in taxes. You would get the rest back ($11,000) from the IRS.

Taxpayers must stay in the home for the duration of the tax year in order to receive the credit. If the property is sold within four years, taxpayers may need to pay a portion of the tax credit back. The amount is subject to a schedule, which is as follows:

•   Dispose of property before the end of Year 1: Repay 100% of the credit

•   Dispose of property before the end of Year 2: Repay 75% of the credit

•   Dispose of property before the end of Year 3: Repay 50% of the credit

•   Dispose of property before the end of Year 4: Repay 25% of the credit

Homebuyer Tax Credit vs Homebuyer Grant

Another first-time homebuyer program has been introduced in Congress to help with the costs of obtaining a home. The Downpayment Toward Equity Act would award a grant of up to $25,000 to first-generation homebuyers who come from socially and economically disadvantaged groups.

The down payment would need to be for a principal residence and would not need to be repaid after 60 months of occupancy. More details on the two proposed programs can be found below:

First-Time Homebuyer Act of 2021

Downpayment Toward Equity Act of 2021 Grant

Available to homeowners who have not owned a home in the last three years Available to first-generation homebuyers, meaning individuals whose parents do not currently own residential real estate or individuals who have been placed in foster care at any time
Credit against taxes of 10% of the purchase price, up to $15,000, available as a refundable tax credit Up to $25,000 available, and possibly more for high-cost areas
For buyers whose income doesn’t exceed 160% of the median income for the area Income may not exceed 120% of the median income for the area, except in high-cost areas, where the limit increases to 180%
Must be a principal residence Must be principal residence
No specified number of units 1-4 units will qualify
Allowed on purchase amounts up to 125% of the median purchase price of a home Must come from a socially and economically disadvantaged group
Must not dispose of the residence before the end of the tax year. Has a schedule for amount of the credit that is recaptured if the home is sold in a certain period of time After 60 months of occupancy, the grant does not need to be repaid
Has been introduced in the House and has been referred to the Ways and Means Committee. Has not passed as of early 2023 Has been introduced in the House but has not passed as of early 2023
Must be at least 18 years of age Assistance can be used for the costs to acquire the mortgage as well as home modification costs for those with disabilities
Must attach the settlement statement to your taxes Can be combined with other assistance programs, such as the first-time homebuyer tax credit

Help for First-Time Homebuyers

Although new federal legislation hasn’t yet delivered support to first-time homebuyers, there are other first-time homebuyer programs that can help with costs.

A first-time homebuyers guide will walk you through the process of buying your first home and help answer questions.

Are you crunching numbers? Try this mortgage calculator tool. Keep in mind that some private lenders (like SoFi) allow a down payment for first-time buyers that may be even lower than FHA loans.

The Takeaway

A first-time homebuyer tax credit of up to $15,000 has been proposed for qualified buyers. That would take some of the pressure of taking the plunge into homeownership. But Congress has not passed legislation to put the credit in place.

If home buying remains mysterious, the SoFi loan help center can help clear the fog.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.


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


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


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

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

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