Selling a House With a Mortgage: Can You Do It?

Selling a House With a Mortgage: Can You Do It?

Can you sell a house with a mortgage? Sure. In fact, it’s common to sell a property that still has a mortgage, because most people don’t stay in a home long enough to pay off the home loan.

Selling a house with a mortgage isn’t hard. Sure, there’s a bit of paperwork involved, but a professional lender and real estate agent can guide you through the mortgage selling process.

Here’s everything you need to know about selling a home with a mortgage.

What Happens to Your Mortgage When You Sell Your Home?

When you sell your home, the amount you contracted with the buyer is put toward your mortgage and settlement costs before any excess funds are wired to you. Here’s how it works for different transaction types.

A Typical Sale

In a typical sale, homeowners will put their current home on the market before buying another one. Assuming the homeowners have more value in their home than what is owed on their mortgage, they can take the proceeds from the sale of the home and apply that money to the purchase of a new home.

A Short Sale

A short sale is one when you cannot sell the home for what you owe on the mortgage and need to ask the lender to cover the difference (or short).

In a short sale transaction, the mortgage lender and servicer must accept the buyer’s offer before an escrow account can be opened for the sale of the property. This type of mortgage relief transaction is lengthy (up to 120 days!) and involves a lot of paperwork. It’s not common in areas where values are rising.

When You Buy Another House

There are several roads you can take when you buy another house before selling your own. You may have the option of:

•   Holding two mortgages. If your lender approves you for a new mortgage without selling your current home, you may be able to use this option when shopping for a mortgage. However, you won’t be able to use funds from the sale of your current home for the purchase of your next home.

•   Including a home sale contingency in your real estate contract. The home sale contingency conditions the purchase of the new home upon the sale of the old home. In other words, the contract is not binding unless you find a buyer to purchase the old home. The two transactions are often tied together. When the sale of the old home closes, it can immediately fund the down payment and closing costs of the new home (depending on how much there is, of course). Keep in mind that a home sale contingency can make your offer less competitive in a hot real estate market where sellers are not willing to wait around for a buyer’s home to sell.

•   Getting a bridge loan. A bridge loan is a short-term loan used to fund the costs of obtaining a new home before selling the old home. The interest rates are usually pretty high, but most homebuyers don’t plan to hold the loan for long.

Selling a House With a Mortgage: Step by Step

Here are the steps to take to sell a home that still has a mortgage.

Get a Payoff Quote

To determine exactly how much of the mortgage you still owe, you’ll need a payoff quote from your mortgage servicer. This is not the same thing as the balance showed on your last mortgage statement. The payoff amount will include any interest still owed until the day your loan is paid off, as well as any fees you may owe.

The payoff quote will have an expiration date. If the outstanding mortgage balance is paid off before that date, the amount on the payoff quote is valid. If it is paid after, sellers will need to obtain a new payoff quote.

Determine Your Home Equity

Equity is the difference between what your property is worth and what you owe on your mortgage (your payoff quote is most accurate). If your home is worth $400,000 and your payoff amount on existing mortgage is $250,000, your equity is $150,000.

When you sell your home, you gain access to this equity. Your mortgage, any second mortgage like a home equity loan, and closing costs are settled, and then you are wired the excess amount to use how you like. Many homeowners opt to use part or all of the money as a down payment on their next home.

Secure a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent can walk you through the process of selling a home with a mortgage and clear up questions on other mortgage basics. Your agent will be particularly valuable if you need to buy a new home before selling your current home.

Set a Price

With your agent, you will look at factors that affect property value, such as comparable sales in your area, to help you set a price. There are different price strategies you can review with your agent to bring in more buyers to bid on your home.

Accept a Bid and Open Escrow

After an open house and a slew of showings, you may have an offer (or a handful). Consider what you value in accepting an offer. Do you want a fast close? The highest price? A buyer who is flexible with your moving date? A buyer with mortgage pre-approval?

Did you connect with a particular family? You may also choose to continue negotiating with prospective buyers. Once you’ve selected a buyer and have signed the contract, it’s time to go into escrow.

Review Your Settlement Statement

You’ll be in escrow until the day your transaction closes. An escrow or title agent is the intermediary between you and the buyer until the deal is done. While the loan is being processed, title reports are prepared, inspections are held, and other details to close the deal are being worked out.

Three days before, you’ll see a closing disclosure (if you’re buying a house at the same time) and a settlement statement. The settlement statement outlines fees and charges of the real estate transaction, and pinpoints how much money you’ll net by selling your home.

Selling a House With a Negative Equity

If you have negative equity in the home and need to sell it, it is possible to sell if you come up with the difference yourself.

You don’t need to go through a short sale; you just pay the difference between the amount left on your mortgage note and the purchase offer at closing.

The Takeaway

Selling a house with a mortgage is common. The buyer pays the sales price, and that money is used to pay off your mortgage remainder, your closing costs, and any second mortgage. The rest is your profit.

If you’re thinking about buying or selling, browse topics from the SoFi mortgage help center and get answers to your mortgage questions.

And then, when you’re in the market for your next mortgage, on a primary home, second home, or investment property, see what SoFi offers. Competitive rates and flexible terms make a home loan from SoFi an attractive option.

Find your rate in a snap. There’s no obligation.


Who is responsible for the mortgage on the house during the sale?

The homeowner is responsible for continuing to pay the mortgage until paperwork is signed on closing day.

What happens if you sell a house with a HELOC?

When you sell a home that has a home equity line of credit with a balance, a home equity loan, or any other kind of lien against the house, that will need to be paid off before the remaining equity is paid out to you.

What happens to escrow money when you sell your house?

Your mortgage escrow account will be closed, and any money left will be refunded to you.

Can I make a profit on a house I still owe on?

Yes. You can make a profit if the amount you sell your house for is greater than the amount you owe on it, less closing and settlement costs.

Can I have two mortgages at once?

Yes, if your lender approves it.

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

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

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

Photo credit: iStock/Beton studio

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Rolling Closing Costs Into Home Loans: Here's What You Should Know

Rolling Closing Costs Into Home Loans: Here’s What You Should Know

You may be spared the pain of paying closing costs upfront, depending on the type of loan and the lender’s criteria, but you’ll either be given a higher interest rate on the mortgage to cover those costs or see the costs added to your principal balance.

Heard of a no closing cost mortgage or refinance? Sounds divine, but mortgage closing costs are as certain as death and taxes. They must be accounted for, one way or the other.

If you’re thinking about what’s needed to buy a house, keep closing costs in mind.

What Are Closing Costs?

A flock of fees known as closing costs on a new home are part and parcel of a sale. They typically range from 2% to 5% of the home’s purchase price.

Closing costs include origination fees, recording fees, title insurance, possibly points, appraisal fee, property taxes, and homeowners insurance. Some of the costs are unavoidable; lender fees are negotiable.

Closing costs come into play when acquiring a mortgage and when refinancing an existing home loan.

You may cover closing costs with a cash payment at closing, with your down payment, or by tacking them on to your monthly loan payments. You may also be able to negotiate with the sellers to have them cover some or all of the closing costs.

Can Closing Costs Be Rolled Into a Loan?

If you’re buying a home and taking out a new mortgage, your lender may allow you to roll your closing costs into the loan, depending on:

•   the type of home loan

•   the loan-to-value ratio

•   your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio

Rolling closing costs into your new mortgage can raise the DTI and loan-to-value ratios above a lender’s acceptable level. If this is the case, you may not be able to roll your closing costs into your loan.

If your loan-to-value ratio is too high, you may be forced to pay private mortgage insurance. In that case, it may be worth it to pay your closing costs upfront if you can.

If you hear of someone who’s taken out a mortgage and says they rolled their closing costs into their loan, they may have actually acquired a lender credit — the lender agreed to pay the closing costs in exchange for a higher interest rate in a “no closing cost mortgage.”

A no closing cost refinance works similarly.

Not all closing costs can be financed. For example, you can’t roll in the cost of homeowners insurance or prepaid property tax. Some of the costs that may be included are the origination fees, title fees and title insurance, appraisal fees, discount points, and the credit report fee.

What about government-backed mortgages? Most FHA loan closing costs can be financed.

VA loans usually require a one-time VA “funding fee.” A borrower can roll the funding fee into the mortgage.

USDA loans will allow borrowers to roll closing costs into their loan if the home they are buying appraises for more than the sales price. Buyers can then use the extra loan amount to pay the closing costs.

Finally, for FHA and USDA loans, the seller may contribute up to 6% of the home value as a seller concession for closing costs.

How to Roll Closing Costs Into a Home Loan

When you’re refinancing an existing mortgage and you roll in closing costs, you add the cost to the balance of your new mortgage. This is also known as financing your closing costs. Instead of paying for them up front, you’ll be paying a small portion of the costs each month, plus interest.

Pros of Rolling Closing Costs Into Home Loans

If you don’t have the cash on hand to pay your closing costs, rolling them into your mortgage could be advantageous, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer or short-term homeowner.

Even if you do have the cash, rolling closing costs into your loan allows you to keep that cash on hand to use for other purposes that may be more important to you at the time.

Cons of Rolling Closing Costs Into Home Loans

Rolling closing costs into a home loan can be expensive. By tacking on money to your loan principal, you’ll be increasing how much you spend each month on interest payments.

You’ll also increase your DTI, which may make it more difficult for you to secure other loans if you need them.

By adding closing costs to your loan, you are also increasing your loan to value, which means less equity and, often, private mortgage insurance.

Here are pros and cons of rolling closing costs into your loan at a glance:

Pros of Rolling In Costs

Cons of Rolling In Costs

Allows you to afford a home loan if you don’t have the cash on hand Increases interest paid over the life of the loan
Allows you to keep cash for other purposes Increases DTI, which can lower your ability to secure future credit
May allow you to buy a house sooner than you would otherwise be able to Increases loan to value, which may trigger private mortgage insurance
Reduces the amount of equity you have in your home

Is It Smart to Roll Closing Costs Into Home Loans?

Whether or not rolling closing costs into a home loan is the right choice for you will depend largely on your personal circumstances. If you don’t have the money to cover closing costs now, rolling them in may be a worthwhile option.

However, if you have the cash on hand, it may be better to pay the closing costs upfront. In most cases, paying closing costs upfront will result in paying less for the loan overall.

No matter which option you choose, you may want to do what you can to reduce closing costs, such as negotiating fees with lenders and trying to negotiate a concession with sellers in which they pay some or all of your costs. That said, a seller concession will be difficult to obtain if the housing market in your area is competitive.

The Takeaway

Closing costs are an inevitable part of taking out a home loan or refinancing one. Rolling closing costs into the loan may be an option.

If you’re in the market for a mortgage or a refinance, check out home loans with SoFi.

SoFi allows qualifying borrowers to roll closing costs into the mortgage. And SoFi’s fixed rates and terms are worth taking note of.

Get rolling and find your rate today.


What is a no closing cost mortgage?

The name of this kind of mortgage is a bit misleading. Closing costs are in play, but the lender agrees to cover them in exchange for a higher interest rate or adds them to the loan balance.

How much are home closing costs?

Closing costs are usually 2% to 5% of the purchase price of a home.

Can you waive closing costs on a home?

Some closing costs must be paid, no matter what. But you can try to negotiate origination and application fees with your lender. You may even be able to get your lender to waive certain fees entirely.

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

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

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

Photo credit: iStock/kate_sept2004

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What Is a Mortgage Contingency? How Does It Work and Why Is It Important?

What Is a Mortgage Contingency? How It Works Explained

You found a gem of a home that many others are eyeballing. You make an offer and cough up earnest money to show that you mean business. You’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage, so financing seems a shoo-in — until you hit a snag. That’s when a mortgage contingency becomes important.

If you’re unable to obtain financing by the deadline, you can walk away from the purchase agreement and have your earnest money returned.

Some non-cash buyers consider waiving the mortgage contingency to make their offer more competitive in a hot market, but of course, that involves risk. Here’s the scoop on the financing contingency.

What Is a Mortgage Contingency?

A mortgage contingency allows homebuyers to exit the purchase contract without legal repercussions should they be unable to secure financing by the agreed-upon deadline.

Should something unexpected happen, like a job loss or the inability to sell an existing home, the buyers are able to back out of the contract and have their earnest money returned when a financing contingency is in place. An earnest money deposit isn’t small potatoes for those who are competing against multiple offers: Buyers might put up to 10% of the home’s sale price toward their good-faith deposit.

A mortgage contingency also protects both buyers and sellers from uncertainty in the real estate transaction. It’s one of several contingencies that buyers might include in the contract when the property listing status changes to contingent but not yet pending.

Recommended: What Is the Difference Between Pending and Contingent Offers?

The Mortgage Contingency Clause

The mortgage contingency clause gives the buyers a time frame to go shopping for a mortgage or move beyond pre-approval. Though the clause may vary from contract to contract, most will allow buyers to back out of the contract if they do not directly cause the financing to fail. The earnest money held in escrow is returned to the buyer.

Even when buyers have mortgage pre-approval, financing can fall through at the last minute. This is the legal “out” if that happens.

How Mortgage Contingency Works

Buyers find a home and write a contract for the purchase of the property with the help of a buyer’s agent or real estate attorney. Many include in their offer a mortgage contingency, which has a deadline. If the sellers agree to this contingency (and other conditions of the offer), they sign the contract. The mortgage contingency becomes legally binding at this point.

Next, buyers complete a full application with the lender of their choice. The lender will review the buyer’s finances in-depth, and mortgage underwriting will make a final decision on whether or not to approve the loan.

If the mortgage is denied, the buyers are able to exit the contract and have their earnest money returned when a mortgage contingency is included.

In the absence of a mortgage contingency, the sellers would be able to keep the buyers’ earnest money and put the property back on the market to find another buyer.

How Long Does a Contingency Contract Last?

When buyers submit an offer, they will suggest a deadline for mortgage financing alongside the mortgage contingency. Typically, the time frame to secure a loan is 30 to 60 days.

Mortgage Contingency Clause Elements

Some mortgage contingency clauses are simple and give the buyers absolute discretion in obtaining financing acceptable to them. In others, financing is more specifically described. This variance depends on your contract and state law. Elements can include a mortgage contingency deadline, type of mortgage, amount needed, closing fees, and interest rate.

Mortgage Contingency Deadline

The mortgage contingency deadline is how long the buyer has to find approval for a mortgage. The deadline is often suggested by the buyer in the contract when an offer is made on the property.

When the seller signs the offer, the contingencies become legally binding and must be followed in good faith. Should a buyer need an extension of the deadline, an addendum must be submitted to and agreed upon by the seller.

Type of Mortgage

There are many different types of mortgages a buyer can use to purchase property, so while one loan may not work for a buyer’s situation, another may.

Buyers may have the option of selecting a conventional or government-insured loan, a jumbo loan, a mortgage with a term of 30, 15, or other years, or an interest-only mortgage. A lender can help walk buyers through their options.

Amount Needed

A mortgage contingency clause can also designate the amount needed to secure the loan. A mortgage calculator tool can help buyers estimate how much a mortgage payment is going to be and the total amount a borrower can qualify for.

Closing Fees

The mortgage contingency can stipulate what closing fees and mortgage points are acceptable.

Maximum Interest Rate

An interest rate can be specified that the lender must provide before the mortgage contingency is satisfied. This makes it so the buyer can back out of the contract if the costs are too high.

Can You Waive a Mortgage Contingency?

Yes. Mortgage pre-approval can help make your offer more competitive, but you may still waive the mortgage contingency. In that case, your earnest money is at risk, and you’re not able to renegotiate the contract if the appraisal comes in low.

Keep in mind that FHA and VA loans do not allow buyers to waive the appraisal (which is an important part of the financing contingency).

Reasons to Waive a Mortgage Contingency

There are some scenarios where it doesn’t make sense to include a mortgage contingency in the contract. Situations such as:

•   When the buyer is able to pay cash for the property. Cash buyers do not have to include a mortgage contingency.

•   When seller financing is involved. If the transaction is made with owner financing, buyers do not need to include a mortgage contingency.

•   When competition is extremely high. It might be a good idea to look at this option as a last resort, but in a market where sellers only accept offers without contingencies, going in without a mortgage contingency could help win the contract.

Other Common Types of Contingency Clauses

The financing contingency isn’t the only common one in a contract. Some others are:

•   Inspection contingency. This is a contingency that allows the buyer to exit the contract should the property fail a home inspection.

•   Appraisal contingency. This contingency is connected to the financing contingency. Should the property fail to appraise for the amount needed to finance the loan, the buyer would have the option of renegotiating or dropping the contract.

•   Title contingency. A property needs to be free of title defects for the sale of the property to go through.

•   Sale of home contingency. This contingency allows buyers to sell their current home before completing the purchase of a new home.

Recommended: How to Read a Preliminary Title Report

The Takeaway

A mortgage contingency protects homebuyers’ ability to get their earnest money back if financing falls through, but waiving the mortgage contingency in a hot market could put some house hunters at the front of the line.

Are you shopping for a home loan in earnest? Consider SoFi Mortgage Loans for owner-occupied primary residences, second homes, and investment properties.

SoFi offers competitive fixed rates, flexible terms, and down payment options as low as 3% for qualified first-time homebuyers.

Find your rate in minutes.


Can you waive a mortgage contingency?

Yes. Even if you need to obtain financing, waiving the mortgage contingency is an option.

What does no mortgage contingency mean?

No mortgage contingency means that buyers are willing to take on the risk of losing their earnest money if they are unable to secure financing by the closing deadline.

Should you waive mortgage contingency?

Homebuyers willing to take the risk of losing their earnest money to the seller to better compete are best poised to waive the mortgage contingency. Buyers who are not willing to risk their earnest money should not waive the mortgage contingency.

How long does a mortgage contingency usually take?

A mortgage contingency is usually set between 30 and 60 days.

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

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

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

Photo credit: iStock/kate_sept2004

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What Are Subprime Mortgages, Who Are They For, and What Are Their Risks?

What Are Subprime Mortgages and What Are Their Risks?

Subprime mortgages may allow borrowers with lower credit scores to obtain homeownership, but they will pay a steep price for the privilege, thanks to the higher risk to lenders.

There is hope for borrowers who raise their credit profiles through consistent, on-time payments: They can look into refinancing.

Here’s a deep dive into the subprime mortgage world.

What Is a Subprime Mortgage?

What constitutes a prime and subprime credit score can vary among lenders and organizations. A FICO® Score of 670 to 739 is considered prime, Experian says. The range of 660 to 719 is cited by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In any case, borrowers in those ranges qualify for the lowest rates.

A subprime mortgage is a housing loan intended for borrowers who have a credit score lower than 670, in Experian’s view, and negative items on their credit reports. Experian regards subprime borrowers as those with a score of 580 to 669, or fair credit.

Borrowers with lower credit scores represent a greater risk to the lender; they are statistically more likely to have trouble paying on time. So subprime mortgages often come with higher interest rates and larger down payments to help protect the lender from the increased risk of default.

Subprime borrowers accept these terms because they cannot qualify for a conventional mortgage — one from a private lender like a bank, credit union, or mortgage company — with lower costs.

Subprime mortgages are different from government-backed loans for borrowers with low credit scores (such as FHA loans).

How Subprime Mortgages Work

The main difference between a mortgage loan offered to a prime borrower vs. a subprime borrower is cost. Borrowers go through the same rigorous underwriting process with a lender and must submit documentation to verify income, employment, and assets.

But in the end, a prime borrower is offered the best rates, while a subprime borrower with so-called bad credit has to put more money down, pay more in fees, and pay a much higher interest rate over the life of the loan. Subprime mortgages also are often adjustable-rate mortgages, which means the payment can go up based on market indices.

Subprime Mortgages and the 2008 Housing Market Crash

Subprime mortgages became popular in the 2000s as more high-risk mortgages were made available to subprime borrowers. In 2005, subprime mortgages accounted for 20% of all new mortgage loans.

It became possible for a lender to originate more of these high-risk mortgages because of a new financial product called private-label mortgage-backed securities, sold to investors to fund the mortgages. The investments masked the risk of the subprime mortgages within.

Home prices soared as more borrowers sought out the various subprime mortgages being offered. Rising home prices also protected the investors of mortgage-backed securities from losses.

When the housing market had passed its peak and borrowers had no viable option for selling or refinancing their homes, properties began to fall into default. In an attempt to reduce their risk exposure, lenders originated fewer loans and increased requirements for even good borrowers. This depressed the market further.

Financial institutions that had taken strong positions in mortgage-backed securities were also in trouble. Many of the largest banking institutions in the world filed for bankruptcy, and the world learned once again what stock market crashes are.

In response to the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve implemented low mortgage rates in an attempt to jumpstart the economy.

Subprime Mortgage Regulations

In the wake of the financial crisis, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act to reduce excessive risk-taking in the mortgage industry. It established rules for what qualified mortgages are, which gave lenders a set of rules to follow to ensure that borrowers had the ability to repay the loans they were applying for.

It also provided regulation of qualified mortgages, including:

•   Limiting mortgages to 30-year terms

•   Limiting the amount of debt a borrower can take on to 43%

•   Barring interest-only payments

•   Barring negative amortization

•   Barring balloon payments

•   Putting a cap on fees and points a borrower can be charged for a loan

Subprime mortgages are not qualified mortgages. Borrowers who seek non-qualified mortgage loans may include self-employed people who want a more flexible financial verification process, people who have high debt, and people who want an interest-only loan.

Types of Subprime Mortgages

The most common types of subprime mortgages are adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), extended-term mortgages, and interest-only mortgages.

•   ARMs. Adjustable-rate mortgages have an interest rate that will change over the life of the loan. They often come with a low introductory rate, which then changes to a rate tied to market indices.

•   Extended-term mortgages. A subprime mortgage may have a term of 40 or 50 years instead of the typical 30-year term. Add to this the higher interest rate, and borrowers pay much more for the mortgage over the life of the loan.

•   Interest-only mortgages. Interest-only loans offer borrowers the ability to only repay the interest part of the loan for the first part of the repayment period. Borrowers have the option of not repaying any principal for five to 10 years. The annual percentage rate is typically a half a point higher than for conventional loans. Origination fees may be higher as well.

The “dignity mortgage,” a new kind of subprime loan, could help borrowers who expect to redeem their creditworthiness. The borrower makes a down payment of about 10% and agrees to pay a higher rate of interest for a number of years, typically five. After that period of on-time payments, the amount paid toward interest goes toward reducing the mortgage balance, and the rate is lowered to the prime rate.

Subprime vs Prime Mortgages

Subprime mortgages have many of the same features as prime mortgages, but there are some key differences.

Subprime Mortgage

Prime Mortgage

Higher interest rate Lower interest rate
Borrowers have fair credit, with scores generally between 580 and 669 Borrowers have good credit, with scores generally from 670 to 739
Larger down payment requirements Smaller down payment requirements
Smaller loan amounts Larger loan amounts
Higher fees Lower fees
Longer repayment periods Shorter repayment periods
Often an adjustable interest rate Fixed or adjustable rates

Because the lending institution is taking on more risk to lend to a subprime borrower, larger down payments are required, and they usually charge a higher interest rate.

Applying for Subprime Mortgages

Most conventional lenders require a minimum credit score of 620, but there are lenders out there that specialize in subprime mortgages.

Generally, applying for a subprime mortgage is much the same as applying for a traditional mortgage. Lenders will check your credit and analyze your finances. They will ask for proof of income, verification of employment, and documentation of assets (such as bank statements). They may also ask for documentation regarding your debts or negative items in your credit reports.

Mortgage rates for subprime loans will vary depending on the prime rate, lending institution, the home’s location, the loan amount, the down payment, credit score, the interest rate type, the loan term, and loan type. The rate is typically much higher than a prime mortgage’s.

A mortgage calculator can help you find out what your monthly payments will be with a subprime mortgage. Simply adjust your mortgage rate to the one quoted by a lender for your credit situation.

Alternatives to Subprime Mortgages

Subprime loans are not the only option for borrowers with fair credit scores. Borrowers with credit issues can also look at mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

FHA loans have more flexible standards for borrowers than conventional loans. Though borrowers can obtain a mortgage with a credit score as low as 500 (assuming they have a 10% down payment), FHA loans are not considered subprime mortgages. Instead, FHA loans are government-backed loans that provide mortgage insurance to FHA-approved lenders to use if the borrower defaults on the loan.

For many borrowers with good credit and a moderate down payment, FHA loans are more expensive and don’t make sense. However, for borrowers with lower credit scores and smaller down payments, an FHA loan could be the best option.

VA loans have no minimum credit requirement, but instead, lenders review the entire loan profile. The VA advises lenders to consider credit satisfactory if 12 months of payments have been made after the last derogatory credit item (in cases not involving bankruptcy).

The Takeaway

Subprime mortgages allow borrowers with impaired credit to unlock the door to a home, yet with unfavorable terms as a lender mitigates risk.

Borrowers who improve their credit and get on more substantial financial footing can look into refinancing the home loan with a conventional lender like SoFi. SoFi also offers home loans at competitive fixed rates and with flexible terms.

SoFi’s help center for mortgages is a great resource for all things financing. When you’re ready, take a deeper look at what SoFi offers.

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

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

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

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.

Photo credit: iStock/shapecharge

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5 Home Improvement Scams & How to Avoid Them

5 Common Home Improvement Scams & How to Avoid Them

Seniors have traditionally been the targets, but an urgent demand for home improvements born of the work-from-home spike, a dearth of tradespeople, and a shortage of building materials has increased the potential for home improvement fraud.

Bringing a stranger into your home can be a leap of faith, especially if you haven’t done all your homework. According to HomeAdvisor, an estimated 20,000 to 100,000 scammers try to pull the wool over homeowners’ eyes every year.

Knowing the signs of home improvement fraud may keep you from becoming the next victim of a home repair scam.

What Is a Home Improvement Scam?

A home improvement scam occurs when a company or contractor — or a con artist posing as one — tries to swindle a homeowner out of money in exchange for a renovation or remodel that goes unfinished or is botched.

Many times home improvement scammers go door to door in search of their next victims. A rule of thumb: If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Examples of Home Improvement Scams

There are many kinds of home improvement scams out there. Seniors have been the most targeted group, but people of all ages need to stay alert to these common frauds.

The ‘Free’ Inspection

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch” holds true when it comes to someone showing up on your doorstep and offering a free inspection. What’s their end game?

The Better Business Bureau reports that scammers and con artists will talk their way into a home to, say, inspect a roof, then cause damage like tearing off shingles to create a situation that actually then does require repairs.

Advertising by Flyer

Handymen often blanket communities with flyers in the hopes that a small percentage of people will call. It’s a good idea to treat such random distributions in your neighborhood as a sign to double-check credentials and legitimacy.

You may also find this a common occurrence after a storm if you live in a location prone to hurricanes or tornadoes. It would be smart to do your research before signing over your insurance check to someone who drops a flyer off.

Door-to-Door Contractors

If a contractor knocks on your door claiming to have leftover supplies from another project and offers you services for a steal, that’s a red flag. While the door-to-door salesman might be a real contractor, the construction industry is booming, so anyone going door to door to solicit business is likely not a serious professional or in demand.

The Handshake Deal

No contract? No job. Homeowners should always have an ironclad contract in place before any money is exchanged. And if a contractor asks for cash, that’s a potential sign of a scammer (or at least someone looking to avoid the IRS).

Likewise, the contractor should not ask for more money than was decided on in the initial contract and scope of work. Claiming unexpected problems is a sign of a potential scam or an inexperienced contractor.

If there are potential variables in the project, you might want to spell out in the contract that extra work will require a change order, that is, both parties will agree to the additional work and an added fee.

If you’ve arranged for a home improvement loan or other financing, predictability comes in handy.

No-Credential Contractors

Many states don’t require a credential from a contractor if the amount of their annual work is below a certain dollar figure. While it’s unusual for a home improvement company or individual to not have credentials, it’s not unprecedented.

In general, it’s wise to treat non-credentialed contractors with a healthy awareness that they potentially aren’t serious businesspeople.

How to Avoid a Home Improvement Scam

While home repair scams are good to know about, it’s also important to realize that not every contractor falls into that category, of course. If you take these tips into account, you’ll help yourself avoid a home improvement scam down the road.

Consider Only Contractors Who Are Licensed and Insured

It’s always smart to work with only licensed professionals who are insured, but in this case especially, a contractor who has their own license and insurance is likely not to be a scammer.

One way to get a background check on a contractor candidate is by calling the Better Business Bureau and requesting their rating, as well as asking if there are any complaints against them.

Get Recommendations From People You Trust

One way to avoid getting scammed is by working with contractors who come highly recommended by your friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances. It’s always a gamble hiring a worker you find via online sources, so the more personal ties you have to contractors — like connections to those who have actually hired them in the past — the less likely it is that you’ll fall victim to a scam.

Get Multiple Estimates

For any construction or remodel project, you’ll want to solicit bids. Usually a minimum of three bids will give you an idea of the price range for your home improvement ideas.

By getting estimates from various professional contractors, you’re less likely to get scammed by someone trying to take advantage of you because, say, you live in a high-dollar neighborhood or drive a nice car.

Read the Contract Carefully

One of the easiest ways to be taken advantage of in any project is by not reading the contract in detail. If the contract is only one page long and doesn’t spell out the basics like budget, deposit, timing, or how to handle change orders, you’re setting yourself up for potential issues as money starts changing hands and construction begins.

And if there are areas of concern in the contract the contractor gives you, you might consider hiring a lawyer to review it and make any necessary revisions for you.

The Takeaway

Stay alert to home repair scams by getting referrals, asking contractors for references, reading all contracts meticulously, and only hiring professionals who are licensed and insured.

3 Home Loan Tips

  1. Traditionally, mortgage lenders like to see a 20% down payment. But some lenders, such as SoFi, allow mortgages with as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers.
  2. If you don’t have the cash to renovate or remodel your home, one financing option is a personal or home improvement loan, which can be faster and easier to secure than a construction loan.
  3. Before agreeing to take out a personal loan from a lender, you should know if there are origination, prepayment, or other kinds of fees. If you get a personal loans from SoFi, there are no fees required.

SoFi is in the business of helping people buy and improve homes.


What to do if you get scammed by a contractor?

If you do find yourself the victim of a home repair scam, there are many organizations you could call for help. You might want to start with your local branch of the FBI, then submit a scam tip to the National Consumers League fraud website. Additionally, you can lodge a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and consult Call for Action, a nonprofit that advocates for consumers by investigating fraudulent contractors.

What should you not say to a contractor?

Agreeing to a large deposit without a commitment to start work is a common mistake. It’s also important to let the contractor know that you’ll be expecting certain benchmarks to be met as the project continues.

Can I withhold payment from a contractor?

If a contractor does not uphold their side of the contract, you can often legally withhold payment until the full scope of work is completed as outlined in the signed agreement.

How much of a deposit should you give a contractor?

A deposit of 10% to 25% is common for a construction project. Certain states may have home improvement laws that, for example, prohibit a contractor from taking more than one-third of the job payment as a deposit upfront.

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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.

Photo credit: iStock/SeventyFour

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