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Avoiding Loan Origination Fees

One thing you should always look out for — regardless of the type of loan you’re applying for — is loan origination fees. Many lenders charge origination fees for new loans to help cover costs on their end. However, what these fees are called and the amount of these fees can vary quite a bit from lender to lender.

Before you settle on a lender, here are some things you need to know about origination fees, so you can make the best borrowing decision for your financial situation.

What Is a Loan Origination Fee?

An origination fee is a cost the lender charges for a new loan. It’s a one-time fee charged at the time the loan closes. The fee covers the costs the lender incurs for processing and closing the loan.

How Are Origination Fees Determined?

Loan origination fees depend on a number of factors. This includes:

•   Loan type

•   Loan amount

•   Credit score

•   Inclusion of a cosigner

•   Your financial situation, including assets, liabilities, and total income

Do I Have to Pay Origination Fees?

You don’t necessarily have to pay origination fees — while most lenders charge this fee, not all do. Additionally, origination fees may be negotiable. If you ask, a lender could simply lower the fee, or they could offer a credit to offset at least a portion of the origination fee. Or, they might agree to lower the fees if you’ll pay a higher interest rate.

To minimize the sting of loan origination fees, it also pays to research your loan options. Make sure to compare how much you’d pay overall for different loan offers, factoring in the term of the loan, the interest rate, and any fees.

One way to effectively compare and contrast different loan options is to check each loan’s annual percentage rate (APR), an important mortgage basic to understand. A loan’s APR provides a more comprehensive look at the cost you’ll incur over the life of the loan. This is because APR factors in the fees and costs associated with the loan, in addition to the loan’s interest rate.

The Truth in Lending Act requires all lenders to disclose an APR for all types of loans. You’ll also see any fees that a lender may charge listed there, including prepayment penalties.

How Much Are Loan Origination Fees?

How much a lender charges (and what the fee is called) varies based on the type of loan and the lender.

A traditional origination fee is usually calculated based on a percentage of the loan amount — and that percentage depends on the type of loan. For a mortgage, for instance, an origination fee is generally 0.50% to 1%. Origination fees for personal loans, on the other hand, can range from 1% to 8% of the loan amount, depending on a borrower’s credit score as well as the length, amount, and sometimes intended use of the loan.

There are a variety of other origination fees that lenders may charge, and these can be a flat amount rather than a percentage of the loan amount. Other fees that lenders may charge to originate a loan could be called processing, underwriting, administration, or document preparation fees.

Can Loan Origination Fees Affect Your Taxes?

Loan origination fees, categorized by the IRS as points, can be deductible as home mortgage interest. This can be the case even if the seller pays them. Borrowers who can deduct all of the interest on their mortgage may even be able to deduct all of the points, or loan origination fees, paid on their mortgage.

To claim this deduction, borrowers must meet certain conditions laid out by the IRS. They’ll then need to itemize deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040), Itemized Deductions.

The Takeaway

Loan origination fees are important to consider when shopping for a loan during the home-buying process. These fees are charged by lenders to help cover their costs of processing and closing a new loan application. While many lenders do charge origination fees, not all do, and some may be willing to negotiate.

Origination fees are just one reason it’s important to take the time to shop around and compare home loans. With a SoFi Home Loan, for instance, qualified first-time homebuyers can make a down payment as low as 3%.

Ready to get started with the home-buying process? Check out SoFi Mortgages.


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.

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


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


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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What Is an Escrow Holdback?

Congratulations; You’ve found a house you love and want to buy. You may even be in the final stages of closing on this dream home. But sometimes, you may need to access what’s known as an escrow holdback: a way of setting aside funds at the closing for repairs that are most definitely needed as you take ownership.

For example, what happens if a blizzard hits the week before your scheduled closing, revealing a leaky roof that needs major (pricey) repairs?

This wasn’t something that showed up in the initial inspection report. Or, maybe it did show up in the inspection report, but the issue is suddenly much more pressing in light of said snowstorm. Either way, these repairs can’t be made at this particular time because it’s winter and, well, it’s snowing outside.

What’s a buyer to do? In this scenario, an escrow holdback could be a path to funding the necessary repairs without blowing your closing date. Here, you’ll learn more about escrow holdbacks, including:

•   What is an escrow holdback?

•   How does an escrow holdback work?

•   What qualifies for an escrow holdback?

•   What if your situation doesn’t qualify for a holdback?

Key Points

•   An escrow holdback involves setting aside funds at closing for necessary property repairs.

•   Funds are held in an escrow account until specified repairs are completed satisfactorily.

•   The process is typically initiated through a contract addendum negotiated by real estate agents.

•   Not all transactions qualify for an escrow holdback, as lender approval is required.

•   Escrow holdbacks are often used when repairs are delayed by external factors like weather.

Escrow Holdbacks Defined

Before defining escrow holdbacks, here’s what escrow is: Typically, it’s money held by a third party as assets (such as real estate) are being transferred.

An escrow holdback agreement, however, occurs when money is set aside at the closing of a home to complete repairs. Generally, this is done at the seller’s expense, though not always.

Money is held in an escrow account until the repairs are completed. The funds can then be released. Another name for an escrow holdback that you may hear used is a repair escrow.

This may sound like a pretty good arrangement, but an escrow holdback isn’t a possibility for every borrower and in every scenario. Consider the following:

•   The lender’s underwriter will review the appraisal and any accompanying inspection reports to confirm that the sales price is met and that the property does not show evidence of any deferred maintenance items that can have an effect on things like safety, soundness, or structural integrity.

•   These are often referred to as health and safety issues. Health and safety issues can affect whether the home is eligible for financing.

•   Most lenders will not close a loan on a home that has been called out for things like missing railing, stairs, fencing, and much more.

It’s not hard to imagine a situation where a homebuyer needs the seller to repair something that cannot be completed until after the contract’s closing date, like in the snowstorm example above. Depending upon the repair, a lender may allow for the seller to place funds in escrow for what’s known as defect cure within a specified period of time for a specified amount.

These repairs could be expected or unexpected as the parties move through the home-buying process. Generally, the appraiser calls out the more obvious issues that hurt a home appraisal and may recommend further inspection by an expert for something noted in their report. If an appraiser requests an inspection, the lender’s underwriter may review the report and require some repairs.

Another example of a situation in which an escrow holdback could be a valuable tool: when a seller needs the proceeds from the sale of the home in order to comply with the repair request.

These are examples of how and when an escrow holdback could be warranted and beneficial.

Recommended: 31 Ways to Save for a Home

How Does the Escrow Holdback Process Work?

If you’re curious about how the escrow holdback process works, consider these points that spell out the process in more detail:

•   Normally, the first step is the buyer’s and seller’s agents negotiating any required repairs through an addendum to the purchase contract. This is drawn up by the real estate agents and signed by all parties.

•   The document will likely outline the repairs that the buyer (or lender) would like the seller to make, the timeframe for those repairs, and details about how and when the payments to the contractors are to be made.

•   This contract addendum is then sent to the escrow company (or the attorney) and to the lender, who will review the document. The underwriter of the loan will have the last say as to whether the escrow holdback is approved.

•   If it is approved, then the closing may proceed as initially planned. However, not all holdback requests will be approved.

   The lender may have conditions around the approval of an escrow holdback. These can include but are not limited to such requirements as improvements having to be completed within 180 days of the mortgage closing date.

•   The lender will likely establish an escrow completion account with the title company from the purchase proceeds. This is typically equal to 120% of the estimated cost for completing the improvements and more.

•   Once the repairs are completed, another inspection occurs to verify that the work has been satisfactorily finished. The escrow account can then release the funds.

Find out how much it would cost
to update your home.


It’s important to note that not all transactions qualify for an escrow holdback. The criteria can vary between lenders, property, and even type of transaction (sale of existing property or of a new construction home).

Recommended: What to Look for When Buying a House

What Qualifies for an Escrow Holdback?

Generally, lenders prefer that repairs take place prior to the closing, but exceptions can be made — like when repairs must be delayed due to inclement weather.

This may limit escrow holdbacks to repairs that require some work on the outside of the home, such as repairs to a roof, yard, or plumbing accessed outdoors.

Here are some types of repairs that are factors that affect property value and residents’ safety and may qualify for an escrow holdback:

•   Patio problems

•   Pest control

•   Roof repair

•   Septic tank issues

•   Sprinkler system problems

•   Yard cleanup

Again, there are no sure things or guarantees of how an escrow holdback will work. That’s because it is ultimately up to all of the involved parties to agree on the terms.

Beyond the weather causing a delay, lenders are often looking to determine whether the repairs present a risk to the property (their collateral) or present health and safety issues to the prospective occupants. As you might imagine, a lender generally won’t want to make a loan for a property that they believe could threaten the health or safety of its occupants.

Recommended: The 7 Steps to Buying a House

What if Your Situation Doesn’t Qualify for a Holdback?

Say you believe there is an issue that merits an escrow holdback, but the lender doesn’t approve it. Now what? There’s not much, unfortunately, that you can do in this situation. The most likely scenario is that the closing date will need to be pushed out to make time for any required repairs before loan closing.

As you pursue an escrow holdback, it might be helpful to understand that some lenders’ guidelines may not offer escrow holdbacks under any conditions.

This could be due to such issues as the follow-up involved in closing the holdback proves too arduous. Or perhaps there are difficulties in getting the repairs completed within the specified period of time given. If lenders have been burned in any of these ways in the past, they may decide the process is too risky.

In the event that a lender refuses an escrow holdback agreement, you might have to delay your closing. If the lender also refuses to make a loan, you (the buyer) could be in a very tough spot. Even if you’re willing to pay for the cost of repairs in order to move forward with the lending process, this may not be in your best interest.
You do not yet own the property, and issues can arise from making repairs.

It may be wise to get your real estate lawyer’s and real estate agent’s opinions about how to handle this kind of difficult situation. They can help you explore any options that exist.

Recommended: First-time Homebuyer’s Guide

The Takeaway

Escrow holdbacks can be a way to solve for needed repairs of a property you are interested in buying or have already begun to purchase. By keeping funds in this kind of account, the parties involved may be able to satisfactorily complete the work needed and pay for it in a clear and equitable way.

No matter your situation, you’ll likely want to work with a lender that can help you navigate the home-buying process. While you’re shopping for a mortgage, check out customer service reviews in addition to rates and terms.

SoFi offers mortgage loans with competitive rates and low down payment options. Plus, the process is simple, quick, and convenient.

Looking for an affordable mortgage loan that you can access easily? See what SoFi has to offer!


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


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


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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A Guide to Gift Letters for Mortgages

A Guide to Gift Letters for Mortgages

If you’re fortunate enough to have a family member or close friend who is giving you funds to put towards a down payment, congratulations. But in this scenario, a gift letter can be an important part of validating money given to you for the down payment or closing costs on a home.

Approximately 22% of first-time homebuyers received gift funds to help with the purchase of a home, according to a 2022 National Association of Realtors® (NAR) survey.

Properly documented gift funds will help the mortgage loan to pass underwriting so your loan may be approved. In this guide, you’ll learn the story on gift letters, how they differ for various types of mortgages, plus other important details.

What Is a Gift Letter?

A mortgage gift letter is a legal document whose primary purpose is to state that down payment funds given to the borrower are not expected to be repaid. The lender wants to ensure that the borrower is not taking on more debt to help finance the mortgage, even if it is money from family or friends. The letter is required to pass underwriting.
It’s essential that a gift letter include all the necessary elements to be considered in your loan application.


💡 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.‡

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


What Should Be Included in Gift Letters?

Lenders usually provide a standard gift letter for you and the donor to complete, but it’s helpful to know what needs to be stated. Gift letters should include the following details:

•   Dollar amount of the gift

•   Name of the donor, address, phone number, and details of the account from which the money will be or was drawn

•   Relationship to the borrower

•   Name of the borrower, address, and phone number

•   Address of the home associated with the down payment

•   The donor’s signed statement saying the funds will not need to be repaid by the borrower

•   Language saying the funds were not made available to the donor by any party interested in the sale of the property

•   The dated signatures of borrower and donor.

Note: Along with a gift letter, the lender may want to see proof of funds in the donor’s account and evidence the money was deposited into the borrower’s account.

Does Timing and Amount of a Gift Matter?

When it comes to gift letters, when and how much you received may need to be documented.

Amount

There typically is no limit on the amount of gift money, but when a deposit is more than half of your monthly household income, lenders usually will want an explanation.

For USDA loans and FHA loans, you’ll need to explain any amount over 1% of the purchase price or appraised value of your home that was deposited in your account recently. There are exceptions, including tax refunds and bonuses, that do not need to be “seasoned” or explained.

Timing

A lender will look at bank statements for the past 60 to 90 days. Amounts that existed in your account before this time are considered seasoned, and you may not need to provide a gift letter for that money. The amount of a deposit inside that time frame may need a letter of explanation.

If you have money in other places, you’ll want to deposit it into your bank account for proper seasoning.

Who Can Give Down Payment Gifts?

Down payment gift regulations vary by loan type, but generally, gift funds are allowable on many mortgage types from close family members or friends. There are some key differences between regulation for down payment gifts for conventional and government home loans (USDA, VA, and FHA mortgages).

FHA Loans

Under Federal Housing Administration guidelines, gift funds for the down payment are allowable from the following donors:

•   Relatives of the borrower

•   The borrower’s employer or labor union

•   A close friend with a clearly defined and documented interest in the borrower

•   A charitable organization

•   A government agency or public entity that provides homeownership assistance to low- and moderate-income families or first-time homebuyers.

The gift must not come from an entity that has an interest in the sale of the property, such as the seller, the builder, the real estate agent, or the broker.

Buying a fixer-upper? This guide to FHA 203(k) loans and options could be a good read.

Conventional Loans

Under conventional loan guidelines (meaning non-government), gift funds are allowable from these sources:

•   A relative, which Fannie Mae defines as someone related by blood, marriage, adoption, or legal guardianship

•   A domestic partner or fiance.

The donor may not be anyone with an interest in the transaction, such as the builder, developer, or real estate agent.

USDA or VA Loans

With loans backed by the Department of Agriculture or Veterans Affairs, the only people who cannot provide gift funds are those who would benefit from the sale, such as the seller, lender, real estate agent, or developer. The gift funds must be properly sourced, which means the lender wants to see a paper trail from the bank account of the donor to that of the borrower.


💡 Quick Tip: Don’t have a lot of cash on hand for a down payment? The minimum down payment for an FHA mortgage loan is as low as 3.5%.1

Are There Limits on Gifts?

No, but some loans may require borrowers to come up with a portion of the down payment. This is what’s known as a minimum borrower contribution, and it applies to conventional loan financing. It is different based on what type of real estate is being purchased, be it a primary residence, second home, or investment property.

Primary Residences

For primary residences, there is no minimum borrower contribution. All of the money needed to complete the transaction can be a gift. This is true whether the loan-to-value ratio is above or below 80% for conventional financing.

Second Homes

For second homes, if the loan-to-value is above 80% (meaning the down payment was less than 20%), borrowers must make a minimum contribution of 5% from their own funds. This is also true on principal units with two to four units.

Investment Properties

Gift funds are not allowed on conventional mortgages for investment properties. Fannie Mae also states that gift funds are not to be used for investment properties.

Recommended: How to Buy a House From a Family Member

How Does This Affect Taxes?

Taxes may affect the donor of the funds, unless the home purchaser makes special arrangements to pay taxes on the gift funds.

The money gifted may be excluded from tax as per the annual exclusion amount. The IRS says the annual exclusion for gifts is $17,000 for 2023. This is per person, so if buying real estate with a partner, the amount doubles to $34,000.

If the gift is from a set of parents, each parent can gift that amount to each of the borrowing partners. This allows for $68,000 to be gifted before triggering the gift tax. In other words:

•   Parent 1: $17,000 for borrowing partner 1, $17,000 for borrowing partner 2 = $34,000

•   Parent 2: $17,000 for borrowing partner 1, $17,000 for borrowing partner 2 = $34,000

Adding the amount for both parents contributing for both borrowers equals $68,000.

If that amount is exceeded, each donor can also claim it as part of the lifetime exclusion on estate taxes, which has a limit of $13.61 million for 2024.

Gift Equity Letters vs Gift Letters for Mortgages

A gift of equity is when the seller gives a portion of the home’s equity to the buyer. It is transferred to the buyer as a credit in the transaction and may be used to fund all or part of the down payment on principal or second homes.

If there is a gift of equity, a gift of equity letter is required. A signed gift letter and settlement statement with the equity gift will be retained in the loan file.

While there are similarities, there are also some differences.

Gift of Equity

Gifts for Mortgages

Must be applied as a reduction in purchase price or credit Gifts can be an unlimited amount but are not accepted for investment properties
Borrower may not receive cash back at closing for gift equity Borrower can receive funds back at closing
Required to notify appraiser of equity gift Appraiser doesn’t need to know about it
Is from the seller, who can be a relative. For FHA loans, only equity gifts from family are acceptable Is from a donor related to the borrower
Can be used to fund the down payment and closing costs Can be used to fund the down payment and closing costs
Permitted for principal and second homes Permitted for principal and second homes

Whether you’re fortunate enough to receive a gift or you’re making your own way toward homeownership, this mortgage calculator may come in handy.

Recommended: Mortgage Loan Help Center

The Takeaway

A gift letter ensures that the money, or equity, you receive when buying a home is validated when your mortgage loan goes through underwriting. It’s a necessary step on your way to loan approval that a good mortgage lender may be able to help you with.

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.


Photo credit: iStock/Pictac

*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.
¹FHA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by FHA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. FHA loans require an Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP), which may be financed or paid at closing, in addition to monthly Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MIP). Maximum loan amounts vary by county. The minimum FHA mortgage down payment is 3.5% for those who qualify financially for a primary purchase. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.
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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A Guide to Mortgage Statements

Guide to Mortgage Statements

If you get paperless mortgage statements or have autopay set up on your home loan, or even if you get statements in the mail, it might be easy to miss important information.

By paying close attention to exactly what’s included in your mortgage statements, you’ll avoid unpleasant surprises.

Key Points

•   Mortgage statements are crucial for tracking loan details like balance, interest rate, and fees.

•   The Dodd-Frank Act mandates specific information and format for these statements.

•   Statements detail amounts due, including principal, interest, and escrow.

•   They also provide a breakdown of past payments and any fees incurred.

•   Contact information for the mortgage servicer is included for customer support.

What Is a Mortgage Statement?

Maybe you became well versed on mortgage need-to-knows.

And you did the hard work of calculating your mortgage size, qualifying for a mortgage, and getting that loan.

Now comes the mortgage statement, a document that comes from your mortgage loan servicer. It typically is sent every month and includes how much you owe, the due date, the interest rate, and any fees and charges.

In the past, the information that was included and the format of a mortgage statement ran the gamut among lenders. Thanks to the Dodd-Frank Act, enacted in 2010, mortgage servicers must include specific loan information and follow a uniform model for mortgage statements.

Statements also include information on any late payments, how much you’ll need to pay to bring your balance into the green, and any late fees you’re dinged with. You can also find customer service information on your mortgage statement.

What Does a Mortgage Statement Look Like?

A mortgage statement has similar elements as a credit card or personal loan statement. As a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s a sample mortgage statement, courtesy of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:

text

What Is on a Mortgage Statement?

Deciphering what’s on a mortgage statement can help you know what to look for, how much you owe in a given month, how much you’re paying toward interest and principal, and how much you’ve paid year to date.

Let’s dig into all the different parts of a home loan statement.

Amount Due

This usually can be found at the top of your mortgage statement and is how much you owe for that month. Besides the amount, you’ll find the due date and, usually, the late fee you’ll get hit with should you be late on payment.

Explanation of Amount Due

This section breaks down why you owe what you owe. You’ll find the principal amount, the interest amount, escrow for taxes and insurance, and any fees charged. All of those will be tallied for a total of what you’ll owe that month.

Past Payment Breakdown

Below the section that explains the amount due, you’ll find a breakdown of your past payment: the date the payment was made, the amount, and a short description that may include late fees or penalties and transaction history.

Contact Information

This is typically located on the top left corner of the mortgage statement and contains your mortgage loan servicer address, email, and phone number should you need to speak to a customer service representative. Note that like student loan servicers, a mortgage loan servicer might be different from your lender.

Your mortgage loan servicer processes payments, answers questions, and keeps tabs on your loan payments, and how much has been paid on principal and interest.

You probably know what escrow is. If you have an escrow account, your mortgage loan servicer is tasked with managing the account.

Account Information

Your account information includes your account number, name, and address.

Delinquency Information

If you’re late on a mortgage payment, within 45 days you’ll receive a notice of delinquency, which might be included on your mortgage statement or be a separate document. You’ll find the date you fell delinquent, your account history, and the balance due to bring you back into good standing.

There might be other information such as costs and risks should you remain delinquent. There also might be options to avoid foreclosure. One possible tactic is mortgage forbearance, when a lender agrees to stop or reduce payments for a short time.

Understanding the Details

Your mortgage statement includes many details, all to help you understand what you’re paying in interest, the fees involved, and what your principal and interest amounts are. It’s important to look at everything to make sure you understand what information is included. If you have trouble deciphering the information, call your mortgage servicer listed on the document.

If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, the mortgage statement also might include information about when that interest rate might change.

Important Features to Know

Besides the main parts of a mortgage statement, here are a few other key elements of a mortgage statement.

Delinquency Notice

As mentioned, you’ll receive a delinquency notice within 45 days should you fall behind on payments.
Besides how much you owe to get back in good standing, the delinquency notice might also include your account history, recent transactions, and options to avoid foreclosure.

Escrow Balance

If you have an escrow account for your mortgage, the balance will show how much you owe in homeowners insurance and property taxes.

Note that this is different from how much money you have in your escrow account and how much money is collected, which is typically included in your annual escrow statement.

If you don’t have an escrow account, your taxes and homeowners insurance owed will usually be separate lines.

Using Your Mortgage Statement

Now that we’ve covered all the elements of a mortgage statement, let’s go over how to use your mortgage statement and make the most of it.

Making Sure Everything Is in Order

Comb through your mortgage statement and make sure everything is accurate and up to date. Inaccurate information can lead to overpaying, potentially falling behind on payments, and headaches.

Keeping Annual Mortgage Statements

While you might not need to hold on to your monthly mortgage statements for too long, make sure you have access to your annual mortgage statements for a longer period of time. In case you run into an IRS audit, you’ll be required to provide documentation for the past three years.

Making Your Payment

There are a handful of ways you can make payments on your mortgage.

Online. This is probably the most common and simplest way to submit a mortgage payment. It’s free, and once you set up an account online and link a bank account to draw payments from, you’re set. You can also set up autopay, which will ensure that you make on-time payments. In some cases, you might be able to get a discount for setting up auto-debit.

Coupon book. A mortgage servicer might send you a coupon book to use to make payments instead of sending mortgage statements. A coupon book has payment slips to include with payments. The slips offer limited information.

Check in the mail. As with any other bill, you can write a check and drop it in the mail. However, sending a payment by snail mail might mean that your payment doesn’t arrive on time. If you are going this route, send payments early and consider sending them via certified mail.

How Long Should You Keep Mortgage Statements and Documents?

Just as you’d want to hold on to billing statements for other expenses, you’ll want to keep your mortgage statements in case you find inaccuracies down the line. Plus, the statements come in handy for tax purposes and for your personal accounting.

So how long should you keep your mortgage statements? Because you can find your statements online by logging in to your account, you don’t need to hold on to paper statements for long. In fact, you can probably get rid of paper copies if you have access to them online. It might be a good idea to download the documents to your computer.

Other documents, such as your deed, deed of trust, promissory note, purchase contract, seller disclosures, and home inspection report, you should keep as long as you own the home.

Consider holding on to annual mortgage statements for several years, and in a safe place. It’s a good idea to store them on your computer and have hard copies on hand.

The Takeaway

It’s easy to gloss over mortgage statements, but not knowing what’s in them every month and not noticing any changes can result in costly mistakes. It’s also eye-opening to see how much of a payment goes to principal and how much to interest.

If you’re shopping for a home or home loan, you might want to consider an online mortgage application with SoFi.

Find your own rate. It takes just minutes.

Photo credit: iStock/Tijana Simic


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.

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18 Mortgage Questions for Your Lender

18 Mortgage Questions for Your Lender

Hiring a knowledgeable mortgage lender is one of the first steps you’ll take on your journey to homeownership. A good lender could help you make a sound decision about a major commitment.

If you want to know what questions to ask a mortgage lender, these can help you feel more confident choosing a lender to navigate the complex home buying process with you.

1. How Much Can You Borrow?

How much you can borrow is the question most buyers have on their minds when they start dreaming about real estate listings online. You may have come across a mortgage calculator tool that estimates how much a mortgage is going to cost.

But that’s just a starting point. A mortgage lender will evaluate the entire spectrum of a homebuyer’s financial situation and find the true amount they’ll be able to borrow. The lender may also make recommendations for programs or loans for each buyer’s unique situation.

So what is a mortgage note? It’s a legal contract between the lender and you that provides all the details about the loan, including the amount you were approved to borrow.

2. How Much of a Down Payment Do You Need?

Another key question your lender can help answer for you is how much are down payments? You’ve probably heard about the ideal 20% down, but a lender may be able to help homebuyers get into a home with a much lower down payment, such as 3% or 5%.

The 20% mark will enable you to forgo mortgage insurance on a conventional loan (one not insured by the federal government), but lower down payment amounts can help homebuyers obtain housing sooner. There are plenty of options to explore with your lender.

3. What Is the Interest Rate and APR?

Your mortgage lender may explain the difference between the interest rate and annual percentage rate.

•   Interest rate. The interest rate is the cost to borrow money each year. It does not include any fees or mortgage insurance premiums.

•   APR. The APR is a more comprehensive reflection of what you’ll pay for the mortgage, which will include the interest rate, points paid, mortgage lender fees, and other fees needed to acquire the mortgage. It’s usually higher than the interest rate.

The interest rate and APR must be disclosed to you in a loan estimate with the other terms and conditions the lender is offering. Pay particular attention to how the APR changes from loan to loan. When you’re looking at APR vs. interest rates for an FHA loan and a conventional mortgage, for instance, you’ll notice the numbers come out very different. (This is just a recent example.)

30-year term

Interest rate

APR

FHA 2.660% 3.530%
Conventional 3.140% 3.300%

In this case, the interest rate on a 30-year FHA loan is lower than on a conventional loan; however, when accounting an upfront mortgage premium for the FHA loan and other fees, the APR is higher on the FHA loan than on the conventional loan.

4. What Are the Differences Between Fixed and Adjustable Rate Mortgages?

The main difference between a fixed and adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) is whether or not the monthly payment will change over the life of the loan.

•   Fixed rate mortgages start with a little higher monthly payment than an ARM, but the rate is secure for the term.

•   An adjustable-rate mortgage will start with a lower interest rate that may increase as the index of interest rates increases. This type of loan may be more appropriate for buyers who know they will not be keeping the mortgage for long.

Fixed Rate Mortgages

ARMs

Interest rate is locked in for the term Interest rate is variable
Monthly payment stays the same Monthly payment is variable
Typically a longer-term mortgage, such as 15 or 30 years Typically a shorter-term mortgage, such as five or seven years
Interest rate is determined when the rate is locked before closing the mortgage When the index of interest rates goes up, the payment goes up

The key to an ARM is to know how it adjusts. How frequently will your rate adjust? How much could your interest and monthly payments increase with each adjustment? Is there a cap on how high your interest rate could go? A good mortgage lender will help you consider all these variables when selecting a fixed rate or adjustable rate mortgage.

5. How Many Points Does the Rate Include?

First, you may wonder, “What are points on a mortgage?” Mortgage points are fees paid to a lender for a lower interest rate. Asking your lender how many points are included in the rate can help you compare loan products accurately.

6. When Can the Interest Rate Be Locked In?

Rate lock policies differ from lender to lender. Check at the top of Page 1 of your loan estimate to see if your rate is locked, and for how long.

You’ll want to ensure that any rate lock agreement gives you enough time to close on your loan. Many lenders have fees for extending a rate lock.

7. How Much Are Estimated Closing Costs?

One of the most important documents you’ll receive from your lender is called a loan estimate. The loan estimate gives a detailed breakdown of the interest rate, monthly payment, fees, and closing costs on the loan you’re applying for. When you ask about closing costs, your lender can provide this document to you.

Common closing costs include:

•   Appraisal fee

•   Loan origination fee

•   Title insurance

•   Prepaid expenses such as homeowners insurance, property taxes, and interest until your first payment is due

Expect to see 2% to 5% of the purchase price in closing costs.

8. Are There Any Other Fees?

Lenders are required to disclose all costs in the loan estimate. They’re also required to use the same standard form so you can compare costs and fees among different lenders accurately. Be sure to ask lenders about other fees and watch for them on your loan estimate.

9. When Will the Closing Happen?

The time to close on a house will depend on your individual circumstances, but the national average is 46 days.

An experienced lender with a digitized process may be able to close a loan more quickly. The time it takes a lender to approve and process the loan are also factors to consider.

10. What Could Delay the Closing?

In the November 2021 National Association of Realtors® Confidence Index survey, 24% of real estate transactions had a delayed settlement. The main reasons for the delays included:

•   Appraisal issues (21%)

•   Issues related to obtaining financing (20%)

•   Home inspection or environmental issues (11%)

•   Titling or deed issues (9%)

•   Contingencies stated in the contract (7%)

The largest culprits — appraisal and financing issues — accounted for more than 40% of the delayed closings. An experienced lender may know how to bring a home to the closing table despite the challenges with financing and appraisals. Be sure to ask upfront how these challenges would be addressed.

11. What Will Fees and Payments Be?

The neat part about obtaining a mortgage since 2015 is that the information is included in a standard form, the loan estimate. The form is used by all lenders and allows borrowers the opportunity to compare costs among lenders quickly and accurately. All fees and payments are required to be clearly outlined in this form.

💡 Recommended: Guide to Mortgage Statements

12. How Good Does Your Credit Need to Be?

You’ll typically need a FICO® credit score of at least 620 to get a conventional mortgage, but lenders consider a credit score just one slice of the qualification pie.

With a lower credit score, a lender may steer you in the direction of an FHA loan, which requires a score of 580 or higher to qualify for a 3.5% down payment. Credit scores lower than 580 require a 10% down payment for an FHA loan.

Borrowers with credit scores above 740 may qualify for the best rates and terms a lender can offer.

13. Do You Need an Escrow Account?

Your lender can set up an escrow account to pay for expenses related to the property you’re purchasing. These may include homeowners insurance and taxes. An escrow account can take monthly deposits from the borrower, hold them, and then disburse them to the proper entities when yearly payments are due. In some locations and with certain lenders, escrow accounts are required.

14. Do You Offer Preapproval or Prequalification?

Lenders have different processes for qualifying mortgage applicants. Preapproval is a much more in-depth analysis of a buyer’s finances than prequalification.

A preapproval letter provided by the lender specifies how much the lender is willing to extend you, and helps to show sellers you’re a qualified buyer. Getting preapproved early in the home buying process can also help you spot and remedy any potential problems in your credit report.

💡 Recommended: Preapproved vs. Prequalified: What’s the Difference? 

15. Is There a Prepayment Penalty?

A prepayment penalty is a fee for paying off all or part of your mortgage early. Avoiding prepayment penalties is easy if you choose a mortgage that doesn’t have any. Ask lenders if your desired loan carries a prepayment penalty. It will also be noted in the loan estimate.

16. When Is the First Payment Due?

A lender will be able to help you get your first payment in, which is typically on the first day of the month after a 30-day period after you close. For example, if you closed on Aug. 15, the first mortgage payment would be due on the 1st of the next month following a 30-day period (Oct. 1).

Each mortgage statement sent every billing cycle includes current information about the loan, including the payment breakdown, payment amount due, and principal balance.

17. Do You Need Mortgage Insurance?

Your mortgage lender will guide you through the process of acquiring private mortgage insurance, commonly called PMI, if you need it. Mortgage insurance is required for most conventional mortgages made with a down payment of less than 20% as well as FHA and USDA loans.

It’s not insurance for the buyer; instead, it protects the lender from risk. A good mortgage lender can also help advise borrowers on dropping PMI as soon as possible.

💡 Recommended: What is PMI & How to Avoid It?

18. How Much Is the Lender Making Off of You?

Lenders are required to be clear and accurate when it comes to the costs of the loan. These should be fully disclosed on your loan estimate and closing documents. If you want to know how much the lender is charging for its services, you’ll find it under “origination fee.”

The Takeaway

If you’re shopping for a home loan or thinking about it, you might have mortgage questions — about down payments, APR, points, PMI, and more. Don’t worry about asking a lender too many, because many buyers need a guide throughout the home buying journey.

If you’re ready to look for a mortgage, view home loans from SoFi. Rates are competitive, and mortgage loan officers are there to answer questions.

If you need more information about mortgages and the home buying process, you can get home loan help from the SoFi Home Loan Help Center.

Find your mortgage rate in just minutes.

Photo credit: iStock/Ridofranz


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.

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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