How to Buy a House Out of State

If you’re one of the millions of Americans working remotely, you might be tempted to buy a house out of state. Or maybe you just need a change of scenery.

Buying a house long distance can be a challenge, but it’s doable with a plan in place.

Why Buy a House in Another State?

There are multiple reasons to consider a house in a different state. Here are some.

Affordability

People may be lured by the cost of living of a state and its quality of life.

More than 350,000 people left California from April 2020 to January 2022 for Arizona, Texas, Florida, Washington, and other states. In the first half of 2022, New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., saw more people exit than move in.

Job Relocation

Some companies move personnel out of state, and some employees are good with that. A recent Graebel report exploring the Great Resignation found that 70% of knowledge workers who resigned in the past two years may have stayed if they’d been offered the same role in a different region of the country.

Family Reasons

Some folks choose to buy a house out of state to be closer to parents, children, or grandchildren. And people in their 40s may have aging parents and financial concerns on their minds.

Retirement

Americans entering retirement may want to buy a home in a state where the weather and lifestyle are more appealing. When it comes to a home, some may want to downsize.

How to Purchase a Home in Another State

Buying a house from out of state may be a challenge, but people do do it.

It can be tough to buy a house if you have a house and a mortgage. Homeowners have been known to use a home equity loan or bridge loan to fund the down payment on another house.

A personal loan can fund travel and moving costs.

If you’re ready to move on, it might be a good idea to sell and maybe ask for a leaseback. If you’re in a hurry, learn how to sell a house fast.

1. Virtually Explore

It’s easy to research cities, states, and communities online. There’s a listicle for almost everything. And data is everything, some say. There’s probably a listicle about why data is everything.

Anyway, maybe you’re interested in the safest cities in the U.S.

Or the 50 most popular suburbs.

It can be helpful to explore housing market trends by city.

Areavibes, BestPlaces, and HomeSnacks provide rankings or information. Coldwell Banker introduced Move Meter, to compare locations across the country. Or you could use Google Maps or Google Earth to study an out-of-state home’s proximity to schools, medical centers, law enforcement agencies, parks, and restaurants.

2. Link Up to Social Media

Social media platforms like Facebook Groups and Nextdoor can provide a personal sense of home buying and community.

These groups are user-friendly to newcomers, and many group members are happy to answer questions about life in their city or town.

3. Ask Co-Workers, Friends, or Family

If you’re moving out of state for a job, check in with future co-workers for advice about the homes and neighborhoods. If you’re moving near friends or family members, pick their brains. Is this going to be a good spot for you?

Moving is stressful enough. If you’re one of the growing number of people interested in financially downsizing, you may want to just exhale and enjoy when you land.

4. Consider Talking to a Relocation Specialist

Yes, home relocation professionals exist. And they do everything from connecting clients with a real estate agent to finding a long-distance moving company, scouring school districts, securing a storage space, and supervising a contractor’s work if the client is buying or building a house.

Relocation companies can also suggest local service providers and transport pets and vehicles across state lines.
Relocation services are often free of charge because the specialists earn their money from third-party vendors like real estate firms and employers transferring employees.

If you’re not inclined to hire a relocation specialist, here’s some helpful reading before making a big move:

•   7 common moving expenses

•   How to move across the country

•   How to move to another state

•   The ultimate moving checklist

You can look into the safety record of carriers on the U.S. Department of Transportation website.

5. Find a Reliable Real Estate Agent

A brave few who are interested in buying a house out of state opt to go without an agent.

It’s true that you can buy a house without a Realtor® — but even a local home sale may be challenging without a buyer’s agent in your corner.

Partnering with an experienced real estate agent who is based in the area where you hope to move could be highly beneficial.

Besides familiarity with neighborhoods, schools, and vibe, a buyer’s agent can walk a future homebuyer through local zoning regulations and the permit process.

6. Consider Visiting IRL

It’s not that rare to buy a house sight unseen. That can work out.

But someone looking to buy a house in a new state may want a real visit. You may receive short notice on a viewing date, so it could be helpful to budget for out-of-state travel as part of the buildup to buying a home in another state.

While a real estate agent can act as a proxy for homebuyers, there may be nothing like being onsite during the home inspection of a property you’ve made an offer on.

Then again, if you adore a property and must have it, you might waive some contingencies in the case of multiple offers.

7. Get Preapproved for a Mortgage

It can be easier to find a real estate agent or relocation specialist with a mortgage preapproval letter in hand.

When a lender preapproves a mortgage (a credit check and a review of financial assets is typical), it is tentatively greenlighting a specific home loan amount at a particular interest rate, which is not locked unless the lender offers a lock.

Obtaining preapproval tells home sellers that you’re qualified for a home loan up to a certain amount.

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


8. Handle the Closing Online?

Get ready, because closing on a house may take only 20 or 30 days.

In some cases, everyone huddles to sign closing paperwork. Other times, buyers and sellers sign separately.

But most states have approved remote online notarization, when buyers join a video call, present their government-issued IDs to a title company rep and a notary, and sign all paperwork electronically.

The Takeaway on Buying a Home in a New State

Buying a house out of state requires investigation and probably a good real estate agent. Getting preapproved for a mortgage can ease the path to a new address.

Transferred workers or people with mere wanderlust will want to see the financing options SoFi offers. With SoFi, you can look into a fixed-rate mortgage loan or a home equity loan to buy a house out of state, and a personal loan to make the move.

Get prequalified for a mortgage quickly and see your rate.


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


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


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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Real Estate Whisper Listings: The New Secret to Home Buying?

Real Estate Whisper Listings: The New Secret to Home Buying?

Between open houses and bidding wars, buying a home can be draining. Meanwhile, in-the-know and select clientele have the chance to tour and purchase properties before they even hit the market.

The practice, known as pocket listings or whisper listings, is becoming more common in real estate.

This insider access may sound tempting, especially in a hot housing market, but there are legal caveats and financial considerations to account for before pursuing a pocket listing.

What Are Whisper Listings?

Whisper listings are properties that are promoted by a real estate broker to an exclusive group of trusted agents to find a buyer who can pay the desired asking price. In other words, agents utilize their professional networks to sell a property rather than putting it on the market. Prospective buyers outside an agent’s inner circle will likely never know the property was for sale.

To further clarify the whisper listings definition, it can be helpful to highlight how they differ from traditional real estate transactions.

For instance, pocket listings are not listed on a multiple listing service (MLS) — the databases real estate professionals use to help clients buy and sell property — even though they’re technically for sale. Popular listing websites like Zillow and Realtor.com source many of their listings from MLS feeds.

You also won’t find a “For Sale” sign in the front yard of a secret real estate listing.

Nationally, whisper listings accounted for 4% of real estate sales and rising in 2021, compared with 2.4% in 2019, the CEO of Redfin said. In more choice neighborhoods and communities, the figure can be as high as 10%.

Are Pocket Listings Legal?

Yes, although there are consumer rights and laws that offer some protection to prospective homebuyers. For example, the Fair Housing Act gives buyers the right to be free from housing discrimination during the sale, financing, or rental of a property.

Because of their exclusivity, whisper listings have been criticized as discriminatory. In fact, the National Association of Realtors® established a clear cooperation policy in 2019 with the goal of reinforcing consumer benefits and competition in the housing market.

The new policy requires Realtors to list any property they are marketing to buyers on association-owned MLSs. New listings must be submitted within one business day of any public marketing, meaning other agents should be aware of and able to see the property the following day.

There are some loopholes in the policy that allow whisper listings to continue in specific circumstances. Namely, Realtors can still take advantage of “office exclusives,” which are listings shielded from the public and marketed to their internal agency network. The agents in those offices can then share the property information with their clients.

Listing agents can also take advantage of the one-business-day grace period to promote the property to a select clientele. The policy is that “within one business day of marketing a property to the public,” which can include yard signs and flyers displayed in windows, “the listing broker must submit the listing to the MLS for cooperation with other MLS participants.” Since business days exclude weekends and holidays, the exclusive group of buyers can get a jump on the competition for putting in an offer.

How to Find Whisper Listings

By definition, pocket listings are about connections and insider knowledge. A useful place to start is by finding a real estate agent with a strong professional network and familiarity with the neighborhood you’re hoping to buy-in.

Experienced agents may be more prepared to figure out how to find pocket listings thanks to a larger client base, too. Having handled numerous real estate transactions in the community, they could have insight into when former clients want to put their homes back on the market.

They may also know the prices and terms that prior clients would be willing to part with their homes for. Essentially any property can be treated as a whisper listing if you’re able to make an offer on a house that is attractive to the owners — even if they weren’t considering selling.

Is It a Smart Approach to Home Buying?

Real estate whisper listings may be advantageous for buyers for several reasons. First, there is generally less competition for off-market homes than those listed widely on an MLS, helping buyers purchase a home at or below asking price.

Given the word-of-mouth nature of pocket listings, potential buyers are generally hand-picked by listing agents based on both their qualifications and the type of property they’re looking for. This approach can cut down on the number of showings in the home buying process, which may be important for some buyers due to privacy and time.

Before committing to this strategy, there are some additional benefits and drawbacks to consider.

Pros of Secret Real Estate Listings

A secret real estate listing can offer advantages to sellers and buyers alike.

For sellers, a pocket listing affords considerable privacy — both in terms of keeping the sale status under wraps and reducing foot traffic at a property. By focusing on qualified buyers in the listing agent’s network, the sale process could be expedited without the hassle of negotiations and contingencies.

Sellers may opt for a pocket listing to test out an asking price and gauge interest. If the whisper listing doesn’t secure a full-price offer, sellers can reconsider the price before putting the property on the open market to attract new buyers without any record of a price change. This is helpful since prospective buyers may view a price cut as an opportunity to make an offer under the asking price.

The primary benefit for buyers is reduced competition on a property. Since the listing has only been shared with a select group, it’s less likely that a listing will go into a bidding war or be sold out from underneath them.

Recommended: How to Negotiate House Prices: 7 Tips

Cons of Secret Real Estate Listings

Whisper listings are often pursued in the hope of fetching top dollar from buyers. From a buyer’s perspective, the perk of first dibs on a property may come at the expense of an accurate assessment of its value and the ability to negotiate. Putting aside the allure of exclusive access is important to ensure that the property fits your needs and makes financial sense.

For sellers, a secret real estate listing limits the potential pool of buyers instead of promoting the property on any of the hundreds of multiple listing services and across major real estate sites. Opening a property to the market can increase your chances of a multiple-offer situation and getting bids over the asking price.

In May 2021, nearly 50% of homes sold over the listing price, Redfin noted. Both 2019 and 2020 saw roughly 25% of properties go over listing price during the same month.

Whether the market is hot, cold, or somewhere in between, restricting the number of prospective buyers could reduce how much you sell your home for. And while a pocket listing may reduce the hassle of multiple showings, the approach could extend how long it takes to find a buyer for the price you want.

The Takeaway

A whisper listing, also known as a pocket listing, is shared only with an exclusive group of agents’ inner circles. Secret real estate listings can offer advantages to both sellers and buyers but may have some drawbacks.

Here’s something that isn’t a secret: If you’re house hunting and need financing, getting prequalified is a useful first step to show you’re a serious buyer and can afford the property. Give SoFi home loans a try.

SoFi offers fixed-rate mortgages with as little as 5% down.

Ready to buy a home? Find your rate in minutes.

Photo credit: iStock/archigram


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


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

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

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A Guide to Gift Letters for Mortgages

A Guide to Gift Letters for Mortgages

Gift letters are an important part of validating money given to you for the down payment or closing costs on a home.

Ten percent of recent homebuyers received gift funds to help with the purchase of a home, according to a 2021 National Association of Realtors® (NAR) survey. For younger homebuyers, that number jumped to 23%.

Properly documented gift funds will help the mortgage loan to pass underwriting so your loan may be approved. Homebuyers often wonder, “How much are down payments typically?” Down payments come in all shapes and sizes, with the average first-time homebuyer putting down 7%, and repeat buyers, 17%, according to another NAR report.

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.

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 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 (FHA, USDA, and VA 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 (non-government) loan guidelines, 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.

Recommended: What Is A Conventional Home Loan?

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.

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.

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 $16,000 for 2022. This is per person, so if buying real estate with a partner, the amount doubles to $32,000.

If the gift is from a set of parents, each parent can gift that amount to each of the borrowing partners. This allows for $64,000 to be gifted before triggering the gift tax. In other words:

•   Parent 1: $16,000 for borrowing partner 1, $16,000 for borrowing partner 2 = $32,000

•   Parent 2: $16,000 for borrowing partner 1, $16,000 for borrowing partner 2 = $32,000

Adding the amount for both parents contributing for both borrowers equals $64,000.

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 $12.06 million for 2022.

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.

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 a home loan? Read up, if you wish, at the SoFi mortgage loan help center.

Then look into SoFi’s fixed-rate mortgage loans with competitive rates and low down payments. Qualified first-time homebuyers may put just 3% down.

Get prequalified for a home loan in minutes.

Photo credit: iStock/Pictac


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


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


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

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

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Loss of Use Insurance: What is It, and What’s Covered?

Loss of Use Insurance: What Is It and What Does It Cover?

When most of us think of homeowners insurance, we think about getting coverage for major home repairs — the big-ticket items the insurance company can pay out for in the event of a loss or damage. We’re talking about things like a tree falling over in a storm and wrecking your roof or a robber making off with your electronics and jewelry.

Sure, you need that kind of protection, but your homeowner’s insurance policy should also include a very important kind of coverage beyond that: loss of use coverage. This is also sometimes known as additional living expenses (ALE) coverage or Part D coverage. Loss of use coverage is an important part of your home insurance (and some rental insurance policies) that kicks in when your home is rendered uninhabitable. Let’s say in the example above, where your roof needs major repair work. You may not be able to live in your home while this is underway. Since you have “lost the use” of your typical living space, the policy will help you pay for lodging and other expenses.

Read on to learn more about the loss of use coverage, including coverage limits and policy conditions. It’s an important consideration if a worst-case scenario ever happens to your home sweet home.

What Does Loss of Use Coverage Mean?

Loss of use coverage is the part of your homeowner’s insurance policy that covers the costs you’ll incur if you lose the usage of your home.

For example, if a fire destroys a significant portion of your house and it needs to be rebuilt, your typical home insurance policy will cover the cost of repairs. But (and this is a biggie) you may find yourself suddenly facing a whole lot of living expenses you otherwise wouldn’t. Hotel rooms and restaurant meals can add up quickly, and without your own kitchen and bedroom to cook in and retire to, you’d be pretty much forced to take advantage of these expensive options. Or perhaps you have to put your possessions in storage as your home is rebuilt, or even rent an apartment. These are the kinds of expenses that loss of use coverage will typically reimburse.

Recommended: Homeowners Insurance Coverage Options to Know

Coverage Limits

Like most other forms of insurance, loss of use coverage does come with certain limits — you don’t have carte blanche to go out and stay at a swanky hotel for months and eat exclusively Wagyu beef on the insurance company’s dime.

Generally, loss of use insurance is calculated and expressed as a percentage of your dwelling coverage limit — the amount of money up to which the insurer will pay out to repair or rebuild your home in the event of a qualified loss.

For example, if your dwelling insurance limit is $350,000, and your loss of use coverage is 20%, you’d have up to $70,000 to put toward living expenses during the time your home is being repaired. That may sound like a lot of money, but you’re likely to face a lot of expenses, especially since you’ll still be responsible, during that time, for paying your mortgage, insurance premiums, and other normal monthly bills.

Loss of use coverage is most commonly between 20% and 30% of the dwelling coverage limit, but it is possible to find plans with a higher loss of use limit — or a lower one.

In fact, although loss of use coverage is fairly standard, it is possible to purchase a homeowners or renters insurance policy that doesn’t include it, so always be sure to read your paperwork in full, including the fine print, to ensure you know what you’re getting.

Recommended: What Is Renters Insurance and Do I Need It?

Policy Conditions

Loss of use coverage is subject to additional conditions along with the coverage limit. For example, you’ll most likely be asked to prove your expenses to the insurance company in order to get the claim paid — so be sure to keep the receipts for all those hotel-room breakfasts!

Your policy may include other terms and conditions as well. Yet again, another good reason to get nice and cozy with that fine print.

Which Living Expenses Are Covered By Loss of Use Insurance?

Although the loss of use insurance covers many different kinds of living expenses while your home is being rebuilt or repaired, it doesn’t cover everything.

Once again, the only place to get verified information about what your specific policy covers is — you guessed it — your specific policy paperwork, but here are some of the most common covered costs.

•   Temporary housing, such as hotels, motels, or a temporary apartment

•   Moving costs

•   Public transportation

•   Grocery and restaurant bills beyond your typical expenditure

•   Storage costs

•   Costs to board a pet

•   Laundry costs

•   Parking fees

Once again, refer to your policy documentation in order to confirm which expenses are covered under your plan.

What Else Does Your Home Insurance Cover?

Loss of use coverage is only one small part of your overall homeowner’s insurance policy, which likely has several different coverages built in. A standard homeowners insurance policy offers coverage in the following categories:

•   Dwelling coverage, which covers the cost of repairing or rebuilding your house up to the given limit

•   Personal property coverage, which covers the costs of replacing your belongings in the event they are stolen, lost or damaged as part of a covered event

•   Personal liability coverage, which pays out to cover the medical or legal expenses you might incur if someone is accidentally hurt on your property (for example, if they’re bitten by your dog)

•   Additional coverages, such as coverage for additional structures on the property, specific damaging events (or “perils”) that aren’t listed in the standard policy, excess coverage for expensive belongings, etc.

As you can see, homeowners insurance is about way more than insuring the four walls of your home, though it should cover that, too. Keep in mind that each of these coverages comes with its own limits and policy conditions. (We’d remind you to read the fine print again, but at this point, you’ve probably got it. Right?)

In addition, homeowners insurance generally involves — as do most forms of insurance — paying a deductible when it comes time to file a claim. That means you’ll be responsible for a certain out-of-pocket cost to cover even coverage-eligible sustained damages, although the insurance company will likely pay out significantly more. (For example, a homeowners insurance deductible might be $1,000, which isn’t nothing… but is a lot better than paying $30,000 out of pocket to replace your entire roof. In this instance, you’d pay $1,000 while the insurer would pay $29,000.)

Deductibles are charged in addition to the premiums you pay on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis simply to keep the insurance policy active. (Typically, the higher the deductible, the lower the premium, and vice versa.) Again, it may feel like a pain to have to pay so much money simply to have insurance just in case something happens, at which point you’d have to pay out your deductible as well… but for most of us, our homes are the single largest purchase we ever make and the biggest asset to our names. It’s an investment worth protecting, especially when you consider the often astronomical cost of even basic home repairs.

The Takeaway

Loss of use insurance is a type of coverage baked into most homeowners and many renters’ insurance policies. This coverage pays out toward the extra living expenses you’ll incur if your home is rendered uninhabitable by a qualified loss, such as the cost of hotel rooms, additional food expenses, pet boarding, and public transportation.

While homeowners insurance is a valuable financial tool, it’s not the only one to keep in your tool belt. If you have family members and loved ones who rely on your income in order to maintain their lifestyle and comfort, life insurance can be a great way to ensure your death is primarily an emotional, rather than financial, loss.

SoFi has teamed up with Ladder to offer high-quality life insurance plans that are quick to set up and easy to understand, and our overall policy limits go up to $8 million. You can get a decision in minutes today, right from the comfort of your home — which, after all, already has its own insurance policy. (Right?)

Photo credit: iStock/Ridofranz


Coverage and pricing is subject to eligibility and underwriting criteria.
Ladder Insurance Services, LLC (CA license # OK22568; AR license # 3000140372) distributes term life insurance products issued by multiple insurers- for further details see ladderlife.com. All insurance products are governed by the terms set forth in the applicable insurance policy. Each insurer has financial responsibility for its own products.
Ladder, SoFi and SoFi Agency are separate, independent entities and are not responsible for the financial condition, business, or legal obligations of the other, Social Finance. Inc. (SoFi) and Social Finance Life Insurance Agency, LLC (SoFi Agency) do not issue, underwrite insurance or pay claims under Ladder Life™ policies. SoFi is compensated by Ladder for each issued term life policy.
SoFi Agency and its affiliates do not guarantee the services of any insurance company.
All services from Ladder Insurance Services, LLC are their own. Once you reach Ladder, SoFi is not involved and has no control over the products or services involved. The Ladder service is limited to documents and does not provide legal advice. Individual circumstances are unique and using documents provided is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice.


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

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Five Steps to Changing Your Homeowners Insurance

5 Steps to Changing Your Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners insurance may very well be the least sexy part of homeownership — but it is definitely a necessity, in part because your mortgage lender will likely require it.

Whether it’s a cozy micro-cabin or a rambling Colonial, your home is probably the single largest purchase you’ll ever make and your biggest physical asset. An investment like that is worth protecting.

That’s where homeowners insurance comes in; it gives you peace of mind that if you were to have major damage or get robbed (let’s hope not!), there would be funds to repair and restore your home.

So let’s say you’re convinced of the value of a homeowners insurance policy…but you think it’s time to make a change. Perhaps you’re not happy with your coverage or the premium, or maybe you’re moving to a new home and ready for a new policy. Maybe you’re just wondering what your rights are as far as switching goes.

Here’s what you need to know about switching your homeowners insurance policy, as well as a step-by-step guide to getting it done as quickly as possible and with a minimum of hassles.

Can I Switch Homeowners Insurance at Any Time?

Good news: yes! No matter what the reason may be, you’re allowed to change your homeowner’s insurance at any time, which is good, since shopping around for the right policy can save you a lot of money in some instances.

If you’re shopping for a new home as we speak, it can be a good idea to start looking at insurance before you sign the purchase agreement — so nice work on starting this research. And if you’re an existing homeowner looking to save money or simply find a new policy, you absolutely can do so whenever you like, but it’s important to follow the steps in order to ensure you don’t accidentally have a lapse in coverage.

Recommended: Homeowners Insurance Coverage Options to Know

When Should I Change My Homeowners Insurance?

There are certain events that should also trigger a review of your insurance, including paying off your mortgage (your rates may well go down) and adding a pool (your rates may go up). Also, you may find you are offered deals if you bundle your homeowners insurance with, say, your car insurance; that might be a savings you want to consider.

You never know what options might be available out there to help you save some money, and since homeowners insurance can easily cost more than $1,000 per year, it can be well worth shopping around.

Recommended: Is Homeowners Insurance Required to Buy a Home?

How Often Should I Change My Homeowners Insurance?

You’re really the only person who can answer this one — but in general, it’s a good idea to at least review your coverage annually.

However, it does take time and effort, and sometimes, a cheaper policy means less coverage, so it’s not always a good deal. Be sure you’re able to thoroughly review all the fine print and make sure you know what you’re getting.

Ready to change your homeowners insurance? Follow these steps in order to ensure you don’t accidentally sustain a loss in coverage!

Step One: Check the Terms and Conditions of Your Existing Policy

The first step toward changing your homeowners insurance policy is ensuring that you actually want to change it in the first place!

Take a look at your existing policy and see what your coverage is like, and also be sure to look closely to see if there are any specific terms about early termination. While you always have the right to change your homeowners insurance policy, there could be a fee involved. In many instances, you may have to wait a bit to receive a prorated refund for unused coverage.

Step Two: Think about Your Coverage Needs

Once you have a handle on what your current insurance covers, you can start shopping for new insurance in an informed way. You probably don’t want to “save money” by accidentally purchasing a less comprehensive plan. But do think about how your coverage needs may have shifted since you last purchased homeowners insurance. For example, the value of your home may have changed (lucky you if your once “up and coming” neighborhood is not officially a hot market). Or perhaps you’ve added on additional structures or outbuildings and need to bump up your policy to cover those.

Step Three: Research Different Insurance Companies

Now comes the labor-intensive part: Getting out there and looking around at other available insurance policies to see what’s on offer. Be sure to keep in mind your current premiums and deductibles as you shop around, as saving money is likely one of the main objectives of this exercise. Though sometimes, higher costs are worth it for better coverage. Make sure you are carefully comparing coverage limits, deductibles, and premiums to get the best policy for your needs. Also consider whether the policy is providing actual cash value or replacement value. You may want to opt for a slightly pricier “replacement value” so you have funds to go out and buy new versions of any lost or damaged items, versus getting a lower, depreciated amount.

In addition to the theoretical coverage you encounter, it’s a good idea to stick with insurers with a good reputation. All the coverage in the world doesn’t matter if it’s only on paper; you need to be able to get through to customer service and file a claim when and if the time comes! Fortunately, many online reviews are available that make this vetting process a lot easier. A few reputable sources for ratings: The Better Business Bureau and J.D. Power’s Customer Satisfaction Survey and Property Claims Satisfaction Study. You can also do some of the footwork yourself by calling around to get quotes, though this is time-intensive and you might want to simply use an online comparison tool instead.

Step Four: Start Your New Policy, Then Cancel Your Old One

Found a new insurance plan that suits your needs better than your current one? Great news — but here’s the really important part: You want to get that new policy started BEFORE you cancel your old one.

That’s because even a short lapse in coverage could jeopardize your valuable investment, as well as drive up premiums in the future. Once you’ve made the new insurance purchase call and have your new declarations page in hand, you are ready to make the old insurance cancellation call. Go ahead, and be sure to verify the following with your old insurer:

•   The cancellation date is on or after the new insurance policy’s start date.

•   The old insurance policy won’t be automatically renewed and is fully cancelled.

•   If you’re entitled to a prorated refund, find out how it will be issued and how long it will take to arrive.

Presto-chango and congratulations: You’ve got new homeowners insurance!

Step Five: Let Your Lender Know

The last step, but still a very important one, is to notify your mortgage lender about your homeowners insurance change. Most mortgage lenders require homeowners insurance, and they need to be kept up-to-date on who’s got your back should calamity strike. Additionally, if you still owe more than 80% the home value to your lender, they may still be paying the insurer for you through an escrow account — so you definitely want to make sure those payments are going to the right company.

The Takeaway

Homeowners insurance is an important but often expensive form of financial protection — it can help you cover the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home if you undergo a covered loss or damage. Since our homes are such valuable investments, they’re worth safeguarding… and most mortgage lenders require homeowners insurance in any case.

Sometimes, changing your policy can help you save money for comparable or better coverage. Reviewing and possibly rethinking your homeowners insurance is an important process, especially as your needs and lifestyle evolve. If you’ve added on to your home, put in a pool, bought a prized piece of art, or are enduring more punishing weather, all are signals that you should take a fresh look at your policy and make sure you’re well protected.

SoFi Can Help Protect You Too

While homeowners insurance protects your most important physical asset, it doesn’t protect the most important thing you have: your life. If you have family members or dependents who depend on your income for their comfort and stability, looking into life insurance may be a good idea.

Life insurance can help ensure the ongoing comfort and support of your loved ones in the event that something happens to you. SoFi has teamed up with Ladder to offer competitive term life insurance plans that range from $100,000 to $8 million, and we don’t require medical testing for eligible applicants seeking up to $3 million in coverage — just fill out an online application and you’ll have your decision in minutes.

Photo credit: iStock/MonthiraYodtiwong


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.

Coverage and pricing is subject to eligibility and underwriting criteria.
Ladder Insurance Services, LLC (CA license # OK22568; AR license # 3000140372) distributes term life insurance products issued by multiple insurers- for further details see ladderlife.com. All insurance products are governed by the terms set forth in the applicable insurance policy. Each insurer has financial responsibility for its own products.
Ladder, SoFi and SoFi Agency are separate, independent entities and are not responsible for the financial condition, business, or legal obligations of the other, Social Finance. Inc. (SoFi) and Social Finance Life Insurance Agency, LLC (SoFi Agency) do not issue, underwrite insurance or pay claims under Ladder Life™ policies. SoFi is compensated by Ladder for each issued term life policy.
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All services from Ladder Insurance Services, LLC are their own. Once you reach Ladder, SoFi is not involved and has no control over the products or services involved. The Ladder service is limited to documents and does not provide legal advice. Individual circumstances are unique and using documents provided is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice.


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