Owner-Financed Homes: What You Need to Know

Owner-Financed Homes: What You Need to Know

Looking to get into a home but can’t qualify for a traditional mortgage? You may want to look at owner financing.

Owner-financed homes aren’t very common, but they have some benefits for unique buyer and seller situations. Owner financing bypasses a traditional mortgage when the seller takes on the role of lender, but seller financing comes with some risks.

Let’s take a deep dive into how owner financing works and when it could make sense.

What Is Owner Financing?

Owner financing, also known as seller financing, is a transaction in which the property owner takes on the role of lender by financing the sale to the buyer. Like the trading of homes, this type of transaction bypasses traditional mortgages (unless the purchase of the home is only partially owner-financed.)

The payments for buyers are typically amortized over 30 years for a smaller monthly payment, but there’s often a large balloon payment at the end of a shorter period of time (usually one to seven years). Owner-financed transactions operate on the belief that the buyer’s finances may improve over time or the property will appreciate to a point where the buyer can get a home loan from a traditional lender.

How Does Owner Financing Work?

Owner-financed homes work much like traditionally financed homes, but with the seller acting as the lender. The seller may require a credit check, loan application, a down payment, an appraisal of the home, and the right to foreclose should the buyer default. Buyers and sellers will need to agree on an interest rate and length of loan.

The buyer and seller sign a promissory note, which contains the loan terms. They also record a mortgage (or deed of trust), and the buyer pays the seller. The buyer should also pay for homeowner’s insurance, taxes, title insurance, and other loan costs. It is typical to hire real estate professionals or lawyers to get more into the details of how to use a home contract in owner financing.

Pros and Cons of Owner Financing

For Sellers

Owner financing isn’t nearly as beneficial for sellers as it is for buyers, but there are still some upsides to consider along with the increased debt load and assumed risk.

Pros for Sellers

Cons for Sellers

Attract a larger buyer pool Carry more debt
Saves money on selling costs Assume more risk; buyers could default
May be able to sidestep inspections, especially if the home needs work or may not pass an inspection for FHA or VA loans Not able to cash out for years
Can earn higher returns by acting as a lender May need to act like a landlord; buyer may not keep up the property and the home may lose value
Faster closing occurs when buyers don’t have to go through the mortgage underwriting process If the seller still has a fairly large mortgage on the property, the lender must agree to the transaction (many are not willing)

For Buyers

There are advantages to buying a house for sale by owner, namely that a buyer can obtain housing sooner under owner financing. A buyer may also be able to lower the down payment needed and pay lower closing costs. But it’s also riskier than borrowing from a traditional mortgage lender. If, for example, buyers are unable to finance the balloon payment, they risk losing all the money they’ve spent during the loan term.

Pros for Homebuyers

Cons for Homebuyers

Opportunity to gain equity Sellers may ask for a hefty down payment to protect themselves against loss
Opportunity to improve finances May pay a higher interest rate than the market rate
Can obtain housing and financing when traditional lenders would issue a denial May pay too much for the home
No mandated credit check from a lender Fewer consumer protections available when a homebuyer purchases from a seller
No mortgage insurance Short loan terms
No minimum down payment Sellers may not follow consumer protection laws
Lower closing costs Buyers may not be protected by contingencies

To reduce risk exposure in an owner-financed transaction, buyers may want to hire an attorney.

Example of Owner Financing

Bob and Vila want to purchase a large, forever home for their family. The purchase price of the home is $965,000, but Bob and Vila can only qualify for $815,000. Part of Bob’s income is from recent self-employment, which is not accounted for by the lender but will help the couple be able to afford the house.

For the remaining $150,000, the seller offers owner financing as a junior mortgage. The buyers will pay both a traditional mortgage lender as well as the seller in this type of owner financing.

💡 Recommended: How Much Home Can I Afford?

Types of Owner Financing

Land contracts, mortgages, and lease-purchase agreements are a few ways to look at owner financing. Here’s how they work and how they’re different from a traditional mortgage.

Land Contracts

Because the title cannot pass to the buyer in owner financing, a land contract creates a shared title for the buyer and seller until the buyer makes the final payment to the seller. The seller maintains the legal title, but the buyer gains an interest in the property.


These are the different ways to structure a mortgage with owner financing.

•   All-inclusive mortgage. The seller carries the promissory note and the balance for the home purchase.

•   Junior mortgage. When a buyer is unable to finance the entire purchase with a lender on one mortgage, the seller carries a junior mortgage (or second mortgage) for the buyer. The seller is put in second position if the buyer defaults, so there is risk to the seller by doing a second mortgage.

•   Assumable mortgage. Some FHA, VA, and conventional adjustable-rate mortgages are assumable, meaning the buyer is able to take the seller’s place on the mortgage.

A mortgage calculator can help you get an idea of what purchase price you may be able to afford.


In a lease-purchase arrangement, both parties agree on a purchase price. The potential buyer leases from the owner for an amount of time, usually one to three years, until a set date, when the renter has the option to purchase the property. In addition to paying rent, the tenant pays an additional fee, known as the rent premium.

It’s typical to see options that credit a percentage of the purchase price (often between 1% and 5%), rents, and rent premiums toward the purchase price. If the option to buy is not used, the buyer will lose the option fee and rent premiums.

They are also known as rent-to-own, lease-to-own, or lease with an option to purchase. They can be used when an aspiring buyer has a lower credit score and needs some time to qualify for traditional financing.

Steps to Structuring a Seller Financing Deal

If you’re thinking about finding a property with owner financing, consider taking these steps to help get you through the process.

1.    Hire a professional. Because owner financing bypasses traditional lending institutions, there’s a lot more risk involved. Hiring a real estate professional and an attorney can help you structure the deal to protect your interests.

2.    Find a property where the owner offers financing. An owner must be willing and able to offer seller financing to make this type of transaction happen. It’s difficult, which is why owner financing is more common between parties that know each other very well. It’s usually required that the property is owned free and clear of any mortgage. A few other ways to look for seller-financed properties:

◦   Asking your current landlord if they’re open to selling their property to you.

◦   Looking for real estate listings with phrases like “seller financing available.”

◦   Contacting the real estate agent for a home you’re interested in. If the home has been on the market a while and the conditions are right, the sellers may be open to this option.

◦   Finding a personal connection who is able to offer owner financing.

3.    Agree to terms. Because seller financing terms are so flexible, there are a lot of details that buyers and sellers need to work out, including:

◦   Sales price

◦   Amount of down payment

◦   Length of the loan

◦   Balloon payment amount

◦   Interest rate

◦   Structure of the contract (land contract, mortgage, or lease-purchase, as described above)

◦   Any late fees, prepayment penalties, and other costs the buyer is responsible for

4.    Complete due diligence. Buyers and sellers would be wise to do their due diligence as if it were a regular purchase. Sellers may want to examine a buyer’s credit, complete a background check, and confirm that buyers have obtained homeowner’s insurance and title insurance to move forward with the transaction. On the buyer’s end, a home inspection and appraisal may be warranted.

5.    Sign and file paperwork. Much like a real estate transaction, the contracts involved in owner financing arrangements can be pretty involved. Depending on how your financing is structured, you may have a promissory note, owner financing contract and addendums, and title paperwork. You’ll also want to be sure your promissory note and deed of trust are filed with the county recorder’s office. An attorney, if you hired one, should be able to complete this process for you.

Alternatives to Owner Financing

Traditional mortgage financing may work better for your individual situation.

•   FHA loans. FHA loans have a low down payment requirement and low closing costs and maybe approved for homebuyers with lower credit scores. They are underwritten by the Federal Housing Administration. Even if you’ve had a bankruptcy, you may be able to get an FHA loan.

•   USDA loans. USDA loans are backed by the Department of Agriculture. Income must meet certain guidelines (as determined by geographic region), and the home purchased must be in an eligible rural area.

•   VA loans. Loans guaranteed by the Department of Veteran Affairs are geared toward military members, veterans, and eligible spouses. The favorable terms include a low or no down payment, lower closing costs, low interest rate, and the ability to use the VA for a home loan multiple times.

•   Conventional loans. A conventional loan simply means the financing is not insured by the federal government as it is with FHA, VA, or USDA loans. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provide the backing for conforming loans: those that have maximum loan amounts that are set by the government.

It’s a good idea to not take interest rates at face value but to compare APRs instead. The annual percentage rate represents the interest rate and loan fees, so even if, for instance, an FHA loan looks better than a conventional mortgage, based on just the rates, an APR comparison may tell a different story.

💡 Recommended: 18 Mortgage Questions for Your Lender

The Takeaway

With owner financing, the seller is the lender. Both buyers and sellers face upsides and downsides when the transaction involves owner-financed homes.

No matter who you buy your home from, SoFi’s help center for mortgages can be a great resource for navigating the mortgage and home buying process.

It might pay off to view SoFi home loans to help you get into the house that’s right for you.

Finding your rate is quick and easy.

Photo credit: iStock/KTStock

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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Second Mortgage, Explained: How It Works, Types, Pros, Cons

For many homeowners who need cash in short order, a second mortgage in the form of a home equity loan or home equity line of credit is a go-to answer.

What’s the point of a second mortgage? It’s a way to fund everything from home improvements to credit card debt payoff, and for some, a HELOC serves as a security blanket.

You can probably think of many things you could use a home equity loan or HELOC for, especially when the rate and terms may be more attractive than those of a cash-out refinance or personal loan.

Just know that you’ll need to have sufficient equity in your home to pull a second mortgage.

What Is a Second Mortgage?

A second mortgage is one typically taken out after your first mortgage. Less commonly, a first and second mortgage may be taken out at the same time in the form of a “piggyback loan.”

Your house serves as collateral.

An “open end” second mortgage is a revolving line of credit that allows you to withdraw money and pay it back as needed, up to an approved limit, over time.

A “closed end” second mortgage is a loan disbursed in a lump sum.

It’s not called a second mortgage just because you probably took it out in that order. The term also refers to the fact that if you can’t make your mortgage payments and your home is sold as a result, the proceeds will go toward paying off your first mortgage and then toward any second mortgage and other liens (if anything is left).

How Does a Second Mortgage Work?

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) and a home equity loan, the two main types of second mortgages, work differently but have a shared purpose: to allow homeowners to borrow against their home equity without having to refinance their first mortgage.


HELOCs may have lower starting interest rates than home equity loans, although HELOC rates are usually variable — fluctuating over time.

Home equity loans have fixed interest rates.

In general, the choice between a fixed- vs variable-rate loan has no one universal winner.


Home equity loans and HELOCs come with closing costs and fees of about 2% to 5% of the loan amount, but if you do your research, you may be able to find a lender that will waive some or all of the closing costs.

Some lenders offer a “no-closing-cost HELOC,” but it will usually come with a higher interest rate.

Example of a Second Mortgage

Let’s say you buy a house for $400,000. You make a 20% down payment of $80,000 and borrow $320,000. Over time you whittle the balance to $250,000.

You apply for a second mortgage. A new appraisal puts the value of the home at $525,000.

The current market value of your home, minus anything owed, is your home equity. In this case, it’s $275,000.

So how much home equity can you tap? Often 85%, although some lenders allow more.

Assuming borrowing 85% of your equity, that could give you a home equity loan or credit line of nearly $234,000.

After closing on your loan, the lender will file a lien against your property. This second mortgage will have separate monthly payments.

Types of Second Mortgages

To qualify for a second mortgage, in addition to seeing if you meet a certain home equity threshold, lenders may review your credit score, credit history, employment history, and debt-to-income ratio when determining your rate and loan amount.

Here are details about the two main forms of a second mortgage.

Home Equity Loan

A home equity loan is issued in a lump sum with a fixed interest rate.

Terms may range from five to 30 years.

Recommended: Exploring the Different Types of Home Equity Loans

Home Equity Line of Credit

A HELOC is a revolving line of credit with a maximum borrowing limit.

You can borrow against the credit limit as many times as you want during the draw period, which is often 10 years. The repayment period is usually 20.

Most HELOCs have a variable interest rate. They typically come with yearly and lifetime rate caps.

Second Mortgage vs Refinance: What’s the Difference?

A mortgage refinance involves taking out a home loan that replaces your existing mortgage. Equity-rich homeowners may choose a cash-out refinance, taking out a mortgage for a larger amount than the existing mortgage and receiving the difference in cash.

Taking on a second mortgage leaves your first mortgage intact. It is a separate loan.

To determine your eligibility for refinancing, lenders look at the loan-to-value ratio, in part. Most lenders favor an LTV of 80% or less. (Current loan balance / current appraised value x 100 = LTV)

Even though the rate for a refinance might be lower than that of a home equity loan or HELOC, refinancing means you’re taking out a new loan, so you face mortgage refinancing costs of 2% to 5% of the new loan amount on average.

Homeowners who secured a low mortgage rate will not benefit from a mortgage refinance when the going rate exceeds theirs.

Pros and Cons of a Second Mortgage

Taking out a second mortgage is a big decision, and it can be helpful to know the advantages and potential downsides before diving in.

Pros of a Second Mortgage

Relatively low interest rate. A second mortgage may come with a lower interest rate than debt not secured by collateral, such as credit cards and personal loans. And when rates are on the rise, a cash-out refinance becomes less appetizing.

Access to money for a big expense. People may take out a second mortgage to get the cash needed to pay for a major expense, from home renovations to medical bills.

Mortgage insurance avoidance via piggyback. A homebuyer may take out a first and second mortgage simultaneously to avoid having to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI).

People generally have to pay PMI when they make a down payment on a conventional loan of less than 20% of the home’s value.

A piggyback loan, or second mortgage, can be issued at the same time as the initial home loan and allow a buyer to meet the 20% threshold and avoid paying PMI.

Cons of a Second Mortgage

Potential closing costs and fees. Closing costs come with a home equity loan or HELOC, but some lenders will reduce or waive them if you meet certain conditions. With a HELOC, for example, some lenders will skip closing costs if you keep the credit line open for three years. It’s a good idea to scrutinize lender offers for fees and penalties and compare the APR vs. interest rate.

Rates. Second mortgages may have higher interest rates than first mortgage loans. And the adjustable interest rate of a HELOC means the rate you start out with can increase — or decrease — over time, making payments unpredictable and possibly difficult to afford.

Risk. If your monthly payments become unaffordable, there’s a lot on the line with a second mortgage: You could lose your home.

Must qualify. Taking out a second mortgage isn’t a breeze just because you already have a mortgage. You’ll probably have to jump through similar qualifying hoops in terms of home appraisal and documentation.

Common Reasons to Get a Second Mortgage

Typical uses of second mortgages include the following:

•   Paying off high-interest credit card debt

•   Financing home improvements

•   Making a down payment on a vacation home or investment property

•   As a security measure in uncertain times

•   For a blow-out wedding (or funeral) with a HELOC chunk

•   College costs

Can you use the proceeds for anything? In general, yes, but each lender gets to set its own guidelines. Some lenders, for example, don’t allow second mortgage funds to be used to start a business.

The Takeaway

What’s the point of a second mortgage? A HELOC or home equity loan can provide qualifying homeowners with cash fairly quickly and at a relatively decent rate.

If you’re looking for a way to put some of your home equity to use, see what SoFi has to offer.

In addition to a cash-out refinance, SoFi offers a brokered home equity line of credit, allowing access to 95%, or $500,000, of your home’s equity.

It’s easy to find your rate.


Does a second mortgage hurt your credit?

Shopping for a second mortgage can cause a small dip in a credit score, but the score will probably rebound within a year if you make on-time mortgage payments.

How much can you borrow on a second mortgage?

Most lenders will allow you to take about 85% of your home’s equity in a second mortgage. Some allow more.

How long does it take to get a second mortgage?

Applying for and obtaining a HELOC or home equity loan takes an average of two to six weeks.

What are alternatives to getting a second mortgage?

A personal loan is one alternative to a second mortgage. A cash-out refinance is another.

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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How Soon Can You Refinance a Mortgage?

Are you ruminating about a refi? How long you must wait to refinance depends on the kind of mortgage you have and whether you want cash out.

You can typically refinance a conventional loan as soon as you want to, but you’ll have to wait six months to apply for a cash-out refinance.

The wait to refinance an FHA, VA, or USDA loan ranges from six to 12 months.

Before any mortgage refinance, homeowners will want to ask themselves: What will the monthly and lifetime savings be? What are the closing costs, and how long will it take to recover them? If I’m pulling cash out, is the refinance worth it?

Refinance Wait Time Based on Mortgage Type

How soon can you refinance? The rules differ by loan type and whether you’re aiming for a rate-and-term refinance or a cash-out refinance.

A rate-and-term refi will change your current mortgage’s interest rate, repayment term, or both. Cash-out refinancing replaces your current mortgage with a larger home loan, allowing you to take advantage of the equity you’ve built up in your home through your monthly principal payments and appreciation.

Conventional Loan Refinance Rules

If you have a conventional loan, a mortgage that is not insured by the federal government, you may refinance right after a home purchase or a previous refinance — but likely with a different lender.

Many lenders have a six-month “seasoning” period before a borrower can refinance with them. So you’ll probably have to wait if you want to refi with your current lender.

Cash-Out Refinance Rules

If you’re aiming for a cash-out refinance, you normally have to wait six months before refinancing, regardless of the type of mortgage you have.

FHA Loan Refinance Rules

An FHA Streamline Refinance reduces the time and documentation associated with a refinance, so you can get a lower rate faster.

But you will have to wait 210 days before using a Streamline Refinance to replace your current mortgage.

VA Loan Refinance Rules

When it comes to VA loans, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers an interest rate reduction refinance loan (IRRRL), also known as a VA Streamline Refinance.

It also offers a cash-out refinance for up to a 100% loan-to-value ratio.

The VA requires you to wait 210 days between each refinance. Some lenders that issue VA loans have their own waiting period of up to 12 months. If so, another lender might let you refinance earlier.

USDA Loan Refinance Rules

The streamlined assist refinance program provides USDA direct and guaranteed home loan borrowers with low or no equity the opportunity to refinance for more affordable payment terms.

Borrowers of USDA loans typically need to have had the loan for at least a year before refinancing. But a refinance of a USDA loan to a conventional loan may happen sooner.

Jumbo Loan Refinance Rules

For a jumbo loan, even a rate change of 0.5% may result in significant savings and a shorter time to break even.

How soon can you refinance a jumbo loan? A borrower can refinance their jumbo mortgage at any time if they find a lender willing to do so.

Check out mortgage refinancing with SoFi and get
competitive rates and help when you need it.

Top Reasons People Refinance a Mortgage

If you have sufficient equity in your home, typically at least 20%, you may apply for a refinance of your mortgage. Lenders will also look at your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and employment.

If you have less than 20% equity but good credit — a minimum FICO® score of 670 — you may be able to refinance by accepting a higher interest rate or mortgage insurance.

Here are the main reasons borrowers look to refinance.

•   Reduce the interest rate. Refinancing to a loan with a lower rate is the point of refinancing for most homeowners. Just calculate your break-even point, when the closing costs will have been recouped: Divide the closing costs by the amount to be saved every month. If closing costs will be $5,000 and you’ll save $100 a month, it will take 50 months to break even and begin reaping the benefits of a refi.

•   Shorten the loan term. Refinancing from a 30-year mortgage to a 15-year loan usually results in a substantial amount of loan interest saved, as this mortgage calculator shows. Or you may refi to a 20-year term. If you’re years into your mortgage, resetting to a new 30-year term may not pay off.

•   Tap home equity. Here’s how cash-out refinancing works: You apply for a new mortgage that will pay off your existing mortgage and give you a lump sum. A lower interest rate may be available at the same time.

•   Shed FHA mortgage insurance. In many cases, the only way to get rid of mortgage insurance premiums on an FHA loan is to sell your home or refinance the mortgage to a conventional loan when you have 20% equity in the home — in other words, when your new loan balance would be at least 20% less than your current home value.

•   Switch to an adjustable-rate mortgage or from an ARM to a fixed-rate loan. Depending on the rate environment and how long you expect to keep the mortgage or home, refinancing a fixed-rate mortgage to an ARM that has a low introductory rate, or an ARM to a fixed-rate loan, may make sense.

Mortgage rates are no longer at record lows. But they’re still pretty low by historical mortgage rate standards.

And rates are not the be-all, end-all. Home equity increased for many homeowners as home values rose. That’s attractive if you want to tap your equity with a cash-out refinance.

Closing costs can often be rolled into the loan or exchanged for an increased interest rate with a no closing cost refinance.

Refinance Your Mortgage With SoFi

How soon can you refinance? If it’s a conventional loan, whenever you want to, although probably not with the same lender within six months. Otherwise, if you must bide your time before refinancing or you’re waiting for rates to abate, that gives you a lull to decide whether a traditional refinance or cash-out refi might suit your needs.

SoFi offers both at competitive rates. And SoFi refinances jumbo loans.

Whenever you’re ready to refi, SoFi is here to help.

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.

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

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


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How Much Does it Cost to Refinance a Mortgage?

How Much Does It Cost to Refinance a Mortgage?

Expect to pay 2% to 5% of the new mortgage amount in closing costs when you refinance your mortgage.

If you have sufficient equity in your home and you’re tempted by a rate-and-term refinance or cash-out refi, here’s what you need to know.

What Is the Average Cost to Refinance a Mortgage?

Refinancing isn’t free because you’re taking out a new home loan and paying off your current one, and doing so brings on a host of costs, though not as many as purchase loans incur.

The main difference between average closing costs for refinances vs. home purchases is that owner’s title insurance and several inspection fees common for purchases are not typically required for refinances, according to ClosingCorp, a provider of residential real estate closing cost data and technology.

Closing costs to refinance single-family home loans averaged $2,375 in 2021, excluding any type of recordation tax or other specialty tax, according to ClosingCorp.

That is less than 1% of the average refinance loan amount of nearly $305,000 at that time, even though a general rule of thumb is that a refinance usually costs 2% to 5% of the loan amount.

Common Mortgage Refinance Fees

Some fees to refinance are flat fees that vary by lender. Other fees are based on a percentage of the loan amount.

Then there are recurring closing costs like homeowners insurance and property taxes. Six months of property taxes are usually due at closing.

Here are common fixed closing costs, though in some cases, a borrower may not need an appraisal.

Typical Fixed Refinance Closing Costs
Fee Average cost
Loan application $75 to $300
Credit report $10 to $100 per borrower
Home appraisal $300 to $700
Document prep $50 to $600
Lender’s title search and insurance $400 to $900

And here are common percentage-based closing costs. Not all borrowers will need mortgage insurance (PMI or MIP: private mortgage insurance for conventional loans, and mortgage insurance premium for FHA loans).

PMI is usually needed for a conventional loan exceeding an 80% loan-to-value ratio.

An FHA loan can be refinanced to another FHA loan or to a conventional loan if the borrower meets credit score and debt-to-income requirements for a nongovernment loan.

USDA and VA loans can also be refinanced.

Typical Percentage-Based Refinance Closing Costs
Refi cost Average amount
Loan origination fee 0% to 1.5% of loan amount
Mortgage points 1% of the mortgage amount per point
Mortgage insurance Varies by type of loan

Are You Eligible to Refinance?

Most mortgage lenders want a homeowner to have at least 20% equity in the house in order to refinance, although those numbers are not universal.

What is home equity? Here’s an example. If your home is worth $350,000 and the current mortgage balance is $250,000, you have $100,000 in equity. The loan-to-value ratio is 71% ($250,000 / $350,000). This scenario fits the parameters of many lenders for a refinance to take place.

You’ll typically need a minimum FICO® credit score of 620 to refinance a conventional loan and 580 to refinance an FHA loan. A score of 740 or above often ushers in the best rates.

Besides credit score, lenders normally review recent credit applications, on-time payments, and credit utilization.

Check to see if your current mortgage has a prepayment penalty. These days they’re fairly rare.

Recommended: 7 Signs It’s Time for a Mortgage Refinance

Benefits of Refinancing a Mortgage

The most common type of refi is a rate-and-term refinance, when you take out a new loan with a new interest rate or loan term (or both). Some people will choose a mortgage term of less than 30 years when they refi, if they can manage the new monthly payment.

Then there’s cash-out refinancing, which provides a lump sum to the homeowner.

In general, refinancing may make sense if interest rates fall below your current mortgage rate. Here are some times when a mortgage refinance could be beneficial.

If You Can Break Even Within a Suitable Time Frame

Calculate how long it would take to recoup the closing costs. Find the break-even point by dividing the closing costs by the monthly savings from your new payment.

Let’s say refinancing causes a payment to decrease by $100 a month. If closing costs will be $2,500, it would take 25 months to recoup the costs and start to see savings.

If you plan to sell the house in two years, refinancing may not be the right strategy. If you intend to stay long term, it may be an idea to explore.

If You Can Reduce Your Rate Even a Smidge

You might read or hear that refinancing is worth it if you can reduce your mortgage rate by 1% or 2%. But for a big mortgage, a change of just a quarter of a percentage point, or half of one, could result in significant savings, especially if you can minimize lender fees.

Again, consider the break-even point and how long you plan to keep the home.

You’d Like to Tap Home Equity

With a cash-out refinance, a percentage of your equity can be issued in a lump sum for any purpose. You will need to have at least 20% equity remaining after the transaction.

Be aware that the higher loan amount of a cash-out refinance usually results in higher closing costs.

(If your main goal is to access cash and not to change your rate or term, a home equity loan or line of credit may be less expensive than paying the closing costs on a cash-out refinance. With a home equity product, how much home equity can you tap? Often 85%.)

An ARM’s Teaser Rate Is Appealing

Refinancing a fixed-rate mortgage to an adjustable-rate mortgage could make sense for a homeowner who plans to move before the initial rate adjustment.

A 5/1 ARM, for example, will come with a rate for five years that is lower than that of most fixed-rate mortgages.

In other rate environments, it could make sense to refinance an ARM to a fixed-rate mortgage.

You Want to Reduce Your Repayment Term

Some people may decide to enjoy a lower rate and shorten their mortgage term, say from 30 years to 15. Monthly payments may well go up, but a lower rate and a shorter term mean paying much less over the life of a loan.

The amortization chart of this mortgage calculator shows how much interest may be saved.

You’d Like to Get Rid of FHA Mortgage Insurance

FHA loans come with MIP that costs the typical borrower $850 per year for every $100,000 borrowed. Unless you put down more than 10%, you must pay those premiums for the life of the loan. The only way to get rid of the MIP is to get a new mortgage that isn’t backed by the FHA.

Tips to Lower the Cost of a Mortgage Refinance

When preparing to refinance, the most important action is to shop around.

Comparison Shop and Try to Negotiate

You need not apply for a refinance with just your current lender — and doing so would be a missed opportunity, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes. Then again, your current lender may offer loyalty incentives.

Apply with as many lenders as you wish; you’ll receive a loan estimate from each. Compare the costs, including those of the lender’s preferred vendors.

Ask potential lenders which fees can be discounted or waived. Remember, each lender wants your business.

Typical non-negotiable closing costs found under Section B of each loan estimate include credit reports and appraisals.

Keep Your Credit Shipshape

Having at least a “good” credit score can help you get a more attractive rate, and if your credit score has improved since the initial mortgage was taken out, that could be a reason to refinance all by itself.

A good FICO score on the credit rating scale of 300 to 850 falls in the range of 670 to 739. VantageScore®, a competitor developed by Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, considers a score between 661 and 780 good.

If your credit profile could use some polishing, consider ways to build credit over time.

Use the Same Title Insurance Company

Save money on the lender’s title insurance policy by asking for a reissue rate from the title insurance company that was used for the original loan.

Consider a Streamline Refi for Government Loans

If you have an FHA, USDA, or VA loan, you may want to see if you’re eligible for an FHA Streamline, USDA Streamlined Assist, or VA interest rate reduction refinance loan. The programs charge a lower mortgage insurance fee than regular government refinance programs and do not require an appraisal.

Think About a ‘No Closing Cost Refi’

A no closing cost refinance allows borrowers to roll the closing costs into the mortgage or accept a slightly higher interest rate on the new loan.

Rolling the closing costs into the refinance loan will increase the principal and total interest paid. But if you’re going to keep the loan for more than a few years, this move could be worth it.

Accepting a slightly higher rate could work for borrowers who can skip the upfront payment and who plan to keep their new loan for only a few years.

Recommended: Guide to Buying, Selling, and Updating Your Home

Mortgage Refinancing With SoFi

No matter your reasons for refinancing your mortgage, SoFi may be able to help. SoFi offers competitive rates on a traditional mortgage refinance or cash-out refinance.


Is refinancing your mortgage free?

No. A whole new loan must be approved and processed.

Is refinancing a mortgage worth the closing costs?

It might be. You’ll want to calculate your break-even point: Divide your closing costs by whatever your monthly savings will be to find the number of months it will take you to break even. Beyond that point, the refinancing benefits kick in.

Is it worth refinancing to save $100 a month?

Refinancing to save $100 a month could be worth it if you plan to keep your home long enough to cover the closing costs. Divide your closing costs by 100 to calculate how many months it will take you to break even.

Will refinancing cost me more in the long run?

If you get a new 30-year mortgage several years into your original 30-year loan, you are, in essence, lengthening the term of your loan, and that can cost you. It makes more sense to shorten the term to 20 or 15 years.

Is it cheaper to refinance with the same bank?

Your lender might offer a slightly lower rate, but it’s a good idea to still see what competitors are offering by comparing loan estimates.

Can you negotiate closing costs when refinancing?

Yes. Many lender fees and third-party vendor fees are negotiable. On each loan estimate, Section A lists the lender charges. Try to negotiate the lowest total lender charge, keeping the rate in mind. And third-party fees in Section C are negotiable.

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.

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

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


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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.


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.


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, 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.

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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