Should I Lock My Mortgage Rate Today?

Should I Lock My Mortgage Rate Today?

If you are offered a relatively low mortgage rate, locking it in can secure it and potentially save you a bundle of money over the life of your loan. In other words, it can be a smart move.

That said, when applying for a mortgage, you only have so much control over the mortgage rate, as lenders will consider your credit score, income, and assets to determine your risk as a borrower. What’s more, mortgage rates change daily based on external economic factors like investment activity and inflation.

Read on to learn how a mortgage rate lock works and the benefits and downsides of using this option.

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


What Is a Mortgage Rate Lock?

A mortgage rate lock is an agreement between a borrower and lender to secure an interest rate on a mortgage for a set period of time. Locking in your mortgage rate safeguards you from market fluctuations while the lender underwrites and processes your loan.

Interest rates can rise and fall significantly between mortgage preapproval and closing on a property.

Remember that in the home-buying process, when you’re pre-approved for a mortgage, you will know exactly how much you most likely can borrow, and then you can shop for a home in that range.

So when can you lock in a mortgage rate? Depending on the lender, you may have the option to lock in the rate any time between preapproval and when underwriting begins.

Before preapproval and locking in, it’s recommended to get multiple offers when shopping for a mortgage to find a competitive rate.


💡 Quick Tip: Want the comforts of home and to feel comfortable with your home loan? SoFi has a simple online application and a team dedicated to closing your loan on time. No surprise SoFi has been named a Top Online Lender in 2024 by LendingTree/Newsweek.

How a Mortgage Rate Lock Works

Mortgage rate locks are more complicated than simply securing a set rate in perpetuity. How the rate lock works in practice will vary among lenders, loan terms, different types of mortgages, and geographic locations.

Once you lock a mortgage rate, there are three possible scenarios: Interest rates will increase, decrease, or stay the same. The ideal outcome is securing a lower rate than the prevailing market interest rate at the time of closing.

Here are some key points to know if you are considering a rate lock:

•   Rate locks are sometimes free but often cost between 0.25% and 0.50% of the loan amount.

•   When you choose to lock in your rate, it’s stabilized for a set period of time — usually for 30 to 60 days, but up to 120 days may be available.

•   If the rate lock expires before closing on the property, the ability to extend is subject to the lender.

•   Time it right. The average mortgage took 44 days to close as of February 2024, according to ICE Mortgage Technology, underscoring the importance of timing a mortgage rate lock with your expected closing date. Otherwise, you could face fees for extending the rate lock or have to settle for a new, potentially higher rate.

•   Whether borrowers are charged for a rate lock depends on the lender. It could be baked into the cost of the offer or tacked on as a flat fee or percentage of the loan amount. The longer the lock period, the higher the fees, generally speaking.

•   Lenders have the discretion to void the rate lock and change your rate based on your personal financial situation. Say you take out a new line of credit to cover an emergency expense during the mortgage underwriting process. This could affect your credit and debt-to-income ratio, causing the lender to reevaluate your eligibility for the offered rate and financing.

•   Lenders also determine the mortgage rate based on the types of houses a borrower is looking at: A primary residence vs. a vacation home or investment property, for example, would influence the interest rate.

Recommended: A Guide to Buying a Duplex

Consequences of Not Locking in Your Mortgage Rate

There are risks to not locking in a mortgage rate before closing.

If you don’t lock in a rate, it can change at any time. An uptick in interest rates would translate to a higher monthly mortgage payment. Granted, a slight bump to your monthly payment may not lead to mortgage relief, but it could cost thousands over time.

Example: The monthly payment on a $300,000 loan at a 30-year fixed rate would go up by $88 if the interest rate increased from 4% to 4.5%. This would add up to an extra $31,611 in interest paid over the life of the loan.

You can use a mortgage calculator tool to see how much a rise in rates could affect your mortgage payment.

Furthermore, a higher monthly payment might potentially disqualify you from financing, depending on the impact on your debt-to-income ratio. After a jump in interest rates, borrowers may need to make a larger down payment or buy mortgage points upfront to obtain financing.

Even if you lock in a mortgage rate early on, you could face these consequences if it expires before closing. Deciding when to lock in a mortgage rate should account for any potential contingencies that could delay the process.
If you’re unsure, ask your lender for guidance on when you should lock in.


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

What to Do if Interest Rates Fall After Your Rate Lock

The main concern with mortgage rate locks is that you could miss out on a lower rate. In most cases, buyers will pay the rate they are locked in at if the prevailing interest rate is less.

A float-down option, however, protects you from rate increases while letting you switch to the lower interest rate at closing.

•   Float-down policies vary by lender but generally cost more than a conventional rate lock for the added flexibility and assurance.

•   It’s also possible that a float-down option won’t be triggered unless a certain threshold is met for the drop in rates.

•   It’s worth noting that borrowers aren’t committed to the mortgage lender until closing, so reapplying elsewhere is an option if rates change considerably.

Pros and Cons of Mortgage Rate Lock

Back to the big question: Should I lock my mortgage rate today? It’s important to weigh the pros and cons to decide when to lock in a mortgage rate.

Pros

Cons

Locking in a rate you can afford can lessen money stress during the closing process A rate lock might prevent you from getting a better deal if rates fall later on
You could save money on interest if you lock in before rates go up If a rate lock expires, you may have to pay for an extension or get stuck with a potentially higher rate
Lenders may offer a short-term rate lock for free, providing a window to close the deal if rates spike but an opportunity to wait it out if they drop Rate locks can involve a fee of 0.25% to 0.50% of the loan amount.

The Takeaway

A favorable interest rate can make a difference in your home-buying budget. If you’re considering a rate lock because you’re concerned that rates will be rising, it’s important to choose a lock period that gives the lender ample time to process the loan to avoid extra fees or a potentially higher rate.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

How long does a rate lock period last?

Rate locks usually last 30 to 60 days but can be shorter or longer depending on the agreement. It’s not uncommon for lenders to offer a free rate lock for a designated time frame.

Should you use a mortgage rate “float-down”?

If you’re worried about missing out on low interest rates, a mortgage rate float-down option could let you secure the current rate with the option to take a lower one if rates drop. Take note that these agreements usually outline a specified period and minimum amount the rate must drop to activate the float-down.

How much does a rate lock cost?

Lenders don’t always charge for a rate lock. If they do, you can expect costs to range from 0.25% to 0.50% of the loan amount for a lock period (usually 30 to 60 days). A longer lock period or adding a float-down option typically increases the rate lock cost.

What happens if my rate lock expires?

If your rate lock expires before you’ve finalized the deal, you can choose to extend the lock period (usually for a fee) or take the prevailing rate when you close on the loan.


Photo credit: iStock/Vertigo3d

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

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


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


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

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

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Property Tax and Your Mortgage: Everything You Need to Know

Property Tax and Your Mortgage: Everything You Need to Know

As you explore your home loan options, you may wonder if property taxes are included in mortgage payments, and typically they are, often along with insurance. Though many mortgage calculators don’t include property tax in their estimates, it is likely that expense will be rolled into your mortgage payment.

Having your property tax included in your mortgage is convenient, for sure, but it’s not the only way to pay taxes. Read on to learn more about paying property taxes and your mortgage.

Key Points

•   Property taxes are typically included in mortgage payments, often alongside insurance.

•   Most mortgage calculators do not account for property tax, although it is usually part of the mortgage payment.

•   Property taxes fund local services such as schools, police, and road maintenance.

•   Property taxes are paid into an escrow account monthly, and the mortgage servicer pays the bill when due.

•   If a mortgage is paid off, the homeowner must manage property tax payments directly.

What Are Property Taxes?

Property taxes are taxes paid on real property owned by an individual or entity. Property taxes are based on an assessed property value and are paid whether or not the property is used. When you become a new homeowner, you’ll pay property taxes for the first time.

The money you pay will be put to use toward the local school system, police and fire departments, sanitation, road work, and other services.


💡 Quick Tip: SoFi’s award-winning mortgage loan experience means a simple application — we even offer an on-time close guarantee. We’ve made $7.5 billion in home loans so we know a thing or two about what makes homebuyers happy.‡

Why Do You Need to Pay Property Taxes?

Local governments rely on property taxes as a revenue source. About 75% of local funding from tax collections come from property taxes.

As noted above, property taxes pay for government services like schools, roads, law enforcement, and emergency services. If you have a mortgage, a portion of your payment will go into your escrow account to be paid when your taxes come due.

How Are Property Taxes Paid?

Every month you’ll pay one-twelfth of your tax payment into an escrow account, if you have one, and most loans do.

When it’s time to pay taxes, a notice will be sent to your mortgage servicer. You’ll likely see one in the mail, too, but your mortgage servicer is the one responsible for paying your property taxes. (A review of your mortgage statements should reflect that you are paying these taxes.)

If you make a down payment of 20% or more on a conventional loan, your lender may waive the escrow requirement if you request it. USDA and FHA mortgages do not allow borrowers to close their escrow accounts. If you own your home outright, you’ll pay taxes on your own.

How to Calculate Property Tax

Property tax is calculated by your local taxing entity. The methods and rates for calculating property taxes vary widely around the country. In general, your property is assessed, and you pay taxes as a percentage of that value. (Keep in mind that the assessed value may be different from the market value.)

To get the amount of taxes you will pay, multiply the assessed value of your home by the tax rate. Some states allow for an exemption to reduce the taxable value. Florida, for example, offers a homestead exemption of up to $50,000 on a primary residence.

If your home was assessed at $400,000, and the property tax rate is 0.62%, you would pay $2,480 in property taxes ($400,000 x 0.0062 = $2,480).

If you qualify for a $50,000 exemption, you would subtract that from the assessed value, then multiply the new amount by the property tax rate.

$400,000 – $50,000 = $350,000
$350,000 x 0.0062 = $2,170

With an exemption of $50,000, you would owe $2,170 in property taxes on a $400,000 house.

Property Tax Rate

The property tax rate is determined by the local taxing authority and is adjusted each year. In general, taxing entities aim to collect a similar amount as in the prior year. If property values go up, the effective tax rate might go down a little. You will receive a notice in the mail informing you of the new rate.

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


Are Property Taxes Included in Mortgage Payments?

Property taxes will be listed on your mortgage statements if you have an escrow account for homeowners insurance and property taxes. (When you’re shopping for a home loan, whether you’ll need an escrow account is one of many mortgage questions to ask a lender.)

The mortgage servicer deposits the portion of your mortgage payment meant for taxes in the escrow account. When your tax bill is due, the servicer will pay it.


💡 Quick Tip: To see a house in person, particularly in a tight or expensive market, you may need to show the real estate agent proof that you’re preapproved for a mortgage. SoFi’s online application makes the process simple.

What Happens to Property Tax If You Pay Off Your Mortgage?

If you pay off your mortgage, your property tax stays the same. The difference is you no longer have a mortgage servicer administering the escrow account for you. If you do have money left in your escrow account, it will be refunded to you once the mortgage is paid off.

Now that you no longer have an escrow account, you need to contact the taxing entity and have the tax bill sent directly to you.

Recommended: How to Afford a Down Payment on Your First Home

What if You Can’t Afford Property Tax?

If you’ve paid off your house or have closed your escrow account, you may feel the full force of ever-increasing property taxes. This is particularly true of older adults on a fixed income.

The trouble with not paying taxes is that your taxing entity can place a lien against your property or even start foreclosure proceedings. You do have several options to explore if you’re having trouble with your property taxes.

•   Payment options. Your locality may be open to establishing a payment system for collecting your taxes. There are also relief programs you may be eligible for.

•   Challenge your home’s assessed value. Since your taxes are based on your home’s assessed value, you can challenge it to potentially reduce your taxes. You generally need to do it soon after you receive your tax bill. You have to show that the market value of your home is inaccurate or unfair.

•   Talk to a HUD housing counselor. A housing counselor can point you in the direction of programs that can reduce your tax bill or offer some other relief, such as a deferral or payment plan. They can also help you find mortgage relief programs, should you need them.

The Takeaway

Is property tax included in a mortgage? With most home loans, yes. Typically, you pay one-twelfth of the amount owed every month into escrow, and your servicer is then responsible for paying the property tax bill for you. Property taxes are a significant part of your home-buying budget, so be sure to include them in your budget as you work towards securing a mortgage.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

What is included in my monthly mortgage payment?

There can be as many as seven parts to your mortgage payment: principal, interest, escrow, taxes, homeowners insurance, any mortgage insurance, and any HOA or condo fees.

Is it better to pay your monthly tax with your mortgage?

It’s certainly more convenient to have your tax included in your mortgage payment. You’ll never have to worry about your taxes being paid or coming up with a large payment when they come due. On the other hand, if you would rather manage the tax payment yourself, you may be able to cancel your escrow account and pay the taxes on your own.

How do I know if my property taxes are included in my mortgage?

You can check your monthly mortgage statement or closing documents if you’re a new homeowner. For most types of loans, taxes are included in your mortgage payment.

Do you pay property tax monthly?

The monthly mortgage payment you send contains a share of the annual property tax bill that your mortgage servicer will pay. If you pay your taxes directly, you’ll pay them annually or semiannually.


Photo credit: iStock/MStudioImages

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

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


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


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

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

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Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market With a Low Down Payment

Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market With a Low Down Payment

The housing market is rising in some areas of America and falling in others. If you find yourself in a hot seller’s market, it can be challenging to buy a house, but doing so, even with a low down payment, is possible.

Lenders are willing to approve low-down-payment mortgages if you qualify and are comfortable with paying mortgage insurance.

Read on for advice on navigating the real estate market if you have a small down payment but a fair amount of competition from other prospective buyers.

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


What Is Considered a Low Down Payment?

While many people believe you need at least a 20% down payment to buy a house, the average down payment on a house at the end of 2023 was 8%.

Given the wide range above, what’s actually considered a low-down payment? Popular mortgage programs out there may require as little as 3% down, and a couple of more specific home loan programs allow 0% down.

The reason why that 20% down payment figure keeps popping up is that any amount less than that will likely entail some form of mortgage insurance, an ongoing fee charged by most lenders.


💡 Quick Tip: You deserve a more zen mortgage. Look for a mortgage lender who’s dedicated to closing your loan on time.

Challenges of Buying in a Seller’s Market When You Have a Small Down Payment

There’s truth to the saying “cash is king,” and that continues to be evident in a seller’s market, where real estate investors who pay all cash frequently outbid prospective first-time homebuyers.

Be ready for these potential challenges if you intend to buy a home with a small down payment.

Longer Closing Time

Closing on a home with a mortgage-contingent offer to buy takes longer than closing with a cash offer. There’s often more paperwork, and underwriters may take longer to ensure that your financials are in order before green-lighting your mortgage.

Lenders May Disagree With Mortgage Minimums

Just because a mortgage loan program allows for a 3% minimum down payment doesn’t mean the lender will accept it. Lenders have wide latitude to dictate their own terms, and it’s fairly common for them to set their own minimum down payment requirement somewhere above what the stated minimum for the program is.

Home Sellers May Be Nervous About Your Ability to Close

While it’s true that all funds from your down payment and mortgage transfer to the seller at closing, many sellers still buy into the old “bird in hand” adage when it comes to accepting offers. A higher down payment signals a buyer’s financial capacity and is, therefore, more attractive in the eyes of the homeowner.

If sellers accept a bid with a low down payment, they may run an increased risk of the buyer being rejected at the last minute by their mortgage lender.

In a deal involving a mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), if the home is appraised for less than the agreed-upon price, the sellers must match the appraised price or the deal will fall through.

And FHA guidelines require home appraisers to look for certain defects. If any are found, the sellers may have to repair them before the sale.

Recommended: Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) versus Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP)

Tips for Buying With a Small Down Payment

If you’re trying to score a home with a small down payment, there are some ways you can approach it to increase your odds of buying the home of your dreams.

One way is to select a government-backed mortgage program — FHA, or the US Department of Agriculture or Veterans Affairs — that allows for a low down payment. The government guarantee makes them more palatable for mortgage lenders and easier for a homebuyer to afford.

Some specialized mortgage programs allow qualified buyers to put as little as 0% down; others, from 3% to 5% down. Some of the most popular low-down-payment mortgage programs are:

•   VA loans (0% down)

•   USDA loans (0% down)

•   FHA loans (3.5% down)

•   Fannie Mae HomeReady (3% down)

•   Conventional 97 loan (3% down)

•   Conventional mortgage (5% down)

Another option is to apply for down payment assistance. Many governments and nonprofits offer down payment assistance programs for first-time homebuyers — those who have not owned a principal residence in the past three years — in the form of loans or grants. Some lenders can even assist you in qualifying for these programs to help offset the upfront costs of homebuying.

Finally, you can also ask a family member, or sometimes a domestic partner, close friend, or employer, to help with the down payment by contributing gift money. The money can’t come with any strings attached, and a gift letter will likely be required. This is a popular option for parents and in-laws who want to help their children buy a first home.


💡 Quick Tip: Not to be confused with prequalification, preapproval involves a longer application, documentation, and hard credit pulls. Ideally, you want to keep your applications for preapproval to within the same 14- to 45-day period, since many hard credit pulls outside the given time period can adversely affect your credit score, which in turn affects the mortgage terms you’ll be offered.

Pros and Cons of Using a Low Down Payment

There are both benefits and disadvantages to submitting a small down payment on a home. Here are a couple of points to think about.

Pros of Using a Low Down Payment

•   Gets you in a home faster than waiting to save for a bigger down payment.

•   Start building equity earlier and avoid spending money on rent.

•   Preserve cash for other investments, opportunities, and emergencies.

•   Take advantage of current low mortgage rates, theoretically saving you money over the long run.

Cons of Using a Low Down Payment

•   You’ll have to pay private mortgage insurance, or a mortgage insurance premium, which could add 0.5% to 1.5% of the loan amount to your annual housing costs.

•   Your monthly mortgage payment will likely be larger, as the amount you borrow will increase the less you put down.

•   Your lender may penalize you with a higher mortgage rate to offset the higher risk of a lower down payment.

•   You run a greater risk of your home loan being underwater, should home values drop.

Recommended: Home Affordability Calculator

Tips for Managing a Seller’s Market

So what’s a prospective homebuyer to do if they find themselves in a seller’s market or a tight market and feel the cards are stacked against them?

One way to get a leg up on the competition is to get the ball rolling on financing early and make sure you have everything in place by the time you even submit an offer on a home.

Make sure you’re prequalified (which is when lenders have an idea of your income and assets before you start home shopping, so you have an idea of how much you can afford). Then, it can be smart to get preapproved, which is when you receive a letter from a lender stating that you qualify for a certain loan amount and rate. These steps can ensure that you’ll be ready to roll the second you find the right home.

Once you’ve submitted an offer on a house, make sure you’re ready when it comes to all documents and information requested by your chosen lender.

Another thing you can do is to find a good real estate agent who’s been through the homebuying process countless times and can advise you effectively.

Recommended: How to Buy a House in 7 Steps

The Takeaway

Buying a home with a small down payment, even in a seller’s market, is possible. With preparation and the right mortgage lender, you may be able to land a starter home or your dream home with a low down payment.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.


Photo credit: iStock/sturti

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

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


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


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

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.

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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Can You Get a Home Loan While on Maternity Leave?

Can You Get a Home Loan on Maternity Leave?

It is possible to get a home loan while on maternity leave. The process may involve your lender verifying your “temporary leave income,” if any; your regular income; and your agreed-upon date of return. Anyone on a standard temporary leave is considered employed, whether the absence is paid or unpaid.

Read on to learn more about buying a home while pregnant and how this will impact your ability to get a mortgage.

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


Buying a House While Pregnant

Hey, why not take on two of the biggest life stressors at once? Sometimes it just happens this way, with parents preparing for a baby and a new home and mortgage.

First, consider if you can wait a bit to buy a home. It may lead to less stress overall during the pregnancy. Plus, the added pressure of a deadline may lead to hasty decision-making that buyers could regret.

And unless an employer is covering moving expenses, add that sizable cost to all the rest.

But if the move can’t be avoided because of a job relocation or other circumstances, it may be important to find a home before the baby arrives. Which does have a silver lining: Saving for a down payment could interfere with goals like saving for a child’s college tuition.

Another possible benefit to buying a house while pregnant is that the relocation could lead to a better school district or area to raise a child.

Ultimately, the decision to buy a house while pregnant is personal.


💡 Quick Tip: Want the comforts of home and to feel comfortable with your home loan? SoFi has a simple online application and a team dedicated to closing your loan on time. No surprise SoFi has been named a Top Online Lender in 2024 by LendingTree/Newsweek.

What Is the FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, gives eligible employees job protection and up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year in the event of:

•   Childbirth

•   Adoption or foster child care

•   Care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition

•   A personal serious health condition

•   Qualifying exigencies arising from covered active duty or “call to covered active duty status”

The FMLA guarantees that the employee can return to their job or an equivalent one and that they’ll receive health care benefits during their leave.

Employees are eligible if they work for a company that has 50 or more staffers and have completed at least 1,250 hours of work in the previous year.

In addition to the FMLA’s 12 unpaid weeks off, more and more states are enacting paid family leave laws. Currently, 13 states plus the District of Columbia have made this mandatory. And your employer may cover your pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery thanks to short-term disability insurance. Your benefit would be a percentage of your normal earnings.

Recommended: How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Child?

How Maternity Leave Impacts a Mortgage

Before diving into the nuances of maternity leave and its impact on qualifying for a mortgage, here’s a quick refresher course on the home-buying process.

Mortgage approval from a lender primarily hinges on two factors:

•   Creditworthiness. How likely is the borrower to pay back the loan, based on their credit history?

•   Ability to pay. Does the borrower generate enough income, and have a certain debt-to-income ratio, to make the monthly mortgage payments?

The lender may contact an employer to verify a borrower’s employment status and income.

Why could getting loans for pregnant women prove a challenge? Income. Consider these points:

•   As long as the lender can verify that the borrower is employed — and remember, someone on temporary leave is considered employed — and generates enough income to cover the mortgage, that could be enough.

•   Expectant borrowers aren’t legally required to disclose their pregnancy to a lender. However, the employer can tell the lender about impending maternity leave when they call to verify employment status.

•   If a borrower is going on unpaid leave, they may need to disclose it to the lender. That’s because the period without pay may qualify as a financial hardship, which a borrower is required to inform a lender of.

•   The lender can’t assume the mother-to-be won’t return to work after maternity leave. Lenders consider that the mother will return to work after maternity leave and continue bringing home paychecks.

•   Before approval, the lender will ask the borrower for written notice of her intent to return to work, and may ask for an expected return date.

•   The mortgage lender may request a tax slip from the last calendar year if the borrower is a salaried employee.

•   A lender may approve the mortgage if your employer verifies in writing that you will return to your previous position or a similar one after your maternity leave. The lender will also consider the timing of the first payment.

•   If the borrower will have returned to work when the first mortgage payment is due, the lender can consider regular income in qualifying for the mortgage.

•   If the borrower will return to work after the first mortgage payment due date, the lender must use the borrower’s temporary leave income (if any) or regular employment income, whichever is less, and then may add available liquid financial reserves.

•   VA loans don’t count temporary leave income towards qualifying for a mortgage, however.


💡 Quick Tip: Want the comforts of home and to feel comfortable with your home loan? SoFi has a simple online application and a team dedicated to closing your loan on time. No surprise SoFi has been named a Top Online Lender in 2024 by LendingTree/Newsweek.

Should I Buy a Home While on Maternity Leave?

For those who qualify for a mortgage while on maternity leave, the question may be, “Should I buy a house while on maternity leave?” not “Can I buy a house while on maternity leave?”

As mentioned, moving can be an incredibly stressful process, pregnancy or no pregnancy. And even if you made a budget for a baby, life has a way of throwing in surprises.

Homeownership can also come with financial surprises. The majority of homeowners reported paying for an unexpected repair within the first year.

Having a child and buying a home both require saving some significant cash. By budgeting, doing the two simultaneously is possible. So it’s your call. Not taking the double plunge could give you time to review what you need to buy a house.

Recommended: First-Time Homebuyers Guide

Home Loans With SoFi

Pregnancy is not a legal limiting factor in a mortgage lender’s eyes, but getting a home loan while on maternity leave will depend on your income, savings, work return date, and credit history.

Whether you’re on a temporary leave or not, it can be worthwhile to take a look at your home loan options.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

Does being on maternity leave affect getting a mortgage?

It can, but only in the sense that maternity leave can affect a homebuyer’s reported income. If buyers anticipate an unpaid maternity leave, they may need a sizable savings account.

Should you buy a home on maternity leave?

Buying a home while on maternity leave depends on your family’s needs and finances. But moving can be stressful, and adding infant care can be a lot to handle.

Who does FMLA cover?

The Family and Medical Leave Act provides 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for eligible employees in the case of the birth or adoption of a child or placement of a foster child, and for other reasons.


Photo credit: iStock/FatCamera

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

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


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


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

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

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.

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Can You Make Mortgage Payments With a Credit Card?

Can You Make Mortgage Payments With a Credit Card?

It is very unlikely that you can directly pay your mortgage lender with a credit card. However, there are a few workarounds that can help you pay your home loan with plastic. But it’s important to understand other factors involved when paying your mortgage with this kind of card, such as possible fees and other financial consequences.

Read on to learn how to pay your mortgage with a credit card and what to consider before you do so.

How to Pay Your Mortgage With a Credit Card

It’s highly unlikely that you can pay your mortgage directly with a credit card. That said, there are several ways you can use workarounds to pay your mortgage with a credit card, including using a money order, utilizing third-party services, and getting a cash advance.

Use a Third-Party Service

Some third-party services facilitate mortgage payments using your credit card and send a payment to your lender on your behalf. Companies like Plastiq allow you to use select credit cards (including American Express) to make mortgage payments through their platform.

For the privilege, you’ll most likely need to pay a convenience fee — Plastiq charges a processing fee of 2.9% — each time you make a mortgage payment using your credit card. And, depending on how that payment is delivered (say, check or bank transfer), you may also be charged an additional fixed fee that can range from 99 cents to $39. You may also have the option to make recurring payments or to make your payments manually.

Buy a Money Order

Depending on your location and the retailer, you may be able to purchase a money order with your credit card. Then, you’ll simply take the money order and deposit it at your bank and transfer the amount to your mortgage lender.

Keep in mind that many retailers may not accept credit cards as a form of payment for money orders — it’s best to check ahead of time if you plan to do so. Even if you can, money orders tend to have a limit of $1,000. That means if you want to go this route, it may take you a few transactions before your money orders total enough for your mortgage payment.

Additionally, you may incur a fee for each money order you buy. Also keep in mind that some credit card issuers treat money order purchases as cash advances, which can result in a fee and interest charges at a rate that’s usually higher than the standard purchase APR on a credit card.

Transfer a Balance to Your Bank Account

You could attempt to conduct a balance transfer, with the funds going into your bank account — some credit card issuers may allow this type of transaction. Most commonly, credit card issuers provide cardholders with balance transfer checks to facilitate these types of transactions. There may be balance transfer fees involved, and interest may accrue depending on your credit card terms.

Get a Cash Advance

As another method to pay your mortgage with a credit card, you can get a cash advance at the ATM with your credit card. You’d then deposit the cash into your bank account and use the funds to make your mortgage payments. You could also consider using the funds to purchase a cashier’s check and mail it to your lender.

Going this route most likely means you’ll have to pay a cash advance fee, and interest on cash advances will accrue on your credit card with no grace period and often at a significantly higher rate than on your everyday purchases. Credit limits may be lower for cash advances as well.

Recommended: Charge Card Advantages and Disadvantages

Do All Mortgage Lenders Accept Credit Card Payments?

No, most mortgage lenders do not accept credit card payments directly from the borrower.

If you’re curious about why this is, know that paying debt with a credit card isn’t usually a financially responsible move. Mortgage companies likely don’t want the added risk that someone is paying for their home loan with credit vs. cash. Also, it can be expensive for lenders to accept credit cards, given that processing and other fees can take a bite out of every incoming amount of money.

Factors to Consider When Paying a Mortgage With a Credit Card

Before paying your mortgage with a credit card, consider the following.

Fees vs Rewards

Similar to those considering paying taxes with a credit card, many people tend to pay their mortgage with a credit card because they want to earn rewards. Since third-party services will charge you fees — or you’ll pay the fees charged directly by your credit card issuer for balance transfers — you’ll want to make sure the value of the rewards outweighs what you’re paying in fees.

Sure, the fees may seem small, but they can quickly add up over time. Also, in many cases, rewards cards may only count certain transactions as eligible for rewards. Many issuers don’t consider balance transfers as qualifying transactions, for example.

The Cost of Interest

If you don’t pay off your balance each month, interest will start to accrue on your credit card — and credit card interest rates are typically much higher than your mortgage interest rate, even if you have a good APR for a credit card.

Additionally, if you go the cash advance route, these transactions may have higher credit card interest rates, and there’s no interest-free grace period.

Effect on Your Credit Score

If your credit card balance starts to get too overwhelming and you miss making the credit card minimum payment, it could negatively impact your score.

Even if you make on-time payments, having a high balance could affect your credit utilization, which is the ratio between your balance and your available credit. The higher your credit utilization, the more it could negatively impact your score.

Challenges You May Face When Paying a Mortgage With a Credit Card

One challenge with using a credit card for mortgage payments is the time it takes to do so. Any of the above mentioned methods will take you some time and effort to complete successfully. That’s because it’s unlikely your lender will accept a direct credit card payment and you will instead have to use a workaround.

There are also the fees to consider — determining whether paying the extra charges and potentially a higher interest rate is worth it takes some careful calculations.

Should You Pay Your Mortgage With a Credit Card?

Making mortgage payments with a credit card may be a good idea if you’re looking for a way to earn more rewards or get some financial breathing room. However, given the downsides, such as high fees and the impact it may have on your credit, you may be better off pursuing other options first. Also keep in mind that using a credit card to pay your mortgage may trigger a higher cash-advance interest rate than your typical interest rate since you can’t pay directly.

Alternatives to Using a Credit Card for Your Mortgage

Here are several options you can choose from instead of paying your mortgage with a credit card:

•   Consider mortgage forbearance: If you’re struggling with your payments and experiencing a significant hardship, you can contact your lender to see if mortgage forbearance is possible. This could allow you to temporarily stop paying or have your monthly payments reduced until you can get back on your feet.

•   Seek help with a housing counselor: You can find a reputable housing counselor that’s approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by contacting the Homeowners HOPE Hotline or using the housing counselor tool on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website. They could suggest options to help you manage your mortgage payments. You may have to pay a small fee for the service, but it could be more affordable than using a credit card to pay your mortgage.

The Takeaway

While you probably can’t pay your mortgage directly with a credit card, there are workarounds that are possible, as long as you understand what you’re getting into and are strategic about how to do so. Before you move forward with paying your mortgage with your credit card, make sure you weigh the fees involved vs. the rewards you could earn as well as any interest you could accrue and potential impacts to your credit. Understanding the pros and cons of this scenario is an important step in using your credit card responsibly.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Can you use a credit card to pay a mortgage?

You probably can’t pay your mortgage directly using a credit card, but you can do so through indirect methods. Some of these include going through a third-party service, making a balance transfer, purchasing a money order using your credit card, or getting a cash advance. Each of these methods will come with its own set of fees and/or higher interest rates.

Can paying a mortgage with a credit card impact credit score?

If you end up with a high balance on your credit card as a result of your mortgage payment, it could negatively impact your score if you have a high credit utilization. Or, if you end up missing or being late on a payment (perhaps you’re struggling to make the monthly payments), then your score could also be impacted.

Are there fees for paying a mortgage with a credit card?

There are fees depending on how you use your credit card to pay for your mortgage. For instance, you may incur balance transfer, cash advance, or third-party fees.


Photo credit: iStock/vgajic

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.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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.

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.

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