What Is the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit & How Much Is It?

What Is the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit & How Much Is It?

Legislation providing for a tax credit for first-time homebuyers was introduced in Congress in 2021 but is still making its way through Congress as of June, 2023. A revamp of the first-time homebuyer tax credit from 2008, the proposed First-Time Homebuyer Act of 2021, would modify the first-time homebuyer tax credit, increasing the allowable dollar amount of the credit from $8,000 to $15,000.

Unfortunately, this bill hasn’t passed, so there is currently no federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers. (A separate bill, the Downpayment Toward Equity Act of 2021, was introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2021, provides financial assistance specifically to first-generation homebuyers to help them purchase a home that they would occupy. This hasn’t passed either.)

Here’s everything you need to know about the history of the first-time homebuyer credit and what the future may hold.

What Is the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit?

The first-time homebuyer tax credit refers to a tax credit given in tax years 2008, 2009, and 2010 worth up to $8,000. It’s possible the term may also be used in the future as legislation for a new first-time homebuyer tax credit was introduced in the House of Representatives in April 2021.

The new proposed first-time homebuyer tax credit would typically be worth up to $15,000 for buyers whose adjusted gross income doesn’t exceed 160% of the median income for the area.

Recommended: The Cost of Living By State

First-Time Homebuyer Act of 2008

For first-time homebuyers who purchased a home between April 9, 2008, and May 1, 2010, a one-time tax credit of 10% of the purchase price, up to $7,500 in 2008 and increased to $8,000 in the next two years, was available. It was part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. The credit was for home purchases of up to $800,000 and phased out for individual taxpayers with higher incomes.

For home purchases made between April 9 and Dec. 31, 2008, the credit had to be repaid over 15 years, making it more of an interest-free loan than a true credit. Homebuyers taking advantage of the tax credit in the following years had repayment of the credit waived. Homebuyers who left the property before a three-year period were required to repay a portion of the credit back to the IRS.

Proposed First-Time Homebuyer Act of 2021

The First-Time Homebuyer Act of 2021 would allow qualified buyers a refundable tax credit of $7,500 for individuals and $15,000 for married couples filing jointly.

This bill amends the 2008 law to allow for higher purchase prices, revises the formulas for income, and revises rules pertaining to recapture of the credit and to members of the armed forces. It was introduced in the House by Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon in April 2021 but is not yet law as of June 2023.

What Can Be Deducted After Buying a Home?

Amounts eligible for the proposed tax credit would include the purchase price of the home. The amount of the credit is 10% of the purchase price.

Given that the maximum is $7,500 per individual and $15,000 per married couple filing jointly, if you and your spouse purchased a home with a mortgage loan of $500,000, the 10% credit would amount to $50,000. You would receive a tax credit of $15,000 if you filed jointly.

If you purchased a home for $102,000 with a spouse, 10% of that would be $10,200. You would be able to claim $10,200 for the credit if you filed jointly.

Here are some possible deductions now for homeowners who itemize, though most taxpayers take the standard deduction instead:

•   Mortgage interest on up to $750,000 of mortgage debt (or up to $375,000 if married and filing separately), including discount points paid to reduce the interest rate on the mortgage.

•   Up to $10,000 of property taxes when combined with state and local taxes.

•   Home office if you’re self-employed or a business owner but not an employee of a company.

If you sell your main home and have a capital gain, you may qualify to exclude up to $250,000 of that gain from your income, or up to $500,000 if you file a joint return with your spouse.

Recommended: Mortgage Interest Deduction Explained

Who Is Eligible for the First-Time Homebuyer Act of 2021?

First-time homebuyers purchasing a principal residence would be eligible for the tax credit. Not your first time buying a house? You may still be able to qualify.

A first-time homebuyer is defined as someone who has not owned an interest in a property for the past three years. So even if you had owned a home in the past, you might be eligible to receive this credit if it hadn’t been in the last three years.

Other qualifications include:

•   A modified adjusted gross income that is under 160% of the area median income.

•   Purchase of a property that is not above 125% of the area median purchase price.

•   Must live in the home as a principal residence for the tax year.

•   Must be over 18 years of age.

To note: If you claimed a first-time homebuyer credit under the 2008 law, you would be able to claim it again. But you could claim the new credit only once, for a first purchase. Also be aware that a copy of the settlement statement must be attached to your taxes.

How Does the Tax Credit Work?

If the bill passed, the new homeowner would file for the first-time homebuyer tax credit on their taxes. The credit would first be used to offset any taxes owed by the homebuyer. Then, as a refundable tax credit, the homebuyer would get money back on top of the amount of the credit after their tax bill had been paid.

For example, if you owed $4,000 in taxes after accounting for withholdings, and you qualified for a $15,000 tax credit, you’d apply that toward the amount you owe in taxes. You would get the rest back ($11,000) from the IRS.

Taxpayers must stay in the home for the duration of the tax year in order to receive the credit. If the property is sold within four years, taxpayers may need to pay a portion of the tax credit back. The amount is subject to a schedule, which is as follows:

•   Dispose of property before the end of Year 1: Repay 100% of the credit

•   Dispose of property before the end of Year 2: Repay 75% of the credit

•   Dispose of property before the end of Year 3: Repay 50% of the credit

•   Dispose of property before the end of Year 4: Repay 25% of the credit

Homebuyer Tax Credit vs Homebuyer Grant

Another first-time homebuyer program has been introduced in Congress to help with the costs of obtaining a home. The Downpayment Toward Equity Act would award a grant of up to $25,000 to first-generation homebuyers who come from socially and economically disadvantaged groups.

The down payment would need to be for a principal residence and would not need to be repaid after 60 months of occupancy. More details on the two proposed programs can be found below:

First-Time Homebuyer Act of 2021

Downpayment Toward Equity Act of 2021 Grant

Available to homeowners who have not owned a home in the last three years Available to first-generation homebuyers, meaning individuals whose parents do not currently own residential real estate or individuals who have been placed in foster care at any time
Credit against taxes of 10% of the purchase price, up to $15,000, available as a refundable tax credit Up to $25,000 available, and possibly more for high-cost areas
For buyers whose income doesn’t exceed 160% of the median income for the area Income may not exceed 120% of the median income for the area, except in high-cost areas, where the limit increases to 180%
Must be a principal residence Must be principal residence
No specified number of units 1-4 units will qualify
Allowed on purchase amounts up to 125% of the median purchase price of a home Must come from a socially and economically disadvantaged group
Must not dispose of the residence before the end of the tax year. Has a schedule for amount of the credit that is recaptured if the home is sold in a certain period of time After 60 months of occupancy, the grant does not need to be repaid
Has been introduced in the House and has been referred to the Ways and Means Committee. Has not passed as of early 2023 Has been introduced in the House but has not passed as of early 2023
Must be at least 18 years of age Assistance can be used for the costs to acquire the mortgage as well as home modification costs for those with disabilities
Must attach the settlement statement to your taxes Can be combined with other assistance programs, such as the first-time homebuyer tax credit

Help for First-Time Homebuyers

Although new federal legislation hasn’t yet delivered support to first-time homebuyers, there are other first-time homebuyer programs that can help with costs.

A first-time homebuyers guide will walk you through the process of buying your first home and help answer questions.

Are you crunching numbers? Try this mortgage calculator tool. Keep in mind that some private lenders (like SoFi) allow a down payment for first-time buyers that may be even lower than FHA loans.

The Takeaway

A first-time homebuyer tax credit of up to $15,000 has been proposed for qualified buyers. That would take some of the pressure of taking the plunge into homeownership. But Congress has not passed legislation to put the credit in place.

If home buying remains mysterious, the SoFi loan help center can help clear the fog.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

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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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What Assets Should Be Noted on a Mortgage Application?

When lenders ask borrowers to list their assets during the mortgage application process, they’re looking primarily for cash and “cash equivalents” (assets that can be quickly converted to cash). But that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t include other types of assets on your application.

The assets you choose to include could help determine the type of mortgage you can get and the interest rate you’re offered. So it’s important to be prepared with a well-thought-out list of assets for your lender.

What Is Considered a Financial Asset?

When you apply for a loan, you can expect your lender to ask about your income, the debts you owe, and the assets you own. What’s an asset? In the broadest sense, a financial asset is anything you own that has monetary value and can be turned into cash. But all assets are not created equal when it comes to borrowing money.

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

Types of Financial Assets

Some assets can take longer to liquidate than others, and the value of some assets may change over time. So it can be helpful to break down your assets into different categories, including:

Cash and Cash Equivalents

This category includes cash you have on hand (in a home safe, for example); the accounts you use to hold your cash (checking, savings, and money market accounts); and assets that can be quickly converted to cash (CDs, money market funds).

Physical Assets

A physical or tangible asset is something you own that can be touched and that would have some value if you had to sell it to qualify for your loan or to make your loan payments. (If you need to use this type of asset to qualify for a mortgage, the lender may ask you to sell it before you close.) Some examples of physical assets include homes, cars, boats, jewelry, or artwork.

Nonphysical Assets

Nonphysical or nontangible assets aren’t as liquid as physical assets, and you can’t actually put your hands on them — but they still have value. This category includes workplace pensions and retirement plans (401(k)s, 403(b)s, etc.), and IRAs. You may be able to withdraw money from your account in certain circumstances, or borrowing from your 401(k) might be an option, but it can take time as well as careful planning to avoid tax and other consequences.

Liquid Assets

This category includes nonphysical assets that you can easily convert to cash if necessary. For example, a stock or bond that isn’t part of your retirement account would be considered a liquid asset.

Fixed Assets

Fixed assets are items you own that could be sold for cash, but it may take a while to find a buyer — and the value may have changed (up or down) since you made the initial purchase. You would list a valuable piece of furniture, an antique, or a real estate property as a fixed asset using the item’s current value — not its original purchase price.

Equity Assets

This category includes any ownership interest you may have in a company, such as a stock, mutual fund, or holdings in a retirement account.

Fixed Income Assets

Investment money lent in exchange for interest, such as a government bond, may be categorized as a fixed-income asset. (Yes, there can be some confusing overlap in how assets may be designated. Don’t let that hang you up: The goal is simply to keep your mind open to anything you own that might be helpful when listed as an asset on your application.)

Financial Assets to List on Your Mortgage Application

You may have heard or read that lenders tend to prioritize a borrower’s liquid net worth (the total amount of cash and cash equivalents you own minus any outstanding debt) over total net worth (everything you own minus everything you owe).

That’s partly because lenders want to be clear on where the money for your down payment and closing costs is coming from. When you apply for a home mortgage loan, a lender will want to determine if you’re a good financial risk, able to comfortably manage monthly mortgage payments — even if you suddenly have a bunch of medical bills to pay or experience a job layoff. So it can help your application if you have a healthy savings account, certificates of deposit (CDs), or other assets you can quickly liquidate in a pinch.

That doesn’t mean, though, that your lender won’t also note other assets you own when gauging your financial stability. Listing physical assets that can be quickly converted to cash may show your lender that you have options if you need more money for your down payment or to keep in cash reserves. And the assets you have in other categories could help bolster your application if you’re a candidate for a certain type of mortgage loan or a better interest rate.

Does Reporting More Assets Help With Mortgage Approval?

As you go through the mortgage preapproval process, you can ask your lender to help you determine which assets will help make your application stronger. You also could meet with your accountant in advance to go over what you have. If in doubt, you may want to list everything of value on your application — especially if you’re concerned about qualifying for the loan amount you want. Just be sure everything is accurate, because the lender will verify the information you provide. Bear in mind the lender will also be looking at whether you have the credit score needed to buy a house. Your debt-to-income ratio will also be important.

How Mortgage Lenders Verify Assets

Your lender will want to be sure all the information on your application is correct, so you should be prepared to provide asset statements to support everything you’ve listed. Documents you may be asked for include:

Bank Statements

Lenders generally will ask to see two or three of the most recent monthly statements from your checking, savings, and other bank accounts. You can send copies of paper statements (if you still do paper) or you can download copies online. If you have cash deposits on your statements, you should be ready to answer questions about the source (or sources) of that money. Your lender will want to be sure you have enough money on your own to make your down payment and monthly payments.

Keep in mind that when you turn over your bank statements, your lender will look for clues to the stability of your financial health. If you have a history of overdrafts or other problems, your application could be denied, even if your current balances are sufficient to qualify for a mortgage.

Gift Letters

Some lenders and loan programs allow borrowers to accept a large monetary gift from a family member to help with their down payment. But you’ll likely have to ask your benefactor to sign a document stating you won’t have to repay the money, and the lender also may ask to see a copy of that person’s bank statements to verify he or she was the source of the money.

Retirement and Investment Account Statements

If you need more money to make your down payment or help cover closing costs, and you plan to withdraw or borrow money from a retirement or brokerage account, you should be ready to provide two to three months’ worth of statements from those accounts.

Appraisal and Insurance Paperwork

If you’re listing a physical or fixed asset, you may have to produce an appraisal report or insurance document that states the item’s current value and that it belongs to you.

The Takeaway

Making a list of your assets, and gathering up documents to verify ownership and value, may seem like a tedious exercise. But being prepared to provide a complete accounting of your assets — along with the other documentation you’ll need — could help you find and get the mortgage you want.

Need help? SoFi’s Mortgage Loan Officers can provide one-on-one assistance as you work your way through the mortgage application process, so you can know what’s expected at each step. And SoFi’s online application makes it easy to get started.

Check out the flexible terms and competitive rates on a SoFi Home Loan today.

Photo credit: iStock/FG Trade

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.


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What to Know About Government Home Loans

Conventional loans are the most popular kind of mortgage, but a government-backed mortgage like an FHA loan is easier to qualify for and may have a lower interest rate. FHA home loans have attractive qualities, but borrowers should know that mortgage insurance usually tags along for the life of the loan.

As of March 2023, new FHA borrowers will pay less for insurance. The Biden-Harris Administration announced it was reducing premiums by .30 percentage points, lowering annual homeowner costs by $800 on average. The administration hopes the cuts will help offset rising interest rates.

What Is an FHA Loan?

The Federal Housing Administration has been insuring mortgages originated by approved private lenders for single-family and multifamily properties, as well as residential care facilities, since 1934.

The FHA backs a variety of loans that cater to the specific needs of a borrower, such as FHA reverse mortgages for people 62 and older and FHA Energy Efficient Mortgages for those looking to finance home improvements that will increase energy efficiency (and therefore lower housing costs).

But FHA loans are most popular among first-time homebuyers, in large part because of the relaxed credit requirements.

Recommended: Tips to Qualify for a Mortgage

FHA Loan Requirements

If you’re interested in an FHA home loan to buy a single-family home or an owner-occupied property with up to four units, here are the details on qualifying.

FHA Loan Credit Scores and Down Payments

Borrowers with FICO® credit scores of 580 or more may qualify for a down payment of 3.5% of the sales price or the appraised value, whichever is less.

Those with a poor credit score range of 500 to 579 are required to put 10% down.

The FHA allows your entire down payment to be a gift, from a family member, close friend, employer or labor union, charity, or government homebuyer program. The money will need to be documented with a mortgage gift letter.


Besides your credit score, lenders will look at your debt-to-income ratio, or monthly debt payments compared with your monthly gross income.

FHA loans allow a DTI ratio of up to 50% in some cases, vs. a typical 45% maximum for a conventional loan.

FHA Mortgage Insurance

FHA loans require an upfront mortgage insurance premium (MIP) of 1.75% of the base loan amount, which can be rolled into the loan. As of March 2023, monthly MIP for new homebuyers is 0.15% to .75% — most often 0.55%.

For a $300,000 mortgage balance, that’s upfront MIP of $5,250 and monthly MIP of $137.50 at the 0.55% rate.

That reality can be painful, but MIP becomes less expensive each year as the loan balance is paid off.

There’s no getting around mortgage insurance with an FHA home loan, no matter the down payment. And it’s usually only shed by refinancing to a conventional loan or selling the house.

FHA Loan Limits

In 2023, FHA loan limits in most of the country are as follows:

•   Single unit: $472,030

•   Duplex: $604,400

•   Three-unit property: $730,525

•   Four-unit property: $$907,900

The range in high-cost areas is $1,089,300 (for single unit) to $2,095,200 (four-unit property); for Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the range is $1,633,950 (for single unit) to $3,142,800 (for four-unit property).

FHA Interest Rates

FHA loans usually have lower rates than comparable conventional loans.

The annual percentage rate (APR) — the annual cost of a loan to a borrower, including fees — may look higher on paper than the APR for a conventional loan because FHA rate estimates include MIP, whereas conventional rate estimates assume 20% down and no private mortgage insurance.

The APR will be similar, though, for an FHA loan with 3.5% down and a 3% down conventional loan.

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

FHA Income Requirements

There are none. High and low earners may apply for an FHA loan, but they must have at least two established credit accounts.

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

Types of FHA Home Loans


That’s the kind of loan that has been described.

FHA Simple Refinance

By refinancing, FHA loan borrowers can get out of an adjustable-rate mortgage or lower their interest rate.

They must qualify by credit score and income, and have an appraisal of the property. Closing costs and prepaids can usually be rolled into the new loan.

FHA Streamline Refinance

Homeowners who have an FHA loan also may lower their interest rate or opt for a fixed-rate FHA loan with an FHA Streamline Refinance. Living up to the name, this program does not require a home appraisal or verification of income or credit.

The new loan may carry an MIP discount, but you’ll pay the upfront MIP in addition to monthly premiums. An exception: The upfront MIP fee of 1.75% is refundable if you refinance into an FHA Streamline Refinance or FHA Cash-out Refinance within three years of closing on your FHA home loan.

Closing costs are involved with almost any refinance, and the FHA doesn’t allow lenders to roll them into a Streamline Refinance loan. If you see a no closing cost refinance for an FHA loan, that means that instead of closing costs, a lender will charge a higher interest rate on the new loan.

You’ll continue to pay MIP after refinancing unless you convert your FHA loan to a conventional mortgage.

FHA Cash-Out Refinance

You don’t need to have an FHA loan to apply for an FHA Cash-Out Refinance. Whatever kind of loan the current mortgage is, if the eligible borrower has 20% equity in the home, the refinanced loan, with cash back, becomes an FHA loan.

The good news: Homeowners with lower credit scores may be approved. The not-great news: They will have to pay mortgage insurance for 11 years.

Any cash-out refi can trigger mortgage insurance until a borrower is back below the 80% equity threshold.

FHA 203(k) Loan

In addition to its straightforward home loan program, the FHA offers FHA 203(k) loans, which help buyers of older residences finance both the home purchase and repairs with one mortgage.

An FHA 203(k) loan can be a 15- or 30-year fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage.

Some homeowners take out an additional home improvement loan when the need arises.

FHA vs Conventional Loans

Is an FHA loan right for you? If your credit score is between 500 and 620, an FHA home loan could be your only option. But if your credit score is 620 or above, you might look into a conventional loan with a low down payment.

You can also buy more house with a conventional conforming loan than with an FHA loan. Conforming loan limits in 2023 are $726,200 for a one-unit property and $1,089,300 in high-cost areas.

Borrowers who put less than 20% down on a conventional loan may have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) until they reach 20% loan-to-value. But borrowers with at least very good credit scores may be able to avoid PMI by using a piggyback mortgage; others, by opting for lender-paid mortgage insurance.

One perk of an FHA loan is that it’s an assumable mortgage. That can be a draw to a buyer in a market with rising rates.

The Takeaway

An FHA home loan can secure housing when it otherwise could be out of reach, and FHA loans are available for refinancing and special purposes. But mortgage insurance often endures for the life of an FHA loan. The Biden-Harris Administration recently reduced monthly MIP for new homebuyers to help offset higher interest rates.

Some mortgage hunters might be surprised to learn that they qualify for a conventional purchase loan with finite mortgage insurance instead. And some FHA loan holders who have gained equity may want to convert to a conventional loan through mortgage refinancing.

SoFi offers conventional fixed-rate mortgages with competitive interest rates and cancellable PMI, as well as refinancing. Check out SoFi’s low rate home mortgages.

Qualifying first-time homebuyers can put as little as 3% down, and others, 5%.

View your rate today.

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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Can You Buy a Second Home Without a Down Payment?

While it is possible to buy a second home without a down payment, the scenarios where you can do so are quite rare.

Traditional zero-down payment programs may not be available to you because you’re no longer a first-time homebuyer. Lenders are also hesitant to offer second home mortgages with low down payments. The down payment requirements for a second home are usually 10% or more.

But you may be in luck: Sometimes you can figure out how to buy a second home with no down payment. Read on to learn:

•   What does buying a second home involve?

•   What are the usual down payment requirements for a second home?

•   How can you buy a second home with no down payment?

What to Know About Buying a Second Home

Buying a second home comes with a different set of guidelines and rules than purchasing your first home. You’re no longer considered a first-time homebuyer, which disqualifies you from many down payment assistance programs. However, your situation will be treated differently depending on how you want to use the property. Consider the following possibilities:

Moving into the Second Home

If your plan is to keep your first home as a rental property and move into the second home, you may have some options. A low interest mortgage loan may be available in one of two ways.

•   USDA loans in approved areas have zero down payment options. You’re allowed to get a second home with a zero-down USDA loan if you meet certain requirements involving citizenship, income, and other factors. You must live in the property as your principal residence, and you cannot have a USDA loan on your first property. In addition, you must financially qualify for both homes. To count rental income for the first home, USDA requires 24 months of rental income history.

Other qualifiers for this kind of loan include:

•   The current home no longer meets your needs for certain reasons (for example, if your family is growing and you live in a two-bedroom home, you’re relocating for a new job, or you’re getting divorced).

•   You don’t have another way to obtain the property without the USDA loan.

•   You can only keep one other house besides the new second home.

If, say, you’re moving from to a new region for a job opportunity and USDA loans are available in the area you’re moving to, it’s possible to keep your first home and buy a second if you meet the above conditions.

Worth noting: An obstacle for borrowers can be that lenders need a way to verify rental income. A signed lease and bank statements may not be enough. Your lender may want to see the rental income reported on your taxes for two years to count.

•   VA Loans may also offer zero down payment options. Available to veterans, service members, and surviving spouses, these government-backed loans can only be used to purchase property that will be a primary residence. So, if you’re moving from one place to another and qualify, you can use a VA loan to purchase the next property with no money down.

Buying the Second Home as a Vacation Home or Rental

Is there a way to buy a second home with no down payment if you plan to use it as a vacation home or rental? Options are few and far between if you’re not planning to use the property as your principal residence. When you’re looking at non-owner-occupied financing, lenders usually want a bigger down payment, not a smaller one.

That said, here are a couple of options that could answer the question of how to buy a second home with no down payment:

•   Private loans: If you finance through a relative or other private source, it’s possible to obtain a no-money-down mortgage. Terms are agreed upon by both parties.

•   Seller financing: Much like a private loan, the conditions of seller financing (aka owner financing) a loan are whatever the two parties agree on. If the seller is willing to let you buy the property with no money down, you might be able to make this work. However, seller financing usually comes with a bigger down payment, not a smaller one.

Do You Need a Down Payment on a Second Home?

Down payment requirements for a second home are usually higher. Lenders also look for a higher credit score. The loftier down payment requirement and credit score reflect the fact that the lender is taking on elevated risk since borrowers are more likely to default on a second home than a first home. A lender may expect your down payment to be right around the average down payment on a house, which is currently 13%.

Yet, your mortgage lender is also looking for a loan that accommodates your unique situation to help you to buy a second home. Though no down payment options are rare, your lender may have access to financial products that allow for a smaller down payment.

Can You Buy Another Home When You Have a Current Mortgage?

If you financially qualify, buying another house when you have a mortgage is possible. Generally speaking, lenders look for a strong credit history and enough income to cover your debts (including the cost of the new mortgage) to determine if you qualify for an additional mortgage.

Recommended: What Is a Second Mortgage?

Using Home Equity as a Down Payment Source

If you don’t have enough cash for a down payment on a second home, you may be able to tap your home equity. A home equity loan or a home equity line of credit (HELOC) can help you access money to use for a down payment on a second home.

Though not all lenders will permit this, using home equity may be possible if you want to keep your first home and have no other way of obtaining enough money for a down payment on your second.

It may be advisable to get a home equity loan or HELOC while you are still living in your first house. This allows you to qualify for owner-occupant rates, which are typically much lower than non-owner-occupied rates.

Recommended: HELOC vs. Home Equity Loan: How They Compare

The Takeaway

While there aren’t many options for financing a second home with no down payment, you may be in luck. There are some no down payment loans available to qualified buyers, and these loans can help you preserve cash for renovations, improvements, and other expenses. Even if you can’t find a no down payment mortgage for a second home, you will likely have a number of financing options you can tap into that may allow you to snag another property.

When you’re thinking about home financing options, whether for a mortgage or a HELOC, you’ll want a flexible, helpful partner to help you through the process. SoFi can do just that. In addition to mortgage loans, we offer a home equity line of credit that can help you tap into your home’s value and use the funds for a variety of purposes. You can access up to 95% of your home’s equity up to $500,000, enjoy low interest rates, and have a dedicated SoFi Mortgage Loan Officer to guide you.

Unlock your home’s value with a home equity loan brokered by SoFi today.


What is the minimum down payment for a second home?

For a second that is not going to be your primary residence, most lenders look for at least a 10% down payment.

How do I buy a second home without 20% down?

With a higher credit score and other financial qualifications, you may be able to find a lender or a program with a required down payment less than 20%.

Can I buy another house if I already have a mortgage?

If you’re a qualified buyer with good debt and income levels with a strong credit history, a lender may be able to approve you for a second mortgage.

Can I use my equity to buy another house?

It may be possible to use home equity to buy another home. Contact a lender to go over your unique situation.

Photo credit: iStock/Nuttawan Jayawan

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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Should You Buy or Rent a Home?

For many people, purchasing a home is the very definition of living their best life and achieving the American dream. But it’s not the right choice for everyone or might not be the right move to make at a given moment.

Owning a home may be the biggest financial commitment you’ll ever make, so it makes sense to carefully consider the upsides and downsides of buying vs. renting. Sometimes, the flexibility and affordability possible with renting can be a good fit.

Read on for advice that will help you answer, “Should I rent or buy a house?”

•   Learn the pros and cons of buying vs. renting a home

•   Take a quiz to help you decide if you should buy or rent a home

•   Find out the steps to take when you’re ready to start hitting the open houses

Rent or Buy a Home: Pros and Cons

Deciding whether to rent vs. buy is a very individual decision. There’s no rule about which is better; much will depend on your personal goals and your financial situation.

Here, take a closer look at whether it is better to buy or rent a house.

Advantages of Renting

Here, the upside of being a renter:

•   Low-maintenance lifestyle. Your landlord is typically responsible for repairs and maintenance, so your time and money can be spent elsewhere.

•   Potentially lower monthly expenses. Your landlord may also pay some of your monthly utilities, and you aren’t responsible for paying property taxes.

•   Flexibility. When your lease is up, you can renegotiate or move…across the street or across the country. If you aren’t ready to lock into a location for at least a few years, renting can be a smart step.

•   Low investment. You don’t need to make a big investment (like the down payment and closing costs associated with home buying) when you move into a rental. You might have to put down a security deposit, but that will typically be much less costly.

Disadvantages of Renting

Now, consider the downside of being a renter vs. a homeowner.

•   Rules to follow. Your landlord may have restrictions that you don’t like, such as no pets or no remodeling.

•   Not building wealth. The rent you pay each month doesn’t give you any equity in a property. It just goes to the owner, unless you set up a rent-to-own agreement.

•   Lack of control over your monthly charges. Your rent could spike due to inflation, the housing market heating up in your area, and other factors.

•   Uncertainty. If the owners decide to sell the building you live in, you may need to move unexpectedly and quickly, which can also get expensive.

Advantages of Buying

If you decide to buy vs. rent, here are some of the benefits you may enjoy.

•   Building wealth. As you make mortgage payments, you are usually building home equity.

•   Tax advantages. Homeowners may be able to deduct both mortgage interest and their property tax payments (plus possibly other related expenses) from their federal income taxes if they choose to itemize their deductions.

•   Freedom. You have far fewer restrictions involving remodeling, pet ownership, and so forth. Want to paint a bathroom purple, rip out a wall, or adopt five rescue dogs? Go for it.

•   Stability. You can put down roots in a community and school district. When you decide to move, it’s your decision.

•   Affordability. Sometimes a mortgage payment can be cheaper than rent, especially if you get a good mortgage rate.

Looking at the price-to-rent ratio of a city helps gauge whether it makes more sense to buy or pay a landlord. The housing market dynamics of your location may determine this aspect of whether to buy or rent a house.

Disadvantages of Buying

Now that you know the potential upsides of owning your own home, take a look at the potential drawbacks.

•   High costs. The price of homeownership may be painful in a hot market.

What’s more, accumulating the cash to make a down payment can be challenging and take years of saving. Plus, the closing costs when securing a home can be considerable.

•   Credit score. You typically need to qualify for a mortgage, and your credit score will be a factor. Those with excellent credit scores will get better rates; those with lesser scores may want to wait to build their rating before buying.

•   Maintenance. You’re generally responsible for all repairs, maintenance, and utilities, plus homeowners insurance, property taxes, and any homeowner association (HOA) dues. These can not only impact your finances but also your lifestyle. Taking care of a home and property can require an investment of time and energy.

•   Locked in place. You probably can’t pick up and move on a whim. If you decide to move, until your home is sold, you’re still responsible for mortgage payments and the expenses attached to your new place.

Take the Rent or Buy Quiz

Are You Really Ready to Buy?

When deciding between renting vs. buying a house, the answer may already be clear to you. If you’ve decided to buy, it might make sense to take the following steps.

•   Make sure you’re ready for a long-term commitment. If you’ve saved enough for a down payment and know how much house you can afford, those are good signs. Otherwise, create a home-buying budget and saving plan to get started.

•   Consider if your line of work allows for job continuity with steady income. Have you had this type of income for the past two years or more? That kind of stability can be important to lenders.

•   If your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) appears too high for a loan program you would like to apply for, you may need to consider paying down some debt. To calculate your DTI ratio, divide your monthly debt payments by your monthly gross (pretax) income. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advises renters to consider keeping a DTI ratio of 15% to 20% or less (rent is not included in this ratio). However, mortgage lenders usually like to see a DTI ratio of no more than 36%, though that is not necessarily the maximum.

•   Save money for a down payment, closing costs, and other fees, plus some funds for moving expenses and any remodeling/repairs.

•   Check if your credit score is good enough to buy a house, and, if yours falls short, work on building it.

•   Do a gut check to see if you’re really ready to be your own landlord, meaning being responsible for your own home maintenance, inside and out.

•   Get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage by providing a few financial details to lenders, who usually will do a soft credit check and estimate how much you may be able to borrow and the terms. A pre-qualification or even a pre-approval can also help give you a leg up when you start home shopping.

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

The Takeaway

Should you buy or rent a home? That will be a personal decision, reflecting your finances, the housing market’s dynamics, your willingness to take on the responsibilities of homeownership, and your inclination to put down roots in a certain location. Both owning and renting have pros and cons, and making the right decision will likely require deep thinking and thorough planning.

If you’re ready to become a bona fide homeowner, getting pre-qualified for a mortgage loan with SoFi is quick and convenient. SoFi offers competitive rates and may require as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers.

SoFi: The smart and simple way to find your home mortgage rate.


Is it better to rent or buy a home?

There isn’t a simple yes/no answer to whether it is better to rent or buy a home. Each has its advantages and disadvantages and may or may not suit a person’s needs at a given moment. For instance, owning a home can allow you to build equity and personal wealth, but the maintenance responsibilities and expenses may offset that. Renting may be cheaper, but you may not be able to personalize your space the way you’d like or perhaps own pets.

Is renting cheaper than owning a home?

Renting can be cheaper than owning a home, though that can depend upon housing market conditions in a given area and the particulars of the home in question. In general, people who rent don’t have to pay property taxes and they may not be responsible for the cost of improvements and repairs, which can make things more affordable.

Is homeownership a good investment?

Buying a home can be a good investment. It allows you to build equity and may offer tax deduction opportunities. However, if property taxes rise steeply or major home repairs loom (like a new roof), home ownership could prove financially challenging.

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.

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.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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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