What is the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation?

The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, or FHLMC, is known as Freddie Mac, the entity created by Congress for the purpose of buying mortgages from lenders to increase liquidity in the market. Freddie Mac was created in 1970 and expressly authorized to create mortgage-backed securities (MBS) to help manage interest-rate risk.

Because the FHLMC buys mortgages, lenders don’t have to keep loans they originate on their books. In turn, these lenders are able to originate more mortgages for new customers. The mortgage market is able to keep capital flowing and offer competitive financing terms to borrowers because of this system. In other words, the market runs more smoothly because of Freddie Mac and its sister company, Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA).

If you want to know more about how this government-sponsored enterprise works and how it affects your money, read on for details on:

•   What is the FHLMC and what are FHLMC loans?

•   What is the difference between Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae?

•   What are Freddie Mac mortgages?

•   How does the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation work?

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae

These organizations, with their friendly-sounding nicknames, serve a very important purpose. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were created for the purpose of stabilizing the mortgage market and improving housing affordability. These government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) do this by increasing the liquidity (the free flow of money) in the market by buying mortgages from lenders. Mortgages are then pooled together into a mortgage-backed security (MBS) and sold to investors. The process created the secondary mortgage market, where lenders, homebuyers, and investors are connected in a single system.

In the past, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae operated as private companies, though they were created by Congress. Fannie Mae came first in 1938, followed by Freddie Mac in 1970. Freddie Mac’s addition in 1970 resulted in the creation of the first mortgage-backed security.

The federal government took over operations at both companies following the financial crisis in 2008. According to the National Association of Realtors, without government support of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, there wouldn’t be very much money available to lend for mortgages.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has oversight of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. On a yearly basis, they assess the financial soundness and risk management of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

What Is the Purpose of the FHLMC?

As mentioned above, the FHLMC, or Freddie Mac, makes the housing market more affordable, stable, and liquid by buying mortgages on the secondary market. When they buy these loans, the retail lenders they buy them from are able to originate more mortgages to new customers and keep the mortgage market flowing smoothly.

There are many types of mortgage loans; the ones that Freddie Mac buys are known as conventional loans. The mortgage loan must meet certain standards (such as loan limits) for Freddie Mac to guarantee they will buy these loans.

In general, the process of successfully obtaining a mortgage usually looks something like this once the buyer has made an offer on a house that’s been accepted:

•   The consumer finds a lender, if they haven’t already done so, and will apply for a mortgage.

•   The lender collects documentation required by the loan type and submits it to underwriting.

•   The underwriter approves the loan.

•   The homebuyer closes on the loan, and mortgage servicing begins

•   The lender sells the loan on the secondary mortgage market to Freddie Mac (or Fannie Mae or Ginnie Mae, depending on what type of loan it is and from what type of lender it originated).

From a homebuyer standpoint, they will see the outward mortgage servicing, which is the entity to which they will send their monthly payment and who takes care of the escrow account. The mortgage servicer is the one who forwards the different parts of the mortgage payment to the appropriate parties.

Mortgage servicing can also be sold from servicer to servicer, but this is different from the sale of a mortgage to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Freddie Mac is also tasked with the responsibility of making housing affordable. There are specific mortgage programs guaranteed by Freddie Mac and offered by lenders.

•   HomeOne®. HomeOne is a mortgage program that offers low down payment options for first-time homebuyers. There are no income or geographic limits.

•   Home Possible®. Home Possible is a program for first-time homebuyers and low- to moderate-income homebuyers. It offers discounted fees and low down payment options.

•   Construction Conversion and Renovation Mortgage. This type of loan combines the costs of purchasing, building, and remodeling into one loan.

•   Manufactured Home Mortgage. For qualified buyers, Freddie Mac can guarantee mortgages when buying manufactured homes that meet their criteria.

•   Relief Refinance/Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). For borrowers with a good repayment history but little equity, loans are available to refinance into a more affordable rate.

Recommended: What Is the Average Down Payment on a House?

Understanding Mortgage-Backed Securities

After a mortgage is acquired from a lender, Freddie Mac can do one of two things: either keep the mortgage on its books or pool it with other, similar loans and create a mortgage-backed security (MBS). These MBS are then sold to investors on the secondary mortgage market.

What’s attractive about a mortgage-backed security to an investor is how secure it is. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee payment of principal and interest. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issue mortgage backed securities now.

Does the FHLMC offer Mortgage Loans?

Freddie Mac does not sell mortgages directly to consumers. You won’t see a Freddie Mac mortgage or an FHLMC loan advertised to consumers. Instead, the FHLMC buys mortgages from approved lenders that meet their standards.

Recommended: What Are the Conforming Loan Limits?

The Takeaway

The housing market in the United States arguably benefits from the role of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. Lenders can essentially originate mortgages to as many borrowers as can qualify. The free flow of capital created by the FHLMC also means mortgages are less expensive for homebuyers all around. In short, the smooth operation of the housing market owes much of its success to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

If you’re shopping for a home and looking for a lending partner, consider what SoFi has to offer. With dedicated loan officers, competitive interest rates, flexible terms, and low down payment options, SoFi Mortgage Loans can offer something for nearly every borrower.

SoFi Mortgage Loans: Simple, smart, flexible.


What does FHLMC stand for?

FHLMC is an abbreviation of Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. It is commonly referred to as Freddie Mac.

What type of loan is FHLMC?

Freddie Mac guarantees conventional loans that adhere to funding criteria, but it does not offer Freddie Mac mortgages directly to consumers.

What is the difference between FNMA and FHLMC?

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac originated in different decades and initially had different purposes, but for the most part, they serve the same purpose today of helping to improve mortgage liquidity and availability.

Photo credit: iStock/Andrii Yalanskyi

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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Should You Buy a Home While Still Renting?

Buying an investment property before your first home can be an interesting and financially sound plan. There are clear advantages — generating cash flow or building equity in your asset could benefit you and your family for years to come. You may be able to qualify as a first-time home buyer and take advantage of programs that allow you to buy a multi-family property. You may also be able to produce a strong enough income for the unit to pay for itself.

Yet, there can be significant sacrifices you may need to contemplate in order to make this dream happen. Here, learn what needs to happen if you’re planning on buying an investment property before your first home, including:

•   Is buying an investment property before your first home a good idea?

•   What are the steps for buying a house to rent?

•   What are the benefits of buying a house as an investment while still renting?

Purchasing an Investment Property 101

Purchasing an investment or rental property is similar to a regular home purchase. When you’re looking at buying an investment property for which you qualify as a first-time home buyer, however, there are some special considerations. Here is a guide:

Step 1: Decide if you’re going to live in a part of the investment property.
One of the first things you should decide when purchasing a rental property is if you’re going to live in a part of the investment property. This decision will affect what types of properties you’re going to look at, how you’re able to finance the property, and how much down payment you’ll need to come up with.

For example, if you can buy a house to rent with two to four units and live in one yourself, you may be able to finance the purchase as an owner-occupied property. This may qualify you for lower interest rates, lower down payment options, and more favorable loan options. However, you do have to live on the property. You cannot finance a property with an owner-occupied loan without living on the property as this is considered a type of mortgage fraud.

Here’s a quick summary of the difference between owner-occupied and non-owner-occupied rental properties.

Owner-Occupied Non-Owner-Occupied
Down payment options from 3.5% Down payment typically around 15%
Lower interest rates by about half a basis point Interest rates higher by about half a basis point

Step 2: Get preapproved for a loan.
Before you go shopping, make sure a lender is willing to give you a mortgage. Qualifying as a first-time homebuyer has some positives. On the one hand, you may have a better debt-to-income ratio since you don’t own a home yet. However, you may have a shorter credit history or a smaller down payment. Whatever the case, it’s helpful to get some numbers from your lender to assist with your investment.

Factors your lender will take into account when deciding what to lend to you include:

•   Amount of your down payment

•   Owner occupied status

•   Credit score

•   Debt-to-income ratio

•   Employment history.

Your lender will also take into account what programs you qualify for. Financing options for an investment property are wide. Some may include:

•   FHA

•   VA

•   USDA

•   Conventional

•   Private lending

•   Seller financing

Quick note: If you do decide to purchase a rental property and live in part of your investment property, your lender may be able to use the potential rent from that to qualify you for a mortgage.

Step 3: Find a property that meets your criteria
Now that you have your budget and parameters set, you’re ready to find a property. You may want to enlist the help of a real estate agent who can serve as your first-time homebuyer guide, especially since you want to buy an investment property right off the bat.

Your agent can help you write an offer while your lender may be able to help you apply for a mortgage online. You’re well on your way to buying a house to rent at this stage.

Step 4: Start your rental business.
Be sure to check local ordinances and business requirements for becoming a landlord. If you’ve got a plan and do your research, you may see success. Just don’t believe what you may see on TV, which makes owning a rental property look easy. Landlording is a tough job, and there’s a lot you need to know about the business before you start. Buying a house while renting is an endeavor that takes time and effort.

Buying a House While Still Renting

The benefit to buying an investment property before your first home is that your debt-to-income may be more favorable than for someone who has a mortgage. What this means is it’s possible you don’t have too much debt to qualify for a rental property.

The possible downsides are that you may not have the cash reserves to protect yourself from the risks of being a landlord. There’s always something that needs to be repaired or replaced.

What to Know As a New Landlord

Unlike what you may have heard or imagined, becoming a landlord can be anything but passive. You’ll also want to research all you can and put proper systems in place. Here’s a little of what you can expect to encounter as a new landlord.

•   Learn local housing laws. Housing laws can make or break you. Are short-term rentals allowed (if that’s what you’re planning)? What rights does your tenant have? If you need to evict a tenant, what does the process look like? Will you benefit by putting your property in an LLC?

There’s a lot to navigate, and you may want to consider hiring a property management company that specializes in this.

•   Determine how much to charge for rent. You’ll want to look at what other properties in the area are charging for rent and position yourself competitively. Also, consider what other landlords are allowing and charging when it comes to pets.

•   Prescreening is key. The reliability of your tenant is so important. It’s incredibly stressful when you’re not paid rent. Don’t rent to someone who “feels” like they would be a good tenant. Do your due diligence. Check credit and their background, and call references.

•   Create a plan for home maintenance, repairs, and other issues. If you’re hiring a property management company, plan for the expense. If you’re doing it yourself, make a list of contacts to call for the different issues that come up (electrical, plumbing, locks, handyman, etc.).

•   Have procedures in place for unit turnover. It’s an incredibly intense time when a tenant leaves and another needs to move in. How are you going to handle inspections? Cleaning? Deposits? You will need a system for logging such events and being prepared for turnover.

Recommended: Fixed-Rate vs. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

The Takeaway

While landlording has a lot of responsibilities and risk, there can also be a lot of reward. If you’re really interested in buying a house while renting, you’ll find a way to make it work.

If you’re starting to shop for a new home and need a partner to help with your lending needs, see what SoFi has to offer. With a wide range of loans to choose from, low down payment options, and competitive interest rates, SoFi Mortgage Loans can be a great fit.

A SoFi Mortgage: Smart, simple, and flexible.


How much profit should you make on a rental property?

There’s no easy answer for how much profit you should make on a rental property. Some investors buy property for the appreciation alone. There are also a number of methods for determining how much profit investors want to make on an investment property, such as cash flow, the 1% rule, gross rent multiplier, cash on cash return, cap rate, or internal rate of return. Those can help provide guidelines.

Should I buy an investment property and live in it?

If you’re able to live in your investment property, you can qualify for owner-occupied financing, which means lower down payments and better interest rates. But it also depends on your plans. If you want to renovate an investment property, living in it during renovations could be challenging.

Is rental property a good investment in 2023?

Rental demand is strong in 2023, but buying property is more dependent on your individual situation rather than market conditions.

Photo credit: iStock/luismmolina

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.

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.


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When Do I Get My Escrow Refund?

If you, as a mortgage holder, have money in an escrow account, you may see an escrow refund after an escrow analysis at the end of the year. It may not happen often, but an escrow refund check comes if there’s an excess amount in your escrow account. Regulations set by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) allow the mortgage servicer to retain two months’ worth of your escrow payment as a cushion. Amounts greater than $50 above the cushion should be refunded to you. Escrow balances less than this amount can be retained in the escrow account for the next year or refunded to the borrower.

Escrow refunds generally come when there’s an expense that’s smaller than expected, such as a lower insurance bill or fewer taxes. Your mortgage servicer pays the lower amount and then, when the servicer conducts an escrow analysis, the difference will be refunded to you, typically by check. The funds can also come when an escrow account is closed, such as when the mortgage is paid off or refinanced.

Here, you’ll learn more about escrow refunds, including:

•   What is an escrow refund?

•   How is escrow overage calculated and dispersed?

•   When might you expect an escrow refund?

•   How long does an escrow refund take?

The Escrow Process 101

You might have heard the term “escrow” in a couple of different settings when you’re buying a home. First, an escrow account is like a savings account that is set up for holding earnest money after you make an offer on a house.

And second, a different escrow account is set up by your mortgage servicer after you close on the loan. It can manage your taxes, private mortgage insurance (PMI), and/or homeowner’s insurance. The second factor is most likely to trigger a refund.

Recommended: What Is an Escrow Holdback?

In its simplest form, the escrow process looks like this:

1.    The mortgage servicer sets up an escrow account.

2.    The borrower makes monthly payments to the mortgage servicer.

3.    The mortgage servicer deposits the portion of the monthly payment for the homeowners insurance, taxes, and mortgage insurance into an escrow account.

4.    The taxing entity, homeowners insurance provider, and/or mortgage insurance company send the mortgage servicer a bill.

5.    The mortgage servicer pays the bill on the borrower’s behalf.

6.    The mortgage servicer audits accounts every year to determine if there is an overage or a shortage.

7.    If there is an overage above $50, the borrower can be refunded that money. The servicer will alter the monthly payment lower for the next year.

8.    If there is a shortage, the mortgage servicer will modify your monthly payment to account for both the shortage in the last year and the increased cost for the upcoming year.

What Is an Escrow Refund?

An escrow refund occurs when you, as a mortgage holder, receive a check at the end of the year for the extra money you paid into your escrow account. This is a requirement of mortgage servicing.

When you start making monthly payments to your mortgage servicer, you’ll pay the same amount each month. This amount typically includes your principal, interest, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and PMI (if you have it). The portion designated for taxes, PMI, and homeowner’s insurance will go into your escrow account. This amount is saved until your bill is due. The mortgage servicer pays the bill and deducts the amount from your escrow account.

Every year, the mortgage servicer is required to conduct an escrow analysis. This is a process where the servicer looks at the deposits made by you as well as the bills for insurance and taxes. Adjustments are made, and if you overpaid, you get a refund.

Escrow Refunds at Closing

You also might be wondering, “Do you get escrow money back at closing?” The process for escrow refunds at closing is a little different.

•   Your lender typically uses the money from your existing escrow account to apply toward your down payment or closing costs.

•   Then, for the new escrow account opened by your mortgage servicer, you will contribute what are called “prepaid closing costs” to the account to fund your escrow account. If you end up paying too much, you’ll see an escrow refund check from your servicer after an escrow analysis has been performed.

Mortgage servicers like escrow accounts because it helps protect their investment in your home. When the homeowner’s insurance is paid, the lender can be assured there is protection for the home should anything happen to it. Likewise, when the taxes are paid, the lender doesn’t have to worry about the taxing entity placing a lien on the home.

Recommended: What Is Escrow?

When Might You Expect An Escrow Refund?

Mortgage servicers are required to complete an escrow analysis at the end of the escrow account computation year, according to Regulation X of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). After the yearly escrow analysis, you will receive an escrow account statement. This statement will show you the deposits and expenses for the year, as well as show you a projection of anticipated expenses for the upcoming year.

It will also notify you of changes to your monthly payment that need to be made. These steps help ensure that your mortgage servicer is able to pay your taxes and insurance in full from your monthly payment. It’s common for the amount to change a bit from year to year.

If the escrow analysis uncovers a surplus above the allowable cushion in your escrow account, you can expect a mortgage escrow refund within 30 days.

Here are some common scenarios where you might expect to see a refund from your escrow account.

Mortgage Payoff

When you pay off your mortgage or refinance with a new low interest mortgage loan, your mortgage servicer is no longer required to hold an escrow account for you. You may receive a refund from your escrow account for any unused funds.

Lower Tax Bill

If your tax bill decreases, that means the amount collected from your monthly mortgage payment over the year will be more than what is actually due. The excess amount in your escrow account could be refunded to you after escrow analysis.

Better Insurance Rate

If you change your homeowners insurance to a company that offers a better rate, you may be due a refund. If this happens, you’ll likely pay the higher premium that you had locked into your monthly payment for the year. However, once the escrow analysis is completed at year’s end, the savings will be apparent and you should receive your refund.

Private Mortgage Insurance No Longer Required

On many conventional mortgages, there may come a time when you don’t need to pay for mortgage insurance. Let’s say you were a first-time homeowner who put less than 10% on your house. When your home equity reaches 20%, you may be able to have the private mortgage insurance premium removed (depending on the type of mortgage you have).

This may happen in the middle of the year before your servicer expects it. Your monthly payment may not be adjusted until an escrow analysis is completed at the end of the year. After an analysis has been completed, you’ll likely receive a refund because you’ve been overpaying for that mortgage insurance you no longer need.

Recommended: What Is a Mortgage Contingency?

Purchase Overpay

If you overpaid for an escrow item when you closed on your home, the surplus can be refunded to you after an escrow analysis.

When You Won’t See an Escrow Refund

The part of your monthly mortgage payment that goes toward your escrow account is set at the beginning of the year. However, tax rates and insurance rates often increase during the year. When your tax or insurance bill is due, your escrow servicer will pay the larger bill even though there isn’t enough money in the escrow account to cover it. This may result in a negative escrow balance.

In the case of a negative escrow balance, the servicer uses their own money to cover the shortfall. To make up for the shortage, the servicer will make adjustments after completing escrow analysis and take steps to collect the shortfall. The adjustment will also account for the new increased amounts due monthly during the upcoming year.

How Soon Can I Expect a Refund?

For ongoing mortgage payments: Your escrow servicer is required to issue a refund within 30 days of discovering a surplus of $50 or more. (This surplus is above a two-month allowable cushion of escrow payments that your mortgage lender may hold.). Borrowers must be current on their mortgage payment, however, to be able to receive this refund.

If you pay off your mortgage: Your escrow servicer may refund the balance of your escrow account within 20 days. Or, if your new mortgage is with the same servicer, the servicer can apply the balance of the escrow account to a new escrow account with your permission.

The Takeaway

You may see an escrow refund coming your way if you’ve negotiated a better deal for your homeowners insurance, expect to pay less in taxes, or no longer need to pay PMI. It will happen automatically because your mortgage servicer is required to perform yearly escrow analysis. You’ll also receive a refund if you pay off your mortgage and possibly when you refinance. Once that happens, the servicer has 30 days or less to refund the money you’re owed from your escrow account.

If you need a reliable mortgage partner, consider what SoFi Home Loans have to offer. With competitive rates, low down payment options, and dedicated loan officers, you can be assured you’re in good hands.

When you’re ready for a new mortgage, a refinance, or a home equity loan, SoFi is here to help.

Photo credit: iStock/MaslovMax

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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What Is an Assumable Mortgage?

Assuming a mortgage means that the buyer of a home is able to take over the seller’s existing mortgage. When mortgage assumption is possible, it may help a buyer score a lower interest rate and save money in other ways as well. In times when interest rates are headed upward, an assumable mortgage can be quite a windfall.

But, reality-check time: Mortgages are only assumable in certain situations, and there are pros and cons to consider. If you’re home shopping and want to consider this option, read on to learn more, including:

•   What is an assumable mortgage?

•   How do I know if a mortgage is assumable?

•   What are the benefits of an assumable home loan?

•   What are the downsides of an assumable mortgage?

What Is an Assumable Mortgage?

The meaning of an assumable mortgage is that the buyer, when purchasing a home, takes over the existing mortgage held by the seller. This means the buyer assumes responsibility for the loan’s outstanding balance, its interest rate, and making payments for the entire loan term.

This can be an appealing option if, say, the seller’s mortgage was taken out with a considerably lower interest rate than is currently available. In this scenario, the buyer could stand to save thousands over the life of the mortgage loan.

However, a buyer may also need to finance the amount of equity the seller has in the home.

It’s important to note that not all mortgages are assumable. For those that are, it’s recommended that all parties know in advance what obligations they have when they agree to a mortgage assumption, just as with any other financial agreement.

What Types of Loans Are Assumable?

Typically, home loans that operate outside the federal government’s mortgage loan environment, such as conventional 30-year mortgages issued by private lenders, are not assumable. (How do you know if a conventional mortgage is assumable? It will likely be an adjustable-rate loan, and the seller will have to check with their lender to be sure.)

Certain kinds of mortgages that are insured by the government and issued by private lenders are, however, assumable. A seller usually must obtain lender approval for the assumption, or in the case of USDA loans, agency approval. And the buyer must qualify. These loans include:

•   FHA loans: The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures these mortgages, which are popular with first-time homebuyers. With a minimum 3.5% down payment for borrowers with a credit score of 580 or higher, FHA mortgages are assumable.

•   VA loans: Home loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are also assumable, and — perhaps surprisingly — the buyer does not have to be a veteran or in the military. Note: The seller of these loans may remain responsible for the mortgage if the buyer defaults.

•   USDA loans: Loans guaranteed by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) are assumable only if the current owner is up to date on payments.

One last note about the options above: While assumable mortgages can be part of a wrap-around mortgage, they are not one and the same.

When a mortgage is assumed, the buyer pays the lender every month. With a wrap-around mortgage, which is a kind of owner-financing, the buyer pays the seller.

How to Get an Assumable Mortgage Loan

Here are some points to consider if you are contemplating assuming a mortgage:

•   First, confirm that the loan is assumable. For most conventional mortgages, assumption is not an option.

•   If assumption is possible, the homebuyer must apply for the assumable mortgage and be vetted for creditworthiness and the ability to meet all the contractual requirements. It’s vital that the buyer show that they have the financial assets needed to qualify for the loan.

•   Recognize that the buyer will need to make up any difference between the amount owed and the home’s current value. This means that if the seller of a $300,000 home has a $100,000 mortgage that’s assumable, the buyer would need to be able to put down $200,000 to assume that loan. Obviously, this scenario could present a significant financial hurdle for many prospective homebuyers.

•   If the mortgage lender or agency signs off on the deal, the property title goes to the homebuyer, who starts making monthly mortgage payments to the lender.

•   If the lender denies the application, the home seller must move on, and the buyer would likely resume shopping elsewhere.

Recommended: How to Buy a Multi-Family Property

Why Do Assumable Mortgages Exist?

Actually landing an assumable debt can be beneficial for both a buyer and seller, but the mortgage lending industry may not make it easy to cut a deal. Why? Because as history attests, mortgage lenders may lose money on assumable mortgages.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, when interest rates were at the highest levels in modern history, assumable mortgage deals were attractive to buyers who could take over a seller’s mortgage at the original loan interest rate. In many cases, this would yield a bargain vs. the then-current rate for a new mortgage. (How high did rates go? In October 1981, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages hit an eye-watering peak of 18.45%.)

Mortgage companies, however, could see that they would lose money if home buyers chose a lower-rate assumable loan over a higher-rate new mortgage loan. That’s one reason mortgage companies began inserting “due on sale” clauses, which mandated full repayment of the loan for most home transactions.

As the FHA and VA began issuing more mortgage loans to homebuyers, they offered more relaxed rules allowing assumption transactions. Mortgages could transfer to the homebuyer as long as they demonstrated the ability to repay the remaining home loan balance, usually after a thorough credit check.

How Do Assumable Mortgages Work?

With an assumable mortgage, the buyer will become the holder of the mortgage originally taken out by the seller. The buyer, as mentioned above, may have to clear certain qualification hurdles to do so.

It’s also important to note that, as briefly mentioned above, the homebuyer must make up any difference between the amount owed on the mortgage and the property’s current value. That could mean the buyer pays cash to make up the difference or takes out a second mortgage.

An example: Say a house is valued at $350,000, and the home seller has a $225,000 balance on the home’s original mortgage. Under the terms of most assumable mortgage loans, the homebuyer would need to deliver $125,000 at closing to cover the difference between the original mortgage and the current estimated value of the home, usually determined by an appraisal.

Another important aspect of how assumable mortgage loans work are the two models possible: a simple mortgage assumption or a novation-based mortgage assumption.

Simple Assumption

In a typical simple mortgage assumption, the buyer and seller agree to engage in a private transaction.

•   This means that the mortgage lender is not necessarily aware of the transfer of the mortgage and therefore the new buyer does not go through the underwriting process with the lender.

•   The home seller usually just transfers the title of the property to the buyer after the buyer agrees to take over the remaining mortgage payments.

•   If the buyer misses monthly payments or defaults on the original mortgage loan, the lender could hold both parties responsible for the debt, and the credit scores of both buyer and seller could be significantly damaged if the debt isn’t repaid. In this scenario, an assumable mortgage home for sale could wind up being problematic for both parties.

Novation-Based Assumption

Unlike a simple mortgage assumption, where mortgage underwriting usually isn’t directly involved, an assumption with novation means the lender is involved.

•   The lender vets the buyer and agrees to the loan transfer.

•   This means the buyer agrees to assume total responsibility for the existing mortgage debt and remaining payments.

•   Under those terms, the original mortgage lender releases the home seller from liability for the remaining mortgage loan debt. The documentation, such as a deed of trust (if used), will be in the buyer’s name alone.

Pros and Cons of Assumable Mortgages

Assumable mortgage loans have upsides and downsides.

Upsides of an Assumable Mortgage

First, consider these pluses:

•   A lower rate may be possible. The buyer may save significant money on the loan if the original mortgage’s interest rate is lower than current rates.

•   Closing costs are curbed. The buyer might also benefit because closing costs are minimized in private home sale transactions between a buyer and a seller.

•   No appraisal is needed. With no need to get a new mortgage on the property, a home appraisal isn’t required for a mortgage assumption, which can save time and money. The buyer could request an appraisal as part of the general home purchase agreement, however.

Downsides of an Assumable Mortgage

Now, the minuses:

•   Upfront cash may be required. To meet the terms of an assumable mortgage, the buyer may need to have a substantial amount of upfront cash or take out a second mortgage to close the deal. This usually occurs when the property’s value is greater than the mortgage balance. The seller has perhaps built up considerable equity over the years.

•   Second mortgages can be problematic. Second mortgages aren’t always easy to obtain, as mortgage lenders may be reluctant to issue a second home loan when the original mortgage still has a balance due. And a second mortgage probably carries closing costs, meaning the seller needs to shell out more cash.

•   The property may be in distress. In some cases, the home seller may be eager to get out of a home that is proving to be too expensive for their budget. Simply put, they might be behind on payments. In that event, the mortgage lender may require the mortgage to be made current (meaning getting up to date on payments) before it will approve an assumable mortgage.

•   FHA loans carry an add-on. If the home seller put down less than 10% of the home’s cost when getting an FHA loan, there will be a mortgage insurance premium for the entire loan term. This would add to the buyer’s monthly costs.

Here’s how this intel stacks up in chart form:

Pros of Assuming a Mortgage

Cons of Assuming a Mortgage

Possibility of a lower interest rate than market rate, saving money over the life of the loan Buyer must make up difference if home value exceeds mortgage balance
Reduced closing costs Home may be in distress
Home appraisal not necessary FHA loans usually carry mortgage insurance premium

Examples of Assumable Mortgages

If you’re hoping to find an assumable mortgage, it will most likely be a government-insured or -issued loan, as mentioned above; perhaps one offered as a first-time homebuyer program. Here’s a bit more about these mortgages and how a loan assumption would work:

•   Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loans: These government loans, which are insured by the FHA, may be assumable. Both parties involved in a mortgage assumption, however, must qualify in certain ways. For instance, the seller must have been living in the home as a primary residence for a period of time, and the buyer needs to be approved via the usual FHA loan application process.

•   Veterans Affairs (VA) loans: If a seller has a loan backed by the VA, it may indeed be assumable. A buyer who wants to take over the loan can apply for a VA loan assumption and doesn’t need to be a current or former member of the military service.

•   U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans: To assume a USDA loan on a rural property, a buyer will have to show an adequate income and credit to be approved by the USDA.

Recommended: Buying a Home with a Non-Spouse

Who Are Assumable Mortgages For?

Assuming a mortgage can be a good option for those who are property shopping in a time of rising interest rates and would like to take over the seller’s lower-rate loan. This can help save money, and it can also spare the buyer some of the time, energy, and money needed to apply for a new loan.

In addition, an assumable mortgage may work best for buyers with access to cash, as they will probably need to cover the difference between the mortgage amount and the value of the home they are buying.

Who Are Assumable Mortgages Not For?

Those purchasing a home that currently has a conventional mortgage will most likely not be able to take over that loan.

Additionally, if a mortgage is assumable, it’s important to recognize this scenario: If there’s a considerable gap between the mortgage amount and the property’s value, the buyer needs to bridge that. That means either ponying up a chunk of cash or finding a second mortgage, which may not be financially feasible for some prospective homebuyers.

The Takeaway

Assumable home loans are generally difficult to find and to close, and may require the buyer to take on the onerous task of qualifying for a second mortgage. But if the buyer finds that assuming the mortgage will save money over getting a new mortgage (primarily through a lower rate), an assumable mortgage could be a good way to go.

Hunting for a mortgage? SoFi offers home mortgage loans with as little as 3% down for first-time homebuyers, and getting prequalified is quick and easy.

SoFi Mortgage Loans: Fast and flexible.


Is it a good idea to assume a mortgage?

Assuming a mortgage can have benefits. If you find an assumable mortgage home for sale, you might be able to take over the seller’s mortgage at a lower rate than what’s currently offered by lenders, thereby saving you money over the life of the loan. Closing costs and schedules might also be leaner. However, mortgage assumption is not always possible, and if it is, you may have to make up the difference between the mortgage amount and the home’s current value.

What is required to assume a mortgage?

To assume a mortgage, the seller must have a loan that allows for assumption. These are usually government-insured or -issued mortgage loans. In addition, you may have to submit credentials to the lender and be approved. You may also have to pay the difference between the mortgage amount and the property’s market value.

How much does it cost to assume a mortgage?

Typically, when you assume a mortgage, you may pay some closing costs, but these could be lower than on a new loan. In addition, there may be a one-time funding fee; for instance, on a VA loan, this amounts to 0.5% of the existing mortgage balance. Last but not least: The buyer is usually liable to pay the difference between the remaining balance on the mortgage and the current value of the home.

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 .

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


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How to Buy a Starter Home: Pros, Cons, and Tips

Buying your first house is a major move, even if the home itself is tiny. Becoming a homeowner can be a great way to start putting down some roots and building equity. And just because it’s called a “starter home” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re twenty-something when you go shopping for one. For many people, the purchase of a first, maybe-not-forever house can come years or decades later.

But what exactly makes a good starter home? How do you know when to jump into the housing market? There are many variables to factor in, such as price, location, type of home, the sort of mortgage you’ll get, your personal finances, and more.

Read on to learn answers to such questions as:

•   Why should you buy a starter home?

•   Should you buy a starter home or wait?

•   How do you buy a starter home?

What Is a Starter Home?

The first step in deciding “Should I buy a starter home?” is understanding what exactly that “starter home” term means. A starter home is loosely defined as a smaller property that a first-time buyer expects to live in for just a few years.

The home could be a condo, townhouse, or single-family home. But generally, when you purchase a starter home, you anticipate outgrowing it — maybe when you get married or have a couple of kids, or because you want more space, a bigger yard, or additional amenities.

A starter house could be brand-new, a fixer-upper, or somewhere in between, but it’s usually priced right for a buyer with a relatively modest budget.

That modest budget, though, may need to be loftier than in years past. The 2022 price of a starter home was $325,000, according to Realtor.com, up 48% from $220,000 in 2019.

That might sound a little intimidating, but remember, that’s the median price. Depending on where you live, there may be entry-level homes selling at significantly lower price points.

Recommended: What Is Housing Discrimination?

How Long Should You Stay in a Starter Home?

Unless you’re a big fan of packing and moving — not to mention the often-stressful process of selling one home and then buying another, or buying and selling a house at the same time — you may want to stay in your starter home for at least two to five years.

There can be significant financial reasons to stick around for a while:

•   Home sellers are typically responsible for paying real estate agents’ commissions and many other costs. If you haven’t had some time to build equity in the home, you might only break even or even lose money on the sale.

•   You could owe capital gains taxes if you’ve owned the home for less than two years and you sell it for more than you paid.

Of course, if there’s a major change in your personal or professional life — you’re asked to relocate for work, you grow your family, or you win the lottery (woo-hoo!) — you may need or want to sell sooner.

What Is a Forever Home?

A forever home is one that you expect to tick all the boxes for many years — maybe even the rest of your life. It’s a place where you plan to put down roots.

A forever home can come in any size or style and at any cost you can manage. It might be new, with all the bells and whistles, or it could be a 100-year-old wreck that you plan to renovate to fit your home decorating style and vision.

Your forever home might be in your preferred school district. It might be close to friends and family — or the golf club you want to join. It’s all about getting the items on your home-buying wish list that you’ve daydreamed about and worked hard for.

At What Age Should You Buy Your Forever Home?

There’s no predetermined age for finding and moving into a forever home. Some buyers plan to settle in for life when they’re 25 or 30, and some never really put down roots.

But according to data from the 2022 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report from the National Association of Realtors® Research Group, buyers in the 57 to 66 age range said they expected to live in their newly purchased home longer than buyers from other age groups, with an expectation of 20 years of residence.

Younger buyers (ages 23 to 31) and older buyers (75 to 90) said they expected to stay put for 10 years.

The median expectation for buyers of all ages was 12 years.

Recommended: First-Time Homebuyer’s Guide

Benefits of Buying a Starter Home

Are you contemplating “Should I buy a starter home?” Here are some of the main advantages of buying a starter home:

•   Becoming a homeowner can bring stability to life. A starter home comes with a feeling of “good enough for now” that, for some buyers, is just the right amount of commitment without feeling stuck in the long term.

•   Buying a starter home is also a great way to try on aspects of homeownership that renters take for granted, like making your own repairs and mowing your own yard. The larger the house, the more work it usually brings. With a starter home, you can start small.

•   Buying a starter home is also an investment that could see good returns down the road. While you live in the home, you’ll be putting monthly payments toward your own investment instead of your landlord’s. Depending on market conditions, you could make some money when you decide to trade up, either through the equity you’ve gained when you sell or recurring income if you choose to turn it into a rental property.

•   Homeowners who itemize deductions on their taxes may take the mortgage interest deduction. Most people take the standard deduction, which for tax year 2022 (filing by Tax Day 2023) is:

◦   $25,900 for married couples filing jointly

◦   $12,950 for single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately

◦   $19,400 for heads of households

•   Some homeowners who itemize may be able to do better than the standard deduction. For instance, in some states, a homestead exemption gives homeowners a fixed discount on property taxes. In Florida, for example, the exemption lowers the assessed value of a property by $50,000 for tax purposes.

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

Downsides of Starter Homes

Next, consider the potential disadvantages of snagging a starter home:

•   While the idea of buying a home just big enough for one or two is a romantic one, the reality of finding a starter home that’s affordable has gotten tougher.

   The outlook has been so bleak, especially in some larger cities, that some Millennials are opting out of the starter-home market altogether, choosing instead to rent longer or live with their parents and save money.

   Who can blame Millennials for taking a different approach to homeownership than their parents? The older members of this generation came of age during the financial crisis of 2008-09, which included a bursting housing bubble that put many of their parents — and even some of them — underwater on a mortgage they may not have been able to afford in the first place.

•   When thinking about whether you should buy a starter home, know that it may require a lot of sweat equity and cash. If you buy a bargain-priced first home, you may be on the hook for spending much of your free time and cash to restore it.

•   Another con of buying a starter home is the prospect of having to go through the entire home-buying process again, possibly while trying to sell your starter home, too. Keeping your house show-ready, paying closing costs, going through the underwriting process, packing, moving, and trying to time it all so you avoid living in temporary lodging is a big endeavor that, when compared with the relative ease of moving between apartments, can be seen as not worth the effort.

•   In some circumstances, you may have to pay capital gains taxes on the sale of your starter home when you move up.

If you aren’t ready to jump into a starter home, an alternative could be a rent-to-own home.

How to Find Starter Homes for Sale

Are you ready to start the hunt? Here are some tips for finding a starter home:

•   Work with an experienced real estate agent who knows your market and spends their days finding homes in your price range.

•   Rethink your house criteria. If you are buying a starter home and figured you’d shop for a three-bedroom, you may find more options and less heated competition if you go for a two-bedroom house.

•   Take a big-picture view. If you’re a young couple with no kids yet, maybe you don’t need to purchase in the tip-top school district. After all, you are at least several years away from sending a little one to their first day of school Or, if prices are super-high for single-family houses, could buying a condo or a townhome work well for a number of years?

   You might also look into purchasing a duplex or other type of property.

Average U.S. Cost of a Starter Home

As noted above, the typical cost of a starter home in the U.S. was $325,000. Keep in mind, however, that there is a huge variation in costs. A rural home may be much less expensive than shopping for a starter home that’s within short commuting distance of a major city, like New York or San Francisco.

Is Buying a Starter Home Worth It?

Deciding whether a starter home is worth it is a very personal decision. One person might be eager to stop living with their parents and be ready to plunk down their savings for a home. Another person might have a comfortable rental in a great town and be reluctant to take on a home mortgage loan as they continue to pay down their student loan debt.

When you consider the pros and cons of starter homes listed above, you can likely decide whether buying a starter home is worth it at this moment of your life.

Tips on Buying a Starter Home

If you’re tired of renting or living with your parents but don’t have the cash flow necessary for anything more than a humble abode, a starter home could be a great way to get into real estate without breaking the bank. Some pointers on how to buy a starter home:

•   Before you buy any home — starter or otherwise — it’s important to sit down and crunch the numbers to see how much home you can realistically afford. Lenders look at your debt when considering your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), but they aren’t privy to other regular monthly expenses, such as child care or kids’ activity fees. Be sure to factor those in.

•   You also may want to look at how much you can afford for a down payment. While a 20% down payment isn’t required to purchase a home, most non-government home loan programs do require some down payment.

   It’s possible to buy a home with a small down payment: The average first-time homebuyer puts down about 6% of a home’s price as a down payment, according to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

   In addition, putting down less than 20% means you may have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI).

•   You’ll want to explore different mortgage loan products as well, possibly with a mortgage broker. You’ll have to decide between adjustable and fixed rate offerings, 20-year vs. 30-year mortgages, and different rates. You may also be in a position to buy down your rate with points. Getting a few offers can help you see how much house you can afford, as can using an online mortgage calculator.

•   The decision to purchase a starter home is about more than just money, though. You may also want to consider your future plans and how quickly you might grow out of the house, whether you’re willing to live where the affordable houses are, and if you’ll be happy living without the amenities you’ll find in a larger house.

•   Other factors to consider are your current state of financial health and your mental readiness for a DIY lifestyle (which includes your willingness to fix your own leaky toilet or pay a plumber.)

•   If you’re ready to make the leap, there are plenty of home ownership resources available to help you get started on the path to buying your starter home. Your first step might be to check out a few open houses and to research mortgage loans online.

The Takeaway

Buying a starter home can be a good way to get your foot in the door of homeownership, but it’s important to consider your financial situation and your plans for the next two to five years or more before buying a starter house.

Are you house hunting and mortgage shopping? SoFi offers fixed-rate mortgage loans with as little as 3% down for first-time homebuyers, plus competitive rates and variable terms.

SoFi Mortgage Loans: The smart, simple source for financing.


How much money should you have saved to buy a starter home?

The average down payment is about 6% of the home purchase price. That number can help you see how much you want to have in the bank, though mortgage loans may be available with as little as 3% down or even zero down if you are shopping for a government-backed mortgage. Worth noting: If your down payment is under 20%, you may have to pay private mortgage insurance.

What is considered a good starter home?

A good starter home will likely check off some of the items on your wish list (square footage, location, amenities, etc.) and will not stretch your budget too much. You want to be able to keep current with other forms of debt you may have as well as pay your monthly bills (which will likely include mortgage, property tax, home maintenance, and more). That financial equation may help you decide whether to buy a starter home or wait.

How much do people spend on a starter home?

As of 2022, the average price for a starter home in the U.S. was $325,000. However, prices will vary greatly depending on location, size, style, and condition.

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 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.

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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