Loan Modification vs Loan Refinancing: The Differences and Similarities

Loan Modification vs Loan Refinancing: The Differences and Similarities

Both a loan modification and a loan refinance can lower your monthly payments and help you save money. However, they are not the same thing. Depending on your circumstances, one strategy will make more sense than the other.

If you’re behind on your mortgage payments due to a financial hardship, for example, you might seek out a loan modification. A modification alters the terms of your current loan and can help you avoid default or foreclosure.

If, on the other hand, you’re up to date on your loan payments and looking to save money, you might opt to refinance. This involves taking out a new loan (ideally with better rates and terms) and using it to pay off your existing loan.

Here’s a closer look at loan modification vs. refinance, how each lending option works, and when to choose one or the other.

What Is a Loan Modification?

A loan modification changes the terms of a loan to make the monthly payments more affordable. It’s a strategy that most commonly comes into play with mortgages. A home loan modification is a change in the way the home mortgage loan is structured, primarily to provide some financial relief for struggling homeowners.

Unlike refinancing a mortgage, which pays off the current home loan and replaces it with a new one, a loan modification changes the terms and conditions of the current home loan. These changes might include:

•   A new repayment timetable. A loan modification may extend the term of the loan, allowing the borrower to have more time to pay off the loan.

•   A lower interest rate. Loan modifications may allow borrowers to lower the interest rates on an existing loan. A lower interest rate can reduce a borrower’s monthly payment.

•   Switching from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate. If you currently have an adjustable-rate loan, a loan modification might allow you to change it to a fixed-rate loan. A fixed-rate loan may be easier to manage, since it offers consistent monthly payments over the life of the loan.

A loan modification can be hard to qualify for, as lenders are under no obligation to change the terms and conditions of a loan, even if the borrower is behind on payments. A lender will typically request documents to show financial hardship, such as hardship letters, bank statements, tax returns, and proof of income.

While loan modifications are most common for secured loans, like home mortgages, it’s also possible to get student loan modifications and even personal loan modifications.


💡 Quick Tip: A low-interest personal loan can consolidate your debts, lower your monthly payments, and help you get out of debt sooner.

What Is Refinancing a Loan?

A loan refinance doesn’t just restructure the terms of an existing loan — it replaces the current loan with a new loan that typically has a different interest rate, a longer or shorter term, or both. You’ll need to apply for a new loan, typically with a new lender. Once approved, you use the new loan to pay off the old loan. Moving forward, you only make payments on the new loan.

Refinancing a loan can make sense if you can:

•   Qualify for a lower interest rate. The classic reason to refi any type of loan is to lower your interest rate. With home loans, however, you’ll want to consider fees and closing costs involved in a mortgage refinance, since they can eat into any savings you might get with the lower rate.

•   Extend the repayment terms. Having a longer period of time to pay off a loan generally lowers the monthly payment and can relieve a borrower’s financial stress. Just keep in mind that extending the term of a loan generally increases the amount of interest you pay, increasing the total cost of the loan.

•   Shorten the loan repayment time. While refinancing a loan to a shorter repayment term may increase the monthly loan payments, it can reduce the overall cost of the loan by allowing you to pay off the debt faster. This can result in a significant cost savings.

Recommended: What Are Personal Loans Used For?

Refinance vs Loan Modification: Pros and Cons

Loan refinance is typically something a borrower chooses to do, whereas loan modification is generally something a borrower needs to do, often as a last resort.

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of each option.

Loan Modification

Refinancing

Pros

Cons

Pros

Cons

Avoid loan default and foreclosure Could negatively impact credit May be able to lower interest rate You’ll need solid credit and income
Lower your monthly payment Cash out is not an option May be able to shorten or lengthen your loan term Closing costs may lower overall savings
Avoid closing costs Lenders not required to grant modification May be able to turn home equity into cash You could reset the clock on your loan

Benefits of Loan Modification

While a loan modification is rarely a borrower’s first choice, it comes with some advantages. Here are a few to consider.

•   Avoid default and foreclosure. Getting a loan modification can help you avoid defaulting on your mortgage and potentially losing your home as a result of missing mortgage payments.

•   Change the loan’s terms. It may be possible to increase the length of your loan, which would lower your monthly payment. Or, if the original interest rate was variable, you might be able to switch to a fixed rate, which could result in savings over the life of the loan.

•   Avoid closing costs. Unlike a loan refinance, a loan modification allows you to keep the same loan. This helps you avoid having to pay closing costs (or other fees) that come with getting a new loan.

Drawbacks of Loan Modification

Since loan modification is generally an effort to prevent foreclosure on the borrower’s home, there are some drawbacks to be aware of.

•   It could have a negative effect on your credit. A loan modification on a credit report is typically a negative entry and could lower your credit score. However, having a foreclosure — or even missed payments — can be more detrimental to a person’s overall creditworthiness.

•   Tapping home equity for cash is not an option. Unlike refinancing, a loan modification cannot be used to tap home equity for an extra lump sum of cash (called a cash-out refi). If your monthly payments are lower after modification, though, you may have more funds to pay other expenses each month.

•   There is a hardship requirement. It’s typically necessary to prove financial hardship to qualify for loan modification. Lenders may want to see that your extenuating financial circumstances are involuntary and that you’ve made an effort to address them, or have a plan to do so, before considering loan modification.

Recommended: Guide to Mortgage Relief Programs

Benefits of Refinancing a Loan

For borrowers with a strong financial foundation, refinancing a mortgage or other type of loan comes with a number of benefits. Here are some to consider.

•   You may be able to get a lower interest rate. If your credit and income is strong, you may be able to qualify for an interest rate that is lower than your current loan, which could mean a savings over the life of the loan.

•   You may be able to shorten or extend the term of the loan. A shorter loan term can mean higher monthly payments but is likely to result in an overall savings. A longer loan term generally means lower monthly payments, but may increase your costs.

•   You may be able to pull cash out of your home. If you opt for a cash-out refinance, you can turn some of your equity in your home into cash that you can use however you want. With this type of refinance, the new loan is for a greater amount than what is owed, the old loan is paid off, and the excess cash can be used for things like home renovations or credit card consolidation.


💡 Quick Tip: If you’ve got high-interest credit card debt, a personal loan is one way to get control of it. But you’ll want to make sure the loan’s interest rate is much lower than the credit cards’ rates — and that you can make the monthly payments.

Drawbacks of Refinancing a Loan

Refinancing a loan also comes with some disadvantages. Here are some to keep in mind.

•   You’ll need strong credit and income. Lenders who offer refinancing typically want to see that you are in a solid financial position before they issue you a new loan. If your situation has improved since you originally financed, you could qualify for better rates and terms.

•   Closing costs can be steep. When refinancing a mortgage, you typically need to pay closing costs. Before choosing a mortgage refi, you’ll want to look closely at any closing costs a lender charges, and whether those costs are paid in cash or rolled into the new mortgage loan. Consider how quickly you’ll be able to recoup those costs to determine if the refinance is worth it.

•   You could set yourself back on loan payoff. When you refinance a loan, you can choose a new loan term. If you’re already five years into a 30-year mortgage and you refinance for a new 30-year loan, for example, you’ll be in debt five years longer than you originally planned. And if you don’t get a lower interest rate, extending your term can increase your costs.

Is It Better to Refinance or Get a Loan Modification?

It all depends on your situation. If you have solid credit and are current on your loan payments, you’ll likely want to choose refinancing over loan modification. To qualify for a refinance, you’ll need to have a loan in good standing and prove that you make enough money to absorb the new payments.

If you’re behind on your loan payments and trying to avoid negative consequences (like loan default or foreclosure on your home), your best option is likely going to be loan modification. Provided the lender is willing, you may be able to change the rate or terms of your loan to make repayment more manageable. This may be more agreeable to a lender than having to take expensive legal action against you.

Recommended: 11 Types of Personal Loans & Their Differences

Alternatives to Refinancing and Loan Modification

If you’re having trouble making your mortgage payments or just looking for a way to save money on a debt, here are some other options to consider besides refinancing and loan modification.

Mortgage Forbearance

For borrowers facing short-term financial challenges, a mortgage forbearance may be an option to consider.

Lenders may grant a term of forbearance — typically three to six months, with the possibility of extending the term — during which the borrower doesn’t make loan payments or makes reduced payments. During that time, the lender also agrees not to pursue foreclosure.

As with a loan modification, proof of hardship is typically required. A lender’s definition of hardship may include divorce, job loss, natural disasters, costs associated with medical emergencies, and more.

During a period of forbearance, interest will continue to accrue, and the borrower will still be responsible for expenses such as homeowners insurance and property taxes.

At the end of the forbearance period, the borrower may have to repay any missed payments in addition to accrued interest. Some lenders may work with the borrower to set up a repayment plan rather than requiring one lump repayment.

Mortgage Recasting

With a mortgage recast, you make a lump sum payment toward the principal balance of the loan. The lender will then recast, or re-amortize, your remaining loan repayment schedule. Since the principal amount is smaller after the lump-sum payment is made, each monthly payment for the remaining life of the loan will be smaller, even though your interest rate and term remain the same.

Making Extra Principal Payments

With any type of loan, you may be able to lower your borrowing costs by occasionally (or regularly) making extra payments towards principal. This can help you pay back what you borrowed ahead of schedule and reduce your costs.

Before you prepay any type of loan, however, you’ll want to make sure the lender does not charge a prepayment penalty, since that might wipe out any savings. You’ll also want to make sure that the lender applies any extra payments you make directly towards principal (and not towards future monthly payments).

The Takeaway

Loan modification vs loan refinancing…which one wins?

It depends on your financial situation. If you’re dealing with financial challenges and at risk of home foreclosure, you may want to look into a loan modification, which could be easier to qualify for than loan refinancing.

If you’re interested in getting a lower interest rate or lowering your monthly debt payment, refinancing likely makes more sense. A refinance may also make sense if you’re looking to tap your home equity to access extra cash. With a cash-out refi, you replace your current mortgage with a new, larger loan and receive the excess amount in cash.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

FAQ

What are the disadvantages of loan modification?

A loan modification typically comes with a hardship requirement. A lender may ask to see proof that your financial circumstances are involuntary and that you’ve made an effort to address them before considering loan modification.

A loan modification can also have a temporary negative effect on your credit.

Is a loan modification bad for your credit?

A lender may report a loan modification to the credit bureaus as a type of settlement or adjustment to the loan’s terms, which could negatively impact on your credit. However, the effect will likely be less (and shorter in duration) than the impact a series of late or missed payments or a foreclosure on your home would have.


Photo credit: iStock/AlexSecret

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 .

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

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

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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Guarantor vs Cosigner: What Are the Differences?

Guarantor vs Cosigner: What Are the Differences?

Adding either a guarantor or cosigner to a loan can increase your odds of approval. But while these supportive roles are similar, they are not exactly the same.

Both a guarantor and a cosigner agree to cover a borrower’s debt if the borrower fails to repay what they owe. The key difference is that a cosigner is responsible for the loan right away, whereas a guarantor isn’t responsible for repayment unless the borrower fully defaults on the loan.

Whether you’re looking for a cosigner or guarantor, or thinking of acting as one or the other, there are some key differences both parties need to understand. Here’s a closer look at guarantors versus cosigners.

Is a Guarantor the Same Thing as a Cosigner?

The short answer: No.

Guarantors and cosigners fulfill similar roles: They help make it possible for a primary applicant with poor or limited credit to be approved for a loan by agreeing to take responsibility for the loan should the primary borrower become unable to pay. (These terms can also come into play when someone without a strong credit or income history is looking to rent an apartment.)

But there are some key differences between a guarantor and a cosigner. The biggest is how soon each individual becomes responsible for the borrower’s debt. A cosigner is responsible for every payment that a borrower misses. A guarantor, on the other hand, only assumes responsibility if the borrower falls into default on the loan.

Acting as cosigner versus a guarantor also impacts your credit in different ways. In addition, which role you take on affects how much access you have to information about the loan.


💡 Quick Tip: Before choosing a personal loan, ask about the lender’s fees: origination, prepayment, late fees, etc. One question can save you many dollars.

What Is a Guarantor?

A loan guarantor is someone who promises to pay a borrower’s debt if the borrower defaults on their loan obligation. This reduces the lender’s risk and, as a result, they might offer guarantor loans to applicants who wouldn’t qualify on their own.

Unlike a cosigner, a guarantor isn’t responsible for every payment that a borrower misses. They only need to step up when the primary borrower has defaulted on the loan. A default means a borrower has failed to repay the funds according to the initial agreement. With most consumer loans, this typically involves missing multiple payments for several weeks or months in a row.

Simply becoming a guarantor will generally not impact your credit reports and credit scores. But if the loan falls into default, leaving you responsible for all outstanding payments, it will be added to your credit report. If you fail to repay the money owed, your credit rating could be negatively impacted.

Being a guarantor for a rental property is similar to being a guarantor on a loan — it involves you vouching for the tenant. If the tenant is unable to meet their obligations under the tenancy agreement, you (the guarantor) will be legally bound to cover the overdue rent or any damage to the property.

As a guarantor, you have the responsibility of repaying the debt, but you don’t have any legal right to the loaned money, anything purchased with the loan proceeds, or to live in the dwelling if you’re acting as a guarantor on a lease.

What Is a Cosigner?

A cosigner is someone who applies for a loan with someone who may not qualify on their own and takes equal responsibility for the account. For example, many parents act as cosigners on their children’s student loans, since young people tend not to have long and robust credit histories.

Unlike a guarantor, a cosigner’s liability begins right away. Cosigners are responsible for any payments that the borrower misses. If the borrower defaults, the cosigner is also responsible for the full amount of the loan.

The debt account and payment history will appear on both the primary borrower’s credit report, as well as the cosigner’s credit report. And, depending on how the primary borrower manages the account, the loan could help or hurt both the primary borrower’s and the cosigner’s credit scores.

If the primary borrower defaults on the loan, lenders and collections agencies can try to collect the debt directly from the cosigner.

Although the cosigner is legally obligated to make payments if the borrower can’t, they have no rights to the loan proceeds.

A cosigner is not the same thing as a co-borrower in that they don’t have any claim on the loaned asset. Also, unlike a co-borrower, a cosigner’s intention is to boost the creditworthiness of the borrower, not to jointly repay the debt.

Recommended: Get a $15,000 Personal Loan With Good or Bad Credit

Guarantor vs Cosigner: The Similarities

Both guarantors and cosigners pledge their financial responsibility for the debt to strengthen the primary borrower’s application. And, in both cases, they may become responsible for repaying the debt.

Another thing guarantors and cosigners have in common is that they do not have any right to the loaned money, or assets purchased with the money (one exception: the cosigner on a lease may be entitled to live on-site).

Guarantor vs Cosigner: The Differences

The main difference between a guarantor and a cosigner is the level of legal liability for the debt.

A cosigner is responsible for repayment of the debt as soon as the agreement is final and can request to have loan statements sent to them, so they’ll know right away if any payments have been missed. A guarantor, by contrast, is only responsible for repayment of the debt if the primary borrower defaults on the loan and will only be notified at that point.

There are also differences in terms of credit impacts. A cosigner will have the loan added to their credit report and any positive or negative payment information that the lender shares with the consumer credit bureaus can have a positive or negative impact on their credit. Becoming a guarantor, on the other hand, will not have an impact on your credit unless the primary borrower defaults on the loan.

Cosigner

Guarantor

Guarantor

When financial responsibility begins

Right away Only when/if the primary borrower defaults
Credit impact

Loan appears on credit report Loan will not appear on credit report unless the borrower defaults
Right to loan proceeds?

No No
Access to loan information

Can request monthly statements at any time No access to statements

Recommended: Guide to Unsecured Personal Loans

Personal Guarantor vs Cosigner: Pros and Cons

If you are the primary borrower and deciding between a guarantor and cosigner, the choice may come down to which kinds of loans are available (guarantor loans can be harder to find than loans allowing a cosigner) and what kind of agreement you’re entering into. If you’re signing a lease with a roommate, that person should be a cosigner rather than a guarantor.

If you’re thinking of acting as a guarantor versus a cosigner, here’s a look at the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Pros and Cons of Being a Guarantor

Pros:

•   Helps a borrower obtain a loan more easily

•   Can help a borrower get approved for a larger loan amount or more favorable rates and terms than they would be able to get on their own

•   Helps a borrower build credit and learn how to manage credit responsibly

Cons:

•   Your credit score could be impacted if the borrower defaults on the loan

•   You’ll be liable for the full debt if the borrower defaults on the loan

•   Should the borrower default, your ability to obtain another loan for a different use may be limited

Pros and Cons of Being a Cosigner

Pros:

•   Helps a borrower obtain a loan more easily

•   Can help a borrower get approved for a larger loan amount or more favorable rates and terms than they would be able to get on their own.

•   Helps a borrower build credit and learn how to manage credit responsibly

Cons:

•   Your credit could take a hit if the borrower pays late or misses payments and the lender reports the delinquency to the credit bureaus

•   You will need to make any payments the primarily borrower misses

•   If need to apply for credit for yourself, the lender may deny you because your current debt levels are too high

Recommended: How Do I Get the Best Interest Rate on a Loan?

Do Guarantors Get Credit Checked?

Yes — as part of the application process, the lender will carry out a credit check on you. However, this is normally a “soft” credit check which will not be visible to other companies and won’t impact your credit score. Generally, a guarantor will need a robust credit and income history to make up for the applicant’s shortcomings.

When Is a Cosigner or a Guarantor a Good Option?

Recruiting a cosigner or guarantor can be a good option if you have low credit scores or a limited credit history and are looking to get a personal loan, student loan, mortgage, auto loan, or other type of credit. This can not only help you qualify for the loan but also give you access to better rates and terms than you could get on your own.

Taking out a loan with a guarantor or cosigner — and making regular on-time payments on that loan — can help you build your credit. This can help you qualify for more types of loans and better rates in the future without a cosigner or guarantor.

Just keep in mind that if you ask a trusted friend or family member to act as a cosigner or guarantor and you fail to make timely payments, you could put a significant strain on your relationship. You will also be putting that person in a difficult financial position.


💡 Quick Tip: Generally, the larger the personal loan, the bigger the risk for the lender — and the higher the interest rate. So one way to lower your interest rate is to try downsizing your loan amount.

Questions to Ask a Guarantor or Cosigner

One of the weightiest parts of deciding to use a cosigner or guarantor is having to ask someone to do you this favor, which is a big one. It’s important that there’s mutual trust in the relationship between the borrower and cosigner or guarantor, since their actions can have an impact on each other’s finances.

Some questions to ask your cosigner or guarantor before entering an agreement include:

•   Do you have a good credit score and solid financial standing?

•   Are you willing to take on this legal and financial responsibility?

•   What will our long-term agreement be if I, as the primary borrower, fail to make repayments and force you into the legal obligation to do so?

Personal Loans That Allow You to Use a Cosigner or Guarantor

Not all lending institutions allow you to apply for a personal loan with a cosigner or a guarantor. Some only allow co-borrowers. If you aren’t able to qualify based on your own creditworthiness, you may consider asking the lender if they’ll allow a cosigner or guarantor.

Getting a personal loan with a cosigner or guarantor can make it much easier to qualify for a loan because, in the eyes of the lender, a second person agreeing to take on responsibility for the loan lessens the risk of lending to you.

The Takeaway

Guarantors and cosigners fulfill similar roles for a loan applicant, strengthening the application by taking on some level of financial responsibility for the loan.

A cosigner takes on responsibility for your payments right away, while a guarantor won’t get involved in the loan unless you end up missing several payments and are considered in loan default.

Either option can help you qualify for a personal loan with lower interest rates and better terms than you might be able to get on your own.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.


Photo credit: iStock/FreshSplash

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 .

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

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.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

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Flex Loans: Benefits and Drawbacks

Flex Loans: Benefits and Drawbacks

If you’re looking to borrow money quickly and without going through a lengthy application process, flex loans can be an appealing option. A flex loan is a line of credit that is unsecured (meaning no collateral is required). It allows you to withdraw funds as needed up to a predetermined limit. As you pay down the balance, you can continue to borrow from the credit line, similar to a credit card.

While flex loans are usually easier to qualify for than more traditional lending products, they typically come with higher annual percentage rates (APRs) and fees. Here’s what you need to know about flex loans, including how they work, how much you can borrow, and the pros and cons of using a flex loan for fast cash.

What Is a Flex Loan?

Despite the name, a flex loan isn’t actually a loan — it’s an unsecured personal line of credit. Most commonly, you can find flex loans through cash advance companies, though some select credit unions, banks, and online lenders offer them.

Flex loans allow you to withdraw funds from a credit line up to a preapproved limit. You can use the funds in any way you wish. As you pay down the balance, you can continue to borrow from the credit line, similar to a credit card.

Because flex loans typically don’t require a credit check, they can be an attractive option for those who have a poor or limited credit history. But keep in mind: Because lenders assume additional risk by not checking credit, flex loans typically have higher APRs than other lending products, including personal loans, personal lines of credit, and credit cards. You may struggle to make payments if interest and fees continue to accumulate.


💡 Quick Tip: Some personal loan lenders can release your funds as quickly as the same day your loan is approved.

How Do Flex Loans Work?

A flex loan works similar to a credit card in that it’s a revolving line of credit. Once approved, you’re given a certain credit limit and can borrow up to that amount. As the balance is paid down, that money is once again available to be borrowed.

You’ll receive regular statements showing how much you’ve borrowed and the interest owed and typically need to make minimum monthly payments. Like a credit card, you may choose to only pay the minimum, or you can pay more. The more you pay each month, generally the less interest you’ll accrue.

Some flex loan lenders charge fees in addition to interest. This may include a flat fee when you take out the loan, as well as periodic fees, which may be daily, monthly, or each time you draw funds from the loan.

How Much Can You Get With a Flex Loan?

The exact amount you’ll be approved for will depend on the lender, as well as where you live, since state laws regulate credit limit amounts. You may be able to borrow anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars with a flex loan.

Borrowers often turn to flex loans to cover immediate financial needs, emergencies, or hardships, but you can use the loan funds for almost any reason. However, due to the high APRs, it’s generally a smart idea to draw funds from a flex loan only when necessary.

Recommended: The Problems with Online Payday Loans and Fast Cash Lending

Will a Flex Loan Hurt My Credit?

Getting a flex loan may not require a credit check so applying for one won’t necessarily affect your credit score. But lenders assume extra risk when they don’t do a credit check, so they might charge higher interest to make up for that.

A flex loan may hurt your credit if you don’t manage it responsibly. As with other types of debt, making late payments or missing payments on a flex loan may adversely affect your credit score. It’s a good idea to budget carefully to ensure you’re not borrowing more than you afford to pay back.

Recommended: 11 Types of Personal Loans & Their Differences

Benefits of Flex Loans

Flex loans may be beneficial for some borrowers. Here’s a look at some of the advantages of flex loans.

Application Process

In many cases, you can apply for a flex loan and receive a lending decision within minutes, especially if you apply online.

Access to Funds

You may receive access to your funds on the same day as your flex loan approval. Once approved, you can then make withdrawals from your credit line as needed. Funds are typically directly deposited into your bank account.

Credit Score

Most flex loan lenders won’t subject you to a credit check, making it less burdensome to qualify for a flex loan even if you don’t have good credit.

Requirements

In many cases, flex loans have more lenient requirements compared to other types of loans. In addition to giving the lender your personal details, you may only have to provide proof of employment and income.

Recommended: Typical Personal Loan Requirements Needed for Approval

Flexible Payment Terms

Each month or billing cycle, you can pay the minimum due or more. There are typically no penalties for paying down your debt faster.

Dangers of Flex Loans

Flex loans may be an attractive borrowing option because even those with poor credit can borrow money quickly. However, flex loans can present potential dangers.

Interest Rates

Flex loans typically carry much higher APRs than traditional lending products like personal loans and credit cards. If you can get a flex loan through a credit union, APRs can range from 24% to 28% or higher. If you get one from a cash advance company, the APR on a flex loan can reach triple digits.

Minimum Payments

You have the option to pay only the minimum payments on your flex loan. But if that’s all you pay, fees and interest will continue to grow your debt, making it increasingly harder to pay off the entire balance.

Excessive Debt

It can be tempting to borrow money repeatedly with a flex loan, but doing so can come at a high cost. If you continue to borrow money and don’t have a plan to pay down the amount you owe, a flex loan can lead to a cycle of debt that can be hard to break out of.

When Should You Take Out a Flex Loan?

A flex loan may be worth considering if you need quick access to cash and don’t want to go through a lengthy application process or can’t qualify for more traditional lending options. A flex loan may also be an option for those who want to have a backup source of funds in case of an emergency, like an unexpected car repair or dental bill.

However, because of the high APRs and added fees, you generally only want to consider a flex loan after exhausting other borrowing options, such as personal loans.

When to Apply for a Flex Loan

There may be other ways to get needed cash without paying interest rates as high as flex loans tend to offer. But if you’ve exhausted all other options, even a loan from a pawn shop, and you have a plan to repay the loan at the lowest possible cost to you, it may be an option you could pursue.

Alternatives to Flex Loans

Before applying for a flex loan, you may want to consider the following alternatives.

•   Credit cards: Like flex loans, credit cards are a form of revolving credit you can draw from on a recurring basis. While interest charges for credit cards can be high, they tend to be lower than flex loans. Depending on the card, you may also have an annual fee and other fees based on your use of the account.

•   Personal line of credit: If you have healthy credit, a personal line of credit may be a worthy alternative because of its typically lower interest rates. However, you will be subject to a credit check and the application process may take longer compared to a flex loan.

•   Personal loan with a guarantor: If you’re unable to qualify for an unsecured personal loan due to a poor or limited credit history, you might consider asking a friend or family member to help you get a guarantor loan. A guarantor is legally responsible for the repayment of the loan if the borrower defaults, but has no legal claim to any property the funds were used to purchase.



💡 Quick Tip: Generally, the larger the personal loan, the bigger the risk for the lender — and the higher the interest rate. So one way to lower your interest rate is to try downsizing your loan amount.

The Takeaway

Before taking out any type of loan, you’ll want to consider the benefits versus the costs. If you need cash for an emergency, it can be a good idea to look at all your borrowing options before settling on a flex loan due to the high interest rates and fees associated with these loans. Shopping around is a good way to see what you may qualify for and help you find a lender you feel comfortable working with.

Think twice before turning to high-interest flex loans or credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

FAQ

What is a flex loan?

A flex loan is a form of revolving credit that allows you to withdraw funds up to a certain credit limit. As you pay down your balance, the funds become available to borrow again.

How much can you get with a flex loan?

Borrowing limits for flex loans will depend on the lender and where you live, since state laws regulate credit limit amounts. You may be able to borrow anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars with a flex loan.

Will a flex loan hurt my credit?

Applying for a flex loan typically won’t affect your credit because lenders typically don’t do a credit check when you apply for the loan. However, lenders may report your borrowing activity to the major consumer credit bureaus. As a result, any late or missed payments could negatively affect your credit.


Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

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 .

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

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.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

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What Is a Single-Family Home? Should You Consider Owning One?

What Is a Single-Family Home? Should You Consider Owning One?

If you’re in the market for a home, you may have come across the term “single-family home” and wondered what it means and if that is what you are looking to buy.

Generally, a single-family home refers to a freestanding home set on its own piece of property. It can be occupied by a single individual or a large family, as long as it’s occupied by a single household.

Owning a single family home comes with a number of benefits, including more privacy and space than other types of residential properties. However, this type of home also tends to come with a higher price tag and more responsibility. Here’s a closer look at what single family homes are and the pros and cons of buying one.

What Is a Single-Family Home?

Generally speaking, the term single-family home refers to a home that is designed for, occupied by, and maintained by one person or household. When you buy a single-family home, you will own both the home and the property it sits on. This is in contrast to other types of properties, such as condominiums (condos), where you only own the interior of your unit and share ownership of common areas with other homeowners in the complex.

In most cases, a single-family home is defined as one that is freestanding and not attached to homes owned by other individuals. However, the government has a broader definition. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a single-family home includes fully detached homes, as well as semi-detached row houses and townhouses. In the case of attached units, the units must be separated by a ground-to-roof wall in order to be classified as a single-family structure. Also, these units must not share heating/air-conditioning systems or utilities.

In some places, a single-family home is defined in part by how many kitchens it has. Depending on zoning laws, adding a second full kitchen to an in-law’s apartment, for example, can cause a house to be redefined as a multi-family building. If you’re planning on doing this type of renovation, be sure to check local zoning laws beforehand.

Whether a home is classified as a single-family or multi-family home can have an impact on the type of mortgages you qualify for. Both single-family homes and two- to four-unit properties fall under residential lending guidelines. (A property with five or more units is considered commercial property.) You can use a conventional mortgage to purchase a home with four or fewer units, whether it’s a single- or multi-family home. If you’re buying a multi-family home with five or more units, you must use a commercial mortgage. Commercial mortgages have different terms than residential mortgages do.


💡 Quick Tip: When house hunting, don’t forget to lock in your home mortgage loan rate so there are no surprises if your offer is accepted.

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


Pros and Cons of a Single-Family Home

As you shop for homes, it’s important to consider the various advantages and disadvantages of a single-family residence.

Some of the advantages are:

•   More space Single-family homes tend to offer more space than other types of housing, and it belongs to you alone. They may have large yards where children and dogs can play or where you can plant a vegetable garden. They may also have storage in attics, garages, or basements, which aren’t shared between multiple units.

•   Privacy Single-family units that don’t share walls with neighbors offer more privacy. You are less likely to hear neighbors’ activities, and they are less likely to be bothered by yours.

•   More design features Single-family homes may be available in a broader range of designs and layouts, from Cape Cods or colonials to ranch homes and contemporary designs. You can also make changes to the building or landscape design without input from neighbors with a shared interest in the space.

•   Room to grow Single-family homes may offer you more options for additions if you have a growing family or if aging parents may come to live with you. For example, single family detached homes with larger plots of land may allow additions that wouldn’t be possible in condo units.

•   May offer higher appreciation Single-family homes tend to appreciate in value more than condos and townhouses.

•   Option to rent As the sole owner of a single-family home, you have the option to rent out the house if you decide to move and wish to hang on to the property.

While these factors are attractive, it’s important to weigh potential disadvantages of buying a single-family home as well. Here are some to keep in mind:

•   More expensive Single-family homes tend to be more expensive than other types of homes. That can mean a larger down payment and higher closing costs, and your mortgage payments may be higher.

•   More maintenance Unless your single-family home is part of a homeowner association (HOA) that provides basic services, you’ll be in charge of all home maintenance like lawn mowing and roof repairs. You’ll either have to take the time to do it yourself or hire help.

•   Possible HOA fees Planned developments usually require HOA fees to cover the upkeep of common areas and shared structures.

•   Less income potential With multi-family homes, you have the option to live in one unit while renting out the others. This allows you to bring in regular income to cover the cost of the mortgage and maintenance expenses.

Finding a Single-Family Home

Before you start looking for a single-family home, you’ll want to first determine how much home you can afford. You might start by calculating mortgage costs and getting prequalified for a home loan; prequalification often only takes a few minutes and provides an estimate of how much you might be able to borrow and at what rate (without impacting your credit).

You’re probably already searching real estate listings online and noting the property types. You might also want to do some research on housing market trends, especially if you live in one of the nation’s real estate hot spots.

You may also want to engage a real estate agent. They have expertise in local housing and zoning laws, know whether a list price is fair or above or below average, and can help you negotiate the price of a home you’re interested in buying.

If there’s any question about how a house is zoned, you can often look up zoning information through a particular city’s website.

Recommended: First-Time Home Buyer’s Guide

Who Should Get a Single-Family Home?

Single-family homes are a good fit for people who can cover the higher price tag, want privacy and flexibility, and are willing to take on a lot of responsibility.

If you qualify as a first-time homebuyer, there may be help available to buy a single-family home in the form of down payment assistance and low- or no-interest loans.

If you’re looking for a more affordable home and don’t mind giving up some privacy, you might want to consider a condo or townhouse.

A condo is like an apartment but is available for purchase. These units share walls with neighboring units, but you generally won’t have to worry about maintaining the property.

A townhouse, on the other hand, has multiple stories and will share one or two walls with other units. Like condos, townhouses are typically less expensive than single-family homes. Unlike a condo, you’ll own the property that the townhouse sits on.

If you’re looking to invest in real estate, you might consider buying a multi-family home. While this will likely cost more than a single-family home, you may be able to recoup the added cost (and, over time, earn even more) by collecting rent from tenants.


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

If You’re Thinking of Purchasing a Single-Family Home, SoFi Home Loans Can Help

Single-family homes are one of the most popular real estate options and often what people envision when they think about achieving the dream of home ownership.

This type of property typically sits on a parcel of private property and doesn’t share walls with neighbors, affording you a high level of privacy. You generally have more control over making enhancements to your home than you have with other types of properties, and usually have access to extra storage, including exterior storage space like a shed or garage.

However, don’t forget to consider the added responsibilities and costs when deciding on the right type of home for you and your family.

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

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

How much does a single-family home cost?

The median price for an existing single-family home — one that’s already standing, not new construction — was $387,600 as of November 2023, according to the National Association of Realtors.

How much do I need to build a single-family home?

The cost of building a single-family home (not including land) can range anywhere from $42,000 to $900,000-plus depending on the home’s type and size and where you build. On average, the cost to build a house in the U.S. is about $329,000.

Can you get a loan to build a single-family home?

If you’re planning to build a single-family home from scratch, you can apply for a construction loan. With this type of loan, money is usually advanced incrementally during construction, as the home-building project progresses. Typically, you only pay interest during the construction period. Once the construction is over, the loan amount becomes due, and it is converted into a regular mortgage.


Photo credit: iStock/Dean Mitchell

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


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


*SoFi 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.

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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No Prepayment Penalty: Avoid Prepayment Penalties

You may feel proud of yourself for paying off a debt early, but doing so could trigger prepayment fees (ouch). The best way to avoid those charges is to read the fine print before you take out a loan that involves this kind of fee.

If you neglected to do that, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re stuck with a prepayment penalty. Read on to learn ways to avoid paying loan prepayment penalties.

What Is a Prepayment Penalty?

A prepayment penalty is when a lender charges you a fee for paying off your loan before the end of the loan term. It can be frustrating that a lender would charge you for paying off a loan too early. After all, many people may think a lender would appreciate being repaid as quickly as possible.

In theory, a lender would appreciate getting repaid quickly. But in reality, it’s not that simple. Lenders make most of their profit from interest, so if you pay off your loan early, the lender is possibly losing out on the interest payments that they were anticipating. Charging a prepayment penalty is one way a lender may recoup their financial loss if you pay off your loan early.

Lenders might calculate the prepayment fee based on the loan’s principal or how much interest remains when you pay off the loan. The penalty could also be a fixed amount as stated in the loan agreement.


💡 Quick Tip: Before choosing a personal loan, ask about the lender’s fees: origination, prepayment, late fees, etc. SoFi personal loans come with no-fee options, and no surprises.

Can You Pay Off a Loan Early?

Say you took out a $5,000 personal loan three years ago. You’ve been paying it off for three years, and you have two more years before the loan term ends. Recently you received a financial windfall and you want to use that money to pay off your personal loan early.

Can you pay off a personal loan early without paying a prepayment penalty? It depends on your lender. Some lenders offer personal loans without prepayment penalties, but some don’t. A mortgage prepayment penalty is more common than a personal loan prepayment penalty.

Recommended: When to Consider Paying off Your Mortgage Early

Differences in Prepayment Penalties

The best way to figure out how much a prepayment penalty would be is to check a loan’s terms before you accept them. Lenders have to be upfront about how much the prepayment penalty will be, and they’re required by law to disclose that information before you take on the loan.

Personal Loan Prepayment Penalty

If you take out a $6,000 personal loan to turn your guest room into a pet portrait studio and agree to pay your lender back $125 per month for five years, the term of that loan is five years. Although your loan term says it can’t take you more than five years to pay it off, some lenders also require that you don’t pay it off in less than five years.

The lender makes money off the monthly interest you pay on your loan, and if you pay off your loan early, the lender doesn’t make as much money. Loan prepayment penalties allow the lender to recoup the money they lose when you pay your loan off early.

Mortgage Prepayment Penalty

When it comes to mortgages, things get a little trickier. For loans that originated after 2014, there are restrictions on when a lender can impose prepayment penalties. If you took out a mortgage before 2014, however, you may be subject to a mortgage prepayment penalty. If you’re not sure if your mortgage has a prepayment penalty, check your origination paperwork or call your lender.

Checking for a Prepayment Clause

Lenders disclose whether or not they charge a prepayment penalty in the loan documents. It might be in the fine print, but the prepayment clause is there. If you’re considering paying off any type of loan early, check your loan’s terms and conditions to determine whether or not you’ll have to pay a prepayment penalty.

How Are Prepayment Penalties Calculated?

The cost of a prepayment penalty can vary widely depending on the amount of the loan and how your lender calculates the penalty. Lenders have different ways to determine how much of a prepayment penalty to charge.

If your loan has a prepayment penalty, figuring out exactly what the fee will be can help you determine whether paying the penalty will outweigh the benefits of paying your loan off early. Here are three different ways the prepayment penalty fee might be calculated:

1. Interest costs. If your loan charges a prepayment penalty based on interest, the lender is basing the fee on the interest you would have paid over the full term of the loan. Using the previous example, if you have a $6,000 loan with a five-year term and want to pay the remaining balance of the loan after only four years, the lender may charge you 12 months’ worth of interest as a penalty.

2. Percentage of balance. Some lenders use a percentage of the amount left on the loan to determine the penalty fee. This is a common way to calculate a mortgage prepayment penalty fee. For example, if you bought a house for $500,000 and have already paid down half the mortgage, you might want to pay off the remaining balance in a lump sum before the full term of your loan is up. In this case, your lender might require that you pay a percentage of the remaining $250,000 as a penalty.

3. Flat fee. Some lenders simply have a flat fee as a prepayment penalty. This means that no matter how early you pay back your loan, the amount you’ll have to pay will always be the prepayment penalty amount that’s disclosed in the loan agreement.

Recommended: Debt Payoff Guide

Avoiding a Prepayment Penalty

Trying to avoid prepayment penalties can seem like an exercise in futility, but it is possible. The easiest way to avoid them is to take out a loan or mortgage without prepayment penalties. If that’s not possible, you may still have options.

•   If you already have a personal loan that has a prepayment penalty, and you want to pay your loan off early, talk to your lender. You may be offered an opportunity to pay off your loan closer to the final due date and sidestep the penalty. Or you might find that even if you pay off the loan early and incur a penalty, it might be less than the interest you would have paid over the remaining term of the loan.

•   You can also take a look at your loan origination paperwork to see if it allows for a partial payoff without penalty. If it does, you might be able to prepay a portion of your loan each year, which allows you to get out of debt sooner without requiring you to pay a penalty fee.

For example, some mortgages allow payments of up to 25% of the purchase price once a year, without charging a prepayment penalty. This means that while you might not be able to pay off your full mortgage, you could pay up to 25% of the purchase price each year without triggering a penalty.

Some lenders shift their prepayment penalty terms over the life of your loan. This means that as you get closer to the end of your original loan term, you might face lower prepayment penalty fees or no fees at all. If that’s the case, it might make sense to wait a year or two until the prepayment penalties are less or no longer apply.

When it comes to your money, you don’t want to make any assumptions. You still need to do your due diligence by asking potential lenders if they have a prepayment penalty. The Truth in Lending Act (TILA) requires lenders to provide documentation of any loan fees they charge, including a prepayment penalty. Also, under the TILA, consumers have the right to cancel a loan agreement within three days of closing on the loan without the lender taking any adverse action against them.

Awarded Best Online Personal Loan by NerdWallet.
Apply Online, Same Day Funding


The Takeaway

A prepayment penalty is one fee that can be avoided by asking questions of the lender and looking at the loan documents with a discerning eye. This may hold true both when you are shopping for a loan and when you are paying your loan off.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.


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 .

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

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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