What’s the Difference Between a Co-op and a Condo?

It’s easy to get confused about the difference between co-ops and condos. If you pulled up pictures of each during a home search, they might seem exactly the same.

But if you’re in the market for a home — especially in a large city where both housing types are popular — you’ll learn quickly that the terms are not interchangeable.

You might have wondered if you’d prefer a house or a condo. But if you’re moving in the direction of co-op vs. condo, it’s important to understand their many distinct features.

Both give a resident the right to use certain common areas, such as pools, gyms, meeting rooms, and courtyards. But there are big differences when it comes to what you actually own when you purchase a condo or co-op.

You’ve done the work of budgeting for a home. Now you need to get a handle on the difference between a condo and a co-op.

What Is a Condo?

With a condominium, you own your home, but you don’t solely own anything outside your unit — not even the exterior walls. Common areas of the complex are owned and shared by all the condo owners collectively.

Buying a condo is not all that different from securing any other type of real estate.

Typically, the complex will be managed by a homeowners association that is responsible for maintaining the property and enforcing any covenants, conditions, and restrictions that govern property usage. The HOA sets the regular fees needed to pay for repairs, landscaping, other services, and insurance for the shared parts of the property. Special assessments also might be levied to pay for unexpected repairs and needed improvements that aren’t in the normal operating budget.

What Is a Co-op?

In the co-op vs. condo debate, it’s key to know that with a housing cooperative, residents don’t own their units. Instead, they hold shares in a nonprofit corporation that has the title to the property and grants proprietary leases to residents. The lease grants you the right to live in your specific unit and use the common elements of the co-op according to its bylaws and regulations.

A co-op manager usually collects monthly maintenance fees; enforces covenants, conditions and restrictions; and makes sure the property is well kept.

As a shareholder, you become a voting manager of the building, and as such have a say in how the co-op is run and maintained. Residents generally vote on any decision that affects the building.

With a co-op, should you want to sell your shares, members of the board of directors will have to approve your new buyer. They will be much more involved than would be the case with a condo. That can make it a lengthy process.

Co-ops and condos are both common-interest communities, but their governing documents have different legal mechanisms that determine how they operate and can affect residents’ costs, control over their units, and even the feeling of community.

Some Pros & Cons of Co-Ops vs Condos

Financing

It’s important to drill down on the details of buying an apartment. Because you aren’t actually buying any real estate with a co-op, the price per square foot is usually lower than it would be for a condo. Eligibility for financing may depend on credit score, down payment, project analysis, minimum square footage of a unit, and more.

However, it might be somewhat harder to get a mortgage for a co-op than a condo, even if the bottom-line price is less. It might not have all that much to do with you. Some lenders are reluctant to underwrite a mortgage for a property on which they can’t foreclose.

Most condo associations don’t restrict lending or financing in the building. If you can get a mortgage, the condo association will usually let you buy a place.

Fees

Because a co-op’s monthly fee can include payments for the building’s underlying mortgage and property taxes as well as amenities, maintenance, security, and utilities, it’s usually higher than the monthly fee for a condo. Either way, though, generally the more perks that come with your unit, the more there is to maintain and in turn, the more you’re likely to pay.

If you’re concerned about an increase in fees, you might want to ask the association or board about any improvements that may lead to an increase in the future — and what the rules are for those who do not pay their assessed dues.

All of these factors are important to weigh when you’re making a home-buying checklist, which includes figuring out how much money you’ll need and the best financing strategy.

Taxes

If you itemize on your income tax return, you may be able to deduct the portion of a co-op’s monthly fee that goes to property taxes and mortgage interest. However, none of a condo’s monthly maintenance fee is tax deductible.

You might want to consult a tax professional about these nuances before moving forward with a co-op or condo purchase.

Privacy vs Community

If you’ve ever lived in one of those neighborhoods where the only time you saw your fellow residents was just before they pulled their cars into their garages, it could take you a while to adjust to cooperative or association living. Because you share ownership with your neighbors, you may be more likely to see them at meetings and other events. And you can trust that they’ll know who you are.

Co-op boards often require prospective buyers — who are potential shareholders — to provide substantial personal information before a purchase is approved, including personal tax returns, personal and business references, and in-person interviews.

You may find that you like the sense of community and that everyone knows and looks out for each other. Or you may not. Again, you might want to ask some questions about socialization and privacy while checking out a particular co-op or an active condo community.

Restrictions

In a co-op, you might run into more rules regarding how you can renovate or even decorate your unit. And don’t forget: You’ll also have to deal with that rigorous application approval process if you ever decide to sell.

Both condos and co-ops frequently have restrictions on renting your unit, how many people can stay overnight or park in the parking lot, the type of pets you can have and their size, and more. Before you look at a unit, you may want to ask your agent about covenants, conditions, and restrictions that could be difficult to handle.

The Takeaway

Whether you end up saying home sweet co-op or condo, ownership offers many benefits you won’t find in a rental. When you’re ready to start a serious search, take the time to look for a lender that will work with you on whatever type of loan you might require. In the co-op vs. condo terrain, there are specialists for both sides.

SoFi offers competitive options for home loans and refinancing, working with you to find the right fit for your financial needs. You can get prequalified online in just minutes, and you may be able to put as little as 5% down.

Check your rate on a SoFi mortgage today.


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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
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Hazard Insurance vs. Homeowners Insurance

If you’re a soon-to-be homeowner, your lender might mention that you’re required to purchase hazard insurance. You may be wondering, ‘is hazard insurance the same as homeowners insurance?’ In fact, hazard insurance is a part of your standard homeowner’s insurance policy.

Let’s look at the ins and outs of hazard insurance, including what it covers and what it doesn’t, and how much you can expect to pay for it.

Is Hazard Insurance the Same as Homeowners Insurance?

A common misconception is that hazard insurance is the same as homeowners insurance when, in fact, it’s a part of it. That’s because people sometimes refer to homeowners insurance as hazard insurance. You can think of it as a piece of fruit in a fruit and cheese basket — not the entire kit and caboodle.

Hazard insurance typically refers to the protection of the structure of your home and additional structures on the property (like a shed, deck or detached garage), whereas homeowners insurance as a whole also includes coverage for liability, additional living expenses, and personal belongings.

Recommended: Homeowners Insurance Coverage Options to Know

What Is Hazard Insurance?

Hazard insurance is part of homeowners insurance, and it typically covers the structure or dwelling, but not liability, personal belongings, or additional living expenses. Because it’s a part of a standard homeowners insurance policy, it cannot be purchased as a standalone policy. Rather, it’s folded into your homeowners insurance.

Hazard is oftentimes confused with catastrophic insurance, which is a standalone policy that covers against perils that aren’t included in a standard homeowners insurance policy, such as floods, earthquakes, and terrorist attacks.

What Does Hazard Insurance Cover?

Should there be damage to the actual structure of your home, the hazard insurance portion of your homeowners’ insurance policy will offer a payout. This usually includes damage or destruction to the actual building of your home from natural events, such as extreme weather or a natural disaster.

However, what specifically hazard insurance covers will depend on whether it’s a named perils or an open perils policy. Read on for more details on what those entail.

Named Perils

Named perils essentially means events, incidences, or risks that are “named” or “listed” under your plan as covered. In other words, if it’s not listed, then it’s not covered.

A named perils policy typically protects against 16 specific types of perils, including:

•  Windstorms or hail

•  Fire or lightning

•  Explosions

•  Riots or civil disruption

•  Smoke

•  Theft

•  Falling objects

•  Vandalism or malicious mischief

•  Damage caused by vehicles

•  Damage caused by aircraft

•  Damage from ice, snow or sleet

•  Volcanic eruption

•  Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from HVAC, a plumbing issue, a household appliance or a sprinkler system

•  Accidental cracking, tearing apart, burning or bulging of HVAC or a fire-protective system

•  Freezing of HVAC or a household appliance

•  Accidental damage from electrical current that is artificially generated

A homeowners insurance policy that is a named perils insurance policy is usually less expensive than an open perils policy.

Open Perils

While a named perils policy will only cover what’s listed in your policy, an open perils policy will provide coverage unless something is specifically excluded and noted as such in your policy.

Typical exclusions under an open perils policy include:

•  War

•  Nuclear hazard

•  Water damage from a sewer backup

•  Damage from pets

•  Power failure

•  Mold or fungus

•  Damage due to an infestation of animals or insects

•  Negligence and general wear and tear

•  Smog, rust or corrosion

An open perils policy tends to be for newer homes or homes in low-risk areas. Additionally, because an open perils homeowners insurance policy tends to be more comprehensive, they typically cost more compared to a named perils policy.

What Isn’t Covered by Hazard Insurance?

Now that we’ve looked at what hazard insurance may cover, here’s what typically isn’t covered.

Flood Coverage

Flood coverage isn’t part of a standard homeowners insurance policy, so you’ll need to take out a separate policy if you want it. In fact, if you live in an area that’s a designated high-risk flood zone, you may be required to take out flood insurance.

The cost of the policy generally hinges on how much of a risk your home is, which factors in your location, and the age of your home.

Earthquake Coverage

Earthquake coverage is another item that hazard insurance doesn’t offer, so if you live in an area that’s subject to earthquakes, you may want to get an earthquake insurance policy. This can either be tacked on to an existing policy as a rider or purchased separately.

When you purchase earthquake coverage, your home is usually protected against cracking and shaking that can damage or destroy buildings and personal possessions. But if there’s water or fire damage because of an earthquake, then that generally would be taken care of by a standard homeowners insurance policy.

How Much Does Hazard Insurance Cost?

As hazard insurance is part of a standard homeowners insurance policy, you won’t need to pay anything extra. According to the most recent data from the Insurance Information Institute (III), the average cost of a homeowners policy in the U.S. is $1,249.

Keep in mind that the cost can vary depending on a host of factors: the location of the home, the cost to rebuild, the size and structure of your home, your age, your credit score, your deductible and the type of policy and amount of coverage you desire.

Do You Need Hazard Insurance?

In short, yes. As you will need homeowners insurance if you are taking out a mortgage on your home, and hazard insurance is folded into homeowners insurance, then you’ll need hazard insurance.

When shopping around for hazard insurance, think about what is required by your mortgage lender, and what coverage amount would be suitable for your home and situation. Play around with different deductibles and coverage amounts to see how they would impact your premium, and don’t forget that discounts can also lower the cost of your insurance.

The Takeaway

Hazard insurance and homeowners insurance aren’t the same thing. Rather, hazard insurance refers specifically to coverage for the structure of your home and is an element of homeowners insurance. What your hazard insurance policy will cover depends on whether you have a named or open perils policy, though it generally won’t extend to damage from earthquakes or floods.

If you’re taking out a mortgage on your home, you’re generally required to get homeowners insurance — and, by extension, hazard insurance. SoFi has teamed up with Lemonade to make it easy to get homeowners insurance. Simply chat with Lemonade’s A.I. bot to get an insurance plan crafted for you, and then Lemonade will send a quote to your lender.

Check your price on homeowners insurance today.

Photo credit: iStock/MicroStockHub


External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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 offers customers the opportunity to reach the following Insurance Agents:

Home & Renters: Lemonade Insurance Agency (LIA) is acting as the agent of Lemonade Insurance Company in selling this insurance policy, in which it receives compensation based on the premiums for the insurance policies it sells.

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Do You Qualify as a First-Time Homebuyer?

A first-time homebuyer isn’t just someone purchasing a first home. It can be anyone who has not owned a principal residence in the past three years, some single parents, and others.

If the thought of a down payment and closing costs put a chill down your spine, realize that first-time homebuyers often have access to down payment assistance in the form of grants or low- or no-interest loans.

‘First-Time Homebuyer’ Under the Microscope

To get a sense of who qualifies for a mortgage as a first-time homebuyer, let’s take a look at the government’s definition.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says first-time buyers meet any of these criteria:

•   An individual who has not held ownership in a principal residence during the three-year period ending on the date of the purchase.

•   A single parent who has only owned a home with a former spouse.

•   An individual who is a displaced homemaker (has worked only in the home for a substantial number of years providing unpaid household services for family members) and has only owned a home with a spouse.

•   Both spouses if one spouse is or was a homeowner but the other has not owned a home.

•   A person who has only owned a principal residence that was not permanently attached to a foundation (such as a mobile home when the wheels are in place).

•   An individual who has owned a property that is not in compliance with state, local, or model building codes and that cannot be brought into compliance for less than the cost of constructing a permanent structure.

For conventional (nongovernment) financing through private lenders, Fannie Mae’s criteria are similar.

You can use our Home Affordability
Calculator to get an estimate of how
much house you can afford.

Options for First-Time Homebuyers

First-time homebuyers may not realize that they, like other buyers, may qualify to buy a home with much less than 20% down.

They also have access to programs that may ease the credit requirements of homeownership.

Federal Government-Backed Mortgages

When the federal government insures mortgages, the loans pose less of a risk to lenders, so lenders may offer you a lower interest rate.

There are three government-backed home loan options. In exchange for a low down payment, you’ll pay an upfront and annual mortgage insurance premium for FHA loans, an upfront guarantee fee and annual fee for USDA loans, or a one-time funding fee for VA loans.

FHA Loans

The Federal Housing Administration, part of HUD, insures fixed-rate mortgages issued by approved lenders . On average, more than 80% of FHA-insured mortgages are for first-time homebuyers each year.

If you have a FICO® credit score of 580 or higher, you could get an FHA loan with just 3.5% down. If you have a score between 500 and 579, you may still qualify for a loan with 10% down.

USDA Loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers assistance to buy (or, in some cases, even build) a home in certain rural areas. Your income has to be within a certain percentage of the average median income for the area.

If you qualify, the loan requires no down payment and offers a fixed interest rate.

The USDA has an interactive map to determine if a community is considered rural.

VA Loans

A mortgage guaranteed in part by the Department of Veterans Affairs requires no down payment and is available for military members, veterans, and certain surviving military spouses.

Although a VA loan does not state a minimum credit score, lenders who make the loan will set their minimum score for the product based on their risk tolerance.

Government-Backed Conventional Mortgages

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government-backed mortgage companies, do not originate home loans; they buy and guarantee mortgages issued through lenders in the secondary mortgage market.

They make mortgages available that are geared toward lower-income, lower-credit score borrowers.

Freddie Mac’s Home Possible program offers down payment options as low as 3%. There are also sweat equity down payment options and flexible terms.

Fannie Mae’s 97% LTV program also offers 3% down payment loans.

Fannie Mae’s HomePath Ready Buyer program offers first-time homebuyers the ability to buy foreclosed properties with as little as 3% down and help with closing costs.

A Mortgage for Certain Civil Servants

If you’re a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or EMT working for a federal, state, local, or Indian tribal government agency, or a teacher at a public or private school, the HUD-backed Good Neighbor Next Door program could be a good fit. It provides 50% off the listing price of a foreclosed home in specific revitalization areas. In turn, you have to commit to living there for 36 months.

Homes are listed on the HUD website each week, and you have to put an offer in within seven days.

Only a registered HUD broker can submit a bid for you on a property.

If using an FHA loan to buy a home in the Good Neighbor Next Door program, the down payment will be $100. If using a VA loan to purchase a house through the program, buyers will receive 100% financing. If using a conventional home loan, the usual down payment requirements stay the same.

State, County, and City Assistance

It isn’t just the federal government that helps to get first-time buyers into homes. State, county, and city governments and nonprofit organizations run many down payment assistance programs.

HUD is the gatekeeper, steering buyers to state and local programs and offering advice from HUD home assistance counselors.

The National Council of State Housing Agencies has a state-by-state list of housing finance agencies, which cater to low- and middle-income households. Contact the agency to learn about the programs it offers and to get answers to housing finance questions.

Using Gift Money

First-time homebuyers might also want to think about seeking down payment and closing cost help from family members.

If you’re using a cash gift, your lender will want a formal gift letter, and the gift cannot be a loan. Home loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac only allow down payment gifts from someone related to the borrower. Government-backed loans have looser requirements.

Want to use your 401(k) to make a down payment? You could, but financial advisors frown on the idea. Borrowing from your 401(k) can do damage to your retirement savings.

The Takeaway

First-time homebuyers are in the catbird seat if they don’t have much of a down payment or their credit isn’t stellar. Lots of programs, from local to federal, give first-time homeowners a break.

SoFi offers home loans with as little as 5% down. See how your rate and terms stack up against the competition.

It’s easy to find your rate.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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How to Pay for Emergency Home Repairs, So You Can Move on ASAP

A home’s mechanical systems, exterior features, and large appliances don’t last forever. Even with regular maintenance, sometimes an expensive-to-fix item will fail. So figuring out how to pay for emergency home repairs is something homeowners may want to think about before that emergency happens.

How Much Do Common Home Repairs Cost?

From roof to foundation, there are a lot of things in and on a home that might need to be repaired, and some of those things might be emergency home repairs at some point.

Roof

A home’s roof has a certain life expectancy, generally based on the material used. A roof made of asphalt shingles might last from 15 to 20 years, while a concrete or clay-tiled roof could last for more than 50 years.

Regular roof inspections are a good way to identify any minor problems, which may typically cost from $150 to $400. Minor repairs might include:

•   Gutter cleaning.

•   Patching leaks.

•   Replacing shingles.

•   Repairing flashing.

Major issues found during a roof inspection might cost up to $7,000. These could include:

•   Substantial water damage.

•   Chimney repair.

•   Sagging or shrinking roof.

•   Environmental issues, such as mold.

Replacing a roof, a major expense, may be necessary at some point in the life of a home. For an average-sized home, a completely new roof can cost $8,000 or more.

Foundation

Foundation issues can show up as cracks in a home’s walls, floors that are not level, gaps around windows, or doors that don’t close properly. Fixing these symptoms of a foundation issue won’t fix the underlying problem, but fixing the foundation at the earliest sign of the symptoms may mean a less costly foundation repair.

Hiring a structural engineer can be a good first step if there appear to be major foundation problems, as they won’t be trying to sell a product to fix any potential problems, so will likely be unbiased. A structural inspection can range from $300 to $600.

•   Cracks in a foundation that don’t affect the structure are minor repairs, but are best not ignored, lest they lead to major issues. Potential cost: between $250 and $800.

•   A leaking foundation might be the cause of those cracks. Waterproofing a foundation, which may involve excavating around the foundation, installing tile drains, filling cracks, and then coating the structure with a sealant, can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000.

•   A house with a settling or sinking foundation may have flooring that is warped or sloping, doors and windows that don’t open and close properly, or even exterior cracks, or other apparent issues. The cost generally depends on the type of repair. Raising a house using piers can cost between $1,000 and $3,000, while mudjacking might be between $500 and $1,300.

Water Damage

Water damage in a basement might be due to flooding from a storm or broken water line, for example, and is best fixed quickly so mold doesn’t grow and become another issue to take care of. In addition to being an unpleasant sight, standing water can cause structural or electrical issues in a home. Extraction of the water is generally the first step in this type of repair, followed by any necessary structural repairs.

•   For simple fixes, such as cleaning up after an overflowing toilet, the cost might be around $150.

•   To extract gray water, which is water from bathtubs, sinks, or washing machines, extraction and related repairs can cost $3,000 on average.

•   Water that contains fecal matter from sewage backups is called black water. This is the costliest type of repair because it poses a significant health hazard. The cost to extract black water and make related repairs can be as high as $20,000.

Mold

If the above water issues are not fixed in a timely manner, mold can grow on the surfaces, requiring additional necessary repairs. In addition to damaging any surface mold grows on, it’s also a serious health hazard, potentially causing allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and skin irritation. Mold remediation costs average between $1,500 and $3,000.

Pests and Rodents

Pests and rodents in a home can be more than just annoying. Infestations might cause major damage to a home if left untreated. One-time pest control costs around $250 to $350 on average. Ongoing services — sometimes monthly, quarterly, or annual recurring treatments — may cost from $50 to $400, depending on the frequency.

•   Damp areas can attract pests, such as cockroaches. The average cost for getting rid of them is $150 to $400, and it might take more than one visit to completely eradicate them.

•   Attics can be inviting spaces to rodents like mice, rats, or squirrels, or other animals such as raccoons or bats. Damage might be to woodwork, insulation, or wiring and cost between $150 and $400 to repair.

HVAC

A home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems control the regulation and movement of air throughout the building. Like other components in a home, it’s wise to have a HVAC system inspected regularly to catch any problems before they become serious. A standard tune-up for an HVAC system might start at $99, with any potential repairs added to that. Some companies might offer ongoing maintenance plans, which could be a cost saver over time.

•   Furnace repairs might be for a blower, ignitor, flame sensor, heat exchanger, circuit board, or valve. The cost can vary depending on the part and whether it can be repaired or if it needs to be replaced, and the labor charge for doing the repair. Simple repairs may be as little as $100, while more extensive part replacements can be as much as $1,500.

•   Like furnaces, air conditioners have a lot of individual parts, any of which might need to be repaired or replaced at some point. Capacitor replacement is a common air conditioning cost, and can range between $90 and $475. One of the more expensive costs is an air compressor replacement, which can be between $1,350 and $2,300. Costs will vary by model of the air conditioner and servicer.

Electrical

Electrical issues in a house can vary from minor repairs, such as replacing an outlet, to wiring overhauls that may require professional help.

•   Hiring an electrician to replace a home’s outlets can cost around $100 to $250. For someone who is confident in their DIY skills, this relatively simple job can be done for about $5 per outlet.

•   Replacing a circuit breaker or the entire electrical panel is something homeowners might leave to a professional. Costs will depend on the number of breakers being replaced or, in the case of replacing the electrical panel, how many amps. Circuit breaker replacement might cost about $50 per breaker. Panel replacement or upgrade can be anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000.

•   Rewiring a home can be quite expensive and include other repairs, such as plaster or drywall repair. To rewire an entire home, a homeowner might expect to pay between $3,000 and $8,000.

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Ways To Finance an Emergency Home Repair

Even with regular inspections and maintenance, sometimes emergency home repairs are necessary. Paying for these repairs might involve using a variety of sources, depending on what is available and a person’s individual financial circumstances.

Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners insurance may be the first source most homeowners look to when needing to pay for emergency home repairs. The policy will stipulate what is covered, how much the company will pay, and any amount the homeowner might be responsible for, such as a deductible. Some things a typical homeowners insurance policy might cover are costs to repair or rebuild after a disaster, replacement of personal belongings that were destroyed because of a disaster, or the costs of alternative housing while repairs are being made or a house is being rebuilt.

Emergency Fund

If there is a sufficient amount in an emergency fund, paying for an emergency home repair with cash on hand is an option that won’t incur interest. How much to save in a home repair emergency fund will depend on the home’s size, age, and value. Older or more expensive homes might mean higher repair costs.

A typical recommendation is to save between one and four percent of a home’s value in a home repair emergency fund. For a typical American home valued at just over $300,000, this means having between $3,000 and $12,000 saved for emergency home repairs. This is certainly a goal to work toward, but even $1,000 in savings can be helpful.

Home Equity

Homeowners who have built up equity in their home may choose to use that equity to pay for emergency home repairs. Using this type of financing, however, does come with some risk because the home is used as collateral. If the borrower defaults, the lender may seize the home as a way to repay the debt. There are two types of loans that are based on a home’s equity: home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).

A home equity loan is a fixed-rate, lump-sum loan. It has a set repayment term, and the borrower makes regular, fixed payments consisting of principal and interest.

A HELOC also uses the equity a homeowner has built up, but the borrower does not receive a lump sum, instead accessing the loan funds as needed until the loan term ends. Funds can be borrowed, repaid, and borrowed again, up to the limits of the loan. HELOCs are variable-rate loans and consist of two periods: a draw period and a repayment period. The draw period is the time during which money can be borrowed, and might be 10 years. The repayment period is the time during which the loan is repaid and might last for 20 years. The combination of the two would make this example a 30-year HELOC.

Assistance Programs

If emergency home repairs are required, but the homeowner can’t afford to pay for them, assistance programs might be an option to look into.

•   Government loan or grant assistance. The U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) , Agriculture (USDA) , and Veterans Affairs (VA) offer grants and loans to eligible homeowners for home repairs and improvements.

•   Disaster relief . HUD offers several programs for homeowners affected by federally declared disaster areas. HUD partners with other federal and state agencies to provide relief in the form of mortgage assistance, relocation, food distribution, and other types of disaster relief.

•   Community Assistance Programs. Funding assistance may be able to be found by looking at local sources, such as county or city governments or charities. A good place to start a search is through HUD’s state listings .

Credit Card

Using a credit card to finance emergency home repairs might be the first option some people think about. It can certainly be a quick way to pay for such repairs. There are pros and cons to using a credit card for this purpose.

If the credit card is a zero-percent-interest card — and the balance can be paid in full before the promotional period ends — this can be a way to pay for an emergency home repair without paying interest.

Credit cards are more likely to have high interest rates, though, which can add a significant amount to the account balance if not paid off quickly. Credit cards also come with borrowing limits. A major emergency home repair might max out this limit or even exceed it. Using all available credit can potentially have a negative effect on a borrower’s credit score.

Should I Get a Home Repair Loan?

Another option to pay for emergency home repairs might be a home repair loan, which is a type of personal loan.

•   An unsecured personal loan does not use collateral, like a home equity loan or HELOC, so the borrower is not risking losing their home if they can’t repay the loan. The potential loan value is also not limited by the amount of equity in the home.

•   An unsecured personal loan may be funded more quickly than a home equity loan or HELOC. Because there is no collateral to determine a value for, this cuts out a potentially time-consuming step included in secured loans.

•   Personal loans can be used for a variety of reasons, not just emergency home repairs. If there are expected repairs, planned repairs, or home renovations that might make a home more livable, an unsecured loan can be a good option.

Awarded Best Personal Loan of 2021 by Forbes.
Low, fixed rates starting at 4.99% APR with Autopay.

The Takeaway

It’s probably safe to say that nobody likes to think about emergencies. But it’s wise to be prepared in the event that one arises. If a personal loan is the option that works best for your financial situation, a SoFi Personal Loan might be one to consider.

Unsecured personal loans from SoFi have competitive interest rates, no fees, and terms that can work for a variety of budgets and financial needs.

Find your rate in just one minute.


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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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Should I Sell My House? Reasons to Sell (or Wait) in 2021

With the world having turned upside down over the past year, you may be taking stock of your life and considering major life choices.

Should I change my job?
Should we have another kid?
Should I sell my house and move to another town?

Any large life event is one that should be carefully considered. In this article, we’ll look at whether now is a good time to sell your house by breaking down reasons to sell — and reasons to wait.

Examining the Housing Market in 2021

The coronavirus pandemic brought an unprecedented demand for housing as more people needed houses that would accommodate the shift to working from home as well as kids attending school at home. Also, historically low interest rates contributed to the sudden demand in housing.

Larger homes in the suburbs became a hot commodity, which raised the pricing for homes nationwide. The median house price rose 14.9% from August 2020 to August 2021. While the initial price hike has cooled a bit, experts believe that prices will still remain higher than normal through 2022.

So to summarize: houses have been selling like hotcakes throughout the pandemic. This could provide a good opportunity to sell your house in some situations…but if you’re selling so you can buy another house, there’s more to dig into in order to answer the question, “should I sell my house now?”

Recommended: Local Housing Market Trends by City

3 Reasons to Sell Your House

Now could be the smartest time to sell your house, depending on your specific situation. Here are some compelling reasons to sell your house in 2021.

Reason #1: Your House is Worth More Now

As you saw above, houses are now worth significantly more than they were a year ago. This isn’t the norm. If you wait to sell your house, you might see it go down in value from where it is now once demand cools. Do you want to take advantage of this rare opportunity or wait it out?

If, due to the spike in value, you have significant equity built in your home, it could be a great time to cash out and buy something else.

Recommended: How Much is My House Worth?

Reason #2: A Few Minor Repairs Could Increase Value

Even though your home is already likely worth more than it ever has been, you can even get more value out of it if you make common home repairs like replacing pipes or a water heater.

Also consider revamping your kitchen or bathrooms, since those are big influencers for people looking for a new home. Even a fresh coat of paint can breathe new life into your home and make it all the more appealing on an already hot market.

Reason #3: Houses are Selling Fast

Looking to sell quickly? Now’s the time. Houses have, on average, only been on the market for 17 days before selling. Just be prepared to have to move out quickly and make sure you have a plan for where you’ll live next.

3 Reasons You Should Wait to Sell Your House

While there are some great reasons to sell your home right now, it may not be the right time for everyone. Here’s why you might want to wait.

Reason #1: You Can’t Afford to Buy

Selling in a seller’s market is great…but not so great if you need to buy another house, especially if you’re staying in the same area. Buying a house may be cost-prohibitive for you, especially when you factor in closing costs on top of the inflated pricing.

On the other hand, if you live in an expensive area, you could sell your home and move to another more affordable state.

Reason #2: You Owe More Than You Could Sell For

If you are upside down on your mortgage, selling won’t provide a solution. You may have taken out a second mortgage or not have paid enough on your first mortgage to recoup the expense by selling, even at an inflated price. That means you would still owe money on a house you no longer live in after selling.

If this is the case, it may be better to build equity over time before selling.

Reason #3: You’re Not Ready to Make Home Repairs

While making home repairs before selling could help you get more for your home, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have $30,000 laying around to make those improvements. If you know that certain repairs would help you get more for your house but you can’t afford to make them right now, it may be better to wait to sell until you can afford to invest in those home improvements down the road.

Tips for Selling (and Buying) a Home

Before coming up with your own answer to the question of “should I sell my house,” figure out how much you can afford to pay to buy another. If you can only afford a house that’s smaller than your current one, or in a neighborhood, you don’t want to live in, there’s not much point in selling only to end up worse off.

Look at comparables to understand how much homes are selling for in your neighborhood. Go to open houses to see what sort of updates and features sellers are offering so you have an idea of what to do to get your own house ready for sale.

Contemplate being represented by a real estate agent and doing it yourself. With the market so hot right now, you likely won’t need much in the way of promoting your home, and there are some great DIY sites that can cut down on the fees you pay to sell.

If you’re selling the house on your own, invest in professional photos rather than taking your own, and get the house staged (that means more than just removing all the toys and dog beds before a showing!). The better you present your home, the better the price you can command.

Remain patient if you’re also buying. It can feel frustrating to be outbid for what seems like the house of your dreams, but it’s a reality right now. Don’t force a decision — the right house will find you.

Recommended: Home Affordability Calculator

The Takeaway

Selling your house this year could be a smart financial decision, but it’s important to make sure you’re looking at the bigger picture with your finances.

SoFi Relay lets you keep track of your spending, create budgets, and set goals for what matters — like buying your next house. Get started today.

Ready to get set to buy your next house? SoFi’s Relay can help.

Photo credit: iStock/AlexSecret


SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
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Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

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7 Important Factors That Affect Property Value

There are a number of factors that affect house prices, from the age, condition, location and size of your home, to broader factors like the economy and current interest rates. If you’re thinking about putting your house on the market, it’s important to know what determines property value so you can ensure you get the most out of what’s likely your largest asset.

Read on to learn more about the main factors that make property value increase and how you can figure out how much your home is worth.

Factors that Affect Home and Real Estate Value

Factor #1: Location

There’s a reason everyone will tell you that real estate is about location, location, location — it’s true. When it comes to factors that affect property value, location is one of the biggest determinants.

Keep in mind that while your home’s location works for you, others will have their own criteria. For example, how good are the schools in the area? Is shopping and entertainment accessible? What are property taxes like in the neighborhood? Is it a long commute to downtown or wherever many jobs may be?

Factor #2: Size

Size often isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, but it’s nearly so when it comes to what determines property value. Square footage plays a big role when it comes to house prices. For example, if the median price per square foot in the U.S. is $123, you’ll be getting more for a house that’s 4,000 square feet than one that’s 2,000 square feet.

It also matters how much of the space in your house is actually usable. Spaces like unfinished garages and basements as well as attics typically won’t boost your home’s value even if they do tack a lot onto the total square footage. What will matter in terms of square footage are areas like bedrooms and bathrooms.

Factor #3: Real Estate Comparables

You’re supposed to love thy neighbor, but you might give them the side-eye if their home is not well-maintained and becomes a drag on the desirability of your street as well as on home prices. When it comes to home values, your neighbors are critical. If their homes are being highly sought by buyers, you’ll likely benefit from the popularity of the area.

The word to know here is comps, or comparable homes in your area that have sold in the last 12 months. These are part of what realtors and home appraisers rely on when estimating how much your home is worth.

Factor #4: Age

While it may be frowned upon to ask someone their age, it’s an essential detail when it comes to home buying. If you’re dealing with a home that has a few decades in the rear-view mirror, you’ll have to do some math. How soon might the roof and other major systems need to be replaced or upgraded? That can affect the price someone is willing to pay, as they might want to pay less if they’re anticipating needing to shell out money for those repairs.

A house that is less than 10 years old — and even better if it’s less than five — can command more money because the buyer has a certain amount of confidence that repair bills shouldn’t be on the immediate horizon. They expect they’ll have time to sock away cash for when that day eventually arrives.

Factor #5: Condition

If your home isn’t in tiptop shape, don’t expect to bring in the big bucks. In fact, if you have the luxury of time, it might behoove you to make any necessary repairs and do any upgrades and updates before you put your house on the market so you can maximize the chances it will get set at a higher price. Consider the cost of home improvements an investment.

At the same time, you don’t want to get too carried away here, as it is possible that you won’t be able to recoup all that you spent. Do just enough so that you might be able to squeak out some profit when you sell. While it varies by region of the country and other factors, a 2021 survey by Remodeling Magazine found that projects that can pay off include a garage door replacement, manufactured stone veneer and a minor kitchen remodel. Some of the less profitable projects included an upscale bathroom addition and an upscale master suite addition.

Factor #6: The Economy

You could have crossed all your t’s and dotted all your i’s — your home is attractive inside and out and you’re in a great location. Trouble is, if the economy is less than stellar, you could be stuck until it swings back into positive territory. If people are uncertain and feeling insecure due to the economy, they may decide to delay major life changes, such as buying a home. Or, if they do move forward, they may be looking for bargains, which is a downer for you.

Your local economy and market figure also into the equation. It’s about supply and demand. If there is a shortage of available housing in your area and tons of potential buyers on the hunt, you could capitalize big time on a hot market — think bidding wars and selling your home faster than you could have imagined.

Factor #7: Interest Rates

When interest rates are at the historic lows, as they have been in recent times, it’s an incentive to buy. This is because doing so can be dramatically less expensive. On the flipside, when interest rates tick upward, fewer people may be able to home shop because it’s more costly. If demand slows, the price you can command may dip as well.

How to Check What Your Home Is Worth

Get an appraiser: One way to check how much your home is worth is to get an appraiser, someone who is licensed or certified by the state, to conduct a home appraisal. The appraiser will review your home from top to bottom and compare it to other homes in the area and beyond to determine its fair market value.

Make a list of comparables: You could also go dig up property comparables on your own. For example, you can call real estate agents with homes in escrow to learn the sales prices. There are also several websites that could give you valuable insight on your home’s value, including Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, Realtor.com and Eppraisal, among others.

Use an HPI calculator: Another option is to use a house price index (HPI) calculator , which uses data from mortgage transactions over time to estimate a home’s value. The calculator makes projections based on the purchase price of the home and the changing value of other homes nearby. This tool is ideal for seeing how much a house has appreciated over time and any estimated future changes in mortgage rates.

The Takeaway

Knowing what factors impact your home’s value is like knowing how much money you have in the bank. Determine where you may have weaknesses so you can make the necessary adjustments to get the maximum value for your home when you go to sell.

If you need to save up to make some necessary repairs and upgrades before you put your home on the market, a tool like SoFi Relay can help you finesse your budget accordingly.

See how SoFi Relay can help you get the most out of your finances.

Photo credit: iStock/terng99


External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
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Source: sofi.com

What Hurts a Home Appraisal?

When it comes to what hurts a home appraisal, some of the main factors include updates that were needed but weren’t made, comparable properties, your home’s location and whether you hired an inspector to flag any issues or necessary repairs. By getting out ahead of the factors within your control before an appraisal, you may get a more favorable answer to the all-important question of what your house is really worth.

The more you know and understand about the home appraisal process, the better. Here’s a crash course of sorts on the process and what negatively affects home appraisal.

A Primer on Home Appraisals

A home appraisal reveals the fair market value of a home, which is important whether you’re buying, selling or refinancing a mortgage. An appraisal can also be used to determine property taxes. Lenders require appraisals because they ensure that the lender won’t offer you a loan that’s more than what the home is worth.

So, what do appraisers look for when they do a home appraisal? A real estate appraiser, who is a third party licensed or certified by the state, will review a home inside and out, looking at a home’s age, size, foundation, appliances and neighborhood, among other things. They will then compare the house to other comparable homes in the area to assess its value.

An appraisal is usually required by a lender when a buyer is getting a mortgage or when someone is refinancing their mortgage. If an appraisal is for a home sale, neither the buyer nor the homeowner can be present. When someone is refinancing, on the other hand, the homeowner is permitted to attend. That no doubt is a plus as it’s an opportunity for the homeowner to ensure the appraiser takes note of any upgrades and new features that could increase their home’s worth.

Things That Can Hurt Your Home Appraisal

Much hinges on the appraisal, so you’ll want it to go as smoothly as possible. Start by knowing what hurts a home appraisal so you can avoid any hiccups that could prevent you from getting the highest value for your home.

1. Much-Needed Updates That Never Happened

If you’ve been putting off any needed upgrades, this is when it could come back to bite you. Let’s say you’ve been meaning to renovate your kitchen and somehow just didn’t get around to it. A kitchen that looks pretty much like it did 30 years ago isn’t going to wow anybody, least of all an appraiser who will wonder what else is in decline.

While it can be helpful to take care of some common home upgrades that can net you a return on your investment, you don’t necessarily want to go crazy updating either. Not only could it be tougher to recoup all the money you put into home improvements, you may find that while you love the changes you’ve made, your taste may not have universal appeal. It’s a delicate balance to make upgrades that will get two thumbs up from the appraiser and the potential buyers.

2. Comparable Properties

When it comes to housing, you do kind of have to keep up with the Joneses. With appraisals, it’s all about sales of comparable homes over the last 12 months. What are homes similar to yours on your street or a few blocks over selling for? If they are getting top dollar that will push up the price of your home. On the flip side, if those homes are hanging around on the market for months and selling at prices below expected, that could put a drag on what you can get for yours.

Comparable sales help determine the market, which is why both your real estate and your appraiser will look at them. Ideally, the appraiser, as much as possible, is comparing apples to apples so you get a fair appraisal. The other properties should be similar in size, age and amenities, among other factors. It’s a losing proposition for you if the appraiser goes for the extreme, say a house that sold at a bargain because someone was in a hurry to bail for whatever reason.

3. Skipping a Home Inspection

When it comes to your house, ignorance is not bliss. While you may know when you need to make a repair to a leaky roof, for instance, there can be plenty wrong that’s not obvious to you. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a home inspection before you put your house on the market.

A home inspector can suss out all manner of malfunctions that could be plaguing your house, particularly things you may be clueless about. If you get bad news, think of it as good news since you’ll now have the opportunity to make necessary home repairs before you put your house on the market and an appraiser comes with a magnifying glass of sorts looking for signs of trouble.

4. An Undesirable Location

Few things matter more in real estate than location. If you’re in a neighborhood that’s seen as flawed or your house is on a busy or noisy street, that could all come into play when it comes to the value of your property.

Location also counts within your home. If your layout is dated — say it’s old-fashioned and highly compartmentalized instead of today’s more in-demand open layout concepts — that could be less attractive to buyers. Or, they might only be interested in knocking down walls and reconfiguring the space, which likely means they’ll want to pay less for the house if they are going to have put money into it to bring it in line with what they’re looking for.

4 Ways to Prevent Low Home Appraisals

Just like there are some things you can get out ahead of before they hurt your home appraisal, there are also some moves you can make to prevent your home appraisal coming in lower than you’d like.

1.   Hire your own appraiser: Typically, the lender hires the appraiser. However, there’s no reason you can’t hire your own appraiser before the sale. Your realtor should have a handle on someone who is experienced and has a reputation for giving fair estimates. You then can ask the buyer or lender’s appraiser to review what your appraiser produced.

2.   Provide records: If you have records of repairs and upgrades that’s the kind of proof that works in your favor. It also doesn’t hurt to have documentation like photos — before and afters aren’t just for an Instagram post of your new haircut.

3.   Prepare for the appraiser’s visit: Don’t dismiss the importance of maintaining curb appeal. Your home should be clean inside and outside before the appraiser comes over. Strive to get as close to an interior design catalog as you can.

4.   Dig up property comparables on your own: You don’t have to leave it to the appraiser and real estate agents to do all the homework. Go the extra mile and consider calling real estate agents with homes in escrow to get the sales prices. Create a list that you can pass along to the appraiser.

Checking Your Home Value Without an Appraisal

You can get a sense of what your home is worth even if you don’t get an appraisal. There are several websites that can give you valuable insight into your home’s potential value, including Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, Realtor.com and Eppraisal, among others.

Another option is to use a house price index (HPI) calculator , which relies on data from mortgage transactions over time to estimate a home’s value. Projections are based on both the purchase price of the home and the changing value of other homes nearby. This tool can help you see how much a house has appreciated over time. You’ll also get a glimpse of estimated future changes in mortgage rates.

The Takeaway

Because your home is likely your biggest asset, it’s worth putting the time and effort into the appraisal process. The payoff could be huge if you tend to the major factors that hurt an appraisal or get proactive about preventing a low appraisal.

If you’re worried about budgeting for any necessary updates or repairs, a tool like SoFi Relay can help you track your spending in different categories.

Stay on top of your budget as you get your house appraisal ready.

Photo credit: iStock/ucpage


Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
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Source: sofi.com

Understanding Property Valuations

If you’re applying for a mortgage, you probably expect the lender to take a look at your income, debt, credit history, employment, and assets.

There’s another loan element the lender will consider that may be less familiar: an objective property valuation.

What Is a Property Valuation?

Sellers may use a property valuation to determine how much their house is worth and how much they can charge on the open market.

A mortgage lender’s property valuation is slightly different. It helps the lender determine the value of the property you’re hoping to buy based on factors like size, location, condition, and demand.

Why would lenders require this type of home appraisal? They want to know that the loans they offer are backed by a sufficiently valuable property so that if a borrower were to default on the loan, they can recoup their losses.

Consider this: Sellers can choose any listing price they want — whatever they think someone is willing to pay. But if the buyer needs financing, the selling price must be supported by market value (what comparable homes have recently sold for in the area) before a lender will pony up the cash for a loan.

If the home you want to buy is appraised for less than the sales price, the seller would need to lower the price to the appraised value, you would have to make up the difference, or you’d exit the deal.

Who Carries Out a Property Valuation?

A lender’s property valuation typically will be carried out by a professional appraiser assigned by a third party.

The lender, buyer, and seller are not to have any relationship with the appraiser so that the valuation is unbiased. Buyers can hire an independent appraiser, but the valuation would not be official.

The kind of valuation required by lenders depends on factors such as the type of home you’re looking to buy, the type of loan you’re applying for, your credit score, and whether you’re buying a single-family or multifamily home.

Home Appraisals, Explained

The most common kind of property valuation is an appraisal.

How Does a Home Appraisal Work?

An appraisal is an independent estimate of the home’s value by a licensed or certified real estate appraiser.

Appraisers weigh factors like location, the condition of the home, size and layout, the year it was built, and any renovations that have been done. They also consider “comps” — what similar homes in the neighborhood recently sold for — tax records, and zoning.

The appraisal will determine a market value that is either “as is” or “subject to” certain conditions, such as completion of repairs or upgrades.

Lenders rely on the appraiser’s market value to come up with the loan-to-value ratio of a property, which influences the amount they’re willing to lend and the terms of the loan.

When Does an Appraisal Happen and What Does It Cost?

The federal government no longer requires appraisals for homes that cost less than $400,000, allowing simpler evaluations to stand in their place. That said, most mortgage lenders probably will still require an appraisal.

The appraisal typically occurs once the seller has accepted an offer and is normally performed within the loan contingency date of the purchase contract, usually 21 days.

The buyer pays for the appraisal ordered through the lender. The cost depends on the type of property, city, size, and features, but for a single-family home it averages $348, according to a national survey from HomeAdvisor, an online platform for home services professionals.

A desktop appraisal may cost much less than that.

What If You Get a Low Appraisal?

If the appraised value is as much as the agreed-upon price or more, that encourages the lender to move forward with the home loan, assuming that the other aspects of the property and your application are in order.

If the appraisal comes in under the agreed-upon price, the lender may reduce the amount of the loan it’s willing to offer.

You or the sellers can dispute the appraisal with the lender or ask for a second appraisal. If the value is still too low, there are three routes:

•   You can agree to contribute the difference in cash.

•   You can try to get the seller to reduce the price.

•   You and the seller may agree to split the difference.

Buyers can back out of the deal if the contract includes an appraisal contingency. A clean offer, one with as few contingencies as possible, caught on in the recent hot market, but buyers take risks in dropping contingencies.

Alternatives to a Full Home Appraisal

In certain situations or stages of the homebuying process, you may not need to go through a full formal home appraisal. Here are some alternative methods lenders use for home valuations.

Automated Valuation Model

Algorithms take into account the size of the home, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, comps, and other factors to estimate property value.

Some lenders of conventional mortgages using Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac’s automated underwriting systems may receive a waiver for a full appraisal, thanks to robust sales in the neighborhood to support the purchase price, the amount of the down payment, strength of the borrower, or the type of transaction.

Some lenders also use automated valuation models when deciding whether to extend or adjust a home equity line of credit.

Drive-by or Exterior-Only Appraisal

A drive-by appraisal (also known as a summary appraisal) refers to an inspection that only looks at the exterior of a home. The appraiser will photograph the front and sides of the home, as well as the street in both directions.

The appraiser takes notes on the neighborhood and the condition of the home and looks at comps when coming up with an estimated value.

Desktop Appraisal

Never having to leave the desk, an appraiser uses property tax records, comps, and other public record data in lieu of a physical property inspection.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency made desktop appraisals, implemented in March 2020 amid lockdowns and social distancing, permanent for purchase loans starting in early 2022.

That means both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow appraisals to be conducted remotely.

Broker Price Opinion

A broker price opinion is an estimate of a property’s value determined by a real estate agent or broker, rather than a licensed appraiser. A client may request this estimate to underpin a home’s listing price.

A lender may request a broker price opinion when a borrower is behind on payments, and will use the unofficial assessment to see whether the home value is below the amount of the loan, potentially making the borrower eligible to negotiate a short sale.

Broker price opinions can also be used to buy and sell mortgages on the secondary market. Lenders prefer them in these cases because a full appraisal isn’t required, and because the valuations are fast and generally less costly.

The Takeaway

An unbiased professional appraiser determines real estate valuation based on factors like home size, condition, location, and comparable sales. When big money is at stake, a lender needs to determine the true property valuation.

Before you get to the home valuation stage, the first steps to becoming a homeowner may be getting prequalified and preapproved for a mortgage loan.

SoFi offers home loans with as little as 5% down, competitive rates, and flexible terms.

It’s quick and easy to find your rate on a SoFi mortgage.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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

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

Using a Coborrower on Your Loan

Qualifying for a loan is sometimes easier said than done. Just because you need a mortgage to buy your first home, or a personal loan to consolidate and pay off credit card debt, doesn’t mean a lender is going to magically understand and give you the exact loan and interest rate you want.

Thankfully, if you’re struggling to qualify for a loan, you might be able to ask a friend or family member to step in to help. If they agree, essentially, you leverage their income, credit score, and financial history to help you get a loan that’s right for you.

The downside is that this type of borrowing (as in, borrowing money with another person) can get a little jargon heavy. “Coborrower,” “co-applicant,” and “cosigner” are all terms that are going to come up. Let’s dive into the details.

What is a Coborrower?

A loan coborrower basically takes on the loan with you. Their name will be on the loan with yours, making them equally responsible for paying back the loan. They will also have part-ownership of whatever this loan buys — for example, a coborrower will own half of the home if you take out a mortgage together.

Spouses, for example, might coborrow when buying property, or if they are taking out a home improvement loan for a remodel. You and your coborrower may qualify for a larger loan or better loan terms than if you were to take out a loan solo, and this way you both own the investment and are equally responsible for loan payments.

Another quick piece of jargon: A co-applicant is the person applying for the loan with you. Once the loan is approved, the co-applicant becomes the coborrower.

Coborrower vs. Cosigner

A cosigner, on the other hand, plays a slightly different role than that of a coborrower.

A cosigner’s financial history and credit score is factored into the loan decision, and their positive financial history can be a boon to the primary applicant’s loan application. But they do not have ownership of any property the loan might be used to purchase, they do not receive any loan proceeds, and would only help make your loan payments if you were unable to make them.

Cosigning helps to assure lenders that someone will be able to pay back the loan. Typically, a cosigner with a stronger financial history than you have, which can help you get a loan you might not qualify for on your own (or for better terms than you may qualify for on your own). Lenders might be more comfortable lending to you if your cosigner has a strong credit score and a dependable income, but loan underwriting criteria (that is, the personal financial factors used to determine who gets a loan at what rates and terms) differ from lender to lender.

For an example, let’s go back to our hypothetical home-buying experience. A parent with a strong credit history might cosign their child’s mortgage, allowing the child to get a lower interest rate on their home loan than they would have on their own. The parent wouldn’t own the home, but they would have to make mortgage payments if their child couldn’t.

Benefits of a Coborrower

Having a coborrower can help two people who both want to achieve a financial goal — like homeownership or buying a new car — put in a stronger application than they might have on their own. Because the lender will have double the financial history to consider (and two borrowers to rely on when it comes to repayment), the loan is a potentially less risky prospect for them, which could translate to more favorable terms.

Basically, having a coborrower has the potential to improve the borrowing power for both partners involved — whereas having a cosigner is generally more beneficial to the primary applicant than it is for the cosigner.

When Does Having a Coborrower Make Sense?

Applying with a coborrower makes the most sense when you’re working as a team toward some financial objective. Spouses buying a house together is a common example, but a joint personal loan with a partner might also be considered in order to fund home improvements or consolidate debt to get your finances in better shape before getting married. Business partners also sometimes coborrow loans to help get their ventures up and running.

Many companies, including SoFi, now allow qualified individuals to coborrow on personal loans. That means you and your coborrower (whether they’re your spouse, friend, or a member of your family) may be able to qualify for an even better interest rate and fund your financial goals that much more easily.

The Takeaway

It’s a big decision to take out a loan, so it may be a good idea to make sure both coborrowers are 100% ready to take on this financial commitment. Both of you will be responsible for making monthly loan payments.

Thinking about coborrowing on a personal loan? Check out your rate on a SoFi Personal Loan in minutes.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
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Source: sofi.com

What Is a Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a loan that allows homeowners to turn part of their home equity into cash. Available to people 62 and older, a reverse mortgage can be set up and paid out as a lump sum, a monthly payment or a line of credit, which can then be used to fund home renovations, consolidate debt, pay off medical expenses or simply improve one’s lifestyle.

While older Americans, particularly retiring baby boomers, have increasingly drawn on this financial tool, reverse mortgages aren’t for everyone. We’ll dive further into the question of what is a reverse mortgage, as well as explore their pros and cons and alternatives you might consider.

How Does a Reverse Mortgage Work?

Usually when people refer to a reverse mortgage, they mean a federally insured home equity conversion mortgage (HECM). That being said, there are two other types of reverse mortgages — we’ll cover those reverse mortgage meanings in more depth below.

To qualify for an HECM, all owners of the home must be 62 or older and have paid off their home loan or have a considerable amount of equity. Borrowers must use the home as their primary residence or live in one of the units if the property is a two- to four-unit home. Certain condominium units and manufactured homes are also allowed. The borrower cannot have any delinquent federal debt. Plus, the following will be verified before approval:

•   Income, assets, monthly living expenses and credit history

•   On-time payment of real estate taxes, plus hazard and flood insurance premiums, as applicable

The reverse mortgage amount you qualify for is determined based on the lesser of the appraised value or the HECM mortgage loan limit (the sales price for HECM to purchase), the age of the youngest borrower or the age of an eligible non-borrowing spouse and current interest rates. Generally, the older you are and the more your home is worth, the higher your reverse mortgage amount could be, depending on other eligibility criteria.

The reverse mortgage loan and interest do not have to be repaid until the last surviving borrower dies, sells the house or moves out permanently. In some cases, a non-borrowing spouse may be able to remain in the home.

Loan Costs

An HECM loan may include several charges and fees, such as:

•   Mortgage insurance premiums

◦   Upfront fee (2% of the home’s appraised value or the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) lending limit, whichever is less)

◦   Annual fee (0.5% of the outstanding loan balance)

•   Third-party charges (an appraisal fee, surveys, inspections, title search, title insurance, recording fees and credit checks)

•   Origination fee (the greater of $2,500 or 2% of the first $200,000 of the home value, plus 1% of the amount over $200,000; the origination fee cap is $6,000)

•   Servicing fee (up to $30 per month if the loan interest rate is fixed or adjusted; if the interest rate can adjust monthly, up to $35 per month)

•   Interest

Your lender can let you know which of the above fees are mandatory. Many of the costs can be paid out of the loan proceeds, meaning you wouldn’t have to pay them out of pocket. However, financing the loan costs reduces how much money will be available for your needs.

The servicing fee noted above is a cost you could incur from the lender or agent who services the loan and verifies that real estate taxes and hazard insurance premiums are kept current, sends you account statements and disburses loan proceeds to you.

What Is the Most Common Kind of Reverse Mortgage?

The most common type of reverse mortgage is the HECM, or home equity conversion mortgage, which can also be used later in life to help fund long-term care. HECM reverse mortgages are made by private lenders but are governed by rules set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The current loan limit is $822,375.

To qualify for this kind of reverse mortgage loan, you must meet with an HECM counselor, which you can find through the HUD site. When you meet with the counselor, they may cover eligibility requirements, potential financial ramifications of the loan and when the loan would need to be paid back, including circumstances under which the outstanding amount would become immediately due and payable. The counselor may also share alternatives.

The reverse mortgage loan generally needs to be paid back if the borrower moves to another home for a majority of the year or to a long-term care facility for more than 12 consecutive months, and if no other borrower is listed on the loan.

However, a new HUD policy offers protections to a non-borrowing spouse when a partner moves into long-term care. The non-borrowing spouse may remain in the home as long as they continue to occupy the home as a principal residence, is still married and was married at the time the reverse mortgage was issued to the spouse listed on the reverse mortgage.

In 2021, HUD also removed the major remaining impediment to a non-borrowing spouse who wanted to stay in the home after the borrower’s death. Now they will no longer have to provide proof of “good and marketable title or a legal right to remain in the home,” which often meant a probate filing and had forced many spouses into foreclosure.

Two Other Types of Reverse Mortgages

The information provided so far answers the questions “What is a reverse mortgage?” and “How do reverse mortgages work?” for HECMs, but there are also two other kinds: the single-purpose reverse mortgage and the proprietary reverse mortgage.

Here’s more information about each of them.

Single-Purpose Reverse Mortgage

This loan is offered by state and local governments and nonprofit agencies. It’s the least expensive option, but the lender determines how the funds can be used. For example, the loan might be approved to catch up on property taxes or to make necessary home repairs.

Check with the organization giving the loan for specifics about costs, as they can vary.

Proprietary Reverse Mortgage

If a home is appraised at a value that exceeds the maximum for an HECM ($822,375), a homeowner could pursue a proprietary reverse mortgage.

Counseling may be required before obtaining one of these loans, and a counselor can help a homeowner decide between an HECM and a proprietary loan.

Typically, proprietary reverse mortgages can only be cashed out in a lump sum. The costs can be substantial and interest rates higher. This type of reverse mortgage, unlike an HECM, is not federally insured, so lenders tend to approve a lower percentage of the home’s value than they would with an HECM.

One cost a borrower wouldn’t have to pay with a proprietary mortgage: upfront mortgage insurance or the monthly premiums. In some cases, the costs associated with this type of mortgage may cause a homeowner to decide to sell the home and buy a new one.

Pros and Cons of Reverse Mortgages

Reverse Mortgages: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons

•   No monthly payments

•   Flexibility on how you get money

•   Can pay back the loan whenever you want

•   The money counts as a loan, not as income

•   An HECM can be used to buy a new primary residence

•   Rates can be higher than traditional mortgage rates

•   Generally requires reducing your home equity

•   Must keep up with property taxes, insurance, repairs and any association dues

•   Interest accrued isn’t deductible until it’s actually paid

If you’re nearing retirement, it’s easy to see why reverse mortgages are appealing. Here are some of their pros:

•   Unlike most loans, you don’t have to make any monthly payments. The HECM loan can be used for anything, whether that’s debt, health care, daily expenses or buying a vacation home (although this is not true for the single-purpose variety).

•   How you get the money from an HECM is flexible. You can choose whether to get a lump sum, monthly disbursement, line of credit or some combination of the three.

•   You can pay back the loan whenever you want, even if that means waiting until you’re ready to sell the house. If the home is sold for less than the amount owed on the mortgage, borrowers may not have to pay back more than 95% of the home’s appraised value because the mortgage insurance paid on the loan covers the remainder.

•   The money from a reverse mortgage counts as a loan, not as income. As a result, payments are not subject to income tax. Social Security and Medicare also are not affected.

•   An HECM can be used to buy a new primary residence. You’d make a down payment and then finance the rest of the purchase with the reverse mortgage.

Then again, here are some cons of reverse mortgages to consider:

•   Reverse mortgage interest rates can be higher than traditional mortgage rates. The added cost of mortgage insurance also applies, and, like most mortgage loans, there are origination and third-party fees you will be responsible for paying, as described above.

•   Taking out a reverse mortgage generally means reducing the equity in your home. That can mean leaving less for those who might inherit your house.

•   You’ll need to keep up property taxes and insurance, repairs and any association dues. If you don’t pay insurance or taxes, or if you let your home go into disrepair, you risk defaulting on the reverse mortgage, which means the outstanding balance could be called as immediately “due and payable.”

•   Interest accrued on a reverse mortgage isn’t deductible until it’s actually paid (usually when the loan is paid off). And a deduction of mortgage interest may be limited.

Alternatives to Reverse Mortgages

A reverse mortgage payout depends on the borrower’s age, the value of their home, the mortgage interest rate and loan fees, as well as whether they choose a lump sum, line of credit, monthly payment or a combination of those options.

If the payout will not provide financial stability that allows an individual to age in place, there are other ways to tap into cash, including:

Cash-out refi: If you meet credit and income requirements, you may be able to borrow up to 80% of your home’s value with a cash-out refinance of an existing mortgage. Closing costs are involved, but this product lets you turn home equity into cash and possibly lock in a lower interest rate.

Personal loan: A personal loan could provide a lump sum without diminishing the equity in your home. This kind of loan does not use your home as collateral. It’s generally a loan for shorter-term purposes.

Home equity line of credit (HELOC): A HELOC, based in part on your home equity, provides access to cash in case you need it but requires interest payments only on the money you actually borrow. Some lenders will waive or reduce closing costs if you keep the line open for at least three years. HELOCs usually have a variable interest rate.

Home equity loan: A fixed-rate home equity loan allows you to borrow a lump sum based on your home’s market value, minus any existing mortgages. You make a monthly principal and interest payment each month. Again, lenders may reduce or waive closing costs if you keep the loan for, usually, at least three years.

The Takeaway

A reverse mortgage may make sense for some older people who need to supplement their cash flow. But many factors must be considered, including the youngest homeowner’s age, home value, equity, loan rate and costs, heirs and payout type. As retirees are weighing the pros and cons, remember there are other options.

If you’re considering buying a home, another option is to shop around for a competitive rate. Use SoFi to find your mortgage rate and choose which type of mortgage is right for you.

See your rate — it takes just a few minutes.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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

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