Should I File a Home Insurance Claim? Pros, Cons, When It Makes Sense

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You love the big cherry tree in your home’s front yard. Each spring, it explodes in a riot of bright pink flowers. Each summer, it drops sour fruit that perks up nicely in a sugary pie. 

Until it doesn’t. One summer day, your family comes home to find one of the cherry tree’s limbs in your living room, felled by a strong thunderstorm. The damage is extensive: two broken windows, a caved-in window sill, and serious water and impact damage to the living room floor and furniture.  

Once the initial shock wears off, you prepare to file a home insurance claim. But then, you start to ask questions. What if your insurance company denies the water damage portion of the claim? What if my home insurance premiums spike? How much will I have to pay out of pocket due to your policy’s high deductible? Should I even file this claim? 

Should I File a Home Insurance Claim?

The fact that a seemingly serious event like a tree falling through your house is such a close call teaches us an important lesson about homeowners insurance: It’s not always in your best interest to file a claim. Even when they cause short-term financial pain, some incidents aren’t worth filing over. 

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Plus, standard homeowners insurance policies exclude certain types of incidents that can cause serious financial stress for homeowners, such as floods and earthquakes. You need separate insurance policies if your home is at risk of these uncovered perils.

Pros & Cons of Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim

If you’re considering filing a homeowners insurance claim, you’re probably facing a hefty bill for cleanup and repairs or a long list of damaged items to replace. Or perhaps you’re staring down a lawsuit brought by a guest or worker who sustained serious injuries on your property.  

In any case, you need to figure out whether it makes sense to go through with your claim — and fast. That means objectively assessing the pros and cons of doing so.

Pros of Filing a Home Insurance Claim

Depending on the circumstances, filing a home insurance claim has significant financial benefits.

  1. It Helps You Pay for Repairs. If your claim is approved, you can use the payout to offset the cost of repairs and restore your home to its previous condition. Without this financial assistance, you might find yourself cutting corners or making ill-advised financial moves to cover the cost, such as dipping into your 401(k). 
  2. It Helps You Replace Damaged or Stolen Goods. Your homeowners insurance policy could help offset the cost of replacing possessions damaged in a naturally occurring incident like a storm or fire. If your home was burglarized or vandalized, the proceeds could cover the cost of replacing stolen property as well. Depending on your policy, you could receive the items’ actual cash value or replacement cost, which is the cost of buying them new.
  3. Repairs Help Maintain Your Home’s Value. Homebuyers don’t pay top dollar for properties with fire-damaged siding, broken windows, or gaping holes in the roof. Your home insurance payout helps restore your home’s value with minimal out-of-pocket cost.

Cons of Filing a Home Insurance Claim

Filing a claim on your homeowners insurance policy isn’t always a slam dunk. The claims process has some hidden and not-so-hidden pitfalls that could leave you worse off than when you began.

  1. Your Insurance Premium May Go Up. Although this isn’t guaranteed, your homeowners insurance rates could rise after you file your claim. Exactly how much depends on the type of claim you file, the size of the claim, and your previous claims history. Generally, liability claims bump premiums more than claims related to fire, vandalism, or natural disasters.
  2. Too Many Claims Mean Your Policy May Not Be Renewed. A rate increase is unwelcome but manageable. A canceled policy is far more serious. If insurers see you as riskier than the typical homeowner, you could have trouble getting coverage on your own. Your lender might need to step in and take out a policy on your behalf — often at a much higher premium than your old policy.
  3. If You Get a Claim-Free Discount, You Could Lose It. Once you file a home insurance claim, your claims history is no longer spotless. That matters because many home insurance companies offer claim-free discounts for homeowners who never file claims.

When You SHOULD File a Home Insurance Claim

So, you’re thinking about filing a home insurance claim. How can you be sure you’re making the right call?

Use these tests to assess your would-be claim. The more that apply to you, the stronger your position.

Repair or Replacement Costs More Than Your Deductible

This is the first test your would-be claim must pass. If it doesn’t, there’s no point in filing a claim.

Your deductible is the amount you must pay out of pocket before your home insurance kicks in. Your policy documents should clearly specify this amount. It’s either expressed as a flat dollar amount or a percentage of the policy’s total coverage amount.

Dollar amount deductibles typically range from $500 to $2,500, with $1,000 being a common value. Some policies have more than one deductible, depending on the type of property damage. Separate “wind and hail” deductibles are common, for example — and often higher than the standard deductible.

If your home sustained significant damage or loss, your claim value should easily exceed your deductible. For example, if you expect repairs to cost $20,000 and your deductible is $2,000, your insurance company covers $18,000 — 90% of the total cost.

On the other hand, if you expect repairs to cost $3,000, your insurance company only covers $1,000 — 33% of the total cost. That’s a closer call because filing a claim could result in higher home insurance premiums that eventually offset your payout. 

The Event Is Covered by Your Policy

Your homeowners insurance company isn’t obligated to provide reimbursement for every type of damage or loss to your home. In fact, while your policy covers a lot, it probably excludes specific events, known as exclusions.

Common exclusions include but aren’t limited to:

  • Earthquake
  • Flood
  • Damage and liability issues caused by poor maintenance 
  • Insect infestations
  • Mold
  • Personal property losses and liability issues caused by power outages or power surges
  • Intentional damage caused by a resident
  • Damage caused by war or nuclear fallout
  • Injuries caused by aggressive dogs
  • Issues related to or caused by home-based businesses
  • Costs related to building code violations

You may need to purchase separate insurance policies to cover some of these perils. For example, your lender may require you to carry flood insurance if you live in a recognized flood zone. 

Other add-on policies are optional but often a good idea. For example, if you run a business out of your home, you should consider carrying business insurance to protect against inventory or equipment losses or damage to your workspace.

You’ve Suffered Significant Loss or Damage

Often, it’s not a close call. If your home is seriously damaged or destroyed in an event that’s covered by your policy, you absolutely should file a homeowners insurance claim. Otherwise, you’ll be on the hook for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair or replacement costs.

If you have any doubts about the extent of the damage to your home, get a few repair quotes from building contractors in your area. You can also talk to your insurance agent or ask your home insurance company to send out an insurance claims adjuster before you file.

You Haven’t Made a Claim in the Past 5 Years

Approved homeowners insurance claims typically remain on your insurance record for five years after they’re made. 

This record is known as the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) database. When you make a claim, your insurer checks its own records and the CLUE database to see whether you’ve made any other claims in the past five years.

If you have made a claim in the past five years, expect your insurance premiums to spike after your second claim is approved. 

For fire, theft, and general liability claims, the increase could amount to 50% or more of your previous premium. A weather-related claim won’t increase your premium quite as much, but you’ll still notice a jump.

When You Should NOT File a Home Insurance Claim

It’s not always worth it to file a home insurance claim. 

Certain situations, such as minor damage that costs less to repair than your insurance deductible, all but rule out a claim. Others, such as an active claim history, bring an elevated risk of a denied claim.

If any of these situations apply to you, think twice about filing a home insurance claim.

Repair or Replacement Costs Less Than Your Deductible

If the damage or loss is relatively minor, your deductible could be too high to bother filing a claim. There’s no point in filing a claim — and potentially increasing your policy premiums — if you won’t even receive a payout.

Even if it’s a close call, be mindful of the potential for your premiums to go up after a successful claim. A claim worth $20,000 probably makes sense, but a claim worth $3,000 or $4,000 might actually set you back.

Damage Was Caused by Lack of Maintenance or Normal Wear & Tear

An event that appears to be covered by your policy might not be if the insurance adjuster can argue that it was caused by neglect, poor maintenance, or even normal wear and tear.

For example, let’s say your home loses heat during the winter, causing a water pipe to burst in your ceiling. Homeowners insurance policies generally cover this type of event — if the burst pipe was in good condition to begin with. If the pipe was already heavily corroded, your insurer might blame you for not replacing it sooner. They could deny the claim altogether.

The Event Isn’t Covered by Your Policy

It’s often quite easy to figure out whether a particular event is eligible for home insurance coverage. If your home collapses in an earthquake and your policy specifically rules out claims for earthquake damage, you’re out of luck. Hopefully, you have earthquake insurance.

But closer calls are more common than you’d think. If your resident termite colony worsens an existing foundation issue that eventually spurs a costly repair, your insurer could argue that the entire claim falls under the insect damage exclusion. 

When in doubt, it’s worthwhile to begin the claims process anyway. If you don’t like what the insurance adjuster has to say, you can drop the claim without increasing your insurance rates. 

Or you can hire a public adjuster — an independent insurance adjuster who can make a stronger case to your insurance company. Public adjusters usually work on contingency, so they only get paid if your claim is successful.

You’ve Made Multiple Claims in the Past 5 Years

The more homeowners insurance claims you make in a five-year period, the more your insurance rates increase after a successful new claim. 

Make too many claims in too short a period, and your insurance company could drop you altogether. If you’re unable to find replacement coverage, your lender could take out a policy on your behalf. Expect this lender policy to cost a lot more than your old policy.

All that said, you shouldn’t automatically rule out a new homeowners insurance claim just because you recently got an insurance payout or two. If your home is seriously damaged or destroyed by a covered event, it’s probably still worth it to file. Just be ready to pay higher premiums on the back end.

Final Word

Some say the best way to save money on homeowners insurance is not to file a claim at all. There’s a grain of truth to that, but don’t take it too literally. 

If your home is seriously damaged in an event that’s covered by your policy, a home insurance claim is absolutely warranted. Taking the time to file could save you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses, keeping you on track to reach your long-term financial goals.

Still, it’s always a good idea to take stock of the situation before filing a claim. If your home sustains damage due to an event not covered by your policy or the cost of repairs doesn’t exceed your policy’s deductible, a claim isn’t in the cards. And even if filing a claim would be profitable on paper, it’s worth considering the long-term costs — in the form of higher premiums for years to come.

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GME is so 2021. Fine art is forever. And its 5-year returns are a heck of a lot better than this week’s meme stock. Invest in something real. Invest with Masterworks.

Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he’s not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.


Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio – What It Is & How It Affects Your Mortgage Rate

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In the fourth quarter of 2021, the median home sold for just over $408,000. 

Could you afford to pay that out of pocket? Probably not. That’s why most homebuyers wind up applying for mortgage loans.

Getting a mortgage can be a long process and lenders look at a lot of factors when deciding whether to approve your application. You also have to go through a similar process when refinancing.

One thing that lenders look for when making a lending decision is the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of the loan.

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What Is a Loan-to-Value Ratio?

The loan-to-value ratio of a loan is how much money you’re borrowing compared to the value of the asset securing the loan. In the case of a mortgage, it compares the remaining balance of your loan to the value of your house. On an auto loan, it compares the balance of your loan to the value of your car.

Lenders use LTV as a way to measure the risk of a loan. The lower a loan’s LTV, the less risk the lender is taking. If you fail to make payments and the lender forecloses, a lower LTV ratio means the lender has a higher chance of fully recovering their losses by selling the foreclosed asset. A higher LTV means more risk the lender loses some money.

Lenders may have maximum LTVs that they’ll approve. For example, FHA loans require at least 96.5% LTV. Conventional loans require at least 97% LTV, but only for the best-qualified borrowers — most require 95% LTV or lower. Your loan’s LTV can have other important impacts on your borrowing experience, including your interest rate and monthly payment.

Calculating the Loan-to-Value Ratio

Because LTV plays a big role in the overall cost of your loan, it’s a good idea to calculate it before you apply. 

LTV Formula

To calculate the LTV ratio of a loan, you divide the balance of your loan by the value of your home.

The formula is:

(Loan balance / Home value) = LTV

LTV Calculation Example 

Imagine that you want to purchase a home that appraises for $300,000. You apply for a mortgage and get approved for a $270,000 loan.

The LTV of that loan is:

$270,000 / $300,000 = 90%

If you choose to make a larger down payment and only borrow $240,000, your mortgage’s LTV will be.

$240,000 / $300,000 = 80%

As you pay down your mortgage or as your home’s value changes, the loan’s LTV ratio moves away from this initial value. Typically, as you pay off your mortgage, the LTV ratio drops.

How LTV Affects Your Mortgage Rates

Lenders use LTV as a way to measure the risk of a loan. The higher the LTV of a loan, the higher its risk.

Lenders compensate for risk in a few ways. 

One is that they tend to charge higher interest rates for riskier loans. If you apply for a loan with a high LTV, expect to be quoted a higher interest rate than if you were willing to make a larger down payment. A higher rate raises your monthly payment and the overall cost of your loan.

Another is that lenders may charge additional fees to borrowers who apply for riskier loans. For example, you might have to pay more points to secure an affordable rate, or the lender might charge a higher origination fee. A larger down payment might mean lower upfront fees.

One of the most significant impacts of a mortgage’s LTV ratio is private mortgage insurance (PMI). While PMI does not affect the interest rate of your loan, it is an additional cost that you have to pay. Many lenders will make borrowers pay for PMI until their loan’s LTV reaches 80%. 

PMI can cost as much as 2% of the loan’s value each year. That can be a big cost to add to your loan, especially if you have a large mortgage.

LTV Ratio Rules for Different Mortgage Types

There are many different mortgage programs out there, each designed for a different type of homebuyer.

Different programs can have different rules and requirements when it comes to the LTV of a mortgage.

Conventional Mortgage

A conventional mortgage is one that meets requirements set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. While these loans are not backed by a government entity, they must meet Fannie or Freddie’s minimum credit score and maximum loan amount thresholds, among other criteria. Otherwise, they can’t easily be repackaged and sold to investors — the fate of most mortgage loans after closing. 

Conventional mortgages have a maximum LTV of 97%. That means your down payment will need to equal at least 3% of the home’s value. If your LTV is higher than 80% to begin with, you’ll have to pay PMI until your LTV drops below 78%.

Refinancing Mortgage

Refinancing your mortgage lets you take your existing loan and replace it with a new one. This gives you a chance to adjust the interest rate or the length of your loan.

Most lenders aren’t willing to underwrite refinance loans above 80% LTV, but you might find lenders willing to make an exception.

FHA Loans

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans are popular with homebuyers because they allow low down payments and give people with poor credit the opportunity to qualify.

If you’re applying for an FHA loan, the maximum LTV is 96.5%, meaning you’ll need a down payment of at least 3.5%. If the LTV value of your mortgage starts above 90%, you’ll have to pay PMI for the life of the loan. If your LTV is less than that amount, you can stop paying PMI after 11 years.

VA Loans

VA loans are secured by the Department of Veterans Affairs. They’re only available to veterans, service members, members of the National Guard or Reserves, or an eligible surviving spouse.

These loans offer many benefits, including the option to get a loan with an LTV as high as 100%. That means that you can borrow the full amount needed to purchase your home. The only upfront costs you need to pay are the fees associated with getting the loan.

USDA Loans

USDA loans, guaranteed by the US Department of Agriculture, are designed to help people purchase homes in designated rural areas. Borrowers also have to meet certain maximum income requirements.

USDA loans can have LTV ratios of 100%, letting borrowers finance the entire cost of their home. The LTV of the loan can exceed 100% if the borrower chooses to finance certain upfront fees involved in the loan.

Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government-backed mortgage companies. Neither business offers loans directly to consumers. Instead, they buy and offer guarantees on loans offered by other lenders.

Together, the two companies control a major portion of the secondary market for mortgages, meaning that lenders look to offer loans that meet their requirements.

For a single-family home, Freddie Mac has a maximum LTV of 95% while Fannie Mae sets the maximum at 97% for fixed-rate loans and 95% for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs).

Limitations of LTV

There are multiple drawbacks to the use of LTV ratios in mortgage lending, both for borrowers and lenders.

One disadvantage is that LTV looks only at the mortgage and not the borrower’s other obligations. A mortgage with a low LTV might seem like it has very little risk to the lender. However, if the borrower has other debts, they may struggle to pay the loan despite its low LTV.

Another drawback of LTV is that it doesn’t consider the income of the borrower, which is an essential part of their ability to repay loans.

LTV ratios also depend on accurate assessments of a home’s value. Typically, homeowners or lenders order an appraisal as part of the mortgage process. However, if a home’s value increases over time, it can be difficult to know the home’s actual worth without ordering another appraisal.

That means that you might be paying PMI on a loan without realizing that your home’s value has increased enough to reduce the LTV to the point that PMI is no longer necessary. You can always order another appraisal, but you’ll have to bear the cost — typically around $500 out of pocket.

LTV vs. Combined LTV (CLTV)

When looking at a property, lenders often use combined loan-to-value (CLTV) ratios alongside LTV ratios to assess risk.

While an LTV ratio compares the balance of a single loan to the value of a property, CLTV looks at all of the loans secured by a property and compares them to the home’s value. It’s a more complete way of assessing the risk of lending to someone based on the value of the collateral they’ve offered.

For example, if you have a mortgage and later get a home equity loan, CLTV compares the combined balance of both the initial mortgage and the home equity loan against your home’s appraised value.

LTV Ratio FAQs

Loan-to-value ratios aren’t easy to understand. If you still have questions, we have answers. 

What Is a Good LTV?

What qualifies as a good LTV ratio depends on the situation, the loan you’re applying for, and your goals.

An LTV over 100% is pretty universally seen as bad because you wouldn’t be able to repay your loan even if you sold the collateral asset.

In general, a lower LTV ratio is better than a high LTV ratio, especially if you want to avoid paying for PMI on top of your mortgage loan payment.

The 80% threshold is a particularly important breakpoint, especially for conventional loans. If you have an LTV of 80% or lower, you can avoid PMI on conventional mortgages, saving hundreds of dollars per month early in the life of your loan. At 80% LTV, you’ll qualify for a good interest rate, though dropping to 70% or even 60% could drop your rate further.  

How Can I Lower My LTV?

There are two ways to lower the LTV of your mortgage: pay down your mortgage balance or increase the value of the property.

Your loan’s LTV will naturally decrease as you make your mortgage payments. You can speed up the process by making additional payments to reduce your balance more quickly.

If you make improvements to your home, it can increase your home’s value. Real estate prices may also rise in your area, bringing your home’s value up too. However, to formally update the value of your home, you’ll need to pay a few hundred dollars to get it appraised again.

What Does a 50% LTV Ratio Mean?

A 50% LTV ratio means that you have 50% equity in your home. In other words, the total loan balance secured by the home — whether it’s a first mortgage, home equity line of credit (HELOC), home equity loan, or some combination of the three — is half the appraised value of the property.

As an example, your loan-to-value ratio is 50% if your home is worth $200,000 and you still owe $100,000 on your mortgage.

What Does a 75% LTV Ratio Mean?

A 75% LTV means that your loan balance is three-quarters of your home’s value. For example, if your home is worth $200,000 and your remaining mortgage balance is $150,000, your LTV is 75%.

Final Word

LTV ratio is one way that lenders look at the risk of making a loan based on the value of the collateral securing it. In the real estate world, LTV is a very important measure because it impacts things like private mortgage insurance and mortgage interest rates.

If you’re looking to avoid paying PMI or trying to get out of paying PMI on your loan, you’ll want to take steps to lower your mortgage’s LTV ratio. You can do this by investing in home improvements that increase the value of your home, then ordering a professional appraisal, or by paying extra principal each month to reduce your mortgage balance faster.

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GME is so 2021. Fine art is forever. And its 5-year returns are a heck of a lot better than this week’s meme stock. Invest in something real. Invest with Masterworks.

TJ is a Boston-based writer who focuses on credit cards, credit, and bank accounts. When he’s not writing about all things personal finance, he enjoys cooking, esports, soccer, hockey, and games of the video and board varieties.


How Rising Inflation Affects Mortgage Interest Rates

While the inflation rate doesn’t directly impact mortgage rates, the two tend to move in tandem. Rising inflation can shrink purchasing power as prices of goods and services increase. Higher prices can then influence the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policy, affecting the cost of borrowing for lending products like mortgages.

Homebuyers looking for a home loan and homeowners who want to refinance a mortgage need to know that mortgage rates may rise as inflation increases. Therefore, understanding the difference between the inflation rate, interest rates, and what affects mortgage rates matters for all home finance consumers.

Inflation Rate vs Interest Rates

Inflation is a general increase in the overall price of goods and services over time.

The Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, tracks inflation rates and inflation trends using several key metrics, including the Consumer Price Index (CPI), to determine how to direct monetary policy. A target inflation rate of 2% is considered ideal for maintaining a stable economic environment over the long run.

When inflation is on the rise and the economy is in danger of overheating, the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates to cool things down.

Interest rates reflect the cost of using someone else’s money. Lenders charge interest to borrowers who take out loans and lines of credit as a premium for the right to use the lender’s money.

Higher rates can make borrowing more expensive while also providing more interest to savers. People borrowing less and saving more can have a cooling effect on the economy.

When the economy is slowing down too much, on the other hand, the Fed can lower interest rates to encourage borrowing and spending.

Recommended: Federal Reserve Interest Rates, Explained

What Affects Mortgage Rates?

Inflation rates don’t have a direct impact on mortgage rates. But there can be indirect effects because of how inflation influences the economy and the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decisions. Again, this relationship between inflation and mortgage rates is related to how the Federal Reserve adjusts interest rates to cool off or jump-start the economy.

The Federal Reserve does not set mortgage rates, however. Instead, the central bank sets the federal funds rate target, the interest rate that banks lend money to one another overnight. As the Fed increases this short-term interest rate, it often pushes up long-term interest rates for U.S. Treasuries. Fixed-rate mortgages are tied to the 10-year U.S. Treasury Note yield, which are government-issued bonds that mature in a decade. When the 10-year Treasury yield increases, the 30-year mortgage rate tends to do the same.

Recommended: Understanding the Different Types of Mortgage Loans

So in terms of what affects mortgage rates, movement in the 10-year Treasury yield is the short answer. Higher yields can mean higher rates, while lower yields can lead to lower rates. But overall, inflation rates, interest rates, and the economic environment can work together to sway mortgage rates at any given time.

A simple way to see the relationship between inflation rates and mortgage rates is to look at how they’ve trended historically . If you track the average 30-year mortgage rate and the annual inflation rate since 1971, you’ll see that they often move in tandem.

They don’t always move perfectly in sync, but it’s typical to see rising mortgage rates paired with rising inflation rates.

Inflation Trends for 2022 and Beyond

In March 2022, the U.S. inflation rate hit 8.5%, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. This increase represents the largest 12-month increase since 1981 and moving well beyond the Federal Reserve’s 2% target inflation rate.

While prices for consumer goods and services were up across the board, the most significant increases were in the energy, shelter, and food categories.

Rising inflation rates in 2022 are thought to be driven by a combination of things, including:

•   Increased demand for goods and services

•   Shortages in the supply of goods and services

•   Higher commodity prices due to geopolitical conflicts

The coronavirus pandemic saw many people cut back on spending in 2020, leading to a surplus of savings. In addition to government stimulus, these savings created a pent-up demand for purchases once the economy got back on track. However, the supply chains have not been able to catch up to demand.

Supply chain disruptions and worker shortages are making it difficult for companies to meet consumer needs. This has resulted in rapidly rising inflation to levels not seen in decades.

In March 2022, the Fed started to raise interest rates to tame inflation and will likely continue to raise interest rates throughout the year. Many analysts believe that inflation is peaking and will steadily decline throughout 2022. However, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the economy that makes forecasting price trends difficult.

Recommended: 7 Factors that Cause Inflation

Is Now a Good Time for a Mortgage or Refi?

There’s a link between inflation rates and mortgage rates. But what does all of this mean for homebuyers or homeowners?

Rising inflation and higher interest rates have caused mortgage rates to spike at the fastest pace in decades, though mortgage rates are still near historic lows. As the Fed continues to pursue interest rate hikes, it could lead to even higher mortgage rates. It simply means that if you’re interested in buying a home, it could make sense to do so sooner rather than later.

Buying a home now could help you lock in a better deal on a loan and get a reasonable mortgage rate, especially as home values increase.

The higher home values go, the more important a low-interest rate becomes, as the rate can directly affect how much home you can afford.

The same is true if you already own a home and are considering refinancing an existing mortgage. However, when refinancing a mortgage, the math gets a bit trickier. You might need to determine your break-even point — when the money you save on interest payments matches what you spend on closing costs for a refinanced mortgage (a refi).

To find the break-even point on a refi, divide the total loan costs by the monthly savings. If refinancing fees total $3,000 and you’ll save $250 a month, that’s 3,000 divided by 250, or 12. That means it’ll take 12 months to recoup the cost of refinancing.

If you refinance to a shorter-term mortgage, your savings can multiply beyond the break-even point.

If your current mortgage rate is above refinancing rates, it could make sense to shop around for refinancing options.

Keep in mind, of course, that the actual rate you pay for a purchase loan or refinance loan can also depend on things like your credit score, income, and debt-to-income ratio.

Recommended: How to Refinance Your Mortgage — Step-By-Step Guide

The Takeaway

Inflation appears to be here to stay, at least for the near term. Buying a home or refinancing when mortgage rates are lower could add up to a substantial cost difference over the life of your loan. From a savings perspective, it’s essential to understand what affects mortgage rates and the relationship between the inflation rate and interest rates.

SoFi offers fixed-rate mortgages and mortgage refinancing. Now might be a good time to find the best loan for your needs and budget.

It’s easy to check your rate with SoFi.

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

It has been difficult lately to buy a home with a small down payment, considering that the average home price rose by 17% in 2021, and cash offers and bidding wars remain a thing. But buying a house with a low down payment is possible.

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

Here’s some help navigating the current real estate market if you have a small down payment.

What Is Considered a Low Down Payment?

According to the National Association of Realtors®, 45% of consumers think they need a down payment of 16% to 20% or more to buy a house. In actuality, the average down payment on a house in 2021 was 17%. If you look at just first-time homebuyers in that survey, the average down payment was closer to 7%.

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

Just keep in mind that anything under a 20% down payment will likely entail some form of mortgage insurance, an ongoing fee charged by most lenders.

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

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

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

Longer Closing Time

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

Lenders May Disagree With Mortgage Minimums

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

Home Sellers May Be Nervous About Your Ability to Close

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

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

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

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

Tips for Buying With a Small Down Payment

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

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

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

•   VA loans (0% down)

•   USDA loans (0% down)

•   FHA loans (3.5% down)

•   Fannie Mae HomeReady (3% down)

•   Conventional 97 loan (3% down)

•   Conventional mortgage (5% down)

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

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

Pros and Cons of Using a Low Down Payment

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

Pros of Using a Low Down Payment

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

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

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

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

Cons of Using a Low Down Payment

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

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

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

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

Tips for Managing a Seller’s Market

So what’s a prospective homebuyer to do in a seller’s market when the cards are stacked against them?

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

Making sure you’re pre-qualified, when lenders have an idea of your income and assets before you start home shopping, and then pre-approved, when you receive a letter from a lender stating that you qualify for a certain loan amount and rate, can ensure that you’ll be ready to roll the second you find the right home.

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

Another thing you can do is to find an experienced real estate agent who’s been through the homebuying process countless times.

No matter the temperature of the market, tips for how to shop for a mortgage can come in handy.

The Takeaway

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

SoFi allows a down payment of as little as 3% for qualified first-time homebuyers and 5% for other borrowers for its line of low-fixed-rate mortgages.

Before you apply for a home loan, start with a no-obligation mortgage rate quote from SoFi.

It takes just minutes to get your rate.

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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see

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5 Popular Investing Trends of 2022

Heading into 2022, many investors had a brighter outlook on the U.S. economy and financial markets. Both staged impressive rebounds in 2021 after Covid-19 quarantine measures triggered wild volatility. Vaccine breakthroughs and stimulus checks further stoked optimism that the finances of many businesses and individuals were on the mend.

However, rising inflation, higher interest rates, and geopolitical conflict have been several headwinds getting in the way of continued economic and financial market growth in 2022. Year-to-date, the benchmark S&P 500 Index is down about 7% through April 20, 2022, after rising nearly 27% in 2021.

Nonetheless, there are opportunities in some areas of the financial markets for investors looking beyond Covid-19. Here’s a look at five popular investment trends for 2022.

1. Looking Beyond Covid-19

Some of the success stories in the stock market in 2020 and 2021 were companies that benefited from coronavirus-related stay-at-home measures, like entertainment streaming businesses, video conferencing services, and at-home workout companies. But many companies in these sectors are losing their luster as the country reopens; investors are looking for other opportunities as the world returns to normal.

Investors have wagered that airline, cruise line, travel website operators, and other transportation stocks will benefit now that most Covid-19 restrictions are in the rearview mirror. While these sectors, like the rest of the economy, may be hindered by rising interest rates and inflation, many investors still see them poised to grow because of pent-up demand.

2. ESG Investing Movement

Financial advisors often tell clients to take their emotions out of investing. However, a new breed of ethically-minded investors has become increasingly interested in putting their money where their values are in recent years.

This strategy is known as environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing. A Bloomberg study estimated that ESG investments may hit $41 trillion globally by the end of this year and $50 trillion by 2025, a third of global assets under management.

In early 2022, the Russian invasion of Ukraine set off global protests and pronouncements against the unprovoked conflict. Many American companies followed by pulling their business operations out of Russia and issuing statements on their commitment to Ukrainian democracy. This development is just one example of companies looking beyond the bottom line in their business decisions. Moreover, shareholder advocacy groups are applying pressure on some companies to back their pledges with transparency on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues.

3. Web 3.0

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were among the most discussed investments in 2021, with wild swings in prices as investors put money into these digital assets. The prices of crypto assets cooled off in the early portion of 2022, but they are still in the front of the minds of a lot of investors.

Because of the success and attention paid to crypto over the past several years, investors are looking to put money into related investments: companies involved in what is known as Web 3.0, or the next phase of the internet. Web 3.0 companies include those involved with blockchain technology, decentralized finance (DeFi), the metaverse, and artificial intelligence.

4. Commodities Markets

After years of muted returns, commodity prices rebounded in 2021. Investors wagered that recovering economies would lead to more construction, energy usage, and food consumption. Tight supplies also boosted these markets.

Moving into 2022, the attention paid to the commodities market has only intensified, especially with the geopolitical turmoil in Ukraine and Russia affecting critical commodities like oil, natural gas, and wheat. Prices of these key commodities have spiked as the Russian-Ukrainian conflict constrains supplies.

Rising prices of agriculture, lumber, and industrial and precious metals have sparked a debate about whether commodities are going through a new supercycle. A supercycle is a sustained period, usually about a decade, where commodities trade above long-term price trends.

Recommended: Commodities Trading Guide for Beginners

Give your money a chance to grow.

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5. Hot Housing Market

The housing market will continue to be an area of focus for investors, policymakers, and potential homebuyers in 2022. During 2020 and 2021, rock-bottom mortgage rates, a shortage of housing supply, and homebuyers looking to purchase larger houses to accommodate working from home led to houses selling quickly and at high prices. Additionally, investors and real estate investment trusts (REITs) bought an increasing share of homes on the market.

During the first quarter of 2022, mortgage rates are rising at a record pace, with the average 30-year mortgage nearing 5% for the first time since 2018. Analysts are looking to see if rising mortgage rates will cool the hot housing market or if buyers will continue to purchase homes.

Recommended: Pros & Cons of Investing in REITs

The Takeaway

Putting hard-earned dollars into any investment — whether it’s trendy or traditional — can be daunting. Investors should be aware that, while momentum can feed investment fads for long periods, some market trends can become vulnerable because of frothy valuations and turn on a dime.

However, if investors still want to try their hand at choosing popular investment trends themselves, SoFi’s Active Investing platform makes it easy by making it easy to track their picks of stocks, ETFs and fractional shares. Investors can also make trades without incurring management fees from SoFi Invest®.

Open an Active Investing account with SoFi today.

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The 15 Best Value Stocks to Buy Right Now

In 2022, the old rules of investing have mostly gone out the window, but one thing hasn’t changed: Wall Street’s best value stocks continue to be an attractive place for investors to plunk down their money for the long term.

The S&P 500 is down roughly 10% year-to-date. War continues to rage in Ukraine and disrupt energy markets. And significant changes in interest-rate policy continue to upend investment strategies that have been profitable for several years running.

But that’s the thing about investing. If you want to get ahead, it’s important to think beyond the obvious opportunities and consider a holistic approach that will generate returns even in even challenging environments. That involves looking beyond fashionable growth investments to value stocks that might been roughed up of late but still offer long-term upside.

In hopes of finding the best value stocks for investors right now, we looked for:

  • Companies with a minimum market value of about $1 billion
  • Those with forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios below the broader market (for reference, the S&P 500’s forward P/E is currently at 18.8)
  • Those with price/earnings-to-growth (PEG) ratios below 1 (PEG factors in future growth estimates, and anything under 1 is considered undervalued)
  • Strong analyst support, with at least 10 Wall Street experts covering the stock and the vast majority of those issuing ratings of Buy or Strong Buy

A few of these companies have admittedly seen trouble lately, hence their sagging stock prices, but even then, their underlying businesses are sound. And considering the broader challenges to every company on Wall Street, it’s important for investors to focus on high-quality picks over the latest flashy growth narrative, regardless of recent performance.

Here are 15 of the best value stocks to buy now.

Share prices and other market data as of April 25. Analyst ratings courtesy of S&P Global Market Intelligence. Stocks are listed by analysts’ consensus recommendation, from highest score (worst) to lowest (best).

1 of 15

Boot Barn Holdings

rows of boots on shelvesrows of boots on shelves
  • Market value: $2.8 billion
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • Forward P/E ratio: 16.8
  • Analysts’ ratings: 6 Strong Buy, 1 Buy, 4 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.82 (Buy)

Even if you’re the kind of person who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a cowboy hat in public, don’t let your personal tastes get in the way of understanding the fundamentals that make Boot Barn Holdings (BOOT, $94.71) one of the most attractive value stocks in 2022.

Shares have soared roughly 800% over the past five years. That’s in response to a top line that has soared from just under $630 million in the fiscal year ended spring 2017 to what is projected to be nearly $1.5 billion at the end of this fiscal year.

Say what you want about cattleman hats, but you can’t disparage results like that.

But growth has become harder to come by in this niche retail model. More recently, that has weighed on shares, which are down about 30% from their 52-week highs in late 2021. With the worst of COVID-19 behind us, however, and given Boot Barn’s loyal customer base, there’s every reason to expect this retailer to keep putting up big numbers – including a stunning growth outlook of more than 60% revenue expansion this fiscal year.

That might make this recent pullback a chance to get in on one of Wall Street’s best value stocks, now that BOOT’s valuation is more in line with peer specialty retail stocks despite outsized growth projections.

It’s also worth noting that, unlike down-market goods, Western wear is a decidedly luxury category, despite what many might think. Quality boots and hats can run $500 or more. And history has shown that these kinds of purchases keep churning along even amid high inflation and other consumer pressures.

2 of 15

Tempur Sealy International

a Tempur Sealy buildinga Tempur Sealy building
  • Market value: $5.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.4%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 8.3
  • Analysts’ ratings: 6 Strong Buy, 1 Buy, 4 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.82 (Buy)

The pandemic changed many behaviors and expectations, and among those were many consumers thinking hard about housewares for the first time in a few years. Since nobody could travel and we were all spending so much time in our homes and apartments, it was natural to finally pull the trigger on furniture upgrades that hadn’t seemed particularly urgent before COVID-19.

Mattress leader Tempur Sealy International (TPX, $28.70) rode that wave in a big way, watching shares rise more than four-fold from March 2020 through fall of last year. However, many investors have abandoned the stock lately on the idea that the upgrade cycle is over; indeed, TPX has lost nearly half its value since September 2021.

That has created a big opportunity for value investors. The 2013 mash-up of some of the biggest mattress brands on the planet gives this company deeply entrenched relationships with retailers. And while many folks are buying mattresses online these days, there’s one thing that TPX has that these e-commerce brands don’t: a massive hospitality business, which continues to look very strong as hotels look to an important summer travel season after the pandemic.

In fact, even though TPX stock is down more than 40% on the year, Wall Street is actually anticipating double-digit revenue growth and continued earnings improvement. While perhaps things got a bit overheated in this stock thanks to the “stay at home” trade, continued growth coupled with a more reasonable price now makes this mattress leader look like one of 2022’s best value stocks to buy right now.

3 of 15


A Carter's/OshKosh retail storeA Carter's/OshKosh retail store
  • Market value: $3.7 billion
  • Dividend yield: 3.3%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 9.9
  • Analysts’ ratings: 6 Strong Buy, 0 Buy, 4 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.80 (Buy)

When it comes to durable retail spending categories, it’s hard to find a store that is more reliable than Carter’s (CRI, $89.72). This go-to brand is focused on children’s clothing under its own nameplate, as well as under associated brands like iconic OshKosh overalls.

Kids keep growing and keep needing clothes no matter what, and upscale fashions make Carter’s stores a go-to destination for moms and grandmas everywhere.

Admittedly, the growth outlook is relatively modest here. Revenues are projected to expand by merely single digits both in 2022 and 2023. However, Carter’s is expected to squeeze plenty of blood from that stone, with earnings per share estimated to jump by 14% this fiscal year and another 11% in fiscal 2023 if current projections hold.

CRI has been investing heavily in e-commerce over the past few years, and in fact, its international segment posted an impressive growth rate of nearly 30% this last fiscal year in part because of digital successes.

OK, sure, international sales account for just 13% of total revenue. But this is exactly the kind of under-the-radar narrative that investors should look for in value stocks: outsized growth in a small business segment that will ensure strong operating results in the future, even if there’s no disruptive innovation on the horizon set to deliver instant gains.

Children’s wear is a durable spending category, and CRI remains one of the top brands in the space. With shares trading at a forward P/E of just about 10 right now, it might be worth looking at this retailer as a potential bargain stock.

4 of 15


A Target store on a sunny dayA Target store on a sunny day
  • Market value: $111.7 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.5%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 16.4
  • Analysts’ ratings: 15 Strong Buy, 7 Buy, 7 Hold, 1 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.80 (Buy)

Big-box shop Target (TGT, $241.66), at more than $110 billion in market value, is one of the largest U.S. retailers out there. But although Target takes great pains to offer higher-quality furnishings and more fashionable apparel than its down-market competitors, this big box giant is itself being discounted in 2022 – creating an ideal opportunity for those seeking out value stocks to buy right now.

Right now, Target’s market value is slightly below its projected revenue for next year, while competitors like Costco Wholesale (COST) are trading at a premium on this metric. TGT stock is also being discounted compared with earnings, with a forward P/E of 16.4 right now compared with a reading of almost 19 for the broader S&P 500 Index.

It’s also worth noting that while COVID-19 disruptions took their toll on many retailers, Target is actually riding a broader tailwind for its business thanks to the fact that is has adapted to the “omnichannel” approach of a digital age. Total sales are up almost $30 billion since 2019 thanks to a robust e-commerce presence, curbside pickup and an agile approach to compete in a digital age.

The dividend yield might not burn down the house – at 1.5%, it’s better than the broader S&P 500 but worse than 10-year T-note. But Target is a Dividend Aristocrat that has strung together half a century’s worth of uninterrupted payout growth – and with annual payouts just totaling $3.60 per share and earnings set to approach $16 per share next fiscal year, there’s more than enough headroom for increased dividends down the road.

And for those concerned with environmental, social and governance (ESG) traits, note that Target also has earned a place among our Kiplinger ESG 20.

5 of 15

D.R. Horton

A D.R. Horton home is under constructionA D.R. Horton home is under construction
  • Market value: $26.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.2%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 4.5
  • Analysts’ ratings: 11 Strong Buy, 4 Buy, 6 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.76 (Buy)

A $26 billion homebuilding company, D.R. Horton (DHI, $74.19) has a pretty easy-to-understand business. It acquires land, builds residential homes on the sites, then sells the finished houses for a hefty profit.

It operates under the D.R. Horton brand, as well as Express Homes, Emerald Homes and Freedom Homes. It also offers mortgage financing and related services to help put buyers in their new homes.

If you own a home or are shopping for a home right now, chances are you’re attuned to the ever-rising values in most markets. But to give newcomers an example, home prices in March surged 15% year-over-year to set yet another record, proving this red-hot sector is far from cooling off.

DHI, however, has rolled back as investors have gone “risk off” in 2022, with shares now off about 35% from 52-week highs set in November. Part of the reason is because folks are afraid that higher interest rates could result in higher mortgage costs and thus scare off potential homebuyers.

At least so far, that has not been the case. No small wonder. Consider that the National Association of Realtors estimated that in March the inventory of homes actively for sale on a typical day in March decreased by 19% compared with the prior year. There is simply not enough supply for the buyers that are out there, and interest rates aren’t rising enough to make enough of those buyers reconsider.

That adds up to a compelling story for DHI. Couple that with a bargain valuation, including a forward price-to-earnings ratio that is below 5 right now, and it’s worth considering staking your claim to one of today’s best value stocks in the housing space.

6 of 15


worker spraying waterproof layer on concreteworker spraying waterproof layer on concrete
  • Market value: $7.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.5%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 8.6
  • Analysts’ ratings: 10 Strong Buy, 3 Buy, 5 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.72 (Buy)

Chemicals company Huntsman (HUN, $34.19) produces products worldwide including polyurethanes, dyes, epoxies and other materials. It’s not a particularly glamorous business, making these raw materials for end-users to craft their own finished goods. However, Huntsman’s chemical operations are incredibly reliable, and they’re seeing strong demand across the board as the global economy recovers in the wake of the pandemic.

As proof: A few months ago, Huntsman posted Street-beating sales and earnings for the fourth quarter of 2021, and it provided strong guidance for 2022. That’s not just because of improving demand broadly, but also because of higher prices it can command as a result of the current inflationary environment.

Thanks in part to these strong results, HUN also has been blessed by a Standard & Poor’s upgrade to its credit rating in April that will help the chemicals company access financing at better rates going forward.

Value investors will be interested to learn that Huntsman is incredibly committed to its shareholders. It recently doubled its stock buyback program to $2 billion in the wake of recent success, and it has already bought up more than $100 million under that authorization. It also recently increased its dividend by 13%, to 21.25 cents per quarter – that’s 70% from the 12.5-cent quarterly payout it provided as recently as late 2017.

And with payouts at less than 20% of next year’s earnings, there is ample upside for future dividend increases, too.

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Glass similar to that made by CorningGlass similar to that made by Corning
  • Market value: $29.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: 3.1%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 14.4
  • Analysts’ ratings: 7 Strong Buy, 4 Buy, 3 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.71 (Buy)

Although it got its start as a specialty glass company was back in 1851, Corning (GLW, $34.42) has a long history of high-tech partnerships – from working with Thomas Edison on his early lightbulbs to leading the charge on cathode ray tubes that powered the first generation of televisions to modern fiber optic cable and touch-screen displays.

In fact, its chemically strengthened Gorilla Glass is currently the gold standard for mobile devices. It is designed to be thin, responsive and damage-resistant – all must-have characteristics for phones and tablets. 

Corning has been a slow-and-steady performer compared with some of the flashier names in technology. But there is definitely still growth here. GLW produced an outsized spurt in 2021, with revenues up nearly 25% year-over-year. Looking forward, estimates are still for mid- to high-single-digit sales improvement over the next couple years. And promisingly, Corning has largely sidestepped most of the supply-chain issues plaguing many manufacturers; indeed, CEO Wendell Weeks said earlier this year that its biggest problem wasn’t supplies or labor, but capacity to meet high demand!

On top of that, GLW offers a decent dividend north of 3%. That dividend is growing, too, up to 27 cents quarterly at present compared with 10 cents per quarter back in late 2014. And with annual earnings per share of more than $2.60 projected next fiscal year, that dividend isn’t just sustainable but also ripe for future increases down the road.

When looking for the best value stocks – those that can perform over the long run – a stock like Corning is a great example of taking an alternative approach to fashionable trends to avoid some of the volatility. Nobody thinks of this glass company first when plotting investments in tech, and that allows for moments like this when shares are more reasonably priced than some other assets out there.

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Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo bankWells Fargo bank
  • Market value: $173.7 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.2%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 10.6
  • Analysts’ ratings: 13 Strong Buy, 8 Buy, 5 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.69 (Buy)

Among financial stocks, the $180 billion financial powerhouse Wells Fargo (WFC, $45.83) in many ways was, for a time, in a class by itself. However, the company has piled up a number of black marks on its corporate record in recent years that have caused many investors to think twice about putting their money behind WFC stock.

One of the biggest challenges started in late 2016, with news that some Wells employees were opening checking and savings accounts for clients without their consent. There was also word that Wells was misleading businesses on corporate credit card fees, followed by a 2018 move by the Federal Reserve announcing it would restrict the bank in response to “widespread consumer abuses and compliance breakdowns.”

Understandably, some folks have abandoned WFC stock in recent years – including even Warren Buffett, who exited almost all of his stake last year. And that’s not without cause. But as with so many things, the race for the exit has created a buying opportunity for value-minded investors.

WFC stock currently trades for a price-to-book ratio of just 1.1, compared with closer to 1.3 for Bank of America (BAC) and 1.5 for JPMorgan Chase (JPM), and 1.7 for “super-regional” U.S. Bancorp (USB). So while Wells remains one of the biggest banks in the U.S., it’s still treated as an also-ran compared to large peers.

But with interest rates on the rise, creating a tailwind for most lenders, it’s worth considering whether the negativity around past transgressions has turned Wells Fargo into one of the banking industry’s best value stocks to buy.

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deepwater oil rig for drillingdeepwater oil rig for drilling
  • Market value: $118.8 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.6%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 8.9
  • Analysts’ ratings: 14 Strong Buy, 9 Buy, 3 Hold, 1 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.67 (Buy)

Everyone who has filled up their car with a tank of gas recently knows all too well how inflationary pressures have gripped the energy sector in a big way over the last year or so. And as a result, many oil and gas stocks have seen strong performance as well.

With crude oil prices at around $100 per barrel presently, that has created continued tailwinds for Big Oil names such as ConocoPhillips (COP, $91.66). It’s not the biggest firm in the oil patch, but it’s still a major player at nearly $120 billion in market value and a global energy business that explores, develops and produces oil and natural gas worldwide. And unlike the big integrated energy giants, COP mostly operates in “upstream” operations (exploration and production), meaning it’s uniquely positioned to make the most of the current environment.

Case in point: As a result of inflationary pressures across all energy commodities these days, the company is plotting revenue growth of more than 25% this fiscal year.

An investment in ConocoPhillips certainly carries risks, insofar that a significant rollback in oil prices would likely disrupt the stock the same way we saw rising prices create better performance. However, COP is making big structural moves lately that should ensure shareholder value for many years to come.

Specifically, COP plans to return 30% of operating cash to shareholders with a predicted outlay of $65 billion back to shareholders from 2022 through 2031. That follows a $1 billion boost to its stock buybacks last year.

These are significant figures that should make any value investor a believer in this stock.

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General Motors

General Motors' Hummer electric vehicle is built in a GM ZERO plantGeneral Motors' Hummer electric vehicle is built in a GM ZERO plant
  • Market value: $57.9 billion
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • Forward P/E ratio: 6.0
  • Analysts’ ratings: 12 Strong Buy, 7 Buy, 4 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.65 (Buy)

Traditional automakers have struggled for a host of reasons in recent years.

For starters, younger generations of Americans simply aren’t as concerned with driving or car ownership. Then there’s the electric vehicle revolution that has put many legacy brands behind the 8-ball when it comes to innovation. And to top it all off, major disruptions to semiconductor supply chains have created bottlenecks, preventing car manufacturers from tapping into pent-up demand.

However, these circumstances have also scared off many investors who do not see the underlying value in car stocks such as General Motors (GM, $39.82).

GM currently trades for just six times earnings estimates – more than three times lower than the typical S&P 500 stock right now. Furthermore, it trades for a slight discount to book value and at half next year’s projected revenue. These kind of metrics are a value investor’s dream.

To be clear, GM’s bargain price isn’t because of, say, disturbing growth projections that warrant this discount. Rather, GM is projected to see an impressive 23% growth in the top line this year. And while earnings are set to take a hit in fiscal 2022, they are forecast to make up all the lost ground and then some in fiscal 2023.

The automotive market assuredly is full of risk and uncertainty. However, GM has a long history and strong brand recognition that should serve it well, especially as the company shows that it’s willing to be flexible.

At these prices, GM stock could be one of the sneakiest value stocks to buy now.

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Skechers shoes are shown behind the window of a storeSkechers shoes are shown behind the window of a store
  • Market value: $6.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • Forward P/E ratio: 13.6
  • Analysts’ ratings: 8 Strong Buy, 2 Buy, 3 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.62 (Buy)

Skechers U.S.A. (SKX, $39.24) is a roughly $6 billion footwear company that continues to connect with consumers and build on its already impressive brand.

But what really makes Sketchers one of the best value stocks to buy now is its direct sales operations that continue to boost margins and drive real results for shareholders. In February, for instance, Skechers reported that its direct-to-consumer segment posted more than 30% year-over-year gains during the fourth quarter.

And looking forward, the brand continues to explore new products via its “comfort technology” and predicts yet another record year in 2022 as it rides growth trends even higher.

SKX stock has struggled over the past year. Shares are off by about 25% over the past 12 months as some investors have questioned whether recent growth trends can continue. Well, the pros are projecting low-double-digit revenue growth in each of the next two years – and similar expansion on the bottom line next year before a 24% explosion in profits in 2023.

Meanwhile, Skechers is helping its own cause, authorizing a $500 million stock buyback program in February to help prop up its shares.

Despite all this, SKX stock still trades for a slight discount to annual sales and a forward price-to-earnings ratio of about 13 right now – significantly lower than both the S&P 500 as well as other top consumer discretionary stocks. With continued growth ahead and continued investment in the high margin direct-to-consumer arm of its business, there’s good reason to expect Skechers has what it takes to succeed going forward.

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Lowe's storeLowe's store
  • Market value: $132.5 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.6%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 14.8
  • Analysts’ ratings: 18 Strong Buy, 4 Buy, 7 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.62 (Buy)

While Home Depot (HD) might be the go-to name in home improvement, investors would be wise to not sell short its competitor Lowe’s (LOW, $200.38). Consider that while Home Depot has roughly 2,300 locations in the U.S., Lowe’s commands roughly 2,000 locations of its own. However, HD is valued at $315 billion while Lowe’s market capitalization is almost a third of that, at $130 billion or so.

And as long as we’re comparing, Lowe’s boasts a forward price-to-earnings ratio of less than 15 and a price-to-sales of about 1.4 while HD has a forward price-to-earnings ratio of about 19 and a price-to-sales ratio of 2.1.

In other words, Home Depot might be the larger DIY chain, but that’s in part because investors are paying a significant premium for shares.

And this discount comes despite the fact that Lowe’s has delivered better returns across most timeframes, including a 159% total return (price plus dividends) over the past five years versus 124% for HD. Helping that total return is one of the most consistent dividends on Wall Street – Lowe’s is another Dividend Aristocrat, having raised its payout annually for 59 consecutive years.

If you’re looking for value stock picks, Lowe’s is the better buy among DIYs.

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Air Lease

An airplane like the ones Air Lease leases out to customersAn airplane like the ones Air Lease leases out to customers
  • Market value: $5.0 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.7%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 9.5
  • Analysts’ ratings: 4 Strong Buy, 4 Buy, 0 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.50 (Strong Buy)

Air Lease (AL, $43.76) is an aircraft leasing company concerned with the purchase and leasing of aircraft worldwide. Right now, it owns just shy of 400 planes and is benefiting from a resurgence in air travel now that the coronavirus pandemic is on the wane.

The fundamentals of Air Lease are looking up thanks to improving air travel trends, as evidenced by a projection of 15% revenue growth this fiscal year and then roughly 18% growth the following year.

But despite this tailwind (pardon the pun), AL stock is still reasonably priced with a forward price-to-earnings ratio of about 9 right now. That’s less than half the S&P 500 average at present.

In February, Air Lease said that its lease utilization rate for both 2021’s fourth quarter and full year was an amazing 99.8%. There is no better metric of success for a company like this, proving that its existing resources are in high demand. Additionally, the triple-net lease model of Air Lease requires that the users of its planes pay for the taxes, insurance, and maintenance regardless of whether those planes are grounded or flying. All of this means a higher likelihood that money will continue to roll in for the foreseeable future.

With COVID-19 on the wane and an uptrend in air travel trends this year, the stage is set for AL stock to finally take off after years of stalling. But the time to buy should be soon, while it’s still one of Wall Street’s top value stocks.

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Signature Bank

Skyscrapers in a big citySkyscrapers in a big city
  • Market value: $16.4 billion
  • Dividend yield: 0.9%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 13.2
  • Analysts’ ratings: 10 Strong Buy, 7 Buy, 0 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.41 (Strong Buy)

Signature Bank (SBNY, $261.06), a roughly $16 billion regional bank stock, is riding the tailwind that has benefited most financial firms in the last several months: namely, higher interest rates that have lifted margins on loans. 

Signature boasts about $120 billion in assets under management, mostly in major metro areas including New York, Charlotte and San Francisco. The company primarily serves local consumers and businesses through conventional offerings including checking accounts, real estate loans and lines of credit. But beyond that, SBNY also is a major player in high-growth areas like cryptocurrency trading via its Signet platform, as well as slow-and-steady business lines such as insurance that help ensure strong long-term performance.

Thanks to the uptrend in operations lately, SBNY is projecting big-time increases in its operating metrics, including a nearly 45% jump in revenue this year. The bottom line is expected to expand by just as much.

Many segments of Wall Street that can wax and wane, and financials are no exception. But Signature Bank’s wide and sustainable footprint will serve it well in the current rising-rate environment. It’s not as large as other diversified financials, but it’s trading at levels that put it among the top value stocks to buy right now.

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Micron Technology

  • Market value: $78.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 0.6%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 6.1
  • Analysts’ ratings: 26 Strong Buy, 7 Buy, 4 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.41 (Strong Buy)

Data storage leader Micron Technology (MU, $70.12) is a company that has deep roots in the modern digital economy. Founded back in 1978 – in Idaho, of all places – Micron carved out a niche in semiconductor design that has ultimately kept it at the cutting edge of the tech sector for more than three decades.

Nowadays, Micron specializes in data storage technologies, including for graphics and servers, as well as mobile-focused solutions known as dynamic random-access memory (DRAM). And it’s this sustained growth in the memory market that looks to provide the biggest tailwind for MU stock in the years to come.

Just look at the numbers. Micron is projected to enjoy more than 20% revenue growth in both fiscal 2022 (the current year for MU) as well as 2023. And that will more than filter down to the bottom line. The pros are looking for 50%-plus growth in earnings per share this fiscal year, then another 30% growth in 2023.

Yes, semiconductor stocks are up against the ropes right now. And yes, there are perhaps more interesting stocks in the space than MU. However, with a forward price-to-earnings ratio of just over 7 right now and strong growth projections for the next two years, it might be worth looking to this unsung chip play at its current bargain valuation.


A Guide to What Mortgage Notes Are & What They Do

When you close on a home, one of the most important documents you’ll review and sign is your mortgage note. It’s an agreement between you and the lender that outlines the terms and conditions of the mortgage.

The document tells you how much and when to pay, and spells out the consequences if you don’t.

What Is a Mortgage Note?

A mortgage note, often referred to as a promissory note, is what you sign when you agree to take on the responsibility of a mortgage. The note outlines:

•   Your interest rate

•   The amount you owe

•   When the payments are due

•   The amount of time it will take to repay the loan

•   How homebuyers can remit payment

•   Consequences buyers face if they do not pay

It’s one of the key documents you’ll sign at closing.

Promissory notes also may be used in owner-financed home sales. The buyer and seller sign the document, which contains the loan terms. When a borrower pays the seller directly, the promissory note gives the lender the ability to enforce their rights through a lien, foreclosure, or eviction.

What Is Included in a Mortgage Note?

The mortgage note outlines the conditions and responsibilities of the buyer. You’ll see sections like these in a mortgage note.

•   Borrower’s promise to pay. This section includes the total amount of money you’re borrowing and the name of the lender to whom you will remit payment.

•   Interest. The interest rate charged on the unpaid principal is listed here.

•   Payments. Borrowers agree to pay a monthly amount before or on a specific date. The place where borrowers can remit payment is also listed.

•   Borrower’s right to prepay. This section specifies a borrower’s ability to pay toward the mortgage principal without penalty.

•   Loan charges. All charges by the lender must be legal. Any amounts over the legal limit will be refunded to the buyer or applied to the principal.

•   Borrower’s failure to pay as required. Default is clearly defined for the buyer, as are late charges and what happens in the event of default.

•   Giving of notices. Borrower and lender will have the details of how to contact each other for legal purposes.

•   Obligations of persons under this note. All people listed on the mortgage note are equally responsible for repayment of the loan.

•   Uniform secured note. Buyers are advised that a security instrument is signed in addition to the note that protects the note holder from potential losses by giving them the ability to foreclose in case of default.

How Does a Mortgage Note Work?

A mortgage or promissory note is drawn up by the lender when preparing your mortgage for closing during the underwriting process. This document is what makes the terms and conditions of the mortgage legally binding.

Borrowers will see the mortgage note at closing, though the terms and conditions will be outlined in a closing disclosure provided at least three business days before the closing date. The closing disclosure document can be compared with the loan estimate that was provided at the beginning of the mortgage application process.

A mortgage note is accompanied by another document, called the mortgage, security instrument, or deed of trust. It restates the terms of the mortgage note and outlines the rights and responsibilities you have as a borrower. As a security instrument, the document specifically gives the lender the right to foreclose on your property if you fail to make payments. Having this right reduces the risk to the lender, which can offer more competitive terms to the borrower in return.

Who Holds the Mortgage Note?

A mortgage note isn’t usually held by the lending institution that originated your loan. Mortgage notes are often sold, and it’s not easy to tell who holds your mortgage note. This is because the loan servicer is usually different from the note holder.

Selling a Mortgage Note

You’ll see in your closing documents a provision that allows the lender to sell the mortgage note. This is common and legal in home contracts and typically occurs soon after the property closes. Lenders sell mortgages on the secondary mortgage market, usually to one of the large federally backed mortgage companies, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. When the mortgages are sold, the lender doesn’t have to keep the mortgage on their balance sheet, which, in turn, allows them to originate more mortgages for other borrowers.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac then bundle mortgages into what is called a mortgage-backed security. Investors around the world (think pension funds, mutual funds, insurance companies, and banks) can buy shares of mortgage-backed securities. The investors will receive steady returns as the mortgages are repaid by individual borrowers.

The lender does continue to service your loan, meaning you’ll send your payment to them. The lender will keep a small portion of your mortgage to cover their costs for servicing your loan while sending the rest to the buyer of your note.

When your mortgage note is sold, the terms of your mortgage won’t change. Your payment, interest rate, and due date will remain the same. However, If your mortgage note is sold to another servicer, you’ll be notified of the new servicer and the new way to remit your mortgage payment.

Different Kinds of Mortgage Notes

There are different types of mortgage loans and different kinds of mortgage notes to accompany them.

Secured Loans

With a secured mortgage note, the mortgage uses collateral to secure the property. The collateral is usually the property itself. A secured loan is usually accompanied by better terms, such as a lower interest rate and a longer repayment period.

Private Loans

Private mortgage notes are secured by private lenders. A seller may own the property outright and act as a private lender, setting their own terms for mortgage loans.

Institutional Loans

Institutional notes are mortgage notes issued by traditional lenders, such as financial institutions or banks. They’re highly regulated. Buyers must meet specific criteria, and the loans must have standard interest rates and repayment terms.

The Takeaway

Understanding your mortgage note and how it works is a critical step in buying and financing a home. It may be helpful to review the mortgage note with a professional, as the note can protect the buyer just as much as the seller.

The journey to the closing table can be vexing, so it can be helpful to have your questions regarding mortgages answered by a knowledgeable loan officer.

And this help center for mortgages might come in handy.

When you’re ready for a home of your own, consider SoFi home loans and check out SoFi mortgage rates.

It’s quick and easy to find your rate.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see

SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See 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.

Photo credit: iStock/Chinnapong


How to Find a Contractor for Home Renovations & Remodeling

You’re ready to make home improvements. When looking for a trustworthy pro, it’s a good idea to get referrals, check references, get bids, and nail down your financing.

Let’s drill down to the details on how to find a good contractor for remodeling and what you need to ask as you move through the process.

Ask for Referrals

Often the easiest way to find a reputable contractor for your project is through word-of-mouth referrals, whether from a friend, neighbor, family member, or colleague.

Maybe you’ve watched your friend remodel the kitchen on social media; you may want to ask for the name of the contractor behind the job. Likewise, if you see a big construction project going up in your neighborhood, you can ask the homeowner for insight on the contractor behind it.

You might also want to ask owners of local lumber yards, where con­tractors do their bulk business, who’s reliable.

Search Online for the Top-Reviewed Contractors

Before hiring a contractor to renovate or remodel your home, it’s smart to do your due diligence and collect as many references as possible. But if you’re new to a town or neighborhood, for example, you may wonder how to find a contractor who works in your area.

This is where online reviews come in handy. There are many websites out there, including search engines like Google, that offer lists of licensed contractors with accompanying reviews.

Look at Credentials and Portfolio

As you begin speaking with each potential contractor, ask to see a copy of their contractor’s license and insurance policy, and ask about any specialty certifications or membership to any professional organizations like the National Association of Home Builders, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, or the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

Be aware that some states require contractor licensing; others, certification or registration. Registration doesn’t guarantee expertise; it’s merely a written record of who is performing the work. Many but not all states have websites where you can verify your pro’s license number.

Most reputable builders or contractors should have a website or basic social media presence, but if you can’t find one, request an email link to the contractor’s portfolio to see examples of past projects, from countertop replacement to closet remodels, as well as before and after photos.

Interview Candidates

Once you have a list of potential contractors narrowed down to your three top picks, it’s a good move to interview each of them before you go a step further. Maybe you won’t jibe with one of them, or perhaps another won’t seem as knowledgeable about certain components of construction or remodeling as you’d like for your particular project.

Treat hiring any contractor or handyman just like you would hiring an employee for your work, and if you don’t get a good feeling about the candidate, trust your gut. Communication is key for any successful project, and if the communication feels lacking in the interview process, it’s likely you’ll get frustrated down the line when all the moving parts of a remodeling project are also thrown into the mix.

Check References

After you’ve compiled a list of contractors and interviewed your top candidates, you’ll want to check references. Professionals should be able to provide a list of contacts from past jobs, and if they can’t do so right on the spot, that’s probably a red flag.

When checking references, you might want to ask past customers if the contractor completed the job on time and within budget, if there were any problematic interactions, and how the work has held up since.

Review Cost Estimate

You could find the perfect contractor for the job, only to learn that the pro is far out of your budget.

It’s smart to get at least three competitive quotes from contractors before you move forward. A cost estimate should include labor, materials, change-order language, and a timeline, at minimum. Many contractors also have creative deposit schedules so that funding is streamlined.

One positive if you have second thoughts about the expense: While the cost to remodel a house may not be cheap, if you keep your property modern and up to date, it’s possible you’ll recoup those dollars in resale value down the line.

Consider the Red Flags

If it’s your first time hiring a contractor, you may not know what to look for — or what’s a red flag. To save yourself headaches down the road, if the contractor checks any of the below boxes, the person’s professionalism might be in question and it’s probably wise to move on to the next candidate.

•   No “before” remodeling pictures

•   No website, social media presence, or reviews

•   No license or certification

•   No references

•   Slow communication

The Takeaway

How to find a contractor for home renovations? Hiring a contractor is a process that you’d be smart to treat like a job interview. It’s a good idea to check references and credentials, get bids, look for red flags, and have financing lined up.

3 Home Loan Tips

  1. Traditionally, mortgage lenders like to see a 20% down payment. But some lenders, such as SoFi, allow mortgages with as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers.
  2. If you don’t have the cash to renovate or remodel your home, one financing option is a personal or home improvement loan, which can be faster and easier to secure than a construction loan.
  3. Generally, the lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better loan terms you’ll be offered. One way to improve your ratio is to increase your income (hello, side hustle!). Another way is to consolidate your debt and lower your monthly debt payments.


Before you sign on the dotted line for your remodeling job, there are some things about working with a contractor you need to know before locking one in.

What should a remodel contract include?

There should be a contract in place before any remodeling job begins. You’ll want to make sure the contract lays out the overall project budget and scope of work, when payments are due, and how to handle the inevitable changes that will arise.

You’ll also want to have a dispute resolution and waiver of the lien clause so that a subcontractor cannot put a lien on your home, and a warranty for the work that is an acceptable time frame for the amount you’ve invested.

What questions should I ask a contractor?

When you’re meeting with each potential contractor, ask about past projects and if they have specific experience doing the type of renovation work that you’d like done. It’s also helpful to ask how they would approach the project and how much of an impact it’ll have on your ability to live in the home while work is taking place.

You’ll also want to inquire about insurance. Does the contractor carry an insurance policy that protects you, the homeowner, as well? All of these are things a professional contractor should have and easily be able to produce.

What should you know before hiring a contractor?

Homebuilding is a booming industry right now. Many contractors are doing good work, but there are always bad actors that can take advantage of the huge influxes of money that Americans are pouring into their real estate investments — and their eagerness to get someone to do the work amid shortages.

It’s smart to do your research, to be patient on timing, and to stay flexible as the project — and its costs — evolve.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see

SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See 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.

Photo credit: iStock/BOX39studio


5 Common Home Improvement Scams & How to Avoid Them

Seniors have traditionally been the targets, but an urgent demand for home improvements born of the work-from-home spike, a dearth of tradespeople, and a shortage of building materials has increased the potential for home improvement fraud.

Bringing a stranger into your home can be a leap of faith, especially if you haven’t done all your homework. According to HomeAdvisor, an estimated 20,000 to 100,000 scammers try to pull the wool over homeowners’ eyes every year.

Knowing the signs of home improvement fraud may keep you from becoming the next victim of a home repair scam.

What Is a Home Improvement Scam?

A home improvement scam occurs when a company or contractor — or a con artist posing as one — tries to swindle a homeowner out of money in exchange for a renovation or remodel that goes unfinished or is botched.

Many times home improvement scammers go door to door in search of their next victims. A rule of thumb: If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Examples of Home Improvement Scams

There are many kinds of home improvement scams out there. Seniors have been the most targeted group, but people of all ages need to stay alert to these common frauds.

The ‘Free’ Inspection

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch” holds true when it comes to someone showing up on your doorstep and offering a free inspection. What’s their end game?

The Better Business Bureau reports that scammers and con artists will talk their way into a home to, say, inspect a roof, then cause damage like tearing off shingles to create a situation that actually then does require repairs.

Advertising by Flyer

Handymen often blanket communities with flyers in the hopes that a small percentage of people will call. It’s a good idea to treat such random distributions in your neighborhood as a sign to double-check credentials and legitimacy.

You may also find this a common occurrence after a storm if you live in a location prone to hurricanes or tornadoes. It would be smart to do your research before signing over your insurance check to someone who drops a flyer off.

Door-to-Door Contractors

If a contractor knocks on your door claiming to have leftover supplies from another project and offers you services for a steal, that’s a red flag. While the door-to-door salesman might be a real contractor, the construction industry is booming, so anyone going door to door to solicit business is likely not a serious professional or in demand.

The Handshake Deal

No contract? No job. Homeowners should always have an ironclad contract in place before any money is exchanged. And if a contractor asks for cash, that’s a potential sign of a scammer (or at least someone looking to avoid the IRS).

Likewise, the contractor should not ask for more money than was decided on in the initial contract and scope of work. Claiming unexpected problems is a sign of a potential scam or an inexperienced contractor.

If there are potential variables in the project, you might want to spell out in the contract that extra work will require a change order, that is, both parties will agree to the additional work and an added fee.

If you’ve arranged for a home improvement loan or other financing, predictability comes in handy.

No-Credential Contractors

Many states don’t require a credential from a contractor if the amount of their annual work is below a certain dollar figure. While it’s unusual for a home improvement company or individual to not have credentials, it’s not unprecedented.

In general, it’s wise to treat non-credentialed contractors with a healthy awareness that they potentially aren’t serious businesspeople.

How to Avoid a Home Improvement Scam

While home repair scams are good to know about, it’s also important to realize that not every contractor falls into that category, of course. If you take these tips into account, you’ll help yourself avoid a home improvement scam down the road.

Consider Only Contractors Who Are Licensed and Insured

It’s always smart to work with only licensed professionals who are insured, but in this case especially, a contractor who has their own license and insurance is likely not to be a scammer.

One way to get a background check on a contractor candidate is by calling the Better Business Bureau and requesting their rating, as well as asking if there are any complaints against them.

Get Recommendations From People You Trust

One way to avoid getting scammed is by working with contractors who come highly recommended by your friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances. It’s always a gamble hiring a worker you find via online sources, so the more personal ties you have to contractors — like connections to those who have actually hired them in the past — the less likely it is that you’ll fall victim to a scam.

Get Multiple Estimates

For any construction or remodel project, you’ll want to solicit bids. Usually a minimum of three bids will give you an idea of the price range for your home improvement ideas.

By getting estimates from various professional contractors, you’re less likely to get scammed by someone trying to take advantage of you because, say, you live in a high-dollar neighborhood or drive a nice car.

Read the Contract Carefully

One of the easiest ways to be taken advantage of in any project is by not reading the contract in detail. If the contract is only one page long and doesn’t spell out the basics like budget, deposit, timing, or how to handle change orders, you’re setting yourself up for potential issues as money starts changing hands and construction begins.

And if there are areas of concern in the contract the contractor gives you, you might consider hiring a lawyer to review it and make any necessary revisions for you.

The Takeaway

Stay alert to home repair scams by getting referrals, asking contractors for references, reading all contracts meticulously, and only hiring professionals who are licensed and insured.

3 Home Loan Tips

  1. Traditionally, mortgage lenders like to see a 20% down payment. But some lenders, such as SoFi, allow mortgages with as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers.
  2. If you don’t have the cash to renovate or remodel your home, one financing option is a personal or home improvement loan, which can be faster and easier to secure than a construction loan.
  3. Before agreeing to take out a personal loan from a lender, you should know if there are origination, prepayment, or other kinds of fees. If you get a personal loan from SoFi, there are no fees.

SoFi is in the business of helping people buy and improve homes.


What to do if you get scammed by a contractor?

If you do find yourself the victim of a home repair scam, there are many organizations you could call for help. You might want to start with your local branch of the FBI, then submit a scam tip to the National Consumers League fraud website. Additionally, you can lodge a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and consult Call for Action, a nonprofit that advocates for consumers by investigating fraudulent contractors.

What should you not say to a contractor?

Agreeing to a large deposit without a commitment to start work is a common mistake. It’s also important to let the contractor know that you’ll be expecting certain benchmarks to be met as the project continues.

Can I withhold payment from a contractor?

If a contractor does not uphold their side of the contract, you can often legally withhold payment until the full scope of work is completed as outlined in the signed agreement.

How much of a deposit should you give a contractor?

A deposit of 10% to 25% is common for a construction project. Certain states may have home improvement laws that, for example, prohibit a contractor from taking more than one-third of the job payment as a deposit upfront.

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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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