8 Risky Jobs That Pay Big Bucks

Often with dangerous jobs, the pay doesn’t come close to compensating for the risk. In fact, plenty of perilous jobs pay paltry sums compared to other options. Take fishermen and loggers. They can expect median salaries of under $35,000 a year, $23,000 less than the mean for all workers. Yet the fatality rate for fishermen is nearly 39 times the rate for all occupations, the highest of any profession, in fact. Loggers, at nearly 28 times the overall fatality rate, rank second.

The COVID-19 pandemic shook up the risk scenario in the workplace. Overall, workplace injuries and illnesses were down 5.7% in 2020, compared to the previous year. But a closer look at the numbers reveals that while injuries dropped significantly, illnesses went way up. 

The pandemic also made a new group of low-paying jobs among the riskiest in the nation. Nursing assistants had the highest number of days of any profession away from work in 2020, the most recent year available, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They had 1,024 days away from work per 10,000 workers in 2020, an increase of 14 times the rate in 2019. Yet nursing assistants make a mean wage of just over $30,000.

Going back the last few years before the pandemic, there were generally between 10,000 and 11,000 respiratory illnesses among U.S. workers each year. In 2020, however, there were nearly 429,000. Conversely, the days away from work decreased slightly for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, whose mean wage was just over $50,000, between 2019 and 2020.

As perilous as work has become for many during the pandemic, fewer people were injured on the job in 2020 than in any year since 2013, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, those data showed an American worker died every 111 minutes from a job-related injury. The most common cause of death on the job was transportation-related incidents, which resulted in 1,778 deaths that year, more than 37% of all work-related deaths.

Not surprisingly, workers in jobs that involved transportation and moving material accounted for the biggest proportion of occupational deaths at a total of 2,258, accounting for more than 47% of the total work-related deaths in the U.S.

We believe that if you’re going to take a risky job, you should at least get compensated handsomely for it. So we crunched the numbers on injuries, fatalities and salaries to identify eight occupations offering paychecks that make up for the elevated risks by paying more than the national median of about $58,000. Top earners in many of these fields can enjoy six-figure salaries, in some cases even without college degrees. Plus, many of them won’t be replaced by technology, which spells job security. 

Take a look at these risky jobs that pay well.

Data sources: All data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unless otherwise noted. Most statistics from 2020, unless otherwise indicated. That year, the fatality rate for all occupations was 3.4 deaths per 100,000 workers.. “Top pay” represents the annual salary of a worker in the 90th percentile of an occupation, unless otherwise noted. We used the most updated data provided by BLS. In some instances, that was as far back as 2019 or older. Also, in some instances, the bureau provided median salary information, while for other occupations, it provided average salary information.

1 of 8

Airline Pilot

Photo of a man in an airplane cockpitPhoto of a man in an airplane cockpit
  • Number of workers: 42,770
  • Rate of injuries/illnesses: 34.3 (3.4 for all workers). 
  • This represents a decrease of the 2019 rate of 61.8 per 100,000 FTEs
  • Median annual salary: $115,080
  • Top pay: $197,400*
  • Annual fatalities: 4

Flying may be safer than driving, with crashes exceedingly rare, but pilots still manage to get hurt. The most common injury to pilots is back strain, no doubt exacerbated by countless hours spent in flight decks. Still, the pay might well make the risks worthwhile. Annual median wages for airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers are the highest of all our risky jobs.

You can save yourself the cost of college by heading straight to flight school, though most airlines prefer to hire degree-holders. You’ll need the edge. Competition for openings can be fierce, given industry consolidation and the job market’s overall weakness. You’ll also have to clock the flight hours necessary to even apply for an airline job. The Federal Aviation Administration requires applicants for pilot and first officer positions to have a minimum of 1,500 hours of total flight time.

But if you rack up enough experience and airborne hours, annual pay with the major airlines can soar to $200,000 or more, according to AirlinePilotCentral.com. Similarly plump salaries can be had if you land an offer from one of the flying freight giants. FedEx and UPS pay their captains at least $212,000 and $233,000 a year, respectively, starting in just their second years. Bonus: no whiny passengers.

*According to Airline Pilot Central, United offers its 12th year captains of Boeing 777 planes the highest minimum annual salary of all the legacy airlines.

2 of 8

Private Detective

Photo of a man in sunglasses behind the wheel of a car holding a cameraPhoto of a man in sunglasses behind the wheel of a car holding a camera
  • Number of workers:  33,700
  • Rate of injuries/illnesses: 122.6 per 10,000 workers
  • Median workdays missed due to injury/illness: 43
  • Mean annual salary: $60,970
  • Top pay: $98,070
  • Annual fatalities: 1

Digging up information can be pretty strenuous work. Gumshoes sustain most of their injuries in car accidents and physical altercations. But even those tallies are relatively low, so the above-average pay for private eyes may be worth the slightly elevated risk.

Most detective work does not have an education requirement, but the ability to learn on the job is a must, and previous related work experience is a plus. You’ll also need a license in most states; requirements vary. And if you specialize in certain fields, say insurance fraud or computer forensics, a related bachelor’s degree might be necessary for some corporate investigators.

That expertise can not only help you solve whodunits but also push up your pay. Investigative agencies, both large and small, are by far the biggest employers of detectives. Distant runner-ups are law firms and state and local governments.

3 of 8

Registered Nurse

photo of a nurse and a patientphoto of a nurse and a patient
  • Number of workers: 3 million
  • Rate of injuries/illnesses: 1023.8 per 10,000 workers
  • Median workdays missed due to injury/illness: 8
  • Median annual salary: $75,330
  • Top pay: $103,000
  • Annual fatalities: 12

Registered nurses were among those most affected by COVID; they endured a whopping 78,740 injuries and illnesses in 2020, an increase of more than 290% over 2019 when there were 20,150 injuries and illnesses among registered nurses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2020, the number of cases in which registered nurses had days away from work increased by 58,590 cases (290.8 percent) to 78,740 cases, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The states with the largest increase in cases among nurses who had days away from work were Michigan, where cases rose more than 1,000% and Iowa, which had an increase of more than 900%. .

Typical wages about 88% above the national median might help compensate for  the pain. California registered nurses earn a particularly comfortable wage, into six figures in nine West Coast metro areas.

You need a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in nursing or a diploma from an accredited nursing program in order to become an RN. If you extend your education to a master’s degree, you can earn even more; median annual pay for nurse practitioners is nearly $90,000, and top earners make $120,500 a year.

According to Indeed.com, the average base salary for a registered nurse is nearly $89,000 as of May 2022. That ranges from $80,266 for nurses with less than a year of experience to $104,907 for those with more than 10 years of experience. New York is the highest paying city where registered nurses earn an average of nearly $103,000 a year. But Iindeed says just 62% of registered nurses in the U.S. think their salaries are enough for the cost of living in their area.

4 of 8

Professional Athlete

Photo of a baseball, football and basketball playerPhoto of a baseball, football and basketball player
  • Number of workers: 16,700
  • Rate of injuries/illnesses: 1,542.1 per 10,000 workers
  • Median workdays missed due to injury/illness: 10
  • Median annual salary: $77,300
  • Top pay: $107.5 million
  • Annual fatalities: 10

When your job is to exercise and physically compete on a regular basis, your body is bound to get a little run down. More than half of the injuries reported by athletes are sprains, strains and tears. But what’s becoming a little worse for wear when you get to play the game you love for a living?

The above-average pay doesn’t hurt, either. It would behoove players to save that extra income. Athletic careers offer little stability and are often short-lived. According to Indeed.com, the average professional athlete base salary as of April 20222 was $115,429, including $222,275 for the NFL. The highest paying city for professional athletes was New York, where the average salary is $133,762.

According to the job website Ladders, the top-paid American athlete is Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott who earns a jaw-dropping $107.5 million a year.

But just 45% of professional athletes in the U.S. report being satisfied that their salaries are enough for the cost of living in their area.

5 of 8

Police Officer

Photo of a torso of a police officer holding a firearmPhoto of a torso of a police officer holding a firearm
  • Number of workers: 665,000
  • Rate of injuries/illnesses: 121.7 per 10,000 workers
  • Median workdays missed due to injury/illness: 15
  • Median annual salary: $64,610
  • Top pay: $102,530
  • Annual fatalities: 105 

Police work is truly risky business. Exhibit A: The number of work-related deaths for cops is the greatest of all the occupations on this list. Still, the fatality rate is just 18.6 per 100,000 workers, about on par with taxi drivers.

If you don’t mind mixing it up with the occasional physical altercation or high-speed chase, paychecks 59% higher than the national median may be worth sustaining some sprains, strains and tears (the most common injuries for police officers). You can enter the police academy after graduating from high school or getting your GED, though many agencies require some college coursework or a college degree. But you have to be at least 21 years old to become an officer (younger recruits can be cadets and do clerical work until they’re of age). A college degree can help fatten your paycheck, however. A B.A. in criminal justice can push salaries into six figures, according to Payscale.

Indeed.com reports the average base salary for a U.S. police officer is $55,390. This ranges from $46,900 for officers with less than a year of experience to $76,650 for those with more than ten years of experience. The highest paying city is San Jose, California, where officers make an average of $131,000. According to Indeed, 53% of police officers report being satisfied that their salaries are enough for the cost of living in their area. 

Note that while the Bureau of Labor Statistics data for wages for police officers refer to 2021, the most currently available injury and illness information dates to 2018.

6 of 8

Railroad Conductor/Yardmaster

Photo of a trainPhoto of a train
  • Number of workers: 48,030 
  • Rate of injuries/illnesses: 180 per 10,000 workers
  • Median workdays missed due to injury/illness: 22
  • Median annual salary: $63,960
  • Top pay: $82,460
  • Annual fatalities: 11 in 2019

Train-track tragedies are as uncommon as they are heartbreaking. Overall, railroad safety has improved dramatically over the past decade. Heading the crews of freight and passenger trains and rail yards, railroad conductors and yardmasters have the highest rates of injury of all rail transportation workers, but they have the potential to score the biggest paychecks, too. You need just a high school diploma or the equivalent to get started, and you have to be certified by the Federal Railroad Administration to become a conductor. Most employers require one to three months of on-the-job training. Amtrak and some freight companies offer their own training programs, while smaller railroads may send you to a central facility or community college to prep you for the job.

7 of 8

Mining Machine Operator

Photo of a construction vehicle in a minePhoto of a construction vehicle in a mine
  • Number of workers: 14,740
  • Rate of injuries/illnesses: 248.0 per 10,000 workers
  • Median workdays missed due to injury/illness: 23 for surface mining, 46 for underground and 60 for continuous Median annual salary: $60,300
  • Top pay: $78,060
  • Annual fatalities: 5 for surface mining, 7 for underground

Not surprisingly, pumping the Earth for its resources can really suck the life out of you. Extraction workers, a broad category of workers who mine and drill for oil, gas, coal and the like, recorded a total of 92 deaths and 3,990 injuries in 2011. And while some extraction jobs offer scant compensation for such risks, pay for certain mining machine operators is more tempting.

Education requirements are minimal to get started (some jobs don’t even require a high school diploma). But if you go into mining with a college degree, you stand to earn a fatter paycheck and added safety as a mining engineer. Indeed says mining engineers, who inspect mining areas and design underground systems of entries, exits and tunnels, make an average national salary of more than $97,000 as of April 2022. Their job is also dangerous as they are often close to heavy machinery and are exposed to air pollution and in danger of being hurt in a cave-in.

8 of 8

Electrician

Photo of a hand and a screwdriver working on wiresPhoto of a hand and a screwdriver working on wires
  • Number of workers: 729,600 in 2020
  • Rate of injuries/illnesses: 122.2 per 10,000 workers
  • Median workdays missed due to injury/illness: 15
  • Median annual salary: $60,040
  • Top pay: $82,930
  • Annual fatalities: 68 in 2019

With high demand to plug in our various devices at home and work, electricians are practically guaranteed prosperous careers. 

But this profession comes with its stumbling blocks — literally. Electricians’ injuries are most often caused by falls. That’s not surprising, considering they often spend lots of time at construction sites and on ladders. If you watch your step, you typically stand to enjoy paychecks 43% higher than the national median.

You can start your career as an electrician with a high school diploma (or the equivalent) and a paid four-year apprenticeship, which you can find through the U.S. Department of Labor. But having a Bachelor’s degree can help boost your income; according to Payscale, a college-educated electrician can earn up to about $93,000 a year. Most states also require you to be licensed.

According to Indeed.com, the average base salary for an electrician is about $56,800 as of May 2022.

Source: kiplinger.com

How to Become a Plumber in 2022

Licensed master plumbers have the highest earning potential. The top 10% of plumbers can earn ,920 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And on the high end, earning potential for master plumbers nearly reached 0,000 for the top 10%.
How Much School Do Plumbers Need?

How to Become a Plumber in 4 Steps

Potential education topics at a vocational school might include plumbing theory, water distribution, blueprint reading, draining and venting, pipe cutting and soldering and even electrical basics.
If you are currently a high school student interested in becoming a plumber, take all the math courses you can. In addition, choose classes like physics and shop to help you build an effective knowledge and skills base.
Becoming a plumber is all about licensure, so college is not a requirement. However, plumbers typically need to have their high school diploma or general equivalency diploma (GED) to start an apprenticeship. A diploma or GED is also important if you plan to take any plumbing courses at a community college (more on that below).

1. Get Your High School Diploma or GED

To be considered a journeyman plumber, you will need to pass your state’s licensing exam. In general, you will need to renew this license every three to five years and take continuing education courses to maintain your licensed status.
A plumber’s skill set is varied. As a plumber, you will need the technical knowledge to diagnose plumbing problems and make repairs. You will also need to be proficient in using a wide variety of tools, including saws, hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches and torches. Remaining in top physical condition is crucial, as you will frequently do heavy lifting and perform tasks that require stamina, often in very hot or cold environments.
Most states require you to operate as a journeyman plumber for a set number of years (between two and five) before you can seek licensure as a master plumber. To earn your license, you’ll need to pass a written and practical exam.

2. Become an Apprentice

Upon completing your apprenticeship, you can apply to become a licensed journeyman plumber. Once you reach this status, you will be able to work unsupervised on commercial and residential projects.
Becoming a plumber does not require the college career path. Instead, you will complete high school and find work as an apprentice. After a few years, you can get licensed as a journeyman plumber and then a master plumber.
We’ve found the answers to the most commonly asked questions about becoming a plumber, including how long it takes until you’re repairing leaky sinks on your own.
To earn a plumbing license, you must first complete a four- to five-year apprenticeship and then pass the journeyman exam; an apprenticeship includes classroom instruction but no formal school program. Some plumbers choose to attend a year or two of plumbing trade school before their apprenticeship.
A plumbing apprenticeship program includes on-the-job training and some classroom instruction, but many plumbers choose to attend a vocational school as a first step. Plumbing trade schools may offer special certification or even a two-year associate degree.

3. Become a Journeyman Plumber

In general, you can find a plumbing apprenticeship program through trade unions, community colleges, trade schools and even private businesses. You might need to pass an exam or interview with a licensed plumber.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Plumber?
How Much Money Do Plumbers Make?

4. Become a Master Plumber

Ready to stop worrying about money?
Depending on your state, you may be able to earn special endorsements and certifications. For example, in the Lone Star State, in addition to your Texas plumbing license, you can obtain endorsements for medical gas piping installation, multipurpose residential fire protection sprinkler installation and water supply protection installation and repair.
Scroll on to learn how to become a plumber — and what you can expect out of the career.

Wondering how to become a plumber? Our guide covers the education, apprenticeship and licensing requirements on your journey to getting certified as a licensed plumber — and offers a peek into the day-to-day, job outlook and typical salary.

Optional: Go to a Trade School

Earning a special degree or certification can give you a leg-up when applying for competitive apprenticeships.
In high school, math will be crucial to your role as a plumber. Each day, plumbers use concepts from algebra and geometry, and they’re regularly calculating using various units of measure.
At the journey level, you can work for a plumbing company or start your own business.

How Much Do Plumbers Make?

Plumbers can work on both residential and commercial projects. The day-to-day duties might include remodeling bathrooms and kitchens, replacing and repairing water and drain lines, installing new water heaters, installing new faucets, installing new toilets and installing water filtration systems.
In 2021, the median pay for plumbers was ,880, but the top 10% earned ,920.
As a master plumber, you’ll reach peak earning potential and can even run your own plumbing business.

What Do Plumbers Do?

If you want to work in a supervisory capacity or be able to employ additional plumbers for your business, you will need to become a licensed master plumber.

Necessary Skills

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Plumbing apprenticeships generally last four to five years, during which time you’ll receive roughly 2,000 hours of on-the-job training in the plumbing trade, plus technical instruction. During this time, you’ll learn about local plumbing codes and regulations, how to read blueprints and OSHA safety regulations.Advanced education may cover topics like plumbing fixtures and drainage systems. Unlike pursuing a college degree, however, plumbing apprenticeships are paid.

Challenges

The median pay for plumbers last year was ,880, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though the labor is tough, hours can be long and the work can be dangerous, becoming a licensed plumber may be well worth it if you have the necessary skills and dedication.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Becoming a Plumber

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Becoming a licensed plumber takes at least four to five years, as this is the general length of an apprenticeship. Some aspiring plumbers choose a year or two of vocational school before their apprenticeship. After completing an apprenticeship, you can earn your journeyman and then master plumber license.
As an apprentice plumber, you won’t be able to tackle projects yourself. Instead, you will shadow a journeyman plumber or a master plumber, depending on the program.
License laws and types vary by state. Determine the state that you wish to operate in as a plumber, and research those specific guidelines. The steps below offer a more general look at how to become a plumber.
Plumbers need to be able to cut and solder pipes, diagnose and troubleshoot issues with plumbing systems and interpret (or even draw) blueprints. If you run your own plumbing company, you will also need to handle advertising, scheduling, taxes and billing — or hire someone to do that for you.
An apprenticeship offers on-the-job experience and classroom education. Programs vary by state and organization in terms of structure, length and application process.
Skilled plumbers fulfill a crucial need in society, and demand for plumbers continues to grow. Though the manual labor is often grueling, a career in plumbing can be quite lucrative — and doesn’t require expensive schooling and massive student loan debt.

Once you have your diploma or GED, the next step to becoming a licensed plumbing contractor is either attending plumbing school or completing an apprenticeship. Plumbing school is typically optional (but we’ve got more details below); many plumbing hopefuls skip straight to an apprenticeship. <!–

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While the BLS targets 5% job growth through 2030, the increase in home renovation projects due to the ongoing pandemic may create even more plumbing jobs in the years ahead.

Swimming Pool Financing: What to Know and Best Pool Loans

Who doesn’t love a relaxing dip in the swimming pool on a sweltering, hot day? And when that swimming pool is in your backyard, it’s even better.

You could bring your friends together over the summer by hosting pool parties. You could teach your kids to swim right at home. If you rent out your place on Airbnb or Vrbo, you could fetch top dollar for the additional amenity.

Sounds like a dream.

If your house didn’t already come with a pool when you moved in, there’s still a possibility of turning your pool fantasies into reality if you have enough space.

And if you don’t have tens of thousands of dollars upfront to spend on a pool construction project, there’s always pool financing.

What Is Pool Financing?

Pool financing is when you borrow money from a financial institution or lender to cover the costs of building a pool. Pool construction typically costs anywhere from $17,971 to $46,481 with the average cost being around $32,059, according to HomeAdvisor.

Of course, the cost will vary based on the size, the type of pool, your location and where you plan to build the pool on your property. Adding a small plunge pool to a cleared, flat space in your backyard will cost considerably less than adding a resort-style pool with waterfalls and a jacuzzi to your property that requires you to cut down multiple trees and level the land.

Besides the personal enjoyment that comes along with having a pool, this addition to your home could boost your property value and make your home more desirable to future buyers, renters or short-term guests.

The high cost to install a pool means that many people rely on pool financing. There are several ways to go about getting a loan for a pool.

Options for Pool Financing

If you want to add a pool to your property, but don’t have the cash upfront, you have several options.

You could get a personal loan (sometimes referred to as a pool loan), a home equity loan, a home equity line of credit or a cash-out refinance. Some pool builders or retailers offer in-house loan programs through their partner lenders. You might also consider using a credit card as your method of financing.

Personal Loans (AKA Pool Loans)

Pool loans are unsecured personal loans offered by banks, credit unions and online lenders. You may be able to get a pool loan through the financial institution where you already have existing accounts, or you might choose to get financed from an online lender or financing consultant company that deals exclusively with pool loans and home improvement loans.

One of the benefits of personal loans is that you don’t have to offer up any collateral. If you stop making payments and default on your loan, you don’t have to worry about your house being foreclosed — though the lender still could sue you. If approved for an unsecured personal loan, you can usually receive funds within a couple of days, much quicker than some other financing options.

Because you don’t have any collateral backing the loan, however, these financing options can come with higher interest rates. Interest rates can start around 3% and go up to about 36%.

A borrower’s credit score, credit history, income and existing debt load all affect the interest rate.

Personal loan terms generally range from about two to 12 years — though some pool loans can have terms up to 20 years or more. You can get loans from $1,000 to over $200,000 to fund simple above-ground pools or elaborate in-ground pool projects.

Home Equity Loans

Home equity loans are essentially when you tap into the equity you have in your home and take out a second mortgage. If you have a significant amount of equity, you could finance your pool project this way.

Home equity loans generally have lower interest rates than personal loans because your home is used as collateral. If you default on your loan, the lender could foreclose on your home.

Also, with home equity loans you’ll face additional fees, like a home appraisal cost and closing costs, so be sure to factor that into your decision making.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

A home equity line of credit or HELOC also taps into the equity you have in your home, but it’s a revolving line of credit that you can use for several years instead of a loan that provides you with one lump sum of cash.

With a HELOC, you can pull out funds as needed to finance your pool construction and other home improvement projects. While you’ll only pay back what you borrow, the interest on HELOCs are usually adjustable rates rather than fixed rates. That means your monthly payments can increase during your repayment period.

Cash-Out Refinance

A cash-out refinance is essentially when you replace your existing mortgage with a new mortgage that exceeds what you owe on the house and you take out the difference in cash.

You can then use that lump sum to pay for your pool, and you’ll pay it back throughout the course of your new mortgage — over the next 10 to 30 years depending on your loan terms.

A cash-out refinance might make sense if you’re able to get a lower interest rate than your current mortgage. However, just like with a home equity loan or HELOC, your home is being used as collateral, and you’ll face additional fees involved in the refinancing process.

In-House Financing from the Pool Builder

Some pool companies may directly provide you with pool financing offers, so you don’t have to search for financing on your own. The pool companies typically aren’t offering the loan to you themselves, but they’ve partnered with a lender or network of lenders to provide you with financing options.

This type of financing is the same as applying for a personal loan or pool loan. The benefit is that you get a one-stop-shop experience instead of having to reach out to lenders individually. Your pool contractor may even be able to assist you through the loan process.

The downside is that you could potentially miss out on a better deal by only getting quotes from the pool company’s partnered lenders.

Credit Cards

Because of their high interest rates, credit cards are usually not recommended as options for financing a new swimming pool. However, there can be situations where it’d make sense.

If you’re able to open a zero-interest credit card and pay the balance back before the zero-interest period expires, paying with a credit card can be a great option — especially if it’s a rewards card that’ll give you points, airline miles or cash-back for spending or a bonus just for opening the account.

If you choose this financing option, be sure that you’ll be able to pay off the balance in a relatively short period of time. Most credit cards only offer zero-interest periods for the first 12 to 21 months. After that your interest rate could go up to 18% or more.

Pool Loan Comparisons

Getting quotes from multiple lenders will help you select the best deal for your pool construction project. Here’s what a few top lenders are currently offering.

Lyon Financial

Best for Long Loan Terms

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Pays the pool contractor directly
  • 600 minimum credit score
  • Offers military discounts

Lyon Financial is a financing consultant that has been in business since 1979 and works with a network of lenders to provide loans for pool and home improvement projects. Unlike personal loans that provide the borrower with the funds upfront, Lyon Financial disburses the funding directly to the pool builder in stages as the project progresses.

Lyon Financial

APR (interest rates)

As low as 2.99%

Maximum loan amount

$200,000

Loan terms

Up to 25 years

HFS Financial

Best for Large Pool Loans

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Provides loans up to $500,000
  • Most loans are funded within 48 hours
  • No prepayment penalties

HFS Financial is a financing company that partners with third-party lenders to provide homeowners with the money to construct pools on their property. Use their “60 second loan application” to kick off the loan process. Funds are typically dispersed within 48 hours.

HFS Financial

APR (interest rates)

As low as 2.99%

Maximum loan amount

$500,000

Loan terms

Up to 20 years

Viking Capital

Best for Customer Service

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Supports a network of pool builders
  • 650 minimum credit score
  • Offers military discounts

Viking Capital is a family-owned business that has been in operation since 1999. The company acts in the capacity of a financial consultant, and partners with a network of lenders to provide multiple loan offers for pool construction projects.

Viking Capital

APR (interest rates)

As low as 5.49%

Maximum loan amount

$125,000

Loan terms

Up to 20 years

5 Steps to Securing Pool Financing

Follow these steps to secure a loan for your pool.

1. Determine What Monthly Payments You Can Afford

Before you dig into your pool financing options, you should be clear on what monthly payment you can afford. Having a pool is a luxury. You don’t want a pool construction project to jeopardize your ability to pay your bills and meet your needs.

Figure out how much disposable income you have to work with by comparing your monthly earnings to how much you typically spend each month.

Don’t forget to factor in maintenance and additional utilities usage when estimating how much you can afford to go toward pool costs.

2. Check Your Credit History

When you’re financing a pool, having a good or excellent credit score will help you secure a loan with a low interest rate. Ideally, your credit score should be 700 or above.

Some lenders may offer you financing if you have fair or poor credit, however you may have to pay a lot more over time due to higher interest rates.

To boost your credit score before applying for a pool loan, follow these steps.

3. Get Cost Estimates for Your Pool

Talk with pool builders to get estimates on the total cost of your desired pool project. Get estimates from multiple pool companies so you have a better idea of what options exist.

If the estimates come in higher than you expected, consider scaling down the size of your pool project or using different materials.

Make sure any additional work — like constructing safety fencing — is included in your estimate.

4. Choose What Type of Financing Your Prefer and Shop Around For Lenders

After you figure out what options are available within your budget, it’s time to decide on what type of financing you prefer.

Will you be applying for an unsecured loan or do you plan to tap into your home equity or refinance your mortgage? Are you going to purchase a small above-ground pool that you could pay off in 15 months using a zero-interest credit card?

Once you know what type of financing you’ll go with, reach out to multiple lenders so you can compare offers and choose the best deal. You may be able to use a competitor’s lower offer to get a lender to reduce their offer even further.

5. Complete Loan Application and Sign Off on All Paperwork

The final step to get your pool project financed is to complete any additional paperwork and sign off on the dotted line. Expect to provide information about your income and other existing debt.

Your credit score may take a dip after taking on new debt, but it should rebound as you make regular, on-time payments.

Alternatives to Pool Financing

Taking on debt for a new pool doesn’t have to be your only option.

You could put off your pool construction project for a few years and save up for the expense in cash. Open a high-yield savings account to use as a sinking fund and don’t make withdrawals from the account until you’ve reached your savings goal.

If you think you’re outgrowing your current home — or are looking to downsize — wait until you’re ready to move and then look for a new home with an existing pool.

Or if you’re okay with not having a pool in your backyard, you’ll save money by visiting public pools or renting private pools from Swimply on occasion. This is a good option if you think you wouldn’t get much regular use of having your own pool.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many years can you refinance a pool for?

You can finance a pool over 20 to 30 years, depending on the type of financing you secure. If you need decades to pay back the loan, you might consider refinancing your mortgage or taking out a second mortgage. Private, unsecured loans typically need to be repaid sooner, however some have loan terms of 20 years or more.

What is the best way to finance a pool?

It all depends on your individual circumstances and preferences. If you’ve built up a ton of equity in your home and want to spread your debt payments over a lot of time, you might lean toward a home equity loan or HELOC. If you’ve got excellent credit and would qualify for a low-interest personal loan (unsecured loan), that might be the better option.

What credit score do you need for pool financing?

Ideally, you’ll want to have a credit score of 700 or higher to get the best interest rates for pool financing. Some companies, however, will accept lower credit scores. As a result, your loan may have a higher interest rate.

What is a good interest rate for a pool loan?

An interest rate around 5% is a good deal for a pool loan. You may be able to find rates even lower if you have excellent credit.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child?

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Additional Resources

Adoption is a life-changing journey. Whether the choice to adopt comes after years of expensive infertility treatments or is a route you’ve always wanted to take, the choice to welcome a new family member is rarely a financial one, but rather a decision of the heart.

But at some point, prospective adoptive parents have to consider the costs. It’s unlikely your decision to adopt will boil down to numbers. But it helps to know what to expect. 

The figures can vary depending on your adoption journey, from almost nothing to upward of $70,000. But you can use them as a baseline to help you financially prepare for starting a family and to make an informed decision about which type of adoption makes the most sense for you.


How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child?

There are three basic types of adoption: domestic infant adoption (sometimes called private adoption), international adoption, and public adoption. 


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But if you’re looking to adopt a baby, private and international adoption are the only two real options. Because of the way the foster care system operates, it’s exceedingly rare to be able to adopt an infant through public adoption. Their primary goal is reunifying families whenever possible, which can take years.     

But regardless of your adopted child’s age, some costs are common to all three, such as the expense of a home study, which involves visits by a social worker and background and financial checks. Other costs are unique to the adoption route you choose, such as the travel expenses involved with international adoption.

And the costs vary wildly, so it’s crucial you understand the ins and outs of each adoption type.


Domestic Infant Adoption

When adopting a baby in the United States, you have two options: adopting through an agency or independent adoption.

Costs of Adopting an Infant Through an Agency: $25,000 – $70,000 

Adopting through an agency is more expensive, but there’s also a higher success rate. Also, some agencies offer a sliding scale for those who need help affording adoption, which can potentially save you a few thousand dollars, depending on your income. However, each state has its own laws that regulate adoption fees, including sliding scale fee structures. 

Average Costs of Domestic Agency Adoption

Agency Fees $15,000 – $45,000
Legal Fees $2,500 – $6,000
Birth Mother Expenses $4,000 – $16,250
Home Study Fee $2,750

Adoption agencies are typically full-service operations. Thus, their fees generally include everything involved in the adoption process, which can be complex. The journey to bring a child home involves many parties, including attorneys, social workers, physicians, counselors, government administrators, and adoption specialists. 

There are also costs associated with matching birth parents and adoptive parents. For example, there are advertising expenses to find expectant mothers. And then there are medical expenses and court costs to ensure the health of the mother and child during pregnancy as well as the safety and security of the child after placement.

When you adopt through an agency, it typically completes the entire process from beginning to end, hence the expense. 

Adoption agencies that charge more include more services. For example, if you find an agency with fees at the lower end, it’s likely because their fee doesn’t include the costs of hiring an attorney, unlimited advertising for birth parents, certain birth mother expenses, or adoption disruption insurance (a guarantee you won’t lose your money if the birth mother changes her mind).

So always ask for a written, line-by-line breakdown of the agency’s costs to see what services its rate covers before signing with it. 

Costs of an Independent Adoption With an Attorney Only:  $10,000 – $40,000

If agency adoption is too expensive but you’d still like to adopt a newborn, you can save a lot of money by hiring an attorney to facilitate an independent adoption. Independent adoption happens when prospective parents locate a birth parent on their own and use an attorney to process the necessary paperwork.

Average Costs of Independent (Attorney) Adoption

Legal Fees $3,000 – $6,000
Advertising Fees $0 – $1,000
Birth Mother Expenses $6,000 – $30,000
Home Study Fee $1,000 – $4,000

The cost of an independent adoption can range from $10,000 to $40,000, though it could go higher based on your circumstances. The final bill depends on how much you need to spend to find an expectant mother and how much you pay for medical and living expenses, which may be regulated by state law. 

Further, adopting independently is a bit like trying to sell a house without a realtor. You must find a birth mom on your own, which means advertising for and vetting birth moms without help. 

So, while it can be cheaper, you still have to go it alone. And if you have trouble finding a birth mother, your costs can quickly add up. Agencies give a flat rate no matter how much advertising it takes. If you have trouble finding someone, you could quickly blow past the $40,000 mark.

Another reason independent adoption costs can vary more widely than those through a private agency is because in most states, adoptive parents won’t have their costs reimbursed if a birth mother changes her mind, what’s commonly called a disrupted adoption. Most adoption agencies build disruption insurance into their fee structures. 


International Adoption: $26,500 – $73,000

Those unfamiliar with the adoption process often believe it’s less expensive to adopt a child from another country. But the reverse is more often true. 

Average Costs of International Adoption

Agency Fees $15,000 – $30,000
Legal Fees $500 – $6,000
Immigration Application Fee $1,000 – $2,000
Dossier Preparation and Clearance $1,000 – 2,000
Home Study Fee $1,000 – $4,000
In-Country Adoption Expenses $2,000 – $10,000
Travel Expenses $5,000 – $15,000
Child’s Passport, Visa, Medical Exam $1,000 – $4,000

The cost of an international adoption can range from just over $20,000 to more than $70,000. The wide variance is due to the different requirements of each country. 

International adoption (also called intercountry adoption) has some similarities to domestic adoption. But it has its own unique steps and expenses that can quickly escalate beyond the cost of domestic adoption.

The costs of international adoptions can include immigration processing and court costs (both in the foreign country and the U.S.), travel expenses, foreign and domestic legal fees, foreign agency fees, passport and visa fees, medical examinations, and in-country adoptions expenses (such as foster care for the child, donations to the orphanage, and payments for the in-country adoption liaisons).

The costs also depend on whether a government or private agency, orphanage, nonprofit organization, attorney, or a combination of entities is managing the adoption. 

Additionally, some international adoptions are finalized in the child’s country of origin, while others must be finalized in the U.S., depending on the laws of your state, further adding to the total cost. And depending on the country’s regulations, you may have to plan an extended stay, which means time off work and (potentially) lost wages.


Public Adoption: $0 – $2,500

The least expensive route to growing your family is unquestionably public adoption, or adopting through the foster care system. It’s very difficult to adopt a baby, though. So this option is best for those who wish to adopt an older child.

Public adoption costs next to nothing because the government subsidizes many associated fees and expenses. 

Average Costs of Public Adoption

Agency Fees Usually $0
Legal Fees $0 – $2,000
Home Study Fee $0 – $500

Federal and state financial adoption assistance programs exist to encourage the adoption of children with special needs that make them difficult to place, such as older children, sibling groups, or those with physical or mental disabilities. 

Thus, most prospective parents who are adopting through public agencies will find their state is often willing to waive most or all of the fees associated with adopting through the foster care system, including both the home study fee and attorney fees. 

Additionally, if you become a foster parent and apply to foster-to-adopt, the government subsidizes some of your future adopted child’s living expenses while you await finalization. 

But if you have your heart set on adopting a newborn, foster care adoption isn’t the route for you. It’s nearly impossible to adopt an infant that way. 

Some babies in the foster care system were abandoned by their biological parents or taken by the state due to abuse, neglect, or drug addiction. But no child in the system — infant or otherwise — is immediately available for adoption. 

The state’s No. 1 priority is to reunite children with their biological families. That includes extensive sessions with counselors and social workers. If that effort ultimately proves unsuccessful, the state next tries to place the child with a biological relative. 

Only after these efforts — which could take several years — are children placed for adoption. Thus, by the time babies in foster care become eligible for adoption, they’re no longer babies. But if they were placed with a foster family, that family gets the first chance at adoption. 
However, if you’re interested in adopting an older child and are prepared to help them work through the trauma, the rewards can be immense. My parents adopted my little brother from foster care at the age of 6, and his presence has enriched our family in myriad ways.

Happy Family Son Saving Money In Piggy Bank Budgeting Teaching Saving

Factors That Influence Adoption Costs

Every adoption is unique, and though adoption agencies typically try to work within your budget, unforeseen costs can occasionally raise the base projected cost. And that can have a significant impact on your overall family budget.


Birth Mother Expenses

Depending on your state’s adoption laws, a birth mother may be eligible for coverage of certain expenses. You may have to pay medical expenses related to the pregnancy, including insurance coverage if she’s not already covered or eligible for Medicaid.

If you work with an agency, they should take care of helping her find coverage. But you may still be responsible for some medical expenses, such as doctor copays. Once you’re matched with a birth mother, her medical expenses become your medical expenses. 

Adoption agencies typically work these into their overall fee structure but allow for variances that could affect your cost. For example, you may pay more or less depending on what stage of pregnancy the mother’s in when the agency matches you. If you’re matched in the ninth month, there will be fewer expenses.

And if you’re adopting independently, some or all of the medical costs the birth mother incurs as a result of the pregnancy may be your responsibility as defined by the laws of your state. Consult with an adoption lawyer for more information.  

Additionally, in some states, you may need to cover other birth mother expenses. Birth mother expenses are court-approved funds adoptive families provide to help prospective birth mothers with pregnancy-related expenses. In addition to medical care, costs could include living expenses like maternity clothing, groceries, rent, and transportation. 

Some states that allow birth mothers to request living expenses cap the total amount. For example, Ohio caps the amount birth mothers can be reimbursed for living expenses at $3,000 and Connecticut at $1,500. Other states have no cap but permit a judge to set one on an individual basis. 

Thus, these expenses can vary widely from one adoption to another.


Advertising

The longer you have to wait for a birth mother match, the more money an agency must pay toward advertising to find you one. Ask the adoption agency how they deal with this variable cost. Some charge one flat fee regardless of the amount of advertising required; others set a variable cost.

And if you’re doing an independent adoption, you’ll be covering this expense on your own. If you don’t already know a birth mother to adopt from, you’ll need to find one. That means drawing on your personal connections, using social networks or community organizations, utilizing adoptive family websites, posting print ads, or seeking referrals from adoption attorneys. 

It could take a long time to find a birth mother if you don’t have extensive networking options. And that can substantially drive up your adoption costs. Depending on how long it takes you to find someone, fees for print and online advertising can range from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands. 


Attorney Fees

Lawyers are necessary for dealing with the legal aspects of any adoption. These include the original consent to adoption and termination of parental rights as well as the court proceedings to finalize the arrangement. 

However, the fees can vary considerably based on the type of adoption you opt for. Attorney fees can also vary depending on other factors, including:

  • The Complexity of the Case. Will they need to represent you multiple times in court? All adoptions must eventually be finalized before a judge. But some adoptions — such as international adoptions or those in which birth mother expenses must be court-ordered — could require more paperwork or court appearances than others.
  • The Number of Hours the Attorney Works on the Case. Lawyers charge by the hour. Even if you don’t have to appear in court more than once, adoption can involve a lot of paperwork.
  • The Number of Additional Attorneys or Support Staff Needed. Depending on the complexity of your case or who you hire, you may be represented by a law firm rather than a single attorney. Additionally, your lawyer may use a support team to fulfill basic tasks like clerical work.

Depending on your case, rates are often negotiable. And while attorneys often charge by the hour, many offer a flat fee for certain types of cases. 

For example, a family law attorney might charge a flat fee for a straightforward adoption case that requires a simple filing of paperwork and one court appearance. But they might charge by the hour for a more complex case, such as an international adoption.

Regardless, most lawyers offer payment options so clients can find an arrangement that works for their budget. And all lawyers have fee agreements informing clients of costs upfront. So ensure you thoroughly read the agreement beforehand. 


Time Off

Unfortunately, in the U.S., paid parental leave isn’t guaranteed by law, and many workplaces don’t have this benefit. Even when they do, it may not apply to adoptive parents. So check with your human resources department about whether your workplace offers adoption benefits. 

Whether your employer offers paid time off, all adoptive parents are entitled to up to 12 weeks (three months) of leave through the Family Medical Leave Act. The act equally guarantees maternity and paternity leave for biological and adoptive parents.

But it only guarantees your job and health insurance. It doesn’t guarantee paid time off. If your company doesn’t provide paid parental leave, you need to plan for lost wages.


Final Word

The costs of adoption may feel formidable, especially if you have your heart set on adopting an infant through domestic or international adoption. But they don’t have to be insurmountable.

Many resources are available to help families afford to adopt, including options for post-placement reimbursement, like the adoption tax credit. Talk with adoption professionals to explore your options before completely ruling it out. 

Also, talk with other families who’ve adopted. Many are happy to share stories of how they were able to afford adoption, especially if it helps others fulfill their dreams of a family.

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Sarah Graves, Ph.D. is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, parenting, education, and creative entrepreneurship. She’s also a college instructor of English and humanities. When not busy writing or teaching her students the proper use of a semicolon, you can find her hanging out with her awesome husband and adorable son watching way too many superhero movies.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Understanding the Parent Plus Loan Forgiveness Program

Parent PLUS loan forgiveness provides financial relief to parents who borrowed money to cover the cost of their children’s college or career school. It isn’t always a quick fix, but there are certain federal and private programs that might offer the financial assistance needed to help them get on track.

To receive federal relief for Parent PLUS loans, parent borrowers have a few options.

They can consolidate the loan in order to enroll in an Income-Contingent Repayment plan after 25 years, pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness after 10 years, or choose from a number of private student loan assistance programs or refinancing options.

Keep reading to learn more about what the available student loan forgiveness possibilities are for Parent PLUS loans.

Will Parent Plus Loans Be Included in Student Loan Forgiveness?

Parent PLUS loans are eligible for several of the same student loan forgiveness programs as federal student loans for students, including:

•   Borrower Defense Loan Discharge

•   Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge

•   Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

That said, Parent PLUS loans generally have fewer repayment options in the first place and the eligibility requirements for these forgiveness programs can be strict and may require borrowers to consolidate their PLUS loan, such as with PSLF. This can make it tricky for borrowers to navigate how to use these federal relief programs to their advantage.

Refinancing is another option for Parent PLUS loan borrowers — applying for a new private student loan with an, ideally, lower interest rate. That said, some lenders offer less flexibility for repayment and the fine print can be lengthy, so there’s an inherent risk associated with refinancing Parent PLUS loans. It’s also worth noting that refinancing a PLUS loan will eliminate it from any federal repayment plans or forgiveness options.

Recommended: What Is a Parent PLUS Loan?

Parent Student Loan Forgiveness Program

When it comes to student loan forgiveness, the programs aren’t just available for the students. Parents who are on the hook for student loan debt can also qualify for student loan forgiveness.

As previously mentioned, a Parent PLUS loan may be eligible for Parent Student Loan Forgiveness through two specific federal programs:

•   Income-Contingent Repayment

•   The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program

There are also a few private student loan forgiveness options, which we’ll get into below.

Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

An Income-Contingent Repayment plan, or ICR plan, is the only income-driven repayment plan that’s available for Parent PLUS borrowers. In order to qualify, parent borrowers must first consolidate their loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan, then repay that loan under the ICR plan.

•   A Parent PLUS loan that’s included in a Direct Consolidation Loan could be eligible for Income-Contingent Repayment, but only if the borrower entered their repayment period on or after July 1, 2006.

•   A Parent PLUS loan that’s included in the Federal Direct Loan Program or the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) is also eligible for ICR if it’s included in the Federal Direct Consolidation Loan.

ICR determines a borrower’s monthly payment based on 20% of their discretionary income or the amount by which their AGI exceeds 100% of the poverty line. After a 25-year repayment term, or 300 payments, the remaining loan balance will be forgiven.

Typically, the IRS considers canceled debt a form of taxable income, but the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 made all student loan forgiveness tax-free through 2025.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

Borrowers with Parent PLUS loans may be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, but in order to pursue that option must first consolidate the Parent PLUS loan into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Then, after they’ve made 120 qualifying payments (ten year’s worth), borrowers become eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). The parent borrower (not the student) must be employed full-time in a qualifying public service job. PSLF also has strict requirements such as certifying employment so it’s important to follow instructions closely if pursuing this option.

The Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) is another option for Parent PLUS borrowers if some or all of their 120 qualifying payments were made under either a graduated repayment plan or an extended repayment plan. The catch here is that the last year of their payments must have been at least as much as they would if they had paid under an ICR plan.

Refinance Parent Plus Loans

Refinancing a Parent PLUS loan is another option that could provide some financial relief.

For borrowers who don’t qualify for any of the loan forgiveness options above, it may be possible to lower their monthly payments by refinancing Parent PLUS student loans with a private lender.

In doing so, you’ll lose the government benefits associated with your federal loans, as briefly mentioned above, such as:

•   Student loan forgiveness

•   Forbearance options or options to defer your student loans

•   Choice of repayment options

Refinancing a Parent PLUS loan into the dependent’s name is another option, which some borrowers opt for once their child has graduated and started working. Not all loan servicers are willing to offer this type of refinancing option, though.

Transfer Parent Plus Student Loan to Student

Transferring Parent PLUS loans to a student can be complicated. There isn’t a federal loan program available that will conduct this exchange, and, as mentioned above, some private lenders won’t offer this option.

That said, some private lenders, like SoFi, allow dependents to take out a refinanced student loan and use it to pay off the PLUS loan of their parent.

Alternatives to Student Loan Forgiveness Parent Plus

When it comes to Parent PLUS loans, there are a few ways to get out of student loan debt legally, including the scenarios outlined below.

Student Loan Forgiveness Death of Parent

Federal student loans qualify for loan discharge when the borrower passes away. In the case of Parent PLUS loans, they are also discharged if the student who received the borrowed funds passes away.

In order to qualify for federal loan discharge due to death, borrowers must provide a copy of a death certificate to either the U.S. Department of Education or the loan servicer.

Recommended: Can Student Loans Be Discharged?

State Parent PLUS Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Many individual states offer some sort of student loan repayment assistance or student loan forgiveness programs for Parent PLUS loan borrowers.

For an overview of options available in different states, you can take a look at The College Investor’s State-by-State Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness . For information on student loan and aid available take a look at the SoFi guide on state-by-state student aid available for borrowers.

Disability

In the event of the borrower becoming totally and permanently disabled, a Parent PLUS loan may be discharged. To qualify for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge , borrowers must complete and submit a TPD discharge application, as well as documentation showing that they meet the requirements for being considered totally and permanently disabled. Note that in order to qualify for TPD, the parent borrower must be considered disabled. This type of forgiveness does not apply to Parent PLUS loans in the event that the student becomes disabled.

Bankruptcy

If a borrower can demonstrate undue financial hardship upon repaying the student loan, they might be able to discharge their Parent PLUS loan. Note having student loans discharged in bankruptcy is extremely rare. Proving “undue hardship” varies depending on the court that’s granting it, but most rulings abide by the Brunner test, which requires the debtor to meet all three of these criteria in order to discharge the student loan:

•   Poverty – Maintaining a minimal standard of living for the borrower and their dependents is deemed impossible if they’re forced to repay their student loans.

•   Persistence – The borrower’s current financial situation will likely continue for the majority of the repayment period.

•   Good faith – The borrower has made a “good faith” effort to repay their student loans.

Closed School Discharge

For parent borrowers whose children attended a school that closed while they were enrolled or who withdrew from the school during a “lookback period” of 120 days before its closure, a Closed School Discharge is another available form of student loan forgiveness.

In some circumstances, the government may extend the lookback period even further. For example, The Department of Education has changed the lookback period to 180 days for loans that were issued after July 1, 2020.

Borrower Defense

Borrower Defense Loan Discharge is available to Parent PLUS borrowers whose children were misled by their college or university or whose college or university engaged in certain forms of misconduct or violation of state laws.

To make a case for borrower defense, the Parent PLUS borrower must be able to demonstrate that their school violated a state law directly related to their federal student loan.

Explore Private Student Loan Options for Parents

Banks, credit unions, state loan agencies and other lenders typically offer private student loans for parents who want to help their children pay for college and refinancing options for parents and students.

Refinancing options will vary by lenders and some may be willing to refinance a Parent PLUS loan into a private refinanced loan in the student’s name. In addition to competitive interest rates and member benefits, SoFi does allow students to take over their parent’s loan during the refinancing process. Interest rates and terms may vary based on individual criteria such as income, credit score, and history.

If you decide refinancing a Parent PLUS loan makes sense for you, SoFi makes it simple. The application process is entirely online and SoFi offers flexible repayment options to help you land a loan that fits your budget. You can find your rate in a few minutes and checking if you prequalify won’t affect your credit score.*

The Takeaway

Parent PLUS Loan forgiveness offers financial relief to parents who borrowed money to help their child pay for college.

To receive federal relief for Parent PLUS loans, parent borrowers can enroll in an Income-Contingent Repayment plan, pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness, transfer their student loan to another student, take advantage of a state Parent PLUS student loan forgiveness program, or opt for private student loan assistance or refinancing.

Learn more about refinancing a Parent PLUS loan with SoFi.


*Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
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Guide to Dental Loans

Finding out you need dental work can be scary — and scary expensive. Still, the pain and the price could get even worse if you put off getting care. And sometimes delaying just isn’t an option.

If you don’t have enough money stashed away in your emergency fund, and your insurance won’t cover all your costs, you may want to chew on the pros and cons of taking out a dental loan.

What Are Dental Loans?

Medical financing loans are personal loans that are used to pay for a variety of medical expenses, including dental work and related expenses.

Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed by the upfront cost of a root canal or crown, or you expect to pay a substantial amount over time for braces, aligners, or implants, a dental loan can be a quick and convenient way to get the financing you need.

With a dental loan, you can borrow money to pay for your care, then make monthly payments until the loan balance is paid off.

How Do Dental Loans Work?

Dental loans are usually unsecured personal loans, which means you don’t have to put up collateral to secure the loan. Approval for a loan for dental work will be based on your creditworthiness.

If you qualify, you’ll receive a lump sum of money that’s to be repaid in monthly installments consisting of principal and interest. Since dental loans typically have fixed interest rates, your payments should be the same amount each month throughout the repayment period.

What Can Dental Loans Be Used For?

You typically can use a personal loan to pay for just about anything as long as it’s legal and within the terms of your loan agreement. For example, you can use a personal loan to pay for wedding expenses, home improvements, or legal fees.

Costs related to your dental care are included in common uses for personal loans. These might include treatment — even for expensive elective or cosmetic procedures that may not be covered completely or at all by dental insurance, over-the-counter or prescription medications you might require, transportation. You can even use the funds for the milkshake and soup you might need after your procedure.

Here are approximate costs for some common procedures that could be paid for with a dental loan:

Porcelain Crown

The cost of a crown can vary based on the materials used to make it, as well as the size, shape, and location of the tooth that’s being replaced. Costs for an all-porcelain crown can range from $800 to $3,000. Dental insurance may cover some of that expense, unless the crown is strictly for cosmetic purposes.

Whitening

A basic teeth cleaning may be covered by dental insurance as part of your annual exam. But an in-office teeth bleaching (which can cost $300 to $500 or more) or a laser whitening (which averages $1,000), likely won’t be covered by insurance.

Root Canal

The cost of a root canal could range from about $700 to $1,800 if you don’t have dental insurance. The cost can depend on several factors, including which tooth is being worked on and if the work is done by a specialist. Insurance may take the cost down to between $200 and $1,500.

Aligners

Teeth aligners can be pretty pricey no matter which type you buy, but if you go with an in-office treatment, you can expect to pay between $2,500 and $8,000. At-home brands range from about $1,200 to $3,300. Your insurance provider may pay for some of those costs, but you should check your coverage before ordering.

Veneers

Veneers can range from $470 to $2,000 per tooth, depending on the type and how much prep work is involved. The cost generally is not covered by dental insurance.

Typical Dental Loan Application Process

Your dentist may offer an in-house financing plan to help with costs — especially if he or she specializes in cosmetic procedures. Or the practice may partner with a lender who provides these types of loans. You aren’t obligated to use your dentist’s financing plan, but you may want to check out what the practice is offering. You also can go online to compare dental loan offers from traditional and online lenders.

Compare Offers: Choosing the Right Loan

When you start shopping for loans for dental work, you can go to individual lenders’ websites to see what they have to offer or use a comparison site to conveniently check out multiple lenders.

Getting prequalified with a few different lenders can help you get the clearest idea of what’s available and what’s best for your needs. Lenders typically use a soft credit pull during the prequalification process, so it won’t affect your credit score.

Here are a few things to watch for as you shop for financing:

Annual Percentage Rate

A loan’s annual percentage rate (APR) tells you the amount of interest you can expect to pay on your loan over the course of one year, including any fees or charges you might incur. Because it gives you a complete picture of the cost of the loan (as opposed to just looking at the interest rate), the APR can be a useful tool for comparing various loan offers.

Recommended: APR vs. Interest Rate

Fees

Fees can add up quickly, and they can add to the cost of your loan. Some common fees to look out for could include an application fee, origination fee, late payment fee, returned payment fee, and a prepayment penalty. Low-fee or fee-free loans may save you money over the life of the loan.

Loan Amounts

Some lenders may have loan minimums that require you to borrow more than you need. Before you go loan shopping, you may want to get dental procedure cost estimates to get an idea of how much you’ll have to borrow. Then you can look for lenders who are willing to lend that amount.

Loan Terms

Another important factor to consider is the loan term, or how long you’ll be given to repay the money you’ve borrowed. Of course, you’ll want to find a loan term that feels comfortable (a longer-term can equal lower payments). But a longer-term also could increase the amount you pay in interest over the life of the loan. You may want to think about how the loan length could affect your future financial goals.

Eligibility Requirements

Before you settle on a particular personal loan for dental work, you may want to check out the lender’s eligibility requirements. In the process of checking your personal loan rate, most sites will review your credit scores, credit history, income, and other personal financial information to determine whether you qualify for a particular interest rate or other loan terms.

Many lenders will accept a fair credit score (a FICO® Score of 580 to 669 is considered fair), but a good FICO Score (670 to 739) could qualify you for a more favorable interest rate and other terms. If you have a poor score (lower than 580), lenders may consider you to be a high lending risk, which could affect your eligibility. You may be able to find a loan, but the interest rate will likely be more expensive.

Approval and Funding Timeline

If you can’t get your treatment until you can pay for it — and you need it soon — a quick approval time and rapid funding also could be an important considerations. One of the major pluses of using an online lender can be the convenience and fast application time. If you have all your information ready, it can be easy to apply using an online form. And if you qualify, the money generally can be available within a few days.

Customer Service

Does the lender have a reputation for good customer service? You may want to check into how various lenders deal with consumer questions and problems. At the same time, you can see if there are any perks to building a relationship with a lender that might benefit you in the future.

Applying for a Dental Loan

If you find a lender and loan terms you like, and you’re ready to apply, your next step will be to complete a formal application. You can expect to be asked to verify your identity, income, and current address, and it can make things easier if you gather up the necessary documents ahead of time. You’ll probably need your driver’s license, Social Security number, recent pay stubs and/or bank statements, and a utility bill or some other proof of address.

Once you apply, most lenders will do a hard credit check, which may cause your credit score to drop by a few points temporarily. The lender will evaluate your ability to repay the loan and, if you qualify, your loan will be funded.

Pros and Cons of Dental Loans

Whether you need money for a one-time emergency procedure or for a series of treatments that could add up to a big expense, a dental loan may be an option worth considering. Here are some pros and cons that could help you decide if a personal loan makes sense for your situation:

Pros

Convenient Online Comparison

Applying for a personal loan online can be convenient and quick. Many lenders offer personal loans that can be used for dental treatment, so you can shop for the loan amount and terms that best suit your needs.You may be able to get your approval within a few hours (maybe even a few minutes) and you could receive your money within a few days.

Competitive Terms

If you have a solid credit history, a stable income, and fair or better credit scores, you may qualify for a competitive interest rate and a repayment period you feel comfortable with. (The interest rate on a dental loan is typically lower than the interest rate on a credit card.)

Fixed Payments

With a dental loan, borrowers typically receive a lump sum of money that is repaid in fixed monthly payments. This can make it easier to budget and manage your payments.

Cons

Fees and Penalties

Some dental treatment loans come with fees and penalties that can drive up the overall cost of borrowing. You may be able to keep your costs down, though, by finding a low- or no-fee loan.

Alternatives May Cost Less

If you can qualify for a credit card with a low or 0% promotional rate for purchases, it may be a less expensive way to borrow money — at least for a while. Zero-interest credit cards charge no interest during an introductory period, which typically lasts from six to 18 months. Paying the balance in full within the promotional period is essential to making the most of an offer like this.

Fixed Payments

Having a fixed monthly payment can make budgeting easier, but it doesn’t provide flexibility if you can’t make that payment for some reason. A different financing option, such as a credit card, might offer more adaptable minimum monthly payments.

Pros and Cons of Dental Loans

Pros Cons
Easy to compare lenders online. Some dental loans have fees and penalties that can increase the overall cost.
Terms are competitive and interest rates are generally lower than on credit cards. Alternatives like credit cards with a 0% interest introductory rate may be less expensive.
Fixed monthly payments can make it easy to budget for the expense. Fixed payments don’t allow for budget shortfalls.

Alternatives to Personal Loans

If you can’t afford the dental work you need, there are options besides dental loans that you might want to check out. A few to consider include:

Credit Cards

If you already have a low-interest credit card, you may want to compare the interest you’d pay if you used that card vs. the cost of a dental loan. Or you might want to consider the pros and cons of applying for a low or 0% introductory-rate credit card — if you think you can pay off the balance during the designated promotional period. If you end up using a high percentage of your available credit, however, your credit score could be negatively affected.

Dental Office Financing

Your dentist may offer some type of in-house financing to patients who can’t afford the treatments they want or need. The practice might partner with a lender that offers loans for dental procedures, for example, or the dental office might suggest a medical credit card with a low or 0% introductory rate. These offers may be worth reviewing and comparing to similar options, as long as you’re clear on all the repayment terms.

Grants

There are grant programs aimed at helping seniors, adults and children living in low-income households, and those who have special needs. The Dental Lifeline Network is a nonprofit organization that provides access to dental care for people who can’t afford it. Some dentists also may offer partial grants to attract new patients who need extensive and expensive treatment.

Explore Personal and Dental Loans with SoFi

A dental loan can be a quick and convenient solution if you need cash to pay for an unexpected dental procedure or an elective treatment you’ve been thinking about for a while (like braces, aligners or implants). Whether you’re considering an expensive cosmetic procedure or you need a crown or root canal ASAP, SoFi may offer a personal loan rate that works for your unique financial situation.

There are no fees with SoFi Personal Loans, and borrowers have access to customer support seven days a week. The application can be completed online, and you can check your rate in just one minute.

Take the pain out of dental costs and check your rates on a personal loan from SoFi

FAQ

What credit score do you need for dental implant loans?

Many lenders will offer a dental loan to a borrower with a fair credit score. (A FICO Score of 580 to 669 is considered fair). But a good FICO Score (670 to 739) could improve your interest rate and other terms. If you have a poor score (lower than 580), lenders may consider you to be a higher risk, which could affect your eligibility.

Can you get your teeth fixed with no money?

You may be able to find a research clinic or university dental program that provides free services to volunteer patients who need care. And some dental practices may occasionally offer free care to low-income patients. There are also grants that could help cover costs.

Can you put dental work on a credit card?

Yes, you can use a regular credit card or a medical credit card to pay for dental work. But if you come close to using up the balance on your card, it could affect your credit utilization ratio, which can have a negative impact on your credit scores.


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.com/legal.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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

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Dig Deeper

Additional Resources

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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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.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Conventional Mortgage Loan – What It Is & Different Types for Your Home

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Dig Deeper

Additional Resources

The mortgage industry is rife with jargon and acronyms, from LTV to DTI ratios. One term you’ll hear sooner or later is “conventional mortgage loan.”

It sounds boring, but it couldn’t be more important. Unless you’re a veteran, live in a rural area, or have poor credit, there’s a good chance you’ll need to apply for a conventional mortgage loan when buying your next house.

Which means you should know how conventional mortgages differ from other loan types.


What Is a Conventional Mortgage Loan?

A conventional loan is any mortgage loan not issued or guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), or U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 


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Most conventional loans are backed by the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) or the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac). These government-sponsored enterprises guarantee the loans against default, which lowers the cost for borrowers by lowering the risk for lenders.

As a general rule, stronger borrowers tend to use these private conventional loans rather than FHA loans. The exception concerns well-qualified borrowers who qualify for subsidized VA or USDA loans due to prior military service or rural location.


How a Conventional Mortgage Loan Works

In a typical conventional loan scenario, you call up your local bank or credit union to take out a mortgage. After asking you some basic questions, the loan officer proposes a few different loan programs that fit your credit history, income, loan amount, and other borrowing needs. 

These loan programs come from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Each has specific underwriting requirements.

After choosing a loan option, you provide the lender with a filing cabinet’s worth of documents. Your file gets passed from the loan officer to a loan processor and then on to an underwriter who reviews the file. 

After many additional requests for information and documents, the underwriter signs off on the file and clears it to close. You then spend hours signing a mountain of paperwork at closing. When you’re finished, you own a new home and a massive hand cramp.  

But just because the quasi-governmental entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back the loans doesn’t mean they issue them. Private lenders issue conventional loans, and usually sell them on the secondary market right after the loan closes. So even though you borrowed your loan from Friendly Neighborhood Bank, it immediately transfers to a giant corporation like Wells Fargo or Chase. You pay them for the next 15 to 30 years, not your neighborhood bank. 

Most banks aren’t in the business of holding loans long-term because they don’t have the money to do so. They just want to earn the points and fees they charge for originating loans — then sell them off, rinse, and repeat. 

That’s why lenders all follow the same loan programs from Fannie and Freddie: so they can sell predictable, guaranteed loans on the secondary market. 


Conventional Loan Requirements

Conventional loans come in many loan programs, and each has its own specific requirements.

Still, all loan programs measure those requirements with a handful of the same criteria. You should understand these concepts before shopping around for a mortgage loan. 

Credit Score

Each loan program comes with a minimum credit score. Generally speaking, you need a credit score of at least 620 to qualify for a conventional loan. But even if your score exceeds the loan program minimum, weaker credit scores mean more scrutiny from underwriters and greater odds that they decline your loan. 

Mortgage lenders use the middle of the scores from the three main credit bureaus. The higher your credit score, the more — and better — loan programs you qualify for. That means lower interest rates, fees, down payments, and loan requirements. 

So as you save up a down payment and prepare to take out a mortgage, work on improving your credit rating too.  

Down Payment

If you have excellent credit, you can qualify for a conventional loan with a down payment as low as 3% of the purchase price. If you have weaker credit, or you’re buying a second home or investment property, plan on putting down 20% or more when buying a home.

In lender lingo, bankers talk about loan-to-value ratios (LTV) when describing loans and down payments. That’s the percentage of the property’s value that the lender approves you to borrow.

Each loan program comes with its own maximum LTV. For example, Fannie Mae’s HomeReady program offers up to 97% LTV for qualified borrowers. The remaining 3% comes from your down payment. 

Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)

Your income also determines how much you can borrow. 

Lenders allow you to borrow up to a maximum debt-to-income ratio: the percentage of your income that goes toward your mortgage payment and other debts. Specifically, they calculate two different DTI ratios: a front-end ratio and a back-end ratio.

The front-end ratio only features your housing-related costs. These include the principal and interest payment for your mortgage, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and condo- or homeowners association fees if applicable. To calculate the ratio, you take the sum of those housing expenses and divide them over your gross income. Conventional loans typically allow a maximum front-end ratio of 28%. 

Your back-end ratio includes not just your housing costs, but also all your other debt obligations. That includes car payments, student loans, credit card minimum payments, and any other debts you owe each month. Conventional loans typically allow a back-end ratio up to 36%. 

For example, if you earn $5,000 per month before taxes, expect your lender to cap your monthly payment at $1,400, including all housing expenses. Your monthly payment plus all your other debt payments couldn’t exceed $1,800. 

The lender then works backward from that value to determine the maximum loan amount you can borrow, based on the interest rate you qualify for. 

Loan Limits

In 2022, “conforming” loans allow up to $647,200 for single-family homes in most of the U.S. However, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac allow up to $970,800 in areas with a high cost of living. 

Properties with two to four units come with higher conforming loan limits:

Units Standard Limit Limit in High CoL Areas
1 $647,200 $970,800
2 $828,700 $1,243,050
3 $1,001,650 $1,502,475
4 $1,244,850 $1,867,275

You can still borrow conventional mortgages above those amounts, but they count as “jumbo” loans — more on the distinction between conforming and non-conforming loans shortly.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

If you borrow more than 80% LTV, you have to pay extra each month for private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Private mortgage insurance covers the lender, not you. It protects them against losses due to you defaulting on your loan. For example, if you default on your payments and the lender forecloses, leaving them with a loss of $50,000, they file a PMI claim and the insurance company pays them to cover most or all of that loss. 

The good news is that you can apply to remove PMI from your monthly payment when you pay down your loan balance below 80% of the value of your home. 


Types of Conventional Loans

While there are many conventional loan programs, there are several broad categories that conventional loans fall into.

Conforming Loan

Conforming loans fit into Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan programs, and also fall within their loan limits outlined above.

All conforming loans are conventional loans. But conventional loans also include jumbo loans, which exceed the conforming loan size limits. 

Non-Conforming Loan

Not all conventional loans “conform” to Fannie or Freddie loan programs. The most common type of non-conforming — but still conventional — loan is jumbo loans.

Jumbo loans typically come with stricter requirements, especially for credit scores. They sometimes also charge higher interest rates. But lenders still buy and sell them on the secondary market.

Some banks do issue other types of conventional loans that don’t conform to Fannie or Freddie programs. In most cases, they keep these loans on their own books as portfolio loans, rather than selling them. 

That makes these loans unique to each bank, rather than conforming to a nationwide loan program. For example, the bank might offer its own “renovation-perm” loan for fixer-uppers. This type of loan allows for a draw schedule during an initial renovation period, then switches over to a longer-term “permanent” mortgage.

Fixed-Rate Loan

The name speaks for itself: loans with fixed interest rates are called fixed-rate mortgages.

Rather than fluctuating over time, the interest rate remains constant for the entire life of the loan. That leaves your monthly payments consistent for the whole loan term, not including any changes in property taxes or insurance premiums.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs)

As an alternative to fixed-interest loans, you can instead take out an adjustable-rate mortgage. After a tempting introductory period with a fixed low interest rate, the interest rate adjusts periodically based on some benchmark rate, such as the Fed funds rate.

When your adjustable rate goes up, you become an easy target for lenders to approach you later with offers to refinance your mortgage. When you refinance, you pay a second round of closing fees. Plus, because of the way mortgage loans are structured, you’ll pay a disproportionate amount of your loan’s total interest during the first few years after refinancing.


Pros & Cons of Conventional Home Loans

Like everything else in life, conventional loans have advantages and disadvantages. They offer lots of choice and relatively low interest, among other upsides, but can be less flexible in some important ways.

Pros of Conventional Home Loans

As you explore your options for taking out a mortgage loan, consider the following benefits to conventional loans.

  • Low Interest. Borrowers with strong credit can usually find the best deal among conventional loans.
  • Removable PMI. You can apply to remove PMI from your monthly mortgage payments as soon as you pay down your principal balance below 80% of your home’s value. In fact, it disappears automatically when you reach 78% of your original home valuation.
  • No Loan Limits. Higher-income borrowers can borrow money to buy expensive homes that exceed the limits on government-backed mortgages.
  • Second Homes & Investment Properties Allowed. You can borrow a conventional loan to buy a second home or an investment property. Those types of properties aren’t eligible for the FHA, VA, or USDA loan programs.
  • No Program-Specific Fees. Some government-backed loan programs charge fees, such as FHA’s up-front mortgage insurance premium fee.
  • More Loan Choices. Government-backed loan programs tend to be more restrictive. Conventional loans allow plenty of options among loan programs, at least for qualified borrowers with high credit scores.

Cons of Conventional Home Loans

Make sure you also understand the downsides of conventional loans however, before committing to one for the next few decades.

  • Less Flexibility on Credit. Conventional mortgages represent private markets at work, with no direct government subsidies. That makes them a great choice for people who qualify for loans on their own merits but infeasible for borrowers with bad credit. 
  • Less Flexibility on DTI. Likewise, conventional loans come with lower DTI limits than government loan programs. 
  • Less Flexibility on Bankruptcies & Foreclosures. Conventional lenders prohibit bankruptcies and foreclosures within a certain number of years. Government loan programs may allow them sooner. 

Conventional Mortgage vs. Government Loans

Government agency loans include FHA loans, VA loans, and USDA loans. All of these loans are taxpayer-subsidized and serve specific groups of people. 

If you fall into one of those groups, you should consider government-backed loans instead of conventional mortgages.

Conventional Loan vs. VA Loan

One of the perks of serving in the armed forces is that you qualify for a subsidized VA loan. If you qualify for a VA loan, it usually makes sense to take it. 

In particular, VA loans offer a famous 0% down payment option. They also come with no PMI, no prepayment penalty, and relatively lenient underwriting. Read more about the pros and cons of VA loans if you qualify for one. 

Conventional Loan vs. FHA Loan

The Federal Housing Administration created FHA loans to help lower-income, lower-credit Americans achieve homeownership. 

Most notably, FHA loans come with a generous 96.5% LTV for borrowers with credit scores as low as 580. That’s a 3.5% down payment. Even borrowers with credit scores between 500 to 579 qualify for just 10% down. 

However, even with taxpayer subsidies, FHA loans come with some downsides. The underwriting is stringent, and you can’t remove the mortgage insurance premium from your monthly payments, even after paying your loan balance below 80% of your home value.

Consider the pros and cons of FHA loans carefully before proceeding, but know that if you don’t qualify for conventional loans, you might not have any other borrowing options. 

Conventional Loan vs. USDA Loan

As you might have guessed, USDA loans are designed for rural communities. 

Like VA loans, USDA loans have a famous 0% down payment option. They also allow plenty of wiggle room for imperfect credit scores, and even borrowers with scores under 580 sometimes qualify. 

But they also come with geographical restrictions. You can only take out USDA loans in specific areas, generally far from big cities. Read up on USDA loans for more details.


Conventional Mortgage Loan FAQs

Mortgage loans are complex, and carry the weight of hundreds of thousands of dollars in getting your decision right. The most common questions about conventional loans include the following topics.

What Are the Interest Rates for Conventional Loan?

Interest rates change day to day based on both benchmark interest rates like the LIBOR and Fed funds rate. They can also change based on market conditions. 

Market fluctuations aside, your own qualifications also impact your quoted interest rate. If your credit score is 800, you pay far less in interest than an otherwise similar borrower with a credit score of 650. Your job stability and assets also impact your quoted rate. 

Finally, you can often secure a lower interest rate by negotiating. Shop around, find the best offers, and play lenders against one another to lock in the best rate.

What Documents Do You Need for a Conventional Loan?

At a minimum, you’ll need the following documents for a conventional loan:

  • Identification. This includes government-issued photo ID and possibly your Social Security card.
  • Proof of Income. For W2 employees, this typically means two months’ pay stubs and two years’ tax returns. Self-employed borrowers must submit detailed documentation from their business to prove their income. 
  • Proof of Assets. This includes your bank statements, brokerage account statements, retirement account statements, real estate ownership documents, and other documentation supporting your net worth.
  • Proof of Debt Balances. You may also need to provide statements from other creditors, such as credit cards or student loans.

This is just the start. Expect your underwriter to ask you for additional documentation before you close. 

What Credit Score Do You Need for a Conventional Loan?

At a bare minimum, you should have a credit score over 620. But expect more scrutiny if your score falls under 700 or if you have a previous bankruptcy or foreclosure on your record.

Improve your credit score as much as possible before applying for a mortgage loan.

How Much Is a Conventional Loan Down Payment?

Your down payment depends on the loan program. In turn, your options for loan programs depend on your credit history, income, and other factors such as the desired loan balance.

Expect to put down a minimum of 3%. More likely, you’ll need to put down 10 to 20%, and perhaps more still.

What Types of Property Can You Buy With a Conventional Loan?

You can use conventional loans to finance properties with up to four units. That includes not just primary residences but also second homes and investment properties. 

Do You Need an Appraisal for a Conventional Loan?

Yes, all conventional loans require an appraisal. The lender will order the appraisal report from an appraiser they know and trust, and the appraisal usually requires payment up front from you. 


Final Word

The higher your credit score, the more options you’ll have when you shop around for mortgages. 

If you qualify for a VA loan or USDA loan, they may offer a lower interest rate or fees. But when the choice comes down to FHA loans or conventional loans, you’ll likely find a better deal among the latter — if you qualify for them. 

Finally, price out both interest rates and closing costs when shopping around for the best mortgage. Don’t be afraid to negotiate on both. 

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G. Brian Davis is a real estate investor, personal finance writer, and travel addict mildly obsessed with FIRE. He spends nine months of the year in Abu Dhabi, and splits the rest of the year between his hometown of Baltimore and traveling the world.

Source: moneycrashers.com