Kat Aoki is a mortgage writer at Finder who specializes in breaking down everything you need to know before buying a home — from reviews of top lenders, to the best mortgage providers by state, to the difference between fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages. And she’s no stranger to personal finance. Since 2011, she’s written hundreds of thoughtful, informative articles to help consumers make better decisions with their home loans, credit cards, insurance policies and more. Kat is also well-versed in working with leading brands in the real estate, mortgage and personal finance industries, including AMEX, Citibank, GE Money and RealEstate.com.au, among many others. She has a BS in business administration and marketing from California State University, and enjoys travel and hiking in her spare time.
- Home equity loans
- Mortgage refinancing
- Freelance writer for over 10 years, with a focus on technology, fintech, finance, insurance and real estate verticals
- Written hundreds of articles for industry-leading brands, including AMEX, Citibank, Lenovo, Canon, Microsoft, GE Money and Thomson Reuters
- Created high-caliber content, e-books, infographics and email campaigns for various multinational companies and startups
- Earned a certificate in systems programming from Computer Learning Center (CLC), and was a Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) for many years
- Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Marketing | California State University, Sacramento
Industry insights from Kat Aoki
We asked Kat to flex her expertise and answer some of our most burning questions about the state of the mortgage industry in a post-COVID world.
How much do you have to put down so you don’t have to pay private mortgage insurance?
Most conventional mortgages require you to make a minimum down payment of 20% or you must pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) on top of your regular mortgage payment. PMI is a type of insurance that protects lenders in case the borrower defaults on their home loan. However, some lenders offer special loan programs that don’t require PMI. For example, medical professional loans often have no PMI and some first-time homebuyer programs charge a higher interest rate in exchange for no PMI. That said, it’s always a good idea to compare loans and determine which will help you save the most money over the long term.
As we get closer to seeing the end of the coronavirus pandemic, do you think it's better to take out a 15- or 30-year mortgage?
The choice between a 15- year versus a 30- year loan really boils down to how much you can realistically afford to pay toward your mortgage every month. In general, it’s always better to pay off your loan faster than slower if you can afford the higher monthly payments, as it can save you tens of thousands of dollars in interest over the long run. But as the pandemic showed us, life isn’t always predictable, so you need to choose the term length and monthly payment that best fits your needs during times of financial ups and downs.
My house has significantly increased in value since 2020. Is now a good time to tap into my home equity so I can get cash out? I’d love to take a vacation.
Tapping into your home equity with a home equity loan, line of credit or cash-out refinance can give you access to cash for a range of needs. But I would advise against borrowing against your home’s equity unless you have a financially sound reason for doing it — for example, to pay for home improvements, for property or business investment purposes, for debt consolidation or to pay down high-interest student loans. Borrowing against your home equity increases your debt, which you have to pay back either now or later. When it comes to taking on more debt, it’s always important to weigh the pros and cons.
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