How To Save For A Down Payment
If you are a prospective home buyer, you know that one of the most difficult parts of pursuing homeownership is saving up for a down payment, but it’s absolutely possible. Through a few actionable financial moves, the amount you need to save for a house’s down payment can be within your reach.
Let’s explore how to save for a down payment, what a good down payment looks like and review some common questions about this part of the home buying process.
What Is A Good Down Payment For A House?
Most mortgage lenders would love if borrowers put down 20% for a home as it lowers their risk when funding the loan. However, in today’s real estate market, you typically won’t be required to pay that much. Instead, you’ll probably have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is an extra cost on top of your monthly payment.
You can obtain a fixed-rate conventional loan with as little as 3% down, and first-time home buyers (and others) can access certain mortgage options that allow for low or no down payments. Depending on your situation, you may qualify for:
- A Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan for as little as 3.5% down.
- A Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loan with as little as 0% down, and no PMI.
- S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans with zero down, if in an eligible area.
- Various down payment assistance
You could shave thousands of dollars off your expected down payment – and possibly months off of your savings strategy – by putting down less than 20%. Expect to pay insurance premiums for th elife of the loan, or until you can get rid of it.
A higher down payment can mean a lower interest rate and a lower principle balance on your mortgage overall, though, saving you interest as well as in PMI costs in the long run.
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How To Save For A Down Payment On A House
The process of saving for any major expense can be a challenge, but the good news is that you can steadily build your down payment fund by taking action on the steps below.
Here are the top steps you should take when saving for a house down payment.
1. Plan Your Savings Budget
As with all major financial goals, you’ll need a plan to start building up your down payment.
The first component of the plan is to determine how much you’ll actually need to save. You can strategize by looking at the homes in your target area for homeownership. Consider the prices and decide what would be the right budget for your homeownership dreams and your finances.
Once you have an idea of how much you plan to spend on your home purchase, consider your loan options to see what size down payment you’ll need. If you are considering a fixed-rate conventional loan, you may be able to put down as little as 3%. That would lead to a down payment of $6,000 on a $200,000 house.
But don’t forget to factor in closing costs, which can be another significant expense. Typically, closing costs run between 3% and 6% of the home purchase price. Keep that in mind when deciding on your savings goal.
Consider exploring our mortgage calculator if you aren’t sure how much you’ll need to put down on your new home. With a number in mind, it’s time to set aside money in your budget for this goal each and every month.
2. Increase Your Income
Even with a budget in place, you might find that there is simply not enough money available to allocate toward your down payment fund. Unfortunately, that’s normal when you are looking at buying a home.
Most prospective home buyers have to get creative and boost their income in order to increase their savings. There are lots of ways to make extra cash, including working overtime, selling unused items, taking on a second job or finding a side hustle. You could also negotiate for a raise at your current job, too.
Though it might take some brainstorming to find the right source of extra income for you, the extra effort will be worth it when you make your dream of homeownership a reality.
3. Cut Unnecessary Spending
In addition to increasing your income, cutting out extra spending can give your savings a boost. Although cutting out spending isn’t necessarily fun, it can help you achieve your savings goal. Here are just a few ways to cut unnecessary spending.
- Decrease spending on take-out and fast food.
- Limit entertainment-related purchases, like movies and video games.
- Skip taking a vacation this year.
- Reduce spending on expensive clothing.
- Relocate to a more affordable apartment or neighborhood.
- Get a roommate to save on housing costs.
- If you live close enough, start biking to work to save gas money.
Seek out creative ways to cut back on costs in your own life. Although small cuts may not seem too dramatic, a series of small cutbacks can lead to big savings.
4. Pay Off Your Debt
If you have high interest debts, such as student loans and credit card balances, that could be eating into your ability to pay for a new home. High interest rates can wreak havoc on your finances. With that, it’s a smart move to pay off your high interest debt before saving up for a down payment.
This strategy offers two benefits:
- You can save more of your paycheck. Without high interest debt burning through your paycheck, you can rapidly improve your ability to save for a down payment.
- Paying down debt can increase your credit score. Since a credit score is a key component in the home buying process, this can help you obtain better loan terms when you apply for a mortgage.
It’s never a bad idea to pay off debts with high interest rates. But as you prepare for homeownership, the pressure to eliminate these expensive debts is higher than ever.
5. Automate Your Savings
If setting aside down payment money is just one more chore on your plate, take your mind off of it by setting up automated transfers. You can do this through your bank and automate a regularly scheduled withdrawal from your checking to your savings account, or authorize your employer to deposit a certain amount of your paycheck into savings.
Make sure you mark on a calendar or elsewhere when your automated withdrawals take place. You wouldn’t want to be short on funds in your account when the time for the transfer comes around.
6. Ask For Financial Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when it comes to making a big financial decision like a house, especially if it can get you a bigger down payment. Gift letters from friends or family can be put toward down payments, if doing so is within the rules of your mortgage or lender. You could also consider crowdfunding through various websites, apps, etc.
7. Research First-Time Home Buyer Programs
If you are a first-time home buyer saving for homeownership, then you should take some time to explore the common first-time home buyer programs.
These programs are designed to help you achieve your goal of buying a home by helping out with a down payment or offering a low down payment option. A few to consider include government-sponsored lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s down payment assistance programs, VA loans and grants, USDA loans and FHA loans.
You might be surprised by the amount of help that is available to you. Depending on your personal finance situation, you might be able to cut your required down payment amount by thousands of dollars.
FAQs About Saving For A Down Payment
Here’s what other people are asking regarding saving for a house down payment.
Where can I save for a down payment?
Instead of leaving the funds sitting in your checking account, consider transferring these specific savings into a high yield savings account. The separate account should prevent any accidental spending. Plus, the high yield will help push you toward your ultimate goal.
What is the lowest down payment I can make?
Minimum down payments may differ depending on your mortgage. For a conventional loan, you can make a down payment as low as 3%, whereas an FHA loan requires a minimum of 3.5%. If you’ve earned the benefit from military service, a VA loan requires 0% down.
Remember that the lower your down payment, the higher your interest rate may be. Plus, down payments under 20% usually require you purchase mortgage insurance.
Can I buy with no money down?
Qualified home buyers can buy with no down payment if they qualify for VA or USDA loans. In lieu of mortgage insurance, VA and USDA loans charge an upfront funding fee and an annual guarantee fee, respectively.
The Bottom Line
The process of saving for a down payment will take some time, but with diligent action, the process might not take as long as you might think. As you implement the steps above, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a homeowner sooner rather than later. First-time home buyers may also be eligible for low or no down payment loan options or programs.
If you’ve saved enough money or are curious about your rates, get the home loan process started today.