Show Me the Money

How much cash will you need to bring to the closing table?

Let’s start low and then build up. First of all, if you qualify for a VA loan, they allow a zero down payment. If you’re a veteran or an active duty service member, you need to know that. Also, if you’re buying a home in a rural area, ask your REALTOR about the Department of Agriculture program. Yep, the USDA has a zero down home loan program for people buying out in the country.

Now if neither of those programs work for you then you’ll have to come up with some cash when you buy a house. But, you do not need a 20% down payment. If you’re a qualified buyer you can find a good safe mortgage which requires as little as 3% down. And again, this is not some sub-prime back alley mortgage, this is a high quality home loan. So that’s a good starting point.

Now, how do you get the money? Well course people who sell one house and buy another, they just take the profit from the first place and buy the second one. But if you’re a first time home buyer you don’t have that ability. So for you there are basically four ways to get your down payment ready to go.

First, save it. Just sock away all the money you can and try to temporarily stop spending on things you don’t really need. Plenty of people have given up vacations or expensive dinners in order to conserve their down payment money. You can too. It helps by the way to have your money put in your savings account automatically – direct deposit. You never see it so you won’t be apt to dip into it.

Second, plenty of first time home buyers get the down payment from their parents. But it has to be a gift, not a loan. Lenders won’t allow you to barrow the down payment. Your parents will have to give you the money. It happens all the time all across America.

Third, if you have an IRA or a 401K you might be able to withdraw money for a down payment. Talk to your accountant about this one. You need to try at least to avoid penalties for early withdraw. So talk to a financial pro about whether that’s a smart move for you or not.

The forth way to come up with a down payment, your city or state might have a program that provides down payment assistance. Again, talk to your REALTOR about what programs are in your area. You might qualify, you might not. Many people are surprised that they can be making a pretty good amount of money and still get down payment assistance.

On last thought. I talked a lot about how to get into a house with a low down payment. But if you can, you should know, it’s almost always better to put down more. Put down as much as you can. Your monthly payments will be less, you’ll walk into the place with more equity. And if prices were to drop, you’ll have more protection against going under water. So more is better. And if you just don’t have more, that’s okay. Remember, you do not need 20%. If all you have is 3%, 3.5%, or 5%, don’t give up. Because the home you want could be within your reach.

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