The Down Payment

The amount you have available for a down payment will affect what types of loans for which you can qualify. Down payments typically range from 3.5 to 20 percent of the sales price for the property.

Tips for Accumulating a Down Payment

Alternative Sources

  • No-down and low-down Mortgages

    • VA Loans
      VA Loans are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Service persons and veterans can qualify for a VA Loan, which usually offers a competitive fixed interest rate, no down payment and limited closing costs. While the VA does not issue the loans, it does issue a certificate of eligibility required to apply for a VA loan.
       

    • USDA Loans
      A government loan that is available to qualified borrowers who are purchasing a home in a rural or sparely populated portion of the country. 

  • Low-down Mortgages

    • FHA Loans
      The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), plays a significant role in helping low- to moderate-income families qualify for mortgages. FHA assists first-time buyers and others who would not qualify for a conventional loan, by providing mortgage insurance to private lenders. Interest rates for an FHA loan are usually the going market rate, while the down payment requirements for an FHA loan are lower than conventional loans. The required down payment can be as low as 3 percent and the closing costs can be included in the mortgage amount.
       

    • Piggy-back Loans
      A second mortgage that closes with the first. Often the first mortgage is for 80% of the purchase price and the piggyback is for 10%. The home buyer covers the remaining 10% with their down payment. (Some lenders will write a second mortgage of 15% or even 20% of the purchase price.)
       

    • Carry Back Mortgage
      In the case of the seller carrying back a second mortgage, the seller loans you part of his or her equity. In this scenario, you would finance the majority of the loan with a traditional mortgage lender and finance the remaining amount with the seller. Typically you will pay a slightly higher interest rate on the loan financed by the seller.

  • Housing Finance Agencies
    These agencies offer special loan programs to low- and moderate-income buyers, buyers interested in rehabilitating a home in a targeted area, and other groups as defined by the agency. Working through a housing finance agency, you can receive a below market interest rate, down payment assistance and other incentives.

    • The primary mission of Housing Finance Agencies is to boost home ownership in targeted areas, among first-time buyers and those with little money for down payments. Most of these non-profit agencies were funded with state government seed money and now operate independently.

      Click here for a list of Housing Finance Agencies.

  • Documenting Your Down Payment

    Documenting that the down payment comes from your savings and that you will have savings and/or assets over and above the down payment gives the lender confidence in your strength as a borrower and your ability to repay the loan.

    Take extra care to document the sources for any monies to be used for the down payment or closing costs.

    Acceptable Down Payment & Closing Costs Sources

    • Cash in a bank account
    • Mutual funds / stocks / IRA / 401K
    • Proceeds from the sale of another property
    • Gift from an immediate relative
       

    Click here to learn more about verifying your down payment, closing costs, income and debt.

 

 Using 401K Funds
for a Down Payment

You have finally found the home of your dreams. There is just one thing standing between you and your new house: The down payment.

Many home buyers today opt to use funds from their employer’s 401(K) program to come up with the down payment on a house. Ordinarily, you cannot take money from your 401(K) plan unless you retire, leave the company or become disabled, but many company plans permit certain “hardship withdrawals” when there is an immediate and heavy financial need, including the purchase of the employee's principal residence.

The drawback to a hardship withdrawal is that you will pay taxes and penalties on the amount withdrawn from your plan, which often must be paid in the year of withdrawal. And while hardship withdrawals are allowed by law, your employer is not required to provide them in your plan. Check with your employer’s human resources department if you are not sure if your 401(K) plan allows hardship withdrawal.

A better approach may be to borrow against your 401(K) – often as much as 50 percent of your account balance. You pay interest on the loan, but the interest goes back into your account. The money you receive is not taxable as long it is paid back and plans can give you anywhere from five to 30 years to pay back your loan.

There are risks involved in borrowing from your 401(K). If you lose your job or leave your employer, you must pay back the loan in full within a short period, sometimes as little as 60 days. If the money is not paid back in that time, it is considered a withdrawal from your plan and subjected to the same taxes and penalties. And while 401(K) accounts can usually be rolled over into a new employer’s 401(K) without penalties, loans from a 401(K) cannot be rolled over.

In addition, because the funds withdrawn from your account are no longer earning compound interest, your account will be smaller when you retire. And you will be replacing pre-tax money with after-tax money.

Please NOTE: Some lenders will count the money you borrowed from your 401(K) as an additional debt that will go along with your car payments, student loans and credit cards. While it may seem unfair since you are borrowing your own money, most lenders view it as a payment obligation that affects your debt-to-income ratio in qualifying for a home loan. It may be a factor in whether you decide to make a hardship withdrawal from your 401(K) and pay tax penalties or borrow against it.

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Today's Rates

Mtg Loan Rate APR
30-yr Fixed 3.91% 4.04%
15-yr Fixed 3.21% 3.38%
1-yr Adj 2.74% 3.4%
* national averages
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