Robin Tanner's Blog
If you’re hoping to buy a house in the near future, you’ll want to focus on saving for a down payment.
Down payments are a way to let a lender know that you are a low-risk investment, and a way to save money on interest over the term of your loan.
If you have your other finances in order--a good credit score and stable income--there’s a good chance that making a 20% or more down payment will land you a low interest rate that can save you thousands while you pay off your loan.
How large should my down payment be?
The larger the down payment you can afford, the more money you’ll likely save in the long run. While there are ways to get a loan with no or very small down payments, these aren’t always ideal.
First, if you put less than 20% down on your home loan, you’ll be required to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI. These are monthly payments that you make in addition to the interest that is accrued on your loan.
So, if you don’t put any money down on your home, you’ll accrue more interest over your term length and you’ll pay PMI on top of that.
What affects your minimum down payment amount?
Lenders take a number of factors into consideration when determining your risk. If you’re eligible for a first-time home owners loan, a veteran’s loan, or a USDA loan, your loan can be guaranteed by the government. This means you can likely pay a lower down payment while still receiving a reasonable interest rate.
When applying for a mortgage, be sure to reach out to multiple lenders and shop around for the rates that work for you. Many lenders use slightly different criteria to determine your eligibility to pay a lower down payment.
Other things that affect your minimum down payment include:
Location of the home you want to buy
Value of the mortgage
Saving for a down payment
You’ll get the most value out of your mortgage if you put more money down. However, if you’re currently living in a high-rent area, it could mean that it’s in your best interest to get out of your apartment and start building equity in the form of homeownership.
If you want to buy a home within the next year or two, there are a few ways you can help increase your savings.
First, determine how much you need to save. Depending on your housing needs and the current market, everyone will have different requirements. Do some home shopping in your area online and look for homes that are within your spending limits. Remember that you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your monthly income on housing (mortgage, property taxes, etc.)
Next, find out what a 20% down payment on that home would be, adjusting for inflation.
Once you have the amount you need to save, remember to leave yourself enough of an emergency fund in your savings account to last you a month or two.
Your 401K is a great resource of investing for retirement. Many people use their 401k’s as a part of their overall investment strategies, pulling money out of it when it’s needed. When you’re ready to buy a house, you may think that pulling money out of your 401k for a down payment is a good idea. But think again.
Although you should always speak with a financial professional about your money matters, the bottom line is that is probably not the best idea to use your 401k to supply money for a downpayment on a home.
First, your 401k funds are pre-tax dollars. That means that you haven’t paid any taxes on these funds. Your employer will often match the amount of money that you put into your 401k, as an incentive to help you save money for your future. You need to keep your 401k for a certain amount of time before any funds in the 401k become available to you without having to pay any kind of penalty. If you decide to take on the penalty, you can often face a cut to your employer’s match programs as well. This is why you must make this decision wisely.
Anyone under the age of 59.5 pays a penalty of 10 percent to take the money out of the fund. In addition, you’ll now need to pay taxes on this money, because it becomes a part of your adjusted gross income.
If you are looking to invest in a property, there may be other options for you rather than pulling money out of your 401k. While some plans allow you to borrow money from it. However, if your only option to get money to invest in a property is to pull money from your retirement account, it may not be the best time to invest in property for you.
Keep It Separate
If you’re younger (say in your 30’s or 40’s) your best option is to have a completely separate account that is used to save for a downpayment and other expenses that you’ll incur when you buy a home. In this sense you aren’t spreading yourself too thin as far as investments go. You should compartmentalize your money. Buying a home is a large investment in itself. Home equity can also be a good source of a nest egg in later years when you need it. However, even if a property will be an income property, it’s never smart to take from one investment account to provide for another unless you’re shifting your focus. You don’t want to reach retirement, only to see that your funds have been depleted and you can’t retire as expected.
One of the biggest hurdles in becoming a homeowner is that of saving for a down payment. In today’s world, it’s hard for anyone to save sizable amounts of money due to the extreme cost of living in most areas. With less income and higher expenses, many people have less of an opportunity to save money.
Saving Isn’t Impossible
Many homebuyers are first-time homebuyers. While many simply dream of owning a home, others work to make it happen. Saving money is a goal. Once you save the money, you have made a real accomplishment. You’ll have a huge reward waiting for you once you reach your goal. How can you save effectively? There’s a few simple steps that will allow you to start saving for a down payment on a home. Remember that no matter how slow you go, every step is one step closer to hitting your goals.
Get A Savings Account
Preferably, the savings account that you open should be dedicated to your house expenses. Most of the time, your bank will allow you to set up automatic transfers from your checking account. See how much you can afford to save and set up these transfers. Each time you get a paycheck from work, have a certain amount put right into the savings account. You’ll be saving without even thinking about it.
Be Budget Friendly
Budgeting sounds complicated, but really, it’s quite simple. First, put your monthly gross income on a spreadsheet. Then subtract things like taxes and fees that come out of your paycheck. Next, subtract all of your necessary monthly costs. These can include student loan debt, car loans, rent, and how much money you spend on food and entertainment. There's so many little things that we spend our money on everyday, you may be surprised to see how much you’re spending and what you’re spending it on. Some categories are important and others are not.
See Where You Can Cut Costs
After you have made a concrete budget, see where you can cut some costs. If you need to cut out going to dinner and the movies, then do that. There’s bound to be something that you can cut out of your budget that’s not a necessity that can help you to save some cash. The sacrifice will be worth it in the end!
Indulge For Your House
Every time that you get a small bonus, a gift, or a tax refund, put it away. It can be tempting to want to go buy a brand new TV or spend your money on entertainment, but saving that money for your house fund will be a lot more rewarding.
The bottom line is that it won’t be a huge task saving your money for a down payment once you put your mind to it. Happy saving!
For many of us, it can seem like our paychecks are gone before we even get a chance to see them. With seemingly endless bills and expenses, both recurring and unforeseen, saving up for a house is a daunting task.
Fortunately, there are ways you can prepare yourself for those intimidating down payments and many closing costs.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through how you can start saving for a home right this moment. After all, every day is another day you could be contributing to your savings and taking another step closer to owning your own home.
Use a Budgeting Tool
The first step to saving and determining how much you can save is to start budgeting. Many people hear the term “budget” and get nervous thinking they’ll have to start counting the number of coffees they buy. However, there are less anxiety-inducing ways to budget.
From your phone, tablet, or computer you have access to a large number of free budgeting tools. Mint, You Need a Budget (YNAB), and PocketGuard are three of the top budgeting tools that will get you started.
With apps that integrate with your bank accounts and loan balances, there is little work required on your part. Just set an amount to save each week or month, and direct the funds into your savings account.
Set up a dedicated savings account
Speaking of savings accounts--now is a great time to set up a new one. It’s almost always free to open a new account with your bank. What’s more, it’s a lot less tempting to pull from a savings account when it’s labeled something like “HOUSE SAVINGS - DO NOT TOUCH.”
Once you have your budgeting app and bank account set up, it’s time to dig into some of the ways you can save money without skipping meals.
Cutting Monthly Expenses
Rather than telling yourself you can’t buy any more fancy Starbucks drinks anymore until you have a house (don’t torture yourself), make a list of all your monthly expenses. That can include anything from Netflix and Spotify to haircuts and car washes.
A great way to make this list is to go through your credit and debit card transactions. If you have autopay set up, you might not even realize how many services are withdrawing directly from your accounts each month.
For each item on your list, determine if you can either eliminate the expense or spend less on it. Maybe you go for the deluxe car war rather than the basic. Or, you might pay for services you don’t use as much as you used to.
If you’re worried about having no entertainment if you drop Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, you could try out your local library system. Most of the time you can have books, movies, and music shipped for free from all around your state.
When it comes to cable, cell phone plans, car insurance, and other monthly bills give your provider a call and tell them you’re thinking about switching over to a cheaper competitor. They’ll likely offer you a discounted rate. If they don’t, follow through on your promise and call other providers to see if you can get better rates.