Miriam Keri'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.
There are so many factors that go into finding and securing the financing to buy a home. While lenders require quite a bit of information for you to get a loan, you still need to be aware of your own financial picture. Even if you’re pre-approved for a certain amount of money to buy a home, you still need to dig into your finances a bit deeper than a lender would. The bottom line is that you can't rely solely on a lender to tell you how much you can afford for a monthly payment on a home. Even if you’re approved to borrow the maximum amount of money for your finances to buy a home, it doesn’t mean that you actually should use that amount. There are so many other real world things that you need to consider outside of the basic numbers that are plugged into a mortgage formula.
Run Your Own Numbers
It’s important to sit down and do your own budget when you’re getting ready to buy a home. You have plenty of monthly expenses including student loan debt, car payments, utility bills, and more. Don’t forget that you need to eat too! Think about what your lifestyle is like. How much do you spend on food? Do you go out to the movies often or spend a regular amount of cash on clothing? Even if you plan to make adjustments to these habits when buying a home, you’ll want to think honestly about all of your needs and spending habits before signing on to buy a home.
Now, you’ll know what your true monthly costs are. Be sure to include things like home insurance, property taxes, monthly utilities, and any other personal monthly expenses in this budget. If you plan to put down a lower amount on the home, you’ll also need to include additional insurance costs like private mortgage insurance (PMI).
The magic number that you should remember when it comes to housing costs is 30%. This is the percentage of your monthly income that you should plan to spend on housing. Realistically, this could make your budget tight so this is often thought of as a maximum percentage. By law, a lender can’t approve a mortgage that would take up more than 35% of your monthly income. Some lenders have even stricter requirements such as not allowing a borrower to have a mortgage that would be more than 28% of monthly income. This is where the debt-to-income ratio comes into play.
As you can see, it’s important to take an earnest look at your finances to avoid larger money issues when you buy a home.