If you think you need a down payment of 20% of a property’s price in order to start home shopping, think again. Most homebuyers put down a significantly smaller amount. Opting for a lower down payment has the benefit of getting you into a home sooner than if you scrimped and saved for years. And you might reap the benefit from market appreciation as soon as you own a property.
Prospective homeowners may explore such options as mortgages with lower down payments (some are even available with 0% down to qualified borrowers), as well as down payment assistance programs.
Learn more here, including:
• What is a down payment?
• How much money should you put down to buy a house?
• How can you lower down payment requirements when buying a property?
First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.
What Is a Down Payment?
First, the basics: What exactly is a down payment? A down payment is the amount of money that goes paid, in cash, toward the purchase price of the home. It must cover the gap between the purchase price of the home and the amount of the mortgage.
A down payment determines what kind of loan you can get, whether or not you’ll pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), what your monthly payment will be and even what your interest rate will be. A down payment doesn’t include closing costs.
💡 Quick Tip: Don’t overpay for your mortgage. Get a competitive rate by shopping around for a home loan.
How Much Should You Put Down on a House?
You might be wondering how much is a down payment and how long it will take you to save that down payment amount for. Here are some options to consider when it comes to down payment amounts:
• 20% Down payment: Many people believe mortgage lenders say this is the amount they must come up with, though that is not true. Yes, a bigger down payment lowers your mortgage. Your monthly mortgage payment is lower because of your higher down payment, and you’ll pay less interest over the life of the loan. Also, when your down payment is above 20%, your lender does not require you to purchase PMI, which can save you hundreds of dollars each month.
But paying 20% can take a lot of cash out of your pocket when you buy your home. For example, 20% on a home that costs $400,000 is $80,000 dollars. There are many people who want to buy a property, but simply can’t come up with that amount of cash or at least not until they’ve saved for a considerable amount of time.
• 8% Down payment: This is the average down payment on a house for first-time homebuyers, according to the National Association of Realtors®. (For repeat homebuyers, the figure jumps to 19%.) Making this much of a down payment means you won’t avoid PMI in most cases, but you’ll be able to buy a home with a smaller down payment and without having to save as much money. For a house that costs $400,000, that’s $32,000 you need to come up with.
• 3% to 5% Down payment: With a down payment between 3% and 5%, you’ll have a higher monthly payment because your loan amount is higher than if you were able to make a larger down payment. You’ll also pay more each month because of the PMI payment. Lower down payments mean you’ll also pay more interest over the life of the loan.
However, the main benefit of a low-down-payment loan is you’re able to buy a home sooner than if you wait to save a full 20%. For a $400,000 home, a 3% down payment is $12,000 and a 5% down payment is $20,000. Some loans have the option of eliminating PMI once the loan’s remaining principal balance drops to or below 80% of the original mortgage.
• 0% Down payment: Zero down payment options come with higher monthly payments, and there may be certain restrictions or qualifications (say, a certificate of eligibility for military members). They may be niche programs specific to a group of people or locality. Some zero-down programs do not require PMI, but may have an upfront cost to fund their own mortgage insurance, like USDA loans (more on those in a minute).
Considerations to Determine Your Down Payment
The large amount of cash typically needed makes first time homebuyers wonder how they can afford a down payment and if it’s possible to figure out how to lower a down payment on a house. A couple of points to consider:
• It is possible to get a lower mortgage payment by paying down principal on your home with a larger down payment. A 20% down payment on a house eliminates the need to pay PMI every month, which saves you even more on your monthly payment. In this way, a larger down payment can benefit your cash flow and overall financial situation.
• However, 20% of the price of a home in your market may be hard to save for. You can learn how to buy a house with no money down, but there are also 3%, 3.5%, or 5% down payment options available. A lower down payment may be able to help you buy a home sooner. You can begin reaping the benefits of home ownership that much soon and hopefully your home’s value will rise, contributing to your personal wealth.
Recommended: First-Time Home Buyer Programs
How to Lower Down Payment Requirements?
If you’re moving towards purchasing a home, you might be wondering if you can lower your down payment before closing. Generally speaking, you have a handful of options for lowering your minimum down payment amount requirement as you take out a home mortgage loan and become a homeowner.
Buy a Home in an Area Approved for USDA Loans
USDA loans have 0% down payment requirements, so if you can find a home in an area approved by USDA (typically but not always in a rural location), you may be able to get a 0% down payment loan. For the USDA loan, there are property and income requirements which are determined by the county you live in (or want to live in).
Use a VA Loan to Buy a Home
Qualifying veterans, active duty, National Guard, and Reserve members of the military can use a VA loan, a mortgage that comes with zero-down-payment financing.
💡 Quick Tip: Apply for a VA loan and borrow up to $1.5 million with a fixed- or adjustable-rate mortgage. The flexibility extends to the down payment, too — qualified VA homebuyers don’t even need one!†^
Pay the Minimum Amount for a Down Payment
One solution is to look for a loan without potentially restrictive eligibility requirements, as with a USDA or VA loan, and instead shop around for a loan that has low down payment policies. Many lenders offer mortgages with as little as 3% down, which may work well for some homebuyers.
Find a Down Payment Assistance (DPA) Program
Down payment assistance programs vary from area to area as far as requirements and amounts go. If you really need down payment assistance, try to buy a home in an area that offers one of these options. DPAs are usually reserved for first-time homebuyers or low- to moderate-income buyers. They typically come in three forms:
• Second mortgage. DPAs are often offered in the form of a second mortgage with low or zero interest rates. Some second mortgages may not need to be repaid after living in the home for a certain period of time, while others may only need to be repaid when the property is sold.
• Grant. With a grant, the money you receive is not expected to be repaid. However, there may be requirements for living in the home as a primary residence for a certain number of years for the grant to be forgiven.
• Tax credit. Tax credits can reduce the amount of federal tax you owe if the local housing finance agency (HFA) issues you a mortgage credit certificate. This certificate can free up money for down payment and closing costs.
Some examples of DPA programs across the U.S. include:
• Kentucky: Borrowers can receive up to $10,000 repayable over a 10-year period at 3.75% interest via the Kentucky Housing Corporation.
• California: CalHFA has down payment assistance loans of up to the lesser of 3.5% of the purchase price or appraised value to qualifying homebuyers.
• New York City: The HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance Program offers up to $100,000 for first-time homebuyers who qualify.
• Montana: Borrowers can qualify for up to $15,000 in assistance for a down payment from Montana Housing. Repayment is either due when the home is sold or in the form of a 15-year loan.
• Chenoa Fund: The Chenoa Fund is a nationwide down payment assistance program for creditworthy individuals on FHA loans up to 5% of the down payment needed for low- to moderate-income households. Both repayable and forgivable options are available.
In some areas, DPA programs can be hard to find or difficult to qualify for. Your lender can be an excellent resource if you need help buying a home with a small down payment. Discuss options with a representative and see what is available.
Negotiate for Lender Credits
Lenders want your business, especially in a high-rate environment. You can ask for credits to be applied to your closing costs. When your closing costs are covered by the lender, you can put more of your money toward your down payment.
Ask for Seller Concessions
When you negotiate the purchase of property, you can ask for seller concessions. These typically determine home’s purchase price and which closing costs the seller is willing to pay. Like lender credits, you can put more of your own money towards the down payment when a seller can cover some of your closing costs.
Ask for a Gift from Family
Of course, not every prospective homebuyer is blessed with a relative who has money in the bank they might give you or lend to you with generous repayment terms. But if you are in a spot and unable to come up with the funds otherwise, you might see if anyone is able and willing to help you out.
While they may come with higher monthly mortgage payments, lower down payment mortgages can help borrowers buy homes sooner. Lowering your down payment requires a good amount of research on the part of the borrower, exploring different loans, programs, and other options to help you afford a property.
Even then, you may not find a perfect solution. That’s why it can be important to choose a mortgage partner who’s willing to be with you every step of the way.
Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.
How much money to put down on a house in 2024?
Deciding on how much money to put down depends on your individual financial situation, the area in which you live, and programs you’re able to qualify for. While putting down 20% could save you the money you would pay towards PMI, you may be able to get into a house sooner by paying a lower down payment amount (from 0% to 3.5%). First-time homebuyers are currently putting down 8% on average.
How can I get my house down payment lowered?
To get your down payment lowered, you can try: financing with a zero-down loan (such as a USDA or VA loan), asking for seller concessions, negotiating for lender credits, and looking for down payment assistance programs.
Will mortgage interest rates go down 2024?
It is looking likely that mortgage interest rates will stabilize or decline. At the start of 2024, both the Mortgage Bankers Association and Fannie Mae were calling for rates to decline to the 6% to 6.5% range in the year ahead.
Does having a cosigner lower your down payment?
A cosigner can help you qualify for a mortgage, but it won’t change the requirements of the mortgage. Different loan programs will each have their own down payment requirements.
Photo credit: iStock/aydinmutlu
*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.
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†Veterans, Service members, and members of the National Guard or Reserve may be eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by VA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. VA loans typically require a one-time funding fee except as may be exempted by VA guidelines. The fee may be financed or paid at closing. The amount of the fee depends on the type of loan, the total amount of the loan, and, depending on loan type, prior use of VA eligibility and down payment amount. The VA funding fee is typically non-refundable. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.
^SoFi VA ARM: At the end of 60 months (5y/1y ARM), the interest rate and monthly payment adjust. At adjustment, the new mortgage rate will be based on the one-year Constant Maturity Treasury (CMT) rate, plus a margin of 2.00% subject to annual and lifetime adjustment caps.
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