Because repeat buyers can often put some of the money from their previous home sale towards their down payment, they’re more likely than first-time buyers to put down larger lump sums. First-time buyers, however, are more likely to put down between 3 and 9 percent. According to a Zillow survey, only 37 percent of first-time buyers pay 20 percent or more.
Buying a home isn't as difficult as you might think, even if you're short on funds, but the process will go a lot more smoothly if you're familiar with your real estate market. Narrow down your wants and needs before you start looking at houses, and differentiate between the two. You have some wiggle room with wants, but not so much with your needs.

Knowing you need to set money aside each month is one thing. Actually doing it is another. Set yourself a calendar reminder on the same day each month or pay period to transfer a set amount of money – at least 5% of your take-home pay, and ideally 10% – into your primary savings account. You can then separate the share allotted to your down payment from your general savings or other savings goals. Or, better yet, create a separate savings account whose sole purpose is to hold your down payment funds.
If you are unable to make a 20% down payment, there are many lenders that will allow you to make a smaller down payment on a house. Among them is the FHA, which offers mortgages with as little as 3.5% down, if your annual income is under a certain amount that varies by market. There are even some lenders, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that allow you to put 0% down, but eligible homes are usually in rural areas, and your income must meet certain low requirements.
Pre-approval requires the lender to pull the credit information (see Step 1) and assess your financial situation. The lender will then give you a letter that states the amount they would be willing to lend you. If you get in a multiple-offer scenario, being pre-approved may give you an edge because the seller will have more confidence that you will be approved for a loan large enough to purchase their home.
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Los Angeles, California: it's a city that needs no introduction, especially if you're hunting for a home. From its pulsating nightlife to its lively beaches, its star-studded events to its world-class attractions, the list of reasons to call Los Angeles home is extensive. You needn't look far to find entertainment in the City of Angels, either. There's the stunning architecture, lush gardens, and impressive art collection of the Getty Museum; Griffith Observatory's breathtaking views of both Beverly Hills and faraway planets; and the silver-screen excitement and thrilling rides of Universal Studios Hollywood, too.
VA Loans. If you or your spouse is a current or former member of the military, your family may qualify for a VA home loan backed by the federal government (Department of Veterans Affairs). On the down payment front, VA loans are even better than FHA loans – they require no money down, though you’re free to put money down and reduce the total amount you must borrow. If interest rates drop after you’ve been in your house for a while, look into VA streamline refinance loans (IRRRL), which can reduce your rates significantly at a lower cost than a conventional refinance loan.
The steps to buying a house might seem complicated at first—particularly if you're a home buyer dipping a toe into real estate for the very first time. Between down payments, credit scores, mortgage rates (both fixed-rate and adjustable-rate), property taxes, interest rates, and closing the deal, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. There's so much at stake with a first home!
If you and your spouse both have IRAs, you can both withdraw up to $10,000, for a total of $20,000. Depending on the projected size of your down payment, that could be a sizable boost. And, on Roth IRAs held longer than five years, you can withdraw tax- and penalty-free contributions in excess of $10,000, though any withdrawn earnings are taxable at your normal rate.

Pre-approval requires the lender to pull the credit information (see Step 1) and assess your financial situation. The lender will then give you a letter that states the amount they would be willing to lend you. If you get in a multiple-offer scenario, being pre-approved may give you an edge because the seller will have more confidence that you will be approved for a loan large enough to purchase their home.


Before you start looking for a home, you will need to know how much you can actually spend. The best way to do that is to get prequalified for a mortgage. To get prequalified, you just need to provide some financial information to your mortgage banker, such as your income and the amount of savings and investments you have. Your lender will review this information and tell you how much we can lend you. This will tell you the price range of the homes you should be looking at. Later, you can get preapproved for credit, which involves providing your financial documents (W-2 statements, paycheck stubs, bank account statements, etc.) so your lender can verify your financial status and credit.
If you already own a home, simply call your insurance agent and let them know you’re buying a new home. They will handle writing a new policy. If you don’t have an insurance agent, now’s the time to find one because your lender will require homeowners insurance. Even if you don’t have a mortgage, insurance is a critical part of protecting your investment. You’ll also want to give utility companies your move-in date to establish service. There’s nothing like moving into a cold, dark house because you didn’t get an account with the power company!

If you and your spouse both have IRAs, you can both withdraw up to $10,000, for a total of $20,000. Depending on the projected size of your down payment, that could be a sizable boost. And, on Roth IRAs held longer than five years, you can withdraw tax- and penalty-free contributions in excess of $10,000, though any withdrawn earnings are taxable at your normal rate.
Of course, most of these programs depend on factors like your income, a maximum home price, and even your profession. For example, government employees in the Washington, DC, area may be eligible for $10,000 in down payment assistance, and teachers in Los Angeles and Orange County, CA, can get up to $15,000 to help them with their home purchases. Ask your real estate agent about these types of programs that you are eligible for.

If you are unable to make a 20% down payment, there are many lenders that will allow you to make a smaller down payment on a house. Among them is the FHA, which offers mortgages with as little as 3.5% down, if your annual income is under a certain amount that varies by market. There are even some lenders, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that allow you to put 0% down, but eligible homes are usually in rural areas, and your income must meet certain low requirements.
Why? Because, over shorter timeframes, market downturns can devastate savings goals. Imagine that you put $20,000 in the market between 2005 and 2007, on your way to an expected $40,000 down payment by 2009. Between mid-2007 and early 2009, U.S. markets lost roughly half their value. In other words, that $20,000 sum would have shrunk to just $10,000, assuming you added no new funds – no doubt crushing your dream of buying a home in 2009.
You might be surprised to find that some private mortgage programs also have low down payment requirements. Most conventional loans have guidelines set by either Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. Because these loans must conform to this set of guidelines, they are called “conforming” loans. To offset the risk of lending with smaller down payments, conventional lenders require borrowers to purchase private mortgage insurance, or PMI, when they put less than 20 percent down on a home.
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Since performance bonuses and profit-sharing payments aren’t guaranteed, it’s risky to account for them in your day-to-day or month-to-month budgets anyway. That’s like counting your chickens before they hatch. If you don’t make plans for your bonuses or profit shares before you know you’ll get them, you won’t miss them. Actually, you’ll be grateful for them as they slowly but steadily grow your down payment fund.
You need to worry about common closing costs such as your home inspection, lender appraisal, and title insurance. Taken together, these expenses are nothing to sneeze at – depending on your situation, they can amount to anywhere from 3% to 6% of the total purchase price. In buyers’ markets, you might have luck convincing your seller to pay some closing costs, but that’s far from guaranteed.
Oh, and did we mention the Los Angeles weather? With year-round high temperatures that rarely dip below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, it's safe to say that in LA, it's nearly always a great day for a trip to the beach. The only problem you'll have is choosing which beach to go to. Would you prefer the carnivalesque atmosphere of the Santa Monica pier? Or maybe you'd like to experience the vibrant local color of Venice beach? If you're feeling swanky, put on your best designer swimsuit and spend the day sunning on Manhattan Beach. The choice is yours. And speaking of choices, when it comes to real estate, Los Angeles homes for sale truly have it all. Whether you're seeking to purchase an affordable starter home in an up-and-coming neighborhood, an immaculately restored historical bungalow, a mid-century masterpiece or a chic, modern mansion, the city of LA has just what you're after. Not quite ready to buy? No problem. You'll also find plenty of apartments for rent in Los Angeles in our rentals section, ranging from affordable to opulent. Great places go fast in LA, though, so make sure you have your checkbook ready. The world-famous Los Angeles lifestyle is waiting for you.
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