Paying off credit card debt isn’t always straightforward, though. Focus on your highest-interest debt first (debt avalanche method), even if that means putting as little as $25 or $50 extra toward your payment each month. As your high-interest debt load shrinks, you can move onto lower-interest credit card debt, and you’ll likely accelerate your progress toward a $0 balance. With lower (or no) interest charges eating into your spending and saving power, you can then direct your dollars toward your down payment fund.
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You won't have to pay PMI: By making a larger down payment, you can also avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI). With a smaller down payment -- say 3.5% -- your mortgage lender will want some financial insurance that you'll pay the larger loan off on time, and in full. That increases the monthly mortgage payments you'll make if you make a smaller down payment - and that's a problem a homebuyer who makes a 20% down payment doesn't have.
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.
Deciding whether you want to buy a house involves taking a good, hard look at its structure and its features, but there are many other topics that are every bit as important to your purchase. You might want to consider having a home inspection to flush out hidden problems, or even talk to the neighbors to get firsthand opinions of the neighborhood.
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.
Although 20 percent isn’t a prerequisite to homeownership, many buyers do put that amount down and then some. Larger down payents are more prevalent for buyers in the West (47 percent put down 20 percent or more) and the Northeast (52 percent put down 20 percent or more). This is because of tighter markets and the need to present a more competitive offer to a seller in order to win the home.
Buying a home is often one of the most expensive endeavors one will take throughout their life, so it’s not surprising that saving for a down payment remains a major hurdle for many Americans on their path to homeownership. But although a 20 percent down payment is considered ideal, it’s not actually as common as you might think, nor is it a necessity to buying a home.
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Your state and perhaps local governments may offer down payment assistance programs as well. For instance, in my native Minneapolis, the Minnesota Homeownership Center has a handy Down Payment Assistance finder that tells prospective homeowners about down payment financing and non-financial assistance resources available in their areas. In California, Golden State Finance Authority provides direct, need-based grants (with some strings attached) worth up to 5% of the loan amount – not an insignificant sum in pricey California metro areas like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
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.