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.
You'll be inundated with possibilities, especially in the beginning of your home search. Your agent will send listings to your cellphone. You'll probably pick up "House For Sale" magazines and read classified ads in your local newspapers. You'll probably spend an inordinate amount of time surfing the Internet for homes. You might even plan afternoon drives to preview neighborhoods.
Typically, purchase offers are contingent on a home inspection of the property to check for signs of structural damage or things that may need fixing. Your real estate agent usually will help you arrange to have this inspection conducted within a few days of your offer being accepted by the seller. This contingency protects you by giving you a chance to renegotiate your offer or withdraw it without penalty if the inspection reveals significant material damage.
Typically, you have to put between 3 and 20 percent of your home’s sale price down in cash to qualify for a conventional loan (30-year fixed mortgage), but there are exceptions. If you meet eligibility guidelines, you might qualify for a home loan with a zero-down payment through Veterans Affairs (VA loans) or the Department of Agriculture (USDA loan) programs.
FHA Loans. FHA mortgage loans are insured, but not originated, by the federal government – specifically, the Federal Housing Administration. Known as 203b mortgage loans, they require just 3.5% down. They can be used on one- to four-family homes and typically carry lower interest rates than conventional mortgage loans, though your exact rate will depend on your creditworthiness and other factors. Underwriting standards are also much looser than on conventional mortgages – you can qualify with a credit score below 600.
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.
Government-backed loans require borrowers to pay for some form of mortgage insurance. With FHA and USDA loans, it’s called MIP, or Mortgage Insurance Premium. For VA loans, it’s called a Funding Fee. The insurance covers potential losses suffered by mortgage lenders when borrowers default. Because insurance protects lenders from losses, they are willing to allow these low down payments.
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.
If your take-home pay won’t get you to your down payment goal on your desired timeframe, or you’re worried about negatively impacting your lifestyle as you scrimp and save for your dream home, consider increasing your income by picking up a side gig – either by taking on a second part-time job, picking up work as an independent contractor, or exploring the many ways to make money from home.
It’s important to ensure you’re not depleting (or neglecting to fund) your retirement savings account or your emergency fund to buy a home. Doing so could put you at a disadvantage to retire comfortably later on. Draining your emergency fund isn’t ideal because you might need to make costly repairs after moving in or run into a financial hardship, and you won’t have a cushion to fall back on.
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