So what is a good credit score? You can expect a good mortgage rate at anything above 720. Home buyers who pursue an FHA loan can usually secure a loan if their credit is 580 or over. FICO scores are available at www.myfico.com for a one-time or monthly fee. Once you know your score, you can find out what interest rate you will likely qualify for by researching interest rates on Zillow.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Each mortgage lender (LendingTree is just one example) will scrutinize your financial background—such as your debt-to-income ratio and assets—and use this info to determine whether to loan you money, and what size monthly payment you can realistically afford. This will help you target homes in your price range. And that's good, because a purchase price that's beyond your financial reach will make you sweat your mortgage payment and puts you at risk of defaulting on your loan.

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.

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.
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.
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!
Nevertheless, scraping together a down payment is a tall order, especially for first-time homebuyers in expensive coastal markets. According to CoreLogic, the average home price in California’s Bay Area topped $700,000 in 2016 – and that figure includes relatively inexpensive bungalows in East Bay suburbs, as well as ultra-pricey row houses in San Francisco proper.
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 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!
Outside of these Fannie Mae, FHA, VA and USDA loan types, there are state and local assistance programs that can help you get into a home with a low-down payment. There are also towns that offer incentives to move there, ranging from student loan forgiveness to free lots of land to build on. Even though these programs don’t cover your down payment for you, they can help you save money elsewhere if you can come up with the initial down payment up front.
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.
If your offer called for a home inspection, this is a big day. Sure, you get to have a home inspector look over the home to make sure there are no unseen defects you want to negotiate to have fixed. But more importantly, this is the most time you’ll get to spend in your new home until closing. Go ahead and start measuring things and figuring out what goes where. This may be the last time you are inside the home until it is yours, several weeks from now. 
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