No, you don't need a 20% down payment to buy a house
Lack of inventory has made for a highly competitive housing market this year, which in turn has pushed home prices up.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average home price in February 2017 was $390,400. This compares to $355,300 in January 2017 and $349,400 in February 2016. Rising home prices makes it difficult for homebuyers to make a sizeable down payment and encourages bidding wars that increase the price tag even more.
It's generally said that a 20% down payment is typical or at least wanted by most sellers and real estate agents. According to a recent Redfin survey, 35.7% of real estate agent respondents said a 20% down payment is generally associated with a successful bid on a home.
With the average price at $390,400, a 20% down payment would be $78,080 - more than many homebuyers have saved up. As such, many are forced to make smaller down payments.
However, Redfin's study found that this might not be as big a detriment as one might think. Nearly one-fourth of respondents said down payments of between 3% and 5% seem to have a good chance at success. In fact, there are many ways to seal the deal on a home without putting up your entire life savings.
Make a connection
Many successful bids come from people who have established a connection with the seller. This doesn't mean they're best friends or even that they know each other. One Chicago area agent, Rano Khudayberdieva, told Redfin that writing a cover letter can greatly improve a prospective buyer's chances of getting a bid accepted.
"Writing a cover letter can improve a buyer's chances of getting a bid accepted."
"You'd rather have a committed buyer who put a little less down than a buyer with 20% down who may back out," Khudayberdieva explained.
Another Chicago area agent, Tim Zielonka, said a buyer who bonded with a seller over a common interest was able to beat out his competitors who made larger down-payment offers.
"I recently had an FHA-backed offer with 3.5% down beat out four other offers, each of which had conventional 20% down loans," Zielonka said. "The sellers were at the showing. I introduced them to the buyers and pointed out that both were huge enthusiasts of both vintage bicycles and classic cars, which put them at ease with one another and enabled them to form a natural connection. Had they not discovered this shared interest, my clients may not have gotten the property."
Explore other loan options
A conventional mortgage requires the buyer either make a 20% down payment or purchase private mortgage insurance, which could potentially add thousands to a home loan. There are, however, other loan products that allow for a smaller down payment without a PMI obligation - as long as you qualify.
If you or your spouse has served in the armed forces, you may qualify for a VA loan. These loans offer very low rates, plus don't require a down payment at all, as long as the sales price of the home is less than the appraised value, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
The Federal Housing Authority has a loan program to encourage first-time homebuyers find a house they can afford while also reducing risks for lenders. Under the FHA program, a buyer can put as little as 3.5% down - as long as their credit score is 580 or higher. But if you've got a not-so-impressive score, don't worry. You can still put as low as 10% down on a home under the FHA program.
In an effort to aid low- and moderate-income families living outside major metropolises obtain adequate housing, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a loan program in rural areas. Though it's often called a "rural home loan," it's actually available in the majority of the U.S., though not in very large cities. Like the VA loan, a down payment isn't required for USDA loans.
Seek out down payment assistance
Down payment assistance programs are available to many homebuyers, regardless of whether they've purchased a home before or not. According to research conducted by Urban Institute, these programs have aided in the purchase of many homes across the U.S., largely without risk to the lender or increased fees to the borrower. Every program is different, but many offer to pay a portion of your down payment or closing costs for you.
Though paying PMI can add to the cost of the mortgage, there are situations where purchasing this insurance product is actually your most cost-effective option. For example, if you have an excellent credit score, your lender may give you a generously low PMI rate. Additionally, you'll be able to cancel your PMI once you've paid off 22% of the home price or more. If you know you can reach this goal fairly quickly, it might be worth paying the PMI for a few months and cancelling it as soon as you can.
Coming up with the funds for a down payment is often one of the most difficult hurdles of making a home purchase. Luckily, consumers have myriad options for clearing this obstacle and carrying on with their homebuying journey.
What You Need for Your Loan Application
Use the following checklist to be sure you have everything you need for your loan application.
o Purchase Contract (for the purchase of your new home)
o Sales Contract (if you are selling your current home)
o Certified copy of the closing statement (if you have sold your home)
o All original paystubs for the last 30 days (showing your name, Social Security number, and year-to-date earnings)
o Original copies of your most recent two years’ W-2s and complete tax returns
o Proof of other income: Tips, Social Security payments, and investment income (if any)
o If you have a rental property: Your current rental agreement and your most recent two years’ tax returns with all schedules
o If you are self-employed or receive a 1099: Your most recent two years’ tax returns with all schedules and a year-to-date profit and loss statement and balance sheet
o If you own 25% or more of your corporation: The corporation’s most recent two years’ corporate tax returns with all schedules and a year-to-date profit and loss statement and balance sheet
o If you are commissioned: Your most recent two years’ tax returns with all schedules and year-to-date employee business expenses
o Information on residence history (for the past two years)
o Information on all outstanding loans and credit cards
o Originals of your last three months’ bank statements for all accounts
o Information on real estate you currently own
o Information about other personal property you own
o Copy of your driver’s license and another form of identification (Social Security card, passport, etc.)
o Payment for appraisals and credit report fees
o If divorced: All divorce papers
including marital termination agreement and final decree (signed by the court)
o Original certificate of eligibility and DD214 (VA loans only)
10 STEPS TO HOMEOWNERSHIP
From pre-qualification to closing, Academy Mortgage will help you along the road to home ownership. You can count on us for responsible, honest, and ethical service in every step of the process.
1. Loan pre-qualification. Pre-qualification allows you to search for a home that you can afford based on your credit, income, and assets.
2. Home search. Once pre-qualified, start shopping with your real estate agent! When you decide on the right home for you, the terms of sale are negotiated and your agent presents your offer to the seller.
3. Formal loan application and product selection. After the seller accepts your offer, formally apply for home financing and select the ideal loan product to meet your needs.
4. Appraisal and home inspection. As your loan application is being processed, an appraisal is ordered to identify any discrepancies between the sale price and appraised value. An inspection of the property is also conducted if you request it. A home inspection is optional, while an appraisal is required by Academy Mortgage.
5. Processor’s and underwriter’s review. A loan processor reviews the entire loan file and sends all pertinent information to an underwriter who makes the final decision to approve the loan.
6. Final loan approval. Keep in mind that there may be financial conditions or property conditions that need to be met before final loan approval.
7. Closing. Final loan and escrow documents are prepared and signed by you (the buyer) and the seller.
8. Funding. A wire or check for the amount of the loan is sent to the settlement agent.
9. Close of escrow. The loan funds are disbursed to the entitles parties and escrow is "closed."
10. Confirmation of recording. Documents that transfer titles are recorded with the county to legalize you as the new property owner.
Ultimately the final step . . . MOVE INTO YOUR NEW HOME!