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6. Mortgage Basics - Down Payment

Down Payment:

Most mortgage lenders require that you put a down payment on your home purchase. This is typically 10, 15, or 20 percent of the home's total value. The more money you can afford to put down, the lower your mortgage payment or the more expensive the house that you can afford. It's a good idea to try and make as large a down payment as possible. Mortgage lenders may be willing to overlook a less than perfect credit history or be more lenient on income and other financial considerations if you have 25 to 30 percent for your down payment.

If you make $40,000 a year, your maximum monthly payment (28 percent of gross income) will be $933. If your total monthly dept is no more than $1,200 (36 percent of gross income), the bigger the down payment, the more expensive a house you can buy. If for example, your monthly mortgage payment of $933 has an interest rate of 7.5 percent, you payments will cover a total principle of $133,435.45. That figure increases to $148,262 if you can put 10 percent down and $166,794 if you put 20 percent down.

If you're having a hard time scrounging up the necessary down payment, here are some suggestions:
  • Examine your expenses and cost-cut where you think is appropriate. This may mean forgoing that new car, or that upcoming vacation, or it can be something as simple as eating out less or spending less money on clothing. You'll be surprised at how much you might save in this way.
  • Congress allows you to withdraw up to $10,000 from your IRA account, and avoid a 10-percent tax for early withdrawal, if you use the money towards purchasing your first home. In order to qualify, you must be a "first-time buyer" who hasn't owned any interest in a home for at least two years prior to the acquisition of your new primary residence, and the funds must be used within 120 days of the withdrawal. Many 401(k) retirement plans also give you the option of borrowing money from your account, which can be paid back through payroll deductions.
  • If you have any well-off family members or friends, consider borrowing the money from them and paying it back monthly. Or if they also happen to be wealthy, and both of you are willing to consider it a gift, then you, your spouse, and each of your kids can receive up to $10,000 per calendar year towards the purchase of your new home and not have it included in your overall debt load.

Special and First-Time Buyer Programs:
The lack of a down payment is a major hurdle for many people, especially first time buyers, when it comes time to buy a home. Fortunately, there are many state programs and government agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that have financial aid programs that may be able to assist low or moderate income buyers in the purchase of their first home with little or no down payment. It may also be worthwhile to inquire with your bank or mortgage lender about any low down payment loans or first time buyer programs that they may offer.

Other specific programs that may be of assistance in securing a mortgage with little or no down payment include the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veterans Administration, and the Rural Housing Service, each of which have their own set of criteria for qualification.

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