Many people want to buy a home but think it isn’t possible because they don’t have money to put toward a down payment. Traditionally, lenders require a 20% down payment toward your mortgage.
But a 20% down payment adds up to a lot of money. For example, if you plan to purchase a $150,000 home, you’d need to come up with a $30,000 down payment. Many people cannot afford this, but fortunately, the 20% rule is a lot less common than you might think.
Is a buying a house with no money down possible?
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that 39% of non-owners believe they need a 20% down payment or more and 22% believe they need a 10% to 14% down payment.
But neither of these are true. Many mortgage lenders will let you buy a home by putting down as little as 3%. And some lenders will let you skip the down payment altogether.
NAR also found that 61% of first-time homebuyers made a down payment between zero and 6%. So, it’s safe to say that a 20% down payment isn’t the standard anymore. But unfortunately, many consumers choose not to pursue homeownership because they believe this down payment myth.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of No Down Payment Mortgages
Is there any reason to aim for 20% down when most home buyers buy with a down payment less than 20%? If you can afford it, yes, the 20% rule is still a wise choice.
The more money you put toward your mortgage, the less debt you’ll have to repay and the less your monthly payment will be. Plus, there are several drawbacks to putting down less than 20%:
- Less favorable rates: If you pay less than 20%, lenders will probably see you as a risky investment. And they will take this into consideration when calculating your mortgage rates. In general, you can expect to pay a higher interest rate if you put down a smaller down payment.
- Higher closing costs: Closing costs are based on the size of your mortgage. So, the smaller your down payment is, the higher your closing costs will be. However, you may be able to get around this if you live in a state where it’s typical for the seller to pay the closing costs.
- Private mortgage insurance (PMI): Private mortgage insurance is a type of mortgage insurance designed for borrowers who make a down payment lower than 20%. It protects your mortgage lender in case you end up defaulting on your loan.
PMI can cost as much as 1% of your total monthly mortgage payment. So for a $150,000 mortgage, you’ll end up paying $150 per month.
However, this may not be that bad, especially if you have a less expensive mortgage. And once you reach 20% home equity, you can cancel your PMI and get rid of these extra payments.
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How to Buy a House With No Money Down
Fortunately, there are several lending programs that do not require a down payment. Here are five payment assistance programs that will help you buy a home with little to no down payment.
1. VA Loans
VA loans are a valuable option for eligible military veterans, active-duty service members, and certain surviving spouses. These government-backed loans offer several benefits, making homeownership more accessible and affordable through the use of a VA loan.
100% Financing and No Down Payment
One of the most significant advantages of VA loans is the 100% financing, meaning you won’t need to make a down payment when utilizing a VA loan. This can save borrowers a substantial amount of money upfront, making it easier to enter the housing market.
No Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) Requirement
Unlike conventional loans that require PMI for down payments less than 20%, VA loans do not require PMI. This can save borrowers hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year in mortgage insurance premiums when using a VA loan.
VA Funding Fee
While VA loans offer numerous benefits, there is a one-time funding fee charged to help offset the costs of the program. The funding fee is 2.15% of the total loan amount for first-time users of VA loans and 3.3% for subsequent uses.
This fee can be financed into the VA loan, reducing the out-of-pocket expenses for the borrower. In some cases, borrowers may be exempt from the funding fee, such as those with service-connected disabilities.
Certificate of Eligibility
To apply for a VA loan, borrowers need to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The COE verifies the borrower’s eligibility for the VA loan program based on their military service or, in some cases, the service of their spouse. The COE can be requested online through the Department of Veterans Affairs website, by mail, or through an approved lender.
VA loans also offer competitive interest rates, more lenient credit requirements, and flexible underwriting guidelines compared to conventional loans. Additionally, there are no prepayment penalties, allowing borrowers to pay off their VA loans early without incurring additional fees.
2. Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal Credit Union’s loan program is similar to what the VA offers. It offers a zero down mortgage and no mortgage insurance. And Navy Federal’s funding fee is only 1.75%.
Navy Federal offers a 30-year loan and a 30-year jumbo loan. 30-year loans have a loan limit of $424,100 while jumbo loans are available up to $1 million. However, you will have to be a Navy Federal member to qualify.
3. USDA Loans
If you’re looking to move to a rural area, you might qualify for a USDA loan. The United States Department of Agriculture Housing Program was designed to aid rural development and is aimed at low-income families. USDA loans offer 100% financing with low interest rates.
Here are the eligibility requirements you must meet to qualify for a USDA loan:
- When buying a home it must be within the USDA’s boundaries: Although this loan targets rural areas, some suburban areas may still qualify. You can look at this map on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website to see if your location falls within the USDA’s geographical boundaries.
- Your household income can’t exceed a certain threshold: This applies to everyone living in the household, even if they won’t be listed on the mortgage. For instance, if you have a parent living with you who collects Social Security, this counts toward the gross income of all members of a household. The maximum household income varies by state and county so you can find out if you qualify here.
See also: Best Home Loans for Low-Income Borrowers
A lease-option (also known as rent-to-own) allows you to rent a home with the option to buy it at a predetermined price after a certain period. A portion of your monthly rent may be applied toward the purchase price or down payment. This can be a solid option if you need more time to save for a down payment or improve your credit.
5. Seller Financing
In some cases, the seller may be willing to finance the property for you, allowing you to purchase the home without a traditional mortgage. This arrangement typically requires a contract outlining the terms of the loan, including the interest rate, payment schedule, and any potential penalties.
Seller financing can be a viable option if you have a strong relationship with the seller or if the seller is having difficulty selling the property.
Crowdfunding is a method where you raise money from multiple individuals, typically through online platforms. You can set up a campaign to raise funds for your down payment or even the entire purchase price. This method may work best if you have a strong network of friends, family, and supporters who are willing to contribute to your home-buying goal.
7. Shared Equity Agreements
Shared equity agreements involve partnering with an investor who provides a portion or all of the down payment in exchange for a percentage of ownership in the property. When the property is sold or refinanced, the investor receives a return on their investment based on the agreed-upon share of equity. This can be an attractive option if you can’t afford a down payment but are willing to share future appreciation in the home’s value.
8. Housing Assistance Programs
There are numerous local, state, and federal housing assistance programs that offer grants, low-interest loans, or other forms of financial support to help eligible individuals purchase a home with no money down. These programs often have specific requirements, such as income limits, property location, or first-time homebuyer status. Be sure to research and apply for any programs for which you might be eligible.
Low Down Payment Loans
If you’re unable to buy a house with no money down but can afford a small down payment, consider these low down payment options that can help make homeownership more accessible.
1. 97% LTV mortgages
97% LTV mortgages is a loan program that is offered to first-time homebuyers by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They require a 3% minimum down payment and private mortgage insurance.
Here are the guidelines for the program:
- You’ll need a credit score of at least 680
- One of the borrowers must be a first-time homeowner
- Manufactured housing isn’t permitted
- Gifts, grants, and other funds may be used toward the down payment
2. Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loans
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was established in 1934 to reduce the requirements to qualify for a mortgage. This government-backed mortgage program offers flexible requirements, making it an attractive option for first-time homebuyers.
Here are the guidelines you’ll need to meet to qualify for an FHA loan:
Credit Score Requirements
The minimum credit score required to qualify for an FHA loan is 500. The specific down payment requirements depend on your credit score:
- If your credit score is between 500 and 579, you’ll need to make a 10% down payment.
- If your credit score is 580 or higher, you’ll have to make a 3.5% down payment.
FHA loans allow sellers to contribute up to 6% of the closing costs. This can help reduce the upfront costs for the buyer and make it easier to afford the purchase.
Mortgage Insurance Requirements
Mortgage insurance is required for an FHA loan, protecting the lender in case the borrower defaults on the loan. However, once you build 20% equity in the home, you can refinance to a conventional loan to eliminate the mortgage insurance requirement.
FHA loans accept high debt-to-income (DTI) ratios, allowing borrowers with significant existing debt to still qualify for a mortgage. The FHA typically requires a maximum DTI of 43%, but exceptions can be made for borrowers with compensating factors, such as substantial savings or a history of making large payments on time.
3. HomeReady Mortgage
The HomeReady mortgage is a Fannie Mae program designed for low-to-moderate-income borrowers. It requires a down payment as low as 3% and offers flexible underwriting guidelines, making it an attractive option for first-time homebuyers or those with limited credit history.
4. Home Possible Mortgage
Similar to the HomeReady mortgage, the Home Possible mortgage is a Freddie Mac program that allows for a down payment as low as 3%. It is designed to help low-to-moderate-income borrowers achieve homeownership and offers flexible underwriting guidelines.
5. State and Local Homebuyer Assistance Programs
Many state and local governments offer homebuyer and down payment assistance programs that provide grants or low-interest loans to help cover down payment and closing costs. These programs typically have income and property location requirements, so be sure to research and apply for any programs for which you might be eligible in your area.
Each of these low down payment mortgage options has its own set of eligibility requirements and potential benefits. Be sure to research and compare these options to determine which one best aligns with your financial situation and home-buying goals.
Preparing for Homeownership
Before jumping into the home buying process, it’s essential to prepare yourself financially and mentally. This section covers tips for improving credit scores, creating a budget, and managing debt to make the home buying process smoother.
Credit Score Improvement Tips
Improving your credit score involves checking your credit report for errors and disputing any inaccuracies. Ensure that you pay your bills on time and reduce outstanding debt as much as possible. Keep credit card balances low, avoid opening new credit accounts, and consider requesting a credit limit increase without increasing your spending.
Creating a Budget
Creating a budget requires tracking your income and expenses to understand your spending habits better. Categorize your expenses and set realistic limits for each category. Allocate funds for saving and investing, including a down payment and emergency fund, and regularly review and adjust your budget as needed.
Managing your debt effectively involves prioritizing high-interest debt and paying more than the minimum payment. Consider debt consolidation or refinancing options to secure a lower interest rate. Avoid taking on new debt before applying for a mortgage and create a debt repayment plan that you can stick to.
Understanding the Total Cost of Homeownership
Understanding the total cost of homeownership means factoring in property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and utility costs. Estimate homeowners association (HOA) fees if applicable and consider the costs of furnishing and updating the home. Prepare for potential increases in expenses over time, such as property tax hikes.
How to Choose the Right Mortgage Option
With various mortgage options available, it’s crucial to select the one that suits your financial needs and long-term goals. This section discusses factors to consider when choosing a mortgage, such as loan term, interest rates, and mortgage insurance.
Fixed-Rate vs. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages
Fixed-rate mortgages have a consistent interest rate for the loan’s duration, providing stability and predictable monthly payments. In contrast, adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) have an initial fixed-rate period followed by periodic rate adjustments, which may result in lower initial payments but potential rate increases over time.
Mortgage Term: 15-Year vs. 30-Year
The mortgage term plays a crucial role in determining the overall cost of your mortgage. 15-year mortgages typically have lower interest rates and allow for faster equity buildup, but require higher monthly payments. 30-year mortgages offer lower monthly payments, but result in more interest paid over the loan’s lifetime.
Mortgage Insurance Considerations
PMI may be required for conventional loans with less than a 20% down payment. Loans backed by the federal government, such as FHA, VA, or USDA loans, may have different insurance requirements or fees.
Assessing Your Long-Term Goals
When choosing a mortgage option, consider how long you plan to live in the home and whether your financial situation or housing needs may change. Evaluate the potential for home value appreciation and the impact on your future financial goals.
Planning Your Next Steps
Assess Your Financial Situation
The amount of money you choose to put toward a down payment is a personal choice. If you feel ready for homeownership but know that a 20% down payment isn’t feasible for you, there are many options available to help you.
The best place to start is by looking at your monthly budget and seeing what you can realistically afford. Use a mortgage calculator to reverse engineer your goal and find your ideal home purchase. Consider factors like property taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs, as well as any debts you currently have.
Get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start house hunting. This will give you an idea of how much you can afford, and it will show sellers and real estate agents that you’re a serious buyer.
To get pre-approved, you’ll need to provide your lender with documentation such as pay stubs, bank statements, and tax returns. They’ll then assess your credit score and financial history to determine how much they’re willing to lend you.
Shop Around for the Best Mortgage
Shop around for the best mortgage rates and terms. Don’t just settle for the first lender you come across. Compare different lenders and loan programs to find the best fit for your financial situation. Look for competitive interest rates, low fees, and flexible repayment terms.
Work with a Knowledgeable Real Estate Agent
A good real estate agent can help you find a home that fits your needs and budget. They’ll also guide you through the home buying process, making it less stressful and ensuring you don’t make any costly mistakes.
Attend First-Time Homebuyer Classes
Consider attending first-time homebuyer classes or workshops. Many local organizations and government agencies offer educational resources for first-time homebuyers. These classes can help you understand the ins and outs of the home buying process and give you the knowledge you need to make informed decisions.
Save for Unexpected Expenses
Even if you’re able to buy a home with no money down, it’s a good idea to have some savings set aside for unexpected expenses. These might include moving costs, home repairs, or furnishing your new home.
Build an Emergency Fund
In addition to saving for unexpected expenses, it’s also important to have an emergency fund in place. This should be enough to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses in case you lose your job or face another financial emergency.
Be Patient and Stay Disciplined
Home buying is a complex process, and it can take time to find the right home and secure financing. Stay focused on your goals, be disciplined with your spending, and remember that homeownership is a long-term investment.
Buying a home with no money down is possible, but it may not be the best choice for everyone. Consider your financial situation, your long-term goals, and the various mortgage options available to you before deciding on a zero down payment mortgage. With careful planning and preparation, you can make your dream of homeownership a reality, even if you don’t have a large down payment saved up.