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7 Tips for Coming Up with Down Payment Money


Zero down loans are (almost) entirely a thing of the past. While many wanna-be buyers are tucking their down payment pennies away, many of these folks feel that they’re missing out on deals in the meantime!

Here are my top 7 tips for coming up with those critical down payment funds:

Know how much you need to save. We all know that to reach a goal, you have to set a clear target. So, first things first: figure out exactly how much of a down payment you actually need. If you have a credit score of at least 620, you may be able to qualify for an FHA loan that only requires a 3.5% down payment. (For a $200,000 house, that’s $7,000.) Check in with your agent and mortgage broker regarding (a) whether you qualify for an FHA loan and (b) whether you’ll be able to find a property that works for you and for the FHA within the realm of what’s affordable for you.Down Payment

It’s true – the conservative lending guidelines on FHA loans will limit how much you can spend, and require you to pay monthly private mortgage insurance (PMI), if you put less than 20% down.  But PMI is tax deductible and eventually goes away.  So what this really means is that you’ll more than likely end up with a mortgage payment that you can easily afford to pay for a long time to come.  And it might be less house than you might be able to buy with a higher-down payment, less conservative loan, but less is more, people.  Less is more (especially when it comes to mortgage payments!).

Also, while no-down-payment loans are almost extinct, there is a little tiny exception for borrowers employed in a certain set of professions: doctors, lawyers, dentists and C-suite executives of Fortune 500 companies are all potentially eligible for zero down professional loans offered by a couple of small, private banks.  These loans do have the basic credit and income requirements, but they require ZERO down payment, because these professionals are perceived as posing a very low risk of foreclosure.  In some cases, pros can qualify for up to $1 million with no down payment!

Save your dough in a high-interest online savings account. Regular bank savings accounts are paying right around .10% interest right now.  Ally and SmartyPig are paying somewhere between 2 and 3 percent.  Every little bit helps, right?

Sell your junk. eBay, anyone?  Not only does selling the stuff you no longer need or use generate cash to put into the down payment kitty, it has the side effect of feeling almost like preparation for moving. Clear out your clutter, make room for your new life as a homeowner, and make a few bucks at the same time.  That’s what I call a #WIN.


Get a side gig – Blogging, weekend table-waiting, baking, dog-walking – it’s not overkill to get a second job or start a small side business to power your help you either pay down your debt or save up for a


Down Payment 2Borrow it from your city or state.  The federal homebuyer tax credit is history, but many state and local governments still offer incentives for homebuyers in the form of down payment assistance programs. Most often, these are second mortgages with very low or no payments for 5, 10 or even 30 years (in Oakland, California, for example, the down payment loan doesn’t have to be repaid for 30 years or until you sell or move out).  And many will help not just low-income buyers, but also those with moderate incomes, or anyone buying their first home!

Google <your city> <your state> and <down payment assistance> to see what your local government has on offer, and what it takes to qualify.


Borrow it from yourself!  If you have a 401K or Roth IRA account and some years to go before retirement, you might be able to tap into it or even borrow against your own funds for your down payment.  Currently, you can take up to $10,000 out of your Roth IRA with no penalty to put toward the purchase of your first home.  And while you can’t similarly draw from your 401K, many retirement and pension plans will allow you to borrow the money against your funds, then repay it to yourself – at interest.  Hmmmm, pay your lender back with interest, or pay interest to yourself – choose you!  But first, get some advice from your CPA or financial planner.


Get the gift that keeps on giving.  Cash gifts from relatives are seen by many lenders as a legitimate resource for down payment funds.  There are guidelines, though - some lenders require that you put your own money on top of a small cash gift (less than 5% of the purchase price); but will let you use gift money exclusively if the gift is 20% of the home's price or more.  Also, most lenders require a "gift letter" documenting that the giver is your relative and is not expecting you to pay the money back.

Check in with your mortgage broker for a briefing on gift-money guidelines.

If it seem like a "gift" is a hard thing to come up with - don't dismiss the concept too soon.  I know more than a few now-homeowners who had no clue where their down payment money would come from until they were reminded about gift money as a strategy, then cashed in long-ignored offers of help from parents, aunts and uncles.