You’ve most likely heard the rule or had one of your friends give you the advice: save for a 20 percent down payment before you buy a home. The logic behind saving 20 percent is solid, as it shows that you have the financial discipline and stability to save for a long term goal. As with any financial plan, you have to look at the pros and cons and determine which benefits you more both in the short and long term. It is always advisable to discuss with your lender and your CPA to see where and how you can maximize the benefits. Larger down payments can help you get favorable rates from lenders, but there can actually be financial benefits to putting down a smaller down payment, something as low as three and a half percent, rather than parting with so much cash up front, even when you have the extra money available.
The downsides of a smaller down payment are pretty well known. You’ll have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance for years and the lower your down payment, the more you’ll pay. You’ll also be offered a lesser loan amount than borrowers who have a 20 percent down payment, which will eliminate some homes from your search.
The national average for home appreciation is about five percent. The appreciation is independent from your home payment, so whether you put down 20 percent or three and a half percent, the increase in equity is the same. If you’re looking at your home as an investment, putting down a smaller amount can lead to a higher return on investment, while also leaving more of your savings free for home repairs, upgrades, or other investment opportunities.
THE HAPPY MEDIUM
Of course, your home payment options aren’t binary. Most borrowers can find some common ground between the security of a traditional 20 percent and an investment focused, smaller down payment. Your real estate agent can provide some answers and introduce you to a lender as you explore your financing options. Sitting down with the lender and discussing the finer details of your goals and your plans can help you make the best decision for you at this particular point in your life.
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