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5 Potential Sources of Down Payment Money For First-Time Buyers

Will Featherstone

Having the right real estate agent means having someone who is committed to helping you buy or sell your home with the highest level of expertise in y...

Having the right real estate agent means having someone who is committed to helping you buy or sell your home with the highest level of expertise in y...

Feb 7 5 minutes read

For many people, a down payment is the largest single cash expenditure they ever make! Whether you’re planning to put down 20% or just pulling together the cash for a 3.5% down payment for an FHA loan, no buyer has ever had too much money for a down payment! 

Here’s a secret: Many buyers have a variety of down payment resources at their disposal. 

If you’re wondering how to get money for a down payment, you can find five excellent ideas below! Here are some sources of down payment funds that are often overlooked:

1. Go over your personal budget and see where your money is going.

If you don’t already track your spending, then now is a good time to take a look at where your money is going. Sit down and go over your most recent checking account statements, and isolate your top 10 budgetary line items. Are these things absolutely necessary, or is there something you can eliminate? 

Think about this example: If you spent $5 each workday on a bagel and coffee and another $15 for lunch, that adds up to $400 per month… which is almost $5,000 per year! You can save a decent chunk of money just by changing your habits. Redirecting the money you’re already bringing in is an excellent way to press “fast forward” on your home buying timeline! 

2. Consider selling something you already own. 

When you’re trying to save money, there are two things you can do: you can spend less, or make more. Selling stuff you own and may not need or use is a great way to make some cash that you can put towards a down payment! Don’t underestimate the amount of cash you might be able to bring in from things you own but don’t need anymore. A few potential items you may consider selling include RVs, cars, motorcycles, designer clothing, costumes, shoes, handbags, underutilized hobby-related gear (think bikes, boats, snowboards, etc.), furniture, antiques, electronics (TVs, computers, old cellphones, etc.), books, CDs, DVDs, etc.

3. Take on some extra work. 

Another way to make money is to take on a side job! You can spent your off-time, evenings or weekends leveraging your professional skills or hobbies to bring in some extra cash. Teaching music lessons, coaching a sport, walking dogs, babysitting, bookkeeping, landscaping, housekeeping… there are a myriad of things you can do to to make more money. You might even be surprised by how much you’re able to put away after a few months or a year! 

4. See if you can get help from family or friends. 

Many homebuyers rely on some initial help from people they know. Most mortgage programs will allow for some portion of your down payment to be “gift money,” meaning it’s money someone give you to help you buy a home. In this scenario, it’s important to plan ahead. How will this gift money factor into your own savings goals? 

Check with your mortgage pro about how much of your down payment can include gift money, since guidelines vary based on how much of your own money you have to put down, as well as what loan programs you’re applying for. Lenders usually require that gift money comes along with a gift letter, which is a letter that states the giver is a relative and that the money is a gift—not a loan. The lender might also require a bank statement from the gift giver, proving that the money is theirs to give and not obtained through a loan, for example. It’s also important for you to have a detailed conversation with the gift giver about logistics, including everything from timelines to taxes. 

5. Consider what assets you may have. 

For some people, tapping into a retirement account or other savings account to have more money to put towards a down payment might make sense. Some retirement accounts will allow you to pull out funds or borrow against it penalty-free. Of course, your specific circumstances will determine whether or not it’s advisable to tap into a 401k or IRA for a home. For some buyers, it could make sense to get your down payment up to 20% by boring some money from yourself! 

If borrowing from a 401k allows you to get your mortgage interest rate down while allowing you to repay that cash to your retirement account with interest, then you and your financial advisor may agree that this is the right move for you. But keep in mind that this is a highly personal decision that needs to be made strategically! 

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