Down Payment JarHow much of a down payment do you need?

Looking to get your foot in the door (of your new home)? The days of needing a 20% down payment are long gone. While you can always elect to put down the full 20% or more, there are now many alternatives available. Here’s what you want to know if buying a house is in your future.

In the mortgage industry, 20% down is considered the benchmark down payment for looking strong on paper as a home buyer. While this a general standard for financial strength, it is by no means a requirement, nor is it necessarily expected.

Down Payment Options

So let’s say you don’t have 20% down for a home. That doesn’t mean you’re out of the running for becoming a homeowner. There are options for lower down payments.

3.5% Down

For an FHA loan, the minimum down payment you would need to buy a home is 3.5% down. Most lenders can lend up to $417,000 with the exception of Alaska, Hawaii and Guam. An FHA loan comes with a monthly mortgage insurance payment, which can make it more expensive than a conventional mortgage.

5% Down

Another popular choice for buyers is using a conventional loan with 5% down. There are loan size amounts up to $417,000 (with the exception of Alaska, Hawaii and Guam) going as high as $417,000 with as little as 5% down. An alternative to the higher-priced FHA loan, the conventional loan allows for getting rid of the PMI after accumulating 20% equity after a minimum of 24 months.

0% Down

Two options exist for 0% down financing, one being through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The program allows a veteran to purchase a house for literally no money down. Yep, the purchase price and loan amount are equal.

The caveat? Actually, there are two: The program is for military veterans only, and the home must pass a clear pest report. This option could be optimal for brand-new construction or for property where any pest damage can be fixed in time for closing.

An alternative to this program is a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA. You need not be a veteran for this particular loan, however in some areas, you may not be eligible to use the program due tighter qualifying income-to-payment ratios and location. The program also only works for homes designated rural by USDA. Additional income limitations also apply. For example: For a family of four, a household income cannot exceed $96,400 per year.

All of these options allow for the use of gift funds. Family members, cousins, relatives – these are all excellent sources to tap for possible down payment or closing costs (usually about 2% of the home price). Even if you already own a home and are looking to upgrade, all of these programs could present a viable option to bridging the gap between buying a home for the right price in the right area of vs. continuing to be on the search.

For more information on down payments or financing, contact Alliance Mortgage, your #1 source for home loans in New Orleans and preferred lender of Kelley Levy.