Should You Make a Smaller Down Payment?

You’ve most likely heard the rule: save for a 20-percent down payment before you buy a home. The logic behind saving 20-percent is solid. It shows that you have the financial discipline and stability to save for a long-term goal, and helps you get favorable rates from lenders.

But there can be financial benefits to putting down a smaller down payment—one as low as three percent—rather than parting with so much cash up front, even if you have the money available.

THE DOWNSIDE

The downsides of a small down payment are pretty well known. You might have to pay private mortgage insurance, which is a type of insurance that is typically required for buyers with a conventional loan and less than 20-percent down payment. The lower your down payment, the more you’ll pay. You could 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 UPSIDE

The national average for home appreciation is currently a little less than five percent. The appreciation is independent from your home payment, so whether you put down 20-percent or three 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, small down payment. As always, it’s best to work with a team of trusted experts that can provide some answers as you explore your financing options.

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