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Buying your first home is a major decision and an exciting milestone. Even though it can feel daunting at times, it has the power to change your life for the better. If you’re looking to purchase your first home, you may be wondering what’s happening in the housing market today, how much you need to save, and where to start.

Here are three things that can help give you the information you need to confidently pursue your dream of homeownership.

1. Consider All Options When the Number of Homes for Sale Is Low

Today, there are far more buyers in the market than there are homes available for sale. When that happens, it’s a good idea to do what you can to increase your pool of options. That could mean expanding your search to include additional housing types. For first-time buyers, considering condominiums (condos) and townhomes can be an excellent way to increase your choices. According to Bankrate:

“Townhomes often cost less than single-family homes of a similar size in the same location.”

In another article, Bankrate also says:

“Buying a condo can be a great way to dive into homeownership without worrying about the upkeep that comes with single-family homes and townhouses.”

Condos and townhomes are both great entryways into homeownership. When you buy either one, you can start building equity which increases your net worth and can fuel a future move.

2. Know Your Down Payment Could Be More Within Reach Than You Think

Saving for a down payment can feel like one of the biggest obstacles for homebuyers, but that doesn’t have to be the case. As the National Association of Realtors (NAR) says:

One of the biggest misconceptions among housing consumers is what the typical down payment is and what amount is needed to enter homeownership.”

Data from NAR shows the median down payment hasn’t been over 20% since 2005. The graph below breaks down the median down payment by age group for recent homebuyers according to the 2022 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report from NAR (see graph below):

Three Tips for First-Time Homebuyers | MyKCM

Based on the data above, the median down payment for all homebuyers is only 13%. That’s well below the common misconception of 20%, and it’s even lower for younger buyers. This could mean you may not need to save as much for a down payment as you initially thought.

There are also down payment assistance programs available for many buyers. Not to mention, some loan options require as little as 3.5% (or even 0%) down for buyers who qualify. While there are advantages to putting 20% down, especially in today’s competitive market, know that you have options.  To get more information on how much you may need to save and the help that’s available, talk with a professional.

3. Work with a Trusted Real Estate Advisor Throughout the Process

Finally, no matter where you’re at in your homeownership journey, the best way to make sure you’re set up for success is to work with a real estate professional.

If you’re just starting out, they can help you with the initial steps, like educating you on the process and connecting you with a trusted lender to get pre-approved. Once you’re ready to begin your search, a real estate professional can help you understand your local market and search for available homes. And when it’s time to make an offer, they’ll be an expert advisor and negotiator to help your offer stand out above the rest.

Bottom Line

Knowledge is key to succeeding on your homebuying journey. Knowing market trends, what you need for a down payment, and what options you have as a buyer today can give you the confidence you need to buy a home.

If you’re buying or selling a home this year, you’re likely saving up for a variety of expenses. For buyers, that might include things like your down payment and closing costs. And for sellers, you’re probably working on a bit of spring cleaning and maintenance to spruce up your house before you list it.

Either way, any money you get back from your taxes can help you achieve your goals. Using a tax refund is a common tactic for buyers and sellers. SmartAsset estimates the average American will receive a $2,897 tax refund this year. The map below provides a more detailed estimate by state:

Using Your Tax Refund To Achieve Your Homeownership Goals This Year | MyKCM

If you’re getting a refund this year, here are a few tips to help with your home purchase or sale this season.

How Buyers Can Use Their Tax Refund

According to American Financing, there are multiple ways your refund check can help you as a homebuyer. A few include:

This list is a great start, but it isn’t exhaustive of all the costs you may encounter as you set out on your homebuying journey. The best way to prepare is to work with a trusted real estate professional to make sure you understand what’s to come in the process.

How Sellers Can Use Their Tax Refund

If you own a home and are planning to sell this spring, your tax refund can help you make sure your home is ready to list. Here are a few ways current homeowners can put their tax refund to good use:

Of course, it’s important to talk with your trusted real estate advisor before taking on any projects. They’ll make sure you can focus on areas that’ll help you receive the best possible price when you sell.

Bottom Line

Funding your home purchase or sale can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Your tax refund can help you reach your goals.

When it comes to buying a home, it can feel a bit intimidating to know how much you need to save and where to find that information. But you should know, you’re not expected to have all the answers yourself. There are many trusted professionals who can help you understand your finances and what you’ll need to budget for throughout the process.

To get you started, here are a few things experts say you should plan for along the way.

1. Down Payment

As you set your savings goal for your purchase, your down payment is likely already top of mind. And, like many other people, you may believe you need to set aside 20% of the home’s purchase price for that down payment – but that’s not always the case. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) says:

One of the biggest misconceptions among housing consumers is what the typical down payment is and what amount is needed to enter homeownership. Having this knowledge is critical to know what to save . . .”

The good news is, you may be able to put as little as 3.5% (or even 0%) down in some situations. To understand your options, partner with a trusted professional who can go over the various loan types, down payment assistance programs, and what each one requires.

2. Earnest Money Deposit

Another item you may want to plan for is an earnest money deposit. While it isn’t required, it’s common in today’s highly competitive market because it can help your offer stand out in a bidding war.

So, what is it? It’s money you pay as a show of good faith when you make an offer on a house. This deposit works like a credit. You’re using some of the money you already saved for your purchase to show the seller you’re committed and serious about their house. It’s not an added expense, it’s just paying some of that up front. First American explains what it is and how it works:

The deposit made from the buyer to the seller when submitting an offer. This deposit is typically held in trust by a third party and is intended to show the seller you are serious about purchasing their home. Upon closing the money will generally be applied to your down payment or closing costs.”

In other words, an earnest money deposit could be the very first check you’ll write toward your purchase. The amount varies by state and situation. Realtor.com elaborates:

The amount you’ll deposit as earnest money will depend on factors such as policies and limitations in your state, the current market, what your real estate agent recommends, and what the seller requires. On average, however, you can expect to hand over 1% to 2% of the total home purchase price.”

Work with a real estate advisor to understand any requirements in your local area and what they’ve recommended for other buyers in your market. They’ll help you determine if it’s something that could be a useful option for you.

3. Closing Costs

The next thing to plan for is your closing costs. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines closing costs as:

The upfront fees charged in connection with a mortgage loan transaction. …generally including, but not limited to a loan origination fee, title examination and insurance, survey, attorney’s fee, and prepaid items, such as escrow deposits for taxes and insurance.”

Basically, your closing costs cover the fees for various people and services involved in your transaction. NAR has this to say about how much to budget for:

“A home costs more than just the sale price. For example, closing costs—which make up about 2% to 5% of the home’s purchase price—are a major added expense…Lenders provide a Closing Disclosure at least three business days prior to closing on a mortgage. But buyers will need to budget for these added costs ahead of time to avoid sticker shock days before closing.”

The key takeaway is savvy buyers plan ahead for these expenses so they can come into the process prepared. Freddie Mac sums it up like this:

“If you’re in the market to buy a home, your down payment is probably top of mind. And rightly so – it’s likely the biggest cost of homebuying. However, it is not the only cost and it’s critical you understand all your expenses before diving in. The more prepared you are for your down payment, closing and other costs, the smoother your homebuying journey will be.”

Bottom Line

Knowing what to budget for in the homebuying process is essential.

As a homebuyer, it’s important to plan and budget for the expenses you’ll encounter when you purchase a home. While most people understand the need to save for a down payment, a recent survey found 41% of homebuyers were surprised by their closing costs. Here’s some information to help you get started so you’re not caught off guard when it’s time to close on your home.

What Are Closing Costs?

One possible reason some people are surprised by closing costs may be because they don’t know what they are or what they cover. According to U.S. News and World Report:

“Closing costs encompass a variety of expenses above your property’s purchase price. They include things like lender fees, title insurance, government processing fees, upfront tax payments and homeowners insurance.”

In other words, your closing costs are a collection of fees and payments made to a variety of individuals and organizations who are involved with your transaction. According to Freddie Mac, while they can vary by location and situation, closing costs typically include:

How Much Will You Need To Budget for Closing Costs?

Understanding what closing costs include is important, but knowing what you’ll need to budget to cover them is critical to achieving your homebuying goals. According to the Freddie Mac article mentioned above, the costs to close are typically between 2% and 5% of the total purchase price of your home. With that in mind, here’s how you can get an idea of what you’ll need to cover your closing costs.

Let’s say you find a home you want to purchase for the median price of $350,300. Based on the 2-5% Freddie Mac estimate, your closing fees could be between roughly $7,000 and $17,500.

Keep in mind, if you’re in the market for a home above or below this price range, your closing costs will be higher or lower.

What’s the Best Way To Make Sure You’re Prepared At Closing Time?

Freddie Mac provides great advice for homebuyers, saying:

As you start your homebuying journey, take the time to get a sense of all costs involved – from your down payment to closing costs.”

The best way to understand what you’ll need at the closing table is to work with a team of trusted real estate professionals. An agent can help connect you with a lender, and together they can provide you with answers to the questions you might have.

Bottom Line

In today’s real estate market, it’s more important than ever to make sure your budget includes any fees and payments due at closing.

For many homebuyers, the thought of saving for a down payment can feel daunting, especially in today’s market. That’s why, when asked what they find most difficult in the homebuying process, some buyers say it’s one of the hardest steps on the path to homeownership. Data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows:

“For first-time home buyers, 29 percent said saving for a downpayment [sic] was the most difficult step in the process.

If you’re finding that your down payment is your biggest hurdle, the good news is there are many down payment assistance programs available that can help you achieve your goals. The key is understanding where to look and learning what options are available. Here’s some information that can help.

First-Time and Repeat Buyers Are Often Eligible

According to downpaymentresource.comthere are thousands of financial assistance programs available for homebuyers, like affordable mortgage options for first-time buyers. But, of the many programs that are available, down payment assistance options make up the large majority. They say 73% of the assistance available to homebuyers is there to help you with your down payment.

And it’s not just first-time homebuyers that are eligible for these programs. Downpaymentresource.com notes:

“You don’t have to be a first-time buyer. Over 38% of all programs are for repeat homebuyers who have owned a home in the last 3 years.”

That means no matter where you are in your homeownership journey, there could be an option available for you.

There Are Local Programs and Specialized Programs for Public Servants

There are also multiple down payment assistance resources designed to help those who serve our communities. Teacher Next Door is one of those programs:

“The Teacher Next Door Program was designed to increase home ownership among teachers and other public servants, support community development and increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination.”

Teacher Next Door is just one program that seeks to help teachers, first responders, health providers, government employees, active-duty military personnel, and veterans reach their down payment goals.

And, most importantly, even if you don’t qualify for these types of specialized programs, there are many federal, state, and local programs available for you to explore. And the best way to do that is to connect with a local real estate professional to learn more about what’s available in your area.

Bottom Line

If saving for a down payment seems daunting, there are programs available that can help. And if you work to serve our community, there may be even more opportunities available to you.

As you set out on your homebuying journey, you likely have a plan in place, and you’re working on saving for your purchase. But do you know how much you actually need for your down payment?

If you think you have to put 20% down, you may have set your goal based on a common misconception. Freddie Mac says:

“The most damaging down payment myth—since it stops the homebuying process before it can start—is the belief that 20% is necessary.”

Unless specified by your loan type or lender, it’s typically not required to put 20% down. According to the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median down payment hasn’t been over 20% since 2005. It may sound surprising, but today, that number is only 13%. And it’s even lower for first-time homebuyers, whose median down payment is only 7% (see graph below):

How Much Do You Need for Your Down Payment? | MyKCM

What Does This Mean for You?

While a down payment of 20% or more does have benefits, the typical buyer is putting far less down. That’s good news for you because it means you could be closer to your homebuying dream than you realize.

If you’re interested in learning more about low down payment options, there are several places to go. There are programs for qualified buyers with down payments as low as 3.5%. There are also options like VA loans and USDA loans with no down payment requirements for qualified applicants.

To understand your options, you need to do your homework. If you’re interested in learning more about down payment assistance programs, information is available through sites like downpaymentresource.com. Be sure to also work with a real estate advisor from the start to learn what you may qualify for in the homebuying process.

Remember: a 20% down payment isn’t always required.

If you’re thinking of buying a home, you’re probably wondering what you need to save for your down payment. Is it 20% of the purchase price, or could you put down less? While there are lower down payment programs available that allow qualified buyers to put down as little as 3.5%, it’s important to understand the many perks that come with a 20% down payment.

Here are four reasons why putting 20% down may be a great option if it works within your budget.

1. Your Interest Rate May Be Lower

A 20% down payment vs. a 3-5% down payment shows your lender you’re more financially stable and not a large credit risk. The more confident your lender is in your credit score and your ability to pay your loan, the lower the mortgage interest rate they’ll likely be willing to give you.

2. You’ll End Up Paying Less for Your Home

The larger your down payment, the smaller your loan amount will be for your mortgage. If you’re able to pay 20% of the cost of your new home at the start of the transaction, you’ll only pay interest on the remaining 80%. If you put down 5%, the additional 15% will be added to your loan and will accrue interest over time. This will end up costing you more over the lifetime of your home loan.

3. Your Offer Will Stand Out in a Competitive Market

In a market where many buyers are competing for the same home, sellers often like to see offers come in with 20% or larger down payments. The seller gains the same confidence as the lender in this scenario. You are seen as a stronger buyer with financing that’s more likely to be approved. Therefore, the deal will be more likely to go through.

4. You Won’t Have To Pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

What is PMI? According to Freddie Mac:

“For homeowners who put less than 20% down, Private Mortgage Insurance or PMI is an added insurance policy for homeowners that protects the lender if you are unable to pay your mortgage.

It is not the same thing as homeowner’s insurance. It’s a monthly fee, rolled into your mortgage payment, that’s required if you make a down payment less than 20%. . . . Once you’ve built equity of 20% in your home, you can cancel your PMI and remove that expense from your monthly payment.”

As mentioned earlier, if you put down less than 20% when buying a home, your lender will see your loan as having more risk. PMI helps them recover their investment in you if you’re unable to pay your loan. This insurance isn’t required if you’re able to put down 20% or more.

Many times, home sellers looking to move up to a larger or more expensive home are able to take the equity they earn from the sale of their house to put 20% down on their next home. With the equity homeowners have today, it creates a great opportunity to put those savings toward a larger down payment on a new home.

If you’re looking to buy a home, consider the benefits of 20% down versus a smaller down payment option.

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