Down payment funding alternatives
For many buyers, especially first-time buyers, saving up the funds for the down payment can be a seemingly insurmountable hurdle to home ownership. This doesn’t have to be the case. As your mortgage broker, I can help you find creative ways to come up with your down payment.
Using a gift for your down paymentOne way to fund a down payment is by using a gift. For many loan programs, a gift may be used for a portion or all of the required down payment. Money given as a gift for a down payment can’t come from anyone. Family members are the usual source. And sometimes an employer may also be acceptable. If this is an option open to you, please let me know. I can help you determine which loan programs accept gift funds for down payments and who may give the gift. I’ll also supply the gift letter that the person giving the gift is required to sign. The gift letter states that the funds are a gift and will not be paid back.
Down payment assistance charities
If a willing and able family member is not available, buyers now have the option of turning to a non-profit for down payment assistance.
Caution should be taken when searching for a down payment assistance charity (aka down payment assistance program). There are many reputable organizations providing buyer assistance, but there are dubious ones as well. You may want to research the charity with the Home Gift Providers Association (HGPA) (http://www.downpaymentalliance.org/) before making a commitment.
Generally, a down payment assistance charity will give the buyer money for a down payment that does not have to be repaid. The seller will contribute an equal sum to the charity at closing or soon after. The seller will also pay an administration fee to the charity. Sounds good, right?
This can be a good option for buyers who don’t have other means of securing a down payment. However, you should be aware that this means of funding the down payment may inflate the selling price of the house. You’ll want to consult with your real estate professional about how such a program may affect the selling price.
Zero down mortgage loans
Service persons and veterans can qualify for a VA Loan that requires no down payment. VA Loans are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition to no down payment, these loans usually offer a competitive fixed interest rate and limited closing costs. While the VA does not issue the loans, it does issue a certificate of eligibility required to apply for a VA loan.
401k For Down Payment
You've finally found the home of your dreams. There's just one thing standing between you and your new house: The down payment.
Many home buyers today opt to use funds from their employer’s 401(K) program to come up with the down payment on a house. Ordinarily, you can't take money from your 401(K) plan unless you retire, leave the company or become disabled, but many company plans permit certain “hardship withdrawals” when there is an immediate and heavy financial need, including the purchase of the employee's principal residence.
The drawback to a hardship withdrawal is that you will pay taxes and penalties on the amount withdrawn from your plan, which often must be paid in the year of withdrawal. And while hardship withdrawals are allowed by law, your employer is not required to provide them in your plan. Check with your employer’s human resources department if you're not sure if your 401(K) plan allows hardship withdrawal.
Another approach may be to borrow against your 401(K) – often as much as 50 percent of your account balance. You pay interest on the loan, but the interest goes back into your account. The money you receive is not taxable as long it is paid back and plans can give you anywhere from five to 30 years to pay back your loan.
There are risks involved in borrowing from your 401(K). If you lose your job or leave your employer, you must pay back the loan in full within a short period, sometimes as little as 60 days. If the money is not paid back in that time, it is considered a withdrawal from your plan and subjected to the same taxes and penalties. And while 401(K) accounts can usually be rolled over into a new employer’s 401(K) without penalties, loans from a 401(K) cannot be rolled over.
In addition, because the funds withdrawn from your account are no longer earning compound interest, your account will be smaller when you retire. And you’ll be replacing pretax money with after-tax money.
Some lenders will count the money you borrowed from your 401(K) as an additional debt that will go along with your car payments, student loans and credit cards. While it may seem unfair since you are borrowing your own money, most lenders view it as a payment obligation that affects your debt-to-income ratio in qualifying for a home loan. It may be a factor in whether you decide to make a hardship withdrawal from your 401(K) and pay tax penalties or borrow against it.
There are also private sector alternatives that offer 100% financing of the home purchase price. Let me help you find the down payment and mortgage alternative that’s right for you.
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