Understanding Mortgage Down Payments

Buying a home is a major financial decision — one of the largest you’ll likely make in your lifetime. A significant part of this process is saving up for a mortgage down payment. Many homebuyers will work hard and save for many years to build up their savings for this important purchase. But what amount is right for you? How much money do you need to save for a down payment on a house? It all depends on the cost of the home you’re looking to buy and what your personal financial situation and goals are.

What Is a Mortgage Down Payment?

A down payment on a mortgage or home loan is the cash amount you pay to the seller that makes up the difference between the price of the home and the loan amount.


What Is the Minimum Down Payment Required for a Mortgage?

There are different requirements for down payments, depending on the type of home loan you might want to consider:

Going Conventional

The traditional mortgage down payment amount is 20%. For example, if the home you’re looking to purchase is $200,000, then the down payment will be $40,000. Having this amount will save you from paying mortgage insurance, which is a fee that’s added to your monthly payments that protects lenders in case you’re unable to pay the mortgage. But what if you want to buy a home and don’t have the full 20% down payment saved?

Some available options are:

  • 97% Loan-to-Value (LTV) — A conventional mortgage in which your loan amount is 97% of the value of the home, and you only have to make a 3% down payment. Mortgage insurance will be required.
  • Lender-Paid Mortgage Insurance (LPMI) — If you can’t make the full 20% down payment, then we may be able to pay your mortgage insurance for you. However, your interest rate will be slightly higher to cover this expense.


Learn more about mortgage insurance and the available options.

Going Government

The U.S. government offers a variety of home purchase programs that help make homeownership possible for more people. These programs are offered through agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Each of these agencies offers specific mortgage loan programs with different down payment requirements:

  • FHA Home Loan — This loan is a great option for first-time buyers and those with financial or credit setbacks. The required down payment amount for an FHA home loan is 3.5%, and a parent or relative can be a co-applicant on the loan with you. Mortgage insurance will be required.
  • FHA 203(k) Rehabilitation Loan — Want to buy a home that needs repairs? With an FHA 203(k) rehab loan, you can finance a home and many qualifying repairs. Two versions are available depending on the type of repairs required and their costs. Mortgage insurance will be required.
  • USDA Rural Home Loan — If the home you’re looking to buy is in a designated USDA rural area, then you may be able to qualify for a USDA home loan. This program provides up to 100% financing, which means no down payment is required. View a map of the designated rural areas to see if the property you’re interested in is eligible.
  • VA Home Loan — As a benefit for your service to our country, the VA works with lenders to provide veterans a flexible solution for buying a home. You’ll get a competitive interest rate and don’t have to make a down payment unless you want to.

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