couple working on fiances

How Much Do You Need For A Down Payment On A House?

Victoria Araj7-minute read

November 18, 2021

Share:

If you’re considering buying a house, you might be wondering how much money you’ll need for a down payment. Here are the must-knows about down payments to help you decide what makes sense for your situation.

Do You Need A 20% Down Payment On A House?

The idea of a 20% down payment can make homeownership feel unrealistic, but the good news is that very few lenders still require 20% at closing. That said, it may still make sense to save 20% if possible. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of putting down a sizable chunk, to see what is not only feasible for you, but what will work best with your finances and goals.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Putting 20% Down?

Let’s take a look at both the pros and cons to see how a large down payment can offset other payments and expenses.

Pros

If you’re able to put 20% down on your home, you’ll reap a few key benefits.

No PMI

You’ll need to put 20% down if you want to avoid buying private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI is insurance that protects your lender if you default on your mortgage loan.

Even if you don’t put 20% down, you can request that your lender remove PMI once you’ve reached 20% equity in your home. In most cases, lenders automatically cancel PMI once you’ve built at least 22% equity in your home.

Equity refers to the amount of a home’s value that you actually own. Here are two ways you can gain equity:

  1. If your home increases in value
  2. If you pay off your mortgage principal through your monthly mortgage payments

Better Interest Rates

The interest rate is the percentage of the principal, or outstanding balance on your mortgage, that your lender charges you monthly for borrowing money.

The higher your down payment, the less of a risk you are to lenders. If you’re able to put down at least 20% on your mortgage at closing, you’ll have access to lower interest rates. An interest rate that’s just one or two points lower can save you thousands of dollars over the course of your loan.

Less Interest Over Time

A higher down payment means your loan is smaller, so you’ll pay less in interest over time.

Lower Monthly Payments

The larger your down payment, the less money you’ll borrow for your mortgage loan. A higher down payment means you’ll lower your monthly mortgage payments.

Competitive Edge Over Other Buyers

Home sellers often prefer to work with buyers who have at least a 20% down payment. Higher down payments indicate that your finances are more likely to be in order, so you might have fewer problems finding a mortgage lender. A 20% down payment can give you an edge over other buyers, especially if the home you want is in a hot market.

Cons Of Putting 20% Down

Putting 20% down isn’t right for every buyer; there are a few drawbacks of saving a 20% down payment.

More Financial Risk

Once you put money down on your mortgage, it’s not easy to get it back. If you think there’s a chance you might need the money for something important later, it may be wise to put down less and build your emergency fund.

Less Money For Repairs And Other Items

Homes in need of only a few minor repairs can be a bargain for new buyers. However, the larger your down payment, the less money you’ll have left over to spend on repairs and maintenance.

Longer Time To Save

For most people, saving for a down payment can take months, years or even decades. Waiting until you have a 20% down payment can lead to a huge opportunity cost when you factor in what you’d spend each month on rent.

Can You Buy A House Without A Down Payment?

Yes! It’s possible to buy a home with no money down. However, you won’t be able to get a zero-down conventional loan. You’ll need to get a government-backed loan.

Government-backed loans are mortgage loans that the government insures. They present less of a risk to lenders because the government will cover the financial loss if you default on the loan. This means that lenders will be more willing to issue lower-than-average interest rates and less-strict down payment requirements.

Currently, you can buy a home with no money down if you qualify for a VA loan or a USDA loan. VA loans are mortgage loans for current and former members of the Armed Forces and certain surviving spouses. USDA loans are mortgage loans for homes in qualifying rural and suburban areas. Both VA loans and USDA loans have a zero-down payment guarantee, but you must meet the minimum qualifications set by the USDA and the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Rocket Mortgage® does not offer USDA loans.

Low rates were a big story in 2020. It was a great year to refinance!

Great news about 2021 so far: Rates are still relatively low.

What Are The Minimum Down Payment Requirements?

The amount you’ll need for a down payment depends on the type of loan you choose. Some of the minimum down payment requirements also depend on whether you’re buying a primary residence, secondary residence or investment property.

Down Payment On Your Primary Residence

Down payment requirements for your primary residence, or main home, can vary.

Conventional Loan: Conventional loan requirements for primary residences are totally up to the individual lender. Some lenders might require you to have 5% down, while other lenders may only require 3%. If you have a credit score that’s above 620 points, your lender may give you access to lower down payment loan options.

FHA Loan: With an FHA loan, you’ll need a down payment of at least 3.5%. To be able to put down the minimum 3.5% FHA down payment, you’ll need a credit score of 580 or higher. If your credit score is between 500 and 579, you’ll be required to put down at least 10%. The minimum credit score required by Rocket Mortgage® is 580.

VA Loan: You don’t need a down payment to qualify for a VA loan. There are specific length-of-service requirements that determine your eligibility, and your discharge reason also plays a role. You can view complete service requirements for the VA loan program on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website.

If you’re the spouse of a military member or veteran who died in service or from a service-related disability, you may also be eligible for a VA loan. Full eligibility requirements for spouses are also available on the VA website.

USDA Loan: Like a VA loan, you don’t need to have a down payment to get a USDA loan. But to qualify, your home needs to be in an approved rural or suburban area and your household members also need to meet certain income requirements.

Down Payment On Your Secondary Residence

A second home is a residence that you intend to occupy in addition to your primary residence. A second home can be a vacation home or a property that you visit on a regular basis.

Conventional Loan: Conventional loan requirements are higher for people who want to buy a second home. To qualify for a loan on a second home, you’ll need a down payment of at least 10%. Keep in mind that restrictions on what is and isn’t considered a second home may apply. For example, you can only rent the home for up to 180 days a year.

FHA Loan: You cannot use an FHA loan to buy a second property.

VA Loan: You cannot use a VA loan to buy a second property.

USDA Loan: You cannot use a USDA loan to buy a second property.

Down Payment On Your Investment Property

Investment property is real estate that you buy in order to earn a return on your investment, either through rental income, the future resale of the property or both.

Conventional Loan: If you buy a home with the sole intention of renting it out, you’ll need a conventional loan. Conventional loan requirements for investment properties are the strictest of any loan type. In most cases, you’ll need a down payment of 20% – 25% to qualify. If you have a credit score that’s higher than 720, you may qualify for an investment property loan with 15% down.

FHA Loan: You cannot use an FHA loan to buy an investment property.

VA Loan: You cannot use a VA loan to buy an investment property.

USDA Loan: You cannot use a USDA loan to buy an investment property.

So, How Much Should You Put Down On A House?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. But a good place to start is by taking a realistic look at how your down payment will affect how much you’ll pay each month. To get an idea for how a certain down payment will affect your monthly mortgage payment, take a look at a mortgage calculator. You'll enter some basic info to get an estimated monthly payment, and you can play around with different down payment amounts to see what works best for you.

The Bottom Line On How Much You Need For A Down Payment

You no longer need a 20% down payment to buy a home. It’s now possible to buy a home with as little as 3% down, and you may even be able to buy a home with no money down if you qualify for a VA or a USDA loan.

If you have less than a 20% down payment, you may have to buy private mortgage insurance, pay a higher interest rate or face more housing market competition.

Putting down less than 20% can leave you with more money to save for potential emergencies or repairs, which may be worth it for some buyers. But you may need a higher down payment if you decide to buy a second vacation home or an investment property. Get started with Rocket Mortgage® to figure out which loan option best fits your financial situation.

Great news! Rates are still low in 2021.

Missed your chance for historically low mortgage rates in 2020? Act now!

See What You Qualify For

Victoria Araj

Victoria Araj is a Section Editor for Rocket Mortgage and held roles in mortgage banking, public relations and more in her 15+ years with the company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in political science from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan.