Saving up for a down payment is one of the biggest challenges for aspiring first-time homebuyers. A typical down payment can range from 5 to 20 percent of a home's purchase price–that's no small chunk of change. Although it might seem overwhelming to rack up thousands of dollars, practicing some discipline and using the right tactics can help you pull it off, making it possible for you to go from renter to proud homeowner.
To help you save for a down payment, consider these tips from the American Bankers Association:
Develop a Budget and Timeline. Start by determining how much you'll need for a down payment. Create a budget and calculate how much you can realistically save each month–that'll help you gauge when you'll be ready to transition from renter to homeowner.
Establish a Separate Savings Account. Set up a separate savings account exclusively for your down payment, and make your monthly contributions automatic. By keeping this money separate, you'll be less likely to tap into it when you're tight on cash.
Shop Around to Reduce Major Monthly Expenses. It's a good idea to check rates for your car insurance, renters insurance, health insurance, cable, internet and cellphone plan. There may be deals or promotions available that allow you to save hundreds of dollars by adjusting your contracts.
Monitor Your Spending. With online banking, keeping an eye on your spending is easier than ever. Track where most of your discretionary income is going. Identify areas where you could cut back (nice meals out, vacations, etc.) and instead put that money into savings.
Look Into State and Local Home-Buying Programs. Many states, counties and local governments operate programs for first-time homebuyers. Some programs offer housing discounts, while others provide down payment loans or grants.
Celebrate Savings Milestones. Saving enough for a down payment can be daunting. To avoid getting discouraged, break it up into smaller goals and reward yourself when you reach each one. If you need to save $30,000 total, consider treating yourself to a nice meal every $5,000 saved. This'll help you stay motivated throughout the process.
Our country faces challenges all the time. Whether it's a recession, natural disaster or, yes, even a global pandemic—no matter what's happening in the world, life still happens. Today, many families find themselves needing to move at a less than ideal time.
Moving is always stressful, but moving while trying to navigate certain restrictions and safety regulations can quickly become an overwhelming undertaking. While many may attempt to reschedule their moves to less turbulent times, some families can't delay the process. Maybe you sold your home before the pandemic hit and now are left to figure out the best move.
If you find yourself needing to move during these challenging times, here are some tips to make the process as smooth as possible:
Get Rid of What You Don't Need
Decluttering and downsizing should be implemented during any move, no matter the state of the world. Many of us have recently been spending more time at home due to stay-at-home orders; use the downtime as an opportunity to go through your belongings and get rid of what you don't use, need or want anymore. Don't waste time and money by moving items to your new location that are just going to get tossed out soon anyway.
The safety of your family should always be your top priority. Complete as many necessary tasks as you can virtually to avoid traveling when it isn't safe to do so. Many real estate professionals have been offering virtual home tours during the pandemic, and this practice is something that is likely to continue moving forward. Communicate with your agent via video chat, phone and email as much as possible. Important paperwork and other steps involved in the closing process are often allowed to take place online during times of crisis.
Assess Your Financials
Any nationwide emergency will likely impact the economy, putting many Americans in a state of unease. Today, the country is facing massive economic upset and widespread layoffs; according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the U.S. officially entered a recession this February. Before you fully commit to moving, make sure you understand your financial situation and what you have to work with monetarily.
Ask yourself: what'll my income look like over the coming months? How much cash and credit capacity do I have? Do I have a plan in place to stay on top of my bills? With these answers, you can start to get a sense of how your budget will change and if you can afford a move.
Keep an Eye Out for Deals
Times of crisis can offer the best investment opportunities for those who are prepared. When the masses shy away from investing in real estate due to economic uncertainty, it might just be the best time to buy. When the housing bubble burst in 2008, most were running away from the market, but the smartest investors made tremendous deals during that time. Because real estate tends to slow in uncertain times, sellers are typically more willing to negotiate. Today's mortgage rates are at a record low so, while it may seem stressful, now may actually end up being the best time for you to purchase a new home.
Do What You Can on Your Own
Services you might typically use like shipping and professional movers are likely to be disrupted along with most other industries. To avoid paying hefty service fees or endure long wait times, and to ensure the safety of your family and workers, you might consider tackling as much of your move on your own as you can. Consider doing your own packing and moving, and realize that if you're shipping any of your belongings long distance, they may take longer than expected to arrive. If you do need to pay for assistance, research different companies and ask questions about how their operations have changed during the pandemic.
Moving is no easy feat, especially when turbulent times put a strain on your plans. Do your research, educate yourself and make sure safety is your top priority!
Brentnie Daggett is a writer and infographic master for the rental and property management industry. She loves to share tips and tricks to assist landlords and renters alike. To learn more about Daggett, and to discover more great tips for renters, visit www.rentecdirect.com.
This article first appeared on RISMedia's blog, Housecall.
If you are renting an apartment but want to buy your own home, you'll have to save enough money for a down payment first. The amount will depend on the price of your dream home and the terms of your mortgage, but it'll most likely be several thousand dollars more than you currently have in your bank account. Saving money for a down payment while putting a significant percentage of your monthly income toward rent can feel daunting, but you can do it if you make some strategic decisions and commitments.
Figure out How Much You Need
If you have a pretty good idea of where you want to live and the size and features you want in your future home, you can look at recent sale prices and come up with a ballpark estimate of how much you'll need for a down payment. Having a target can help you stay on track.
See Where Your Money Goes & Look for Ways to Cut Expenses
Keep track of every dollar you spend for two or three months. Knowing where your money goes can help you identify areas where you can make changes to save. For example, you may be surprised at how much you spend on things like eating out and entertainment.
If you live in an area where rental costs are high, consider relocating. You might have a longer daily commute, but cutting your rent bill could give you hundreds of extra dollars each month to put toward your down payment. If moving isn't an option, consider getting a roommate to share expenses.
Utility bills can fluctuate from month to month as your usage changes with the season. If possible, find an apartment with some or all utilities included. The rent payment may be higher, but paying the same amount each month can make budgeting easier. If you can't find an apartment with utilities included, look for ways to use less electricity and water.
Increase Income & Reduce Debt
You can earn additional income by taking on a part-time job. Whether you capitalize on an in-demand skill that you have or look for odd jobs or a freelancing gig, every extra dollar can bring you closer to your down payment goal.
If you have credit card balances, high interest rates can cause you to pay thousands of dollars extra. Paying off your debt means that money could go toward a down payment instead. Eliminating credit card debt can also raise your credit score and help you get a mortgage with a lower interest rate.
Focus on a Goal & Create a Strategy
Saving money for a down payment can be tough if you're paying to rent a home, but it can be done. Set a goal, figure out where your money is currently going each month and then look for changes you can make to reduce your living expenses. A multi-pronged approach can help you reach your goal faster.
Selling your home without an agent is often an appealing idea because you can forego the commission rates. The major downside, however, is you lose out on all the important qualities and experience an agent has when they do the work themselves. Here are four reasons why selecting a reputable, local real estate professional is beneficial for sellers:
Your real estate agent knows how to get the buyer to make the purchase as close to the asking price as possible. They do this work for a living, so agents understand the ins and outs of contract and price negotiations. Another factor is the market conditions—agents have to stay on top of changes, so they can make the most money on commissions. They know what items they can negotiate and what things are best to avoid.
No Emotional Connection
One of the biggest things about hiring a professional that sellers find appealing is the fact that an agent is not biased. They're not connected to your property, so they see it at face value. Things like older home equipment, cracks in the sidewalk or areas that you can improve before the open house are more visible to the agent than the person who has lived in the home for years. With no emotional connection, the agent can make decisions that many homeowners are afraid of or unwilling to make.
Does your schedule afford you the time to talk with every person interested in your home? Probably not. Additionally, agents must accommodate the schedules of prospective buyers and show them your property when they're available. If you go the For Sale by Owner (FSBO) route, then you must handle screening buyers and scheduling showing times yourself.
One thing most people do not realize when they choose to go the FSBO route is that they're legally responsible for anything they don't disclose to the buyer. Even inadvertent omissions can cause you to incur a lawsuit. Breach of contract may occur when the owner accidentally forgets to mention something hazardous about the property.
Property agents and brokers have insurance that covers them if they miss something a buyer finds a nuisance or danger after signing a home contract. You have nothing to protect you should you miss something.
Agents spend a lot of time and money earning their real estate license. Knowing the local market and laws is a necessary part of the business. If you're not a legal professional, you could put yourself in danger of a lawsuit if you decide to sell your home on your own rather than hiring a professional to handle the process.