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How to Save for a House

November 8, 2019 5 mins

In today’s highly competitive real estate market, first impressions weigh heavily–and that includes the appearance of your home from street level. Did you know that a prospective home buyer will make a judgment about your house within the first 30 seconds? When a potential buyer initially drives up to a property, the first thing they notice is the home’s ”curb appeal.“

According to a 2018 report from the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR), curb appeal is very important to attract buyers. To ensure your home makes a great first impression, you’ll want to hone in on a few key areas, focusing on details that entice prospective buyers to want to come inside the house.

Create a budget

1. Keep your goal in mind and cut out unnecessary expenses

Chances are, you have expenses each week that are not totally necessary. Decide what you can cut out and put this money towards your down payment instead. For more tips on ways to save, check out our article on saving up for an emergency fund – many methods mentioned there will also work when saving up for a down payment.

2. Automate your saving

There’s two common ways to automate saving. One is to set up an automatic monthly or bi-monthly transfer from your checking account into your savings account. Patelco Online™ makes it incredibly easy to do this online or via the Mobile App.

A second method of saving is to have your employer split your paycheck between 2 direct deposits – one deposit to your normal checking account to pay your monthly expenses and one deposit to a savings account that’s earmarked for a down payment.

3. Skip vacations for a year or two

If you save the money you normally would have spent on vacationing, you can make significant contributions to your down payment.

4. Reduce your high-interest debt

If you’re paying high interest on a credit card, this can seriously limit your ability to save. Check out our tips for paying off debt. The sooner you pay your debt down, the sooner you’ll be able to save for a down payment.

5. Get a temporary second job or seasonal employment

If buying a home is really important to you, the sacrifice of working a second job may help you may substantial contributions to your down payment fund. Consider this option carefully as it will cut into your time and likely add stress to your life – but if you set up a specific timeframe (such as only during one holiday season) and keep your goal in mind, you may end up very satisfied with the result.

If you have a few hundred or a few thousand dollars in an account that’s not earning much, invest it. Every dividend or bit of interest earned will help.”

Use investments and gifts

6. Invest the cash you have sitting around

If you have a few hundred or a few thousand dollars in an account that’s not earning much, invest it. Every dividend or bit of interest earned will help. If you’re looking to buy soon, consider a high-yield savings account like our Money Market account. If you’re looking at an intermediate term, consider a share certificate. And if you’re looking to buy after a longer period of time, consider the stock market.

7. Consider using a gift

Most mortgage lenders allow gifts to be used for part of the down payment on a home. However, lenders often require borrowers to contribute some of their own money toward a down payment in addition to any gifts. You’ll also need to submit a letter to your lender that proves that the money is a gift rather than a loan, and that you are not expected to repay the funds. You may also have to submit documentation, such as bank statements, showing the funds withdrawn from your benefactor’s account and deposited into your account.

8. Withdraw from a traditional IRA

You can withdraw funds from your traditional IRA and use them for a down payment. However, all or part of a distribution from a traditional IRA must be included in taxable income in the year received. While funds distributed prior to age 59½ are generally subject to a premature distribution penalty, an exception applies when the distribution is used within 120 days to pay the costs of acquiring, constructing, or reconstructing the principal residence of a first-time homebuyer. There is a $10,000 lifetime limit on distributions covered by the first-time homebuyer exception, however.

Borrow from your life insurance or retirement plan

9. Borrow from the cash value of a life insurance policy

If you have accumulated a substantial cash value in your life insurance policy, you may be able to borrow from it in order to raise funds for a down payment. You may be able to borrow up to 90 percent of your policy’s cash value, and the interest rate is usually substantially lower than rates for bank loans and credit cards. However, any outstanding loan balance will be subtracted from your death benefit when you die, reducing the amount your beneficiaries will receive upon your death.

10. Borrow from an employer-sponsored retirement plan

If you participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, one way to come up with money for a down payment is to borrow the money from your plan. Many employer-sponsored retirement plans (e.g. a 401(k) plan) allow you to borrow against the funds in your account. Depending on the rules established by your employer, you may be able to borrow against your own contributions and the earnings on this money. You may also be able to borrow against contributions made by your employer if you are vested in those dollars.

There are some caveats here. Interest rates on these types of loans are generally only one or two points above the prime rate. Although loans from retirement plans generally must be paid back within five years, the repayment period can be longer if funds are used to purchase a primary residence. Many plans carry restrictions, so consult your plan administrator for more details. If you leave your employer before you repay a loan from an employer-sponsored retirement plan, the balance of your plan loan will typically be due immediately. If it’s not repaid on time, the loan balance will be deemed a distribution for tax purposes, and you may be subject to the 10 percent penalty tax.

We’re always here to talk – including about buying a home. Contact one of our Home Loan Consultants if you want to talk more about down payments. As a Patelco member, you also have complimentary access to BALANCE, which offers free consultations online or on the phone. They can help answer your questions about the best ways for you to save.


Source: Broadridge Financial Solutions, accessed October 22, 2019.


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