Homeownership seems more out of reach than ever for many Americans, especially for those who have been waiting for real estate prices to drop. But there are still multiple ways to buy a home right now, or to position yourself for a future purchase.
- Build up your down payment. The higher real estate prices climb, the bigger you’ll want your down payment to be. Having at least 20% saved up as a down payment can help you avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI) on a conventional loan.
- Ask for a gift. One-fourth of first-time homebuyers used a cash gift or loan from family or friends as a down payment in 2021 and 2022, according to the National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Depending on the type of mortgage, you may also be allowed to receive a down payment gift from your employer or labor union, a charitable organization, or a government agency that assists first-time or low-income homebuyers. So don’t be afraid to ask!
- Improve your credit score. A better credit score can help you qualify for more home loan options and better interest rates. The most important steps you can take to improve your credit include making all bill payments on time, paying down revolving debt to get a lower credit utilization ratio, and refraining from opening new accounts or closing old ones.
- Consider several loan types. Look at different types of mortgages that could help you get into the home you want, including government-backed home loans. As an example, FHA loans let borrowers put down as little as 3.5% with a credit score as low as 580. For those with scores between 500 and 579, a down payment as low as 10% of the purchase price will suffice.
- Start working with a realtor early on. Have a realtor working on your behalf early in the buying process, particularly if you live in an area with a hot real estate market. By having a professional on your side who knows what you’re looking for and how much you can afford, you could find out about available properties before they’re snagged by someone else.
- Remember you can always refinance. Keep in mind that today’s high mortgage rates don’t have to be forever. Take out a home loan for the property you want when you’re ready and remember that you can always refinance your mortgage when rates drop in the future. This could help you save money on interest later down the road, and you can also qualify for a lower monthly payment when rates drop.