The down payment is mainly used when purchasing expensive items on credit, such as a car or real estate. The down payment is calculated as a percentage of the loan amount and, as a rule, is made by the borrower using his own funds.
What is a Down Payment?
A down payment is the upfront portion of a payment that is often required to finalize the purchase of items that are typically more expensive, such as a home or a car. When purchasing a home, after a down payment is paid by a home-buyer, any remaining balance will be amortized as a mortgage loan that must be fulfilled by the buyer. In other words, the purchase price of a house should equal the total amount of the mortgage loan and the down payment. Often, a down payment for a home is expressed as a percentage of the purchase price. As an example, for a $250,000 home, a down payment of 3.5% is $8,750, while 20% is $50,000.
It is important to remember that a down payment only makes up one upfront payment during a home purchase, even though it is often the most substantial. There are also many other costs that may be involved, such as upfront points of the loan, insurance, lender's title insurance, inspection fee, appraisal fee, and a survey fee. A very rough estimate for the amount needed to cover closing costs is 3% of the purchase price, which is set as the default for the calculator.
Different Loans, Different Down Payment Requirements
In the U.S., most conventional loans adhere to guidelines and requirements set by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which are two government-sponsored corporations that purchase loans from lenders. Conventional loans normally require a down payment of 20%, but some lenders may go lower, such as 10%, 5%, or 3% at the very least. If the down payment is lower than 20%, borrowers will be asked to purchase Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) to protect the mortgage lenders. The PMI is normally paid as a monthly fee added to the mortgage until the balance of the loan falls below 80 or 78% of the home purchase price.
To help low-income buyers in the U.S., the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires all Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans to provide insurance to primary residence home-buyers so that they can purchase a home with a down payment as low as 3.5% and for terms as long as 30 years. However, home-buyers must pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium at closing that is worth 1.75% of the loan amount, on top of the down payment. In addition, monthly mortgage insurance payments last for the life of the loan unless refinanced to a conventional loan. For more information about or to do calculations involving FHA loans, please visit the FHA Loan Calculator.
Also, in the U.S., the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has the ability to subsidize VA loans, which do not require a down payment. Only two other entities, the USDA and Navy Federal, allow the purchase of a home without a down payment. For more information about or to do calculations involving VA mortgages, please visit the VA Mortgage Calculator.
Large vs. Small Down Payment
Paying a larger down payment of 20% or more, if possible, usually lead to qualification for lower rates. Therefore a larger down payment will generally result in the lower amount paid on interest for borrowed money. For conventional loans, paying at least a 20% down payment when purchasing a home removes the need for Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) payments, which are sizable monthly fees that add up over time.
One of the risks associated with making a larger down payment is the possibility of a recession. In the case of a recession, the home value will likely drop, and with it, the relative return on investment of the larger down payment.
Making a smaller down payment also has its benefits, the most obvious being a smaller amount due at closing. Generally, there are a lot of different opportunity costs involved with the funds being used for a down payment; the funds used to make a down payment can't be used to make home improvements to raise the value of the home, pay off high-interest debt, save for retirement, save for an emergency fund, or invest for a chance at a higher return.
Down payment size is also important to lenders; generally, lenders prefer larger down payments. This is because big down payments lower risk by protecting them against the various factors that might reduce the value of the purchased home. In addition, borrowers risk losing their down payment if they can't make payments on a home and end up in foreclosure. As a result, down payments act as an incentive for borrowers to make their mortgage payments, which reduces the risk of default.