Save For A Down Payment or Buy Now? (Part 1 of 2)

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An email asked a question I should have thought to answer a long time ago, and the answer may surprise a lot of folks. I've been vaguely aware of this for a couple of years, but I was amazed how strongly the numbers solidified my views!

My wife and I aren't ready to buy a property yet, but we are trying to plan how much to save for our down payment. You've mentioned that there's a spectrum from nothing down to 20+% down broken down by 5% increments, but how do you choose where to be on that spectrum? I can see that there are tradeoffs between the amount you have to save, the cost of your mortgage and the like, but I don't have a good way of thinking about those tradeoffs. And, since we're in the DELETED area, 20% down could easily get into the six figures, so it can be quite intimidating.

Given the way leverage works in even a slightly appreciating market, it is generally to your advantage to buy as soon as 1) You are sufficiently stable in your employment and expect that you're going to be in the area at least another three to five years, 2) You have enough of a reserve that the first minor bump in the road will not lead to disaster, and 3) You make enough to afford the payments. However, what usually happens is that people get a raise, a promotion, or a new job, or more often, they get married or have a baby and that is what sets their thinking on the road to buying a home.

Let's consider a $500,000 property and an 80% first trust deed with an appropriate piggyback 30 due in 15 second if needed, since that was generally returning more favorable rates than a Home Equity Line of Credit when I wrote this. Upon most recent revision, second mortgages weren't going above 90%, and 100% financing is difficult unless you're a veteran. Picking a random lender from a couple days ago and thirty year fixed rate loans, when I originally wrote this, I had 5.875 for about 9/10 of a point plus closing costs, or about $7100 total cost. But there are potential adjusters - and relevant to this situation, having subordinate financing for 100% CLTV adds one full discount point ($4000 in this case) to the first mortgage, or you can drop down to 6.25 for the same cost. 95% financing only adds 1/4 of a point in the same situation, or you can get a 6% even for the same cost. At or below 90% CLTV, there is no add to the first mortgage. If we're at 80% with a $100,000 (20%) down payment, the 5.875 first is all there is. Taking dead average credit scores (720) with this same lender, the closing costs are $500 (flat) when you do the second concurrently. 85% CLTV would be an 8% second on $25,000 for a down payment of $75,000 (15%) plus closing costs. 90%CLTV would be $50,000 down payment (10%) and leave you with a $50,000 second at 7.375%, benefiting from a bump down in rate for hitting a certain dollar value. 95% CLTV requires a $25,000 down payment and leaves you with a $75,000 second at 7.75%. 100% CLTV (no down payment) leaves you with a $100,000 second at 8%. It would be 8.25, but you've hit another economy of scale break point.

Here's a table:









1st TD








2nd TD
















1st pay








2nd pay
















So you see that having a down payment is a very good thing. Now this is for a fairly ideal situation. If you are in a stated income situation, the rates are slightly higher and step somewhat more steeply, and currently, 80% loan ot value for stated income is the highest anyone is going. If your credit is significantly below average, the rates start higher and step up more steeply still. It gets rough if both apply.

However, this doesn't take place in a vacuum. Let's say you can save $10,000 per year, and earn 10% tax free on what you save. But while you do, housing prices are still going up. Let's assume 5% per year on average. We will also assume that you can get a 6% for the first and 8% for the second whenever you buy, and that taxes at 1.2% of value per year, here's the projected situation:





























































Where payments is the total of mortgage and monthly tax payment pro-rated when you buy. Examining that column, we see that this is an argument against waiting. In fact, assuming a 3% (compounded) raise per year, the property is only 4% more affordable in year 10 with a $167,000 down payment! This neglects rises in rents and other costs of living!

(Here is Part 2 of Save For A Down Payment or Buy Now?, which tells one way to increase affordability more and faster)


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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on June 20, 2008 7:00 AM.

Who Does Creating Artificial Barriers to Growth Hurt? was the previous entry in this blog.

Save For A Down Payment or Buy Now? (Part 2 of 2) is the next entry in this blog.

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