Down Payments: A Guide for First-Time Homebuyers

Ever wondered if you need to put 20% down to buy a home? Or if there’s a way to reduce your down payment? Or even, what exactly is a down payment? There’s no dumb questions here, and we’ve got the answers for you.

As a Reminder

A down payment refers to the amount of money you contribute upfront when buying a home.

The 20% Down Myth

You might have heard that you need to put 20% down to buy a home, but that’s not exactly true. The size of your down payment will vary depending on the loan program you apply and qualify for.

For example, VA loans do not require a down payment for qualifying active-duty military, veterans and surviving spouses. Buyers wishing to purchase a home in rural areas can apply for a USDA loan, another government-sponsored zero-down program.

FHA loans, backed by the Federal Housing Administration, can go as low as 3.5% down depending on the borrower’s credit score.

Conventional loans, also known as conforming loans, allow buyers to put as little as 3% down, but typically lenders will require you to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI) that can be canceled once you’ve earned over 20% in home equity.

So, How Much Should You Put Down?

That’s a great question, and the answer will be unique to you and your family’s needs.

Last year, the typical down payment for first-time buyers was 8% and 19% for repeat buyers according to the 2023 NAR Buyers and Sellers Demographic Report.

It’s beneficial to put down a smaller down payment to make homeownership more accessible and immediate without draining your savings.

However, with a larger down payment, you can typically get a slightly lower interest rate, plus you will be lowering your monthly mortgage payment since you’ll owe less over the life of your loan. You’ll also have more equity in your home upfront and can typically avoid PMI with a down payment over 20%.

Down Payment Assistance Programs

For first-time home buyers, 38% said saving for a down payment was the most difficult step in the process according to the 2023 NAR Buyers and Sellers Demographic Report.

However, there are many programs offered by state, county and city governed agencies that are designed to reduce the amount needed for a down payment using loan and grants. These are called Down Payment Assistance (DPA) programs, and they allow for first-time homebuyers with low to moderate incomes to achieve their goal of homeownership.

The Bottom Line

The size of your down payment will vary based on your unique circumstances and the loan program you apply for. Thankfully, you’re not alone in your home purchase pursuit, and our expert Loan Officers will walk you through your options and find the best financing fit for your needs.

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NQM Funding, LLC (NMLS # 75597) dba - Premier Mortgage Associates; Villa Home Loans; Texas: Consumers wishing to file a complaint against a mortgage company or a licensed residential mortgage loan originator should complete and send a complaint form to the Texas department of savings and mortgage lending, 2601 North Lamar, Suite 201, Austin, Texas 78705. Complaint forms and instructions may be obtained from the department’s website at A toll-free consumer hotline is available at 1-877-276-5550. The department maintains a recovery fund to make payments of certain actual out-of-pocket damages sustained by borrowers caused by acts of licensed residential mortgage loan originators. A written application for reimbursement from the recovery fund must be filed with and investigated by the department prior to the payment of a claim. For more information about the recovery fund, please consult the department’s website at -