I recently met with a young married couple to help them plan for a home purchase.
They were worried their attempts to make a large down payment would require them to empty their savings leaving them vulnerable to unexpected emergencies.
They were surprised to discover that scraping together an extra few thousand dollars lowered their projected payment by a measly 20 bucks. Recognizing this opened a conversation on why they shouldn’t make the minimum down payment.
A healthy down payment is good for at least two reasons. The first is it will get you closer to not paying primary mortgage insurance. This insurance is usually required when a buyer doesn’t have at least 20 percent down.
The second reason to have a reasonable down payment is the long-term effect on your cash flow. One dirty little secret of having a 30-year mortgage is that you will end up paying about twice as much for the home.
Let’s assume you have a 30-year $500,000 mortgage at 4.5 percent interest. Your monthly payment will be about $2,400.
A 30-year mortgage requires 360 payments. If you multiply the $2,400 monthly payments by 360, you will discover the payments total more than $900,000 for your home.
The long-term effect of the interest will result in paying much more for the home than most buyers know. A more substantial down payment is going to lighten this burden.
One valuable way to save money on a mortgage is to pay extra principal. There was a time when financial experts often encouraged this strategy, but lately, it has fallen out of style.
Paying just an extra $100 a month on a $500,000 mortgage could save over $35,000 during the life of the mortgage. Paying an additional $200 a month on that same mortgage will lead to saving more than $65,000.
The decision to make extra payments on a mortgage should not be made quickly.
There are good reasons not to pay down a mortgage or at least delay it. Paying down a credit card or other high-interest debt should be a priority above the mortgage.
There is no sense in making extra payments on a 4.5 percent mortgage if you have credit card debt charging over 20 percent.
Another good reason to not pay extra principal is if you do not have an emergency reserve. An emergency reserve should be between three and six months of living expenses.
Paying down principal converts liquid cash to non-liquid home equity. That home equity cannot be quickly accessed for an emergency situation unless you already have an open line of credit. It is better to build an emergency reserve before you commit money to extra principal.
I always encourage potential buyers to work with a mortgage broker to answer many of these questions.
Napa has many good ones, and working with a seasoned professional will help clarify the right path for the home buyers’ journey.