Even jumbos are dropping from 20% to 15% and even 10%.
WSJ: It is getting easier for some buyers to land a house with less money up front.
More lenders are lowering down-payment requirements, allowing borrowers to commit 3%—or even less—of a home’s purchase price to get a mortgage. Most had been requiring down payments of 20% or more since the recession began, with a few exceptions.
Some lenders also are waiving mortgage-related fees, and more are allowing down payments to be made by other parties, such as the borrower’s family.
The deals are aimed at buyers with good credit scores and a steady income who have been unable to save enough for a sizable down payment. They are often targeted at buyers who live in expensive housing markets, where even a small down payment can equal tens of thousands of dollars.
The trend toward lower down payments has picked up since mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac , which buy most mortgages from lenders, recently lowered the minimum down payments they will accept to 3% from 5%. The changes are driven by an Obama administration effort to make homeownership affordable to a wider group of buyers.
Borrowers should be aware that small down payments leave them more at risk of owing more on their mortgage than the property is worth should home values in their market decline, says Jack McCabe, an independent housing analyst in Deerfield Beach, Fla. In addition, borrowers likely will incur higher costs over the life of the loan, including higher interest rates and, often, mortgage insurance.
TD Bank, the U.S. unit of Toronto-Dominion Bank , is allowing first-time buyers to put as little as 3% down through its “Right Step” loan program. The bank—which also is extending the offer to low- and moderate-income borrowers as well as those purchasing a home in some up-and-coming neighborhoods—lowered its cash-down requirement from 5% last year.
The banks allow borrowers’ down payments to be partially or fully funded by family, nonprofits or other sources.
Lenders also have been lowering the bar for large mortgages, known as ”jumbos,” which they typically hold on their books. Such loans exceed $417,000 in most parts of the country and $625,500 in pricier housing markets such as New York and San Francisco.
In November, PNC Financial Services Group began allowing exceptions to its down-payment requirements for jumbo mortgages, says Tyler Case, a loan officer at PNC’s Fords, N.J., branch. The lender, which has been requiring at least 20% down for jumbos up to $1.5 million, lowered that to 15% for borrowers whose income and assets go beyond what the bank generally requires. To qualify, borrowers will need a higher credit score and less debt relative to their income than is usually required, as well as having savings after the home purchase equal to at least 12 months of mortgage payments.
PNC also is offering exceptions on down-payment amounts for larger loans up to $3 million.
Wells Fargo , meanwhile, began permitting down payments of as little as 10.1% last year on jumbo mortgages. Previously, its lowest down payment on jumbos was 15%.