Ask a Mainstreet REALTOR® - How Much Do I Really Need for a Down Payment?


Q: I am saving up to buy a home for the first time, but I’ve seen conflicting advice about how much I really need to get a mortgage. Should I still assume I need twenty percent of the price for a down payment? 

A: I have good news: homeownership is more attainable than you may think. 

These days, the idea that you must be able to pay twenty percent of the cost of your home up front is a myth. If you can pay twenty percent, however, you may be able to access a better mortgage rate. But there are many programs that will allow you to qualify for a home loan with as low as a three percent down payment. 

If homeownership is your goal, you should talk to your lender and to a Mainstreet REALTOR®️ about your options. If you don’t qualify for a mortgage now, their advice can inform how you save for the future.

The mortgage rate you’ll be offered depends on a lot of factors in addition to the amount you can put down. If you’re looking to buy in the next year, I’d recommend that you: 

  • Avoid changing jobs voluntarily

  • Hold off on purchasing a vehicle

  • Maintain your credit levels — don’t overload your credit cards, and don’t close credit cards

These will help you when a lender assesses your credit. 

Many programs exist to help people access homeownership. Check if you qualify for any of the following.

  • Locally, H.O.M.E. DuPage and Community Partners for Affordable Housing both offer homebuyer education and financial programs and counseling that can help you prepare for purchasing your own home. Both can also help with down payment assistance if you qualify. H.O.M.E. DuPage will teach you how to access assistance from various sources, while Community Partners for Affordable Housing provides direct down payment assistance in many cases. 

  • On the state level, the Illinois Housing Department Authority offers several types of loans to help Illinoisans who might not otherwise be able to purchase a home. They also provide financial and pre-purchase counseling.  

  • Nationally, a variety of programs exist to help veterans and active duty service members achieve homeownership. These include options specific to Native American veterans and veterans who are disabled. If you are a member of the armed forces, you can also talk to a REALTOR® with the Military Relocation Professional certification for additional advice. 

Adding a co-signer may also expand your down payment and loan options. Talk to a lender or a Mainstreet REALTOR® about whether doing so could be a good fit for your situation.

 Do you have a real estate question you’d like answered in our Ask a Mainstreet REALTOR®️ blog feature? Email Amy Robey at with your question.