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Creative ways to pay down payment and closing costs when buying a house

10 Creative Ways to Pay for Down Payment and Closing Costs

There are many ways that you can raise the money to cover your down payment and closing costs without liquidating your personal savings.

Down payment and closing cost assistance programs are also available options, but only if you meet the income and loan amount limits.

I really want to dig deeper and talk about sources that can be used for down payment or closing costs that you might not have thought of. Here’s a list of 10 common and creative ways to come up with these funds.

1. Personal Savings

Funds that come from a personal banking account must be in account for a minimum of 60 days prior to acceptance of your offer.

This is called “seasoning” your funds.  2 months of bank statements are used to show that you’ve saved this money and maintained your balances for at least 60 days.

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Cash on hand, or “mattress money” is not allowed to be used because there is no way to verify where the money came from, or document a history of being able to save money.

Large deposits that show up on your bank statements must be explained.  If you are getting gift funds from a relative, the best practice for receiving this money is described below.

If you have already deposited the gift into your checking account, it needs to be in there for 60 days before applying for your mortgage, or additional documentation will be required to show the source of the funds deposited.

Your personal savings can be used for down payment or closing costs.

2. Business Accounts

If you are self employed, you can use business bank accounts to transfer money to escrow, or your personal banking accounts.

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Using this source should be discussed with your loan officer in advance of moving money between accounts because it will require careful documentation and proof of ownership.

Being self employed adds many layers of complication when it comes to sourcing and documenting assets and income.  Be sure to have a detailed conversation with your loan officer, in addition to providing 2-3 years full tax returns, including all schedules.

3. Gift Funds

Gift funds be received by a blood or marriage relative as long as there is no expectation of it being paid back. The “gift” will need to be documented on a Gift Letter.

The Gift Letter will document the name of person gifting the money, the amount, and the fact that it is indeed a gift and there is no expectations of repayment. Your lender will provide you with the correct wording for a Gift Letter.

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Best practice for receiving gift funds is to be wired directly to Escrow before closing.  This is a best practice because it will not require your donor to document where the gift came from.  The fact that they sent the wire directly is proof of the source.

If your donor gives you cash, or a check that you deposit into your account, that can open up the door to unnecessary scrutiny, and cumbersome documentation from the donor including 2 months worth of statements, and the transfer documentation for the withdrawal that was given to you.

Incorrectly transferred gift funds can not only be extremely frustrating, it can also hold up your close of escrow.  A detailed conversation with your loan officer needs to happen if you are using a gift.  Using gift funds is very easy if you follow the rules.

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Gift funds can be used for either downpayment or closing costs.

4. 401K or Retirement Plan

Some retirement plans allow for a one-time loan for the purposes of buying a primary residence.  The terms of the home loan assistance from your retirement plan provider will usually dictate whether it can be used for down payment or closing costs.

There is not one way that you can borrow from a retirement account, it all depends on who manages your retirement.  I have seen retirement plans that allow for a down payment assistance loan with favorable repayment terms.

I have also seen plans that allow you to withdraw funds without penalty for the purposes of buying a home. Contact your HR department, financial advisor, or refer to your documentation to explore options for using a retirement account as a source of funds.

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The lender will allow you to use funds exactly how it is documented in the retirement plan guidelines.

Funds from a retirement account can be used for either downpayment or closing costs.

5. Employer Assistance Program

If your employer has an assistance program documented in your employee handbook, and it’s available to all employees of the company, this is acceptable by most lenders.

The terms of the assistance from your employer will usually dictate whether it can be used for down payment or closing costs.  The lender will allow what is documented.

6. Sale of Personal Property

If you have personal property such as precious metals, artwork, a boat, or even another home, using the proceeds from the sale require that you document the fact that you owned the property.

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You will be required to provide a detailed paper trail showing the sale (receipt) and deposit of the proceeds (exact amount) into your personal checking or savings account.

If you cannot prove the deposit of the exact funds from the sale, you may be required to have that money seasoned for 60 days before being able to use it.  Properly documented proceeds from a sale of personal property can be used for down payment or closing costs.

Funds from the sale of personal property can be used for either downpayment or closing costs.

7. Lawsuit, Insurance Claim or Tax Refund

If you receive money from a tax refund, insurance claim, or a lawsuit, you need to document this similarly to how you would document the sale of personal property.

Presentation of the award documentation, receipt of the money, and deposit of the money into your account all needs to have a paper trail.

Money received through a lawsuit, insurance claim or tax refund does not need to be seasoned for 60 days in your account, and can be used for either down payment or closing costs.

8. Seller Concessions

A seller concession is a credit proved by the seller of the home to be used toward closing costs.  While it is not uncommon, the motivation of a seller to cover your closing costs can be directly relative to market conditions, and your offer.

It is recommended that you offer a higher purchase price if you are asking for the seller to pay part, or all of your closing costs so that it does not come out of their expected bottom line.

Another strategy used by some sellers is to offer to pay discount points instead of a closing cost credit.  Discount points are used to permanently buy down your interest rate, which could save you 10’s of thousands or more over the term of the loan.

Seller concessions can be used to pay for closing costs only, not down payment.

9. Lender Credit

A lender credit can be used to cover closing costs, but not down payment.  A lender credit can either be created by the lender waiving standard fees, or by using premium pricing to generate a rebate.

Premium pricing occurs when you agree to take a higher interest rate in exchange for a credit to be applied to the closing costs of your home.

In competitive markets where it will put you at a competitive disadvantage to ask for seller concessions, using premium pricing to generate enough rebate to cover closing costs is a very good strategy.

A lender credit can be used to cover closing costs, but not down payment.

10. Hire an Professional

You can do your homework.  You can save your money for down payment and closing costs.  You can do everything right on your end, but if you get stuck with a call center lender, all that preparation could be meaningless.

Do not underestimate the value of using a professional to guide you through the decisions surrounding home ownership.  Professional loan officers solve problems for a living.

Everyone is an expert until you encounter a challenge.  You only need an expert if something pops up.

Since it does not cost more to use an experienced professional, why would you ever risk something as important as your home to a call center kid with little to no experience solving the problems that can come up while applying for a home loan.

Questions?

If you have questions, comments, or if you would like an introduction to a mortgage professional, you can leave a question or comment below, shoot us an email, or give us a call.  We’re here to help!

About Your Expert

Scott Schang

A 20 year veteran of the Mortgage and Real Estate industry, I am passionate about educating and empowering consumers. I have been writing about consumer protection issues, and making sense of complicated real estate and mortgage topics on this website since 2007

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  • Angela Bunton says:

    I am due to close on house in 1 week. I have the down payment money in my account $15000 and have submitted documentation of funds. I am going to need an additional $2000 for closing cost, which I have in cash. I did not realize that you are not suppose to make large deposits without documentation of the money. It is money that I saved from yard sale, ebay sales, etc. Is there a way to use this money? Or are that gonna stop my closing? Or do I just need to get a gift? Any Help? Thank you.

    • Scott Schang says:

      Hi Angela, this is definitely going to be a little difficult unless you have receipts for everything that you’ve sold. What I would suggest is to see if you have a relative that has the money to “gift” to you (they must already have it in their account). Then, you can give your relative the cash after close.

      The other option is that if that money has been in your account for 60 days, it’s considered sourced and seasoned. How long until you can have 2 bank statements showing that money on deposit?

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