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What are the best tips for saving money to buy a house?

Updated on January 9, 2018
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, an industrial engineer, a mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.


What can you do to save money to buy a house? How can you save up money before your first home purchase?

Even minor projects like landscaping and replacing a wall cost hundreds of dollars.
Even minor projects like landscaping and replacing a wall cost hundreds of dollars. | Source

Tips for Saving Money to Buy a House

1. Set up a savings account just for the house down payment. Put money in that and don't touch it for anything else.

2. Down size your current living arrangement so you can save up more money for your own place.

3. If you're getting married, you can request gifts for that purpose. There are tax laws on this you'd want to research further, but a family member can give you money for that purpose.

4. Make all debt payments on time to improve your credit score, and don't forget to be on time with your rent.

5. Try to pay off debts now to free up cash flow for a house payment later. Then live on the income you currently bring in so that you can save that money toward the house down payment.

6. Be realistic on the cost of a house. You don't just have the house payment. There is also the property tax bill, home owner's insurance, mortgage insurance if you don't have a 20% down payment. Then there's the maintenance of the home, something you have to pay for instead of a landlord.

7. Create a thermometer like chart and track the money you save toward the goal, and place this chart on the fridge. You’ll be reminded of why you are living frugally now every time you open the fridge, typically first thing in the morning before going to work. Or create a bar chart and track your savings over time. Update it weekly or monthly so that you see the progress you are making. It is easier to turn down offers to go on a girl’s weekend to Vegas or “let’s go shopping because I’m bored” request if there is a concrete reminder of your savings goals someone you always see it.

8. Try to buy a property you can afford on one income, so that a long period of unemployment for one partner doesn’t cause you to lose your home. If you live alone, live somewhere that you could afford if your hours were cut.

9. If you are shopping for a home, look for properties that you can put 20% on, since this avoids private mortgage insurance or PMI fees. Don’t go for 20-80 loans where you borrow money for both the down payment and the formal mortgage; the fees for these loans are greater than a conventional mortgage.

10. Plan on at least a thousand dollars to fix up the property when you move in. This money goes for everything from putting in blinds to buying a major appliance the former occupants didn't leave behind. Expect to fix at least one major item when you move in, whether it is a pest problem or a fence that the former resident neglected.

11. Make a list of all of your deposits, such as the deposit on your current apartment, utility deposits and so forth. Check the rules for recouping these deposits, then collect them. This money may range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. Where possible, roll over services to avoid having to put down new deposits, such as converting renter's insurance into a home owner's insurance policy or transferring utility service from the apartment to your new home.

Use the cash to pay the deposits on the utilities for your new home or throw toward your down payment.

Warnings About Buying Your First Home

If you move a lot, rent instead of owning. The cost of buying and selling the property will destroy any equity you build up.

Never buy a home with the hope that it will go up in value. After the real estate bubble popped in 2007-2008, many areas saw property values plunge 25%, 30% and even 50%. Only buy a home if it makes sense for you because paying off equity is a form of savings and may even give you more living space than renting.

Borrowing money from your 401K for a down payment is dangerous. If you lose your job, you must pay back the outstanding loan balance or pay income taxes as well as penalties on the remaining loan amount.

Don’t borrow against the equity in your home, whether for home improvements, debt consolidation or paying for college.

If you must rely on a special program like the FHA programs that let you buy a home with 5% down, wait longer and save a larger down payment. If you need charity to buy a home, such as the FHA programs that let charities pay your 5% down payment, you are too poor to afford a house.

If you plan on kids or pets, buy a home with space for them so you do not need to buy a new house soon after their arrival.
If you plan on kids or pets, buy a home with space for them so you do not need to buy a new house soon after their arrival. | Source

Advice on Selecting Your First Home

Select a home that is close to major freeways or transit stations as possible if you will be commuting to work. Moving to a house close to your work is not as important anymore, since the average person changes jobs every three to four years.

Don’t get a “fixer-upper” unless you are a professional building contractor. Repairing the property will take time and money you don’t have if you’ve finally managed to save up for the down payment for a house.

Buy a home that is small enough to be comfortably affordable, but not so small that you’d need to “upgrade” if your life goes as planned. For example, buy a home with at least one extra bedroom that you currently need if you plan on having children at some point.


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