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how to: buy a home

Ready for a new nest? Whether you’re looking for your very first place, or it’s time for an upgrade, we’ve got guides on renting or buying a home that will help ease you through the process. Start with the basics -- condo, co-op, or house? Our home buying help will give you the pros and cons of every option. After deciding what you want, you’ll need to settle on where to live. Our tips on how to find a home will help you pick the right neighborhood and even tell you how to give it a test drive! If you’ve already narrowed in on a neighborhood, you’ll want a real estate agent, and we’ve got the questions you must ask before you hire one. Once you’re on the house hunt, our Q&A can help you through every step of buying a home. From dealing with agent fees, how much to bid, managing mortgages -- even when it’s smarter to rent. You’ll find home buying help for every sticky situation. In addition to tips on buying a house, we’ve also got advice on selling your old one. Take a peek at our advice on organizing an open house, the dos and don’ts of selling it yourself, and our handy selling your home checklist. Our tips on buying a house will take you right through to the end, from dealing with inspections to making an offer. Once you’re ready to make your move, check out our moving checklist and the first things you should do in your new space. Welcome home!

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Q&A: Do I Have to Put 20 Percent Down?

Q.

I heard you have to put down at least 20 percent as a down payment now. Is that true?

A.

The Nest Q&ANot necessarily. Certain lenders, like FHA loan programs, still require as little as 3 to 5 percent down. Just keep in mind that to qualify for a lower down payment, you’ll likely be required to buy mortgage insurance, which is tacked onto your monthly payment (to protect the lender in case you default on your loan). But there's another catch...

The other catch is, it’s harder than ever to qualify for a bigger mortgage (and the less you put down, the larger your mortgage will be). If you do put down 20 percent, which is a big chunk of change up front, make sure that you also have a cushion of six months’ worth of mortgage payments to make sure you’ll be covered.

Nestpert Joseph Russo, Executive Director of The National Council for Financial Literacy and Real Estate Expert at ITeachAboutMoney.com

-- The Nest Editors

See More: Buying a Home , Budgeting , Real Estate , Real Estate Q&A