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Top 6 Home Buying Myths

Aug 18, 2007
The home buying process can be very confusting. Take a few moments and dispell some of the top myths surrounding this process.

Myth # 1: You can't use a gift as a down payment.

This old saw has been around for decades, but it's not true! You can use a gift from a family member or a non-profit foundation for a down payment. Lenders have found that new homeowners are especially motivated not to default on their mortgage, when a family member has invested in the property.

If you accept a gift as part of the down payment, your lender may want written proof that your relative is not expecting you to repay them. This is usually in the form of a letter or gift affidavit.

Myth # 2: You must have perfect credit to buy a home.

There is an entire segment of the mortgage industry built up around providing loans to people with less than perfect credit. It's called the sub-prime mortgage segment. Yes, it's true that sub-prime mortgages are usually at higher interest rates than conventional mortgages. However, usually you can refinance in a few years when your credit rating has improved.

Myth #3: You can't buy a home for at least 10 years after declaring bankruptcy.

If you reestablish your credit, you can qualify for a conventional home loan in as little as 4 years after declaring bankruptcy. For government loans like those sponsored by the VA, the wait is even shorter. You can qualify for an FHA loan in as little as 2 years.

Myth # 4: You can't use a loan for a down payment.

Actually, this myth is partly true. You can't get an advance on your credit card or an unsecured personal loan as a down payment. You can't borrow your down payment from friends or family, either. But, there are a number of types of loans that are perfectly acceptable to use as a down payment.

These include loans against your retirement account, such as a 401K. In fact, this is one of the most popular sources of a down payment. If you have valuable possessions, such as art, jewelry, stocks or an investment account, you can use those as collateral for a down payment loan. These are called pledged asset loans, because you are pledging your assets to guarantee payment.

Myth # 5: Down payment assistance programs are only offered in the inner city or blighted neighborhoods.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There are thousands of different DPAPs or Down Payment Assistance Programs available in different areas. Many of them are offered by city, state or local governments. Others are nationwide. Still others are offered by non-profit foundations.

Myth # 6: You must have at least a 20% down payment.

This was true before 1934. That's when the government first started offering VA and FHA loans with down payments as low as 3% to 5%. Today, there are dozens of different loan products available. Some require down payments as low as 5%. Others require no down payments at all. They're called 100% financing, where you borrow the down payment as well as the mortgage amount.
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