Tag: downpayment


Each week, I’ve tried to take both simple and complex mortgage-related topics/issues and put them into terms here in this newsletter that make them more easily understood.  Since I’ve been doing that for quite a while, I have to be honest and admit this: I’ve come up dry this week on what to talk about, so I thought I’d do a little internet research (I believe the technical term is Googling) into what mortgages are like in other parts of the world –and after a relatively brief Googling, I’ve found that we here in the United States, well, have it pretty good.  True story!

In a lot of other developed countries, mortgage interest isn’t tax deductible at all or there’s only a very limited tax benefit to be enjoyed from it –in Germany, they give tax incentives to encourage people to continue RENTING!  In many of those same countries, a 30-year fixed mortgage is only a thing of myths.  What? How do they afford a mortgage in other countries?  Here’s a breakdown of what is most common in some of these countries:

Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand:  no fixed-rate loans, only Adjustable Rate Mortgages and Hybrid ARMs with fixed rates for only 10 years.

Germany:   fixed-rate loans up to only 15 years, ARMs and interest-only loans.

Japan:  fixed-rate loans up to only 20 years, ARMs.

Switzerland:  generally, it’s a first and second mortgage; the first has an indefinite repayment period while the second has a fixed repayment period up to 15 years (or until an individual’s retirement age) at a higher interest rate.

I learned two other interesting tidbits:

Prepayment Penalty:  in the US, you can get a loan with NO prepayment penalty; in other countries, the banks/lenders have a guarantee that they get their interest even if you pay off your mortgage early.

Non-Recourse Loans:  these are available in the US, which means you can lose the property if you default on payment, but the lender cannot seek further compensation from the borrower even if the property’s value doesn’t cover the full value of the defaulted amount; in other counties, they can come after you and your assets and metaphorically bleed you dry to get back the full value.

As difficult as it is to save for a down payment –whether it’s 5% or 20% –the sacrifice is worth it because home ownership isn’t just possible, it’s encouraged here in the United States.  If this doesn’t convince you that it’s better to buy than rent, maybe it’s time to learn German and move.


Full disclosure: this is a reprint from a few years back – I’ve updated the numbers to reflect the conditions occurring in the market today.

The New York Federal Reserve’s economists conducted a study and published the results: changes in down payment requirements have MORE influence over home buyers’ willingness to buy than changes in rates.  Surveying both buyers and renters, the Fed found that the effect of interest rates may be overrated when compared to even small changes in down payment requirements. The study found:

•  Dropping the down payment from 20% to 5% increases the willingness to purchase, on average, by 15% among buyers and 40% among renters
•  Decreasing the interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan only raised the willingness to purchase by 5%, on average

As you straddle the fence between BUY RIGHT NOW with a higher interest rate and WAIT AN UNKNOWN PERIOD OF TIME to save 20% of the purchase price, here’s an example to give you a push.  Take a look at the numbers for a house with the purchase price of $250,000 with a 30-year fixed mortgage:  (1) WAIT: $50,000 down payment, $200,000 total loan amount, 4.5% interest rate, monthly mortgage (P&I) payment – $1013.37; OR, (2) BUY NOW: $12,500 down payment, $237,500 total loan amount, 4.875% interest rate, monthly mortgage (P&A) payment – $1256.86.


No doubt $1013.37 is better than $1256.86 for a monthly payment – that’s not what’s at stake here. The difference between those two payments is $243.49. In order for a person to save the additional $37,500 to go from a 5% down payment to a 20% down payment at the rate of $243.49/month, it would take 154 months – 12 years and 10 months! – to get to that point, which is almost half the life of a 30-year mortgage. Obviously, for many perspective buyers, that additional $244issignificant.  Wehave a number of strategies to help make up that difference so you can get into a home as soon as possible!

When this was originally written, interest rates were fairly steady –even stagnant –so the scenario of waiting to amass a larger down payment to get a better interest rate was much more plausible. As we’ve seen recently, though, rates are not going to be stagnant –this is not a pronouncement that they’re going to skyrocket overnight –so this has taken on a greater sense of immediacy to get into a home rather than sitting on the rental sidelines for who knows how long.