Saving for a down payment might seem like a daunting task - particularly in tough real estate markets like we see here in California - but that doesn't mean it's impossible.
We work with clients all the time that are experiencing the excitement of buying their first home or achieving a long-time dream to invest or flip properties.
Seeing how life-changing owning real estate can be is a big reason why we do what we do.
So, if you're struggling with how to save for a down payment on a house, here are the top tips we share with our clients.
How To Save Up For a House:
1. Understand The Costs:
It's difficult to save up for a target you can't see. When it comes to real estate, it's best to have your eyes wide open. So, start by breaking down the costs and how much they are going to be for the house you can afford.
A knowledgeable real estate agent should be able to help you do this, too, but here is a quick list of costs you'll want to be prepared for:
Down Payment: The average goal is to save 20% of the cost of the house. So, if you're looking to buy a house that is $500,000, you'll want to aim for a down payment of $100,000. There are down payment support programs and first-time homebuyer programs that can help you reduce this down to 5%, 3.5%, or even 0% of the cost of the house.
Closing Costs: Closing costs are usually around 5% of the cost the house, but if you have great credit, you can get this down to about 3%. Plan for 5% and then you'll be pleasantly surprised if it's less. Closing costs usually include and cover the costs of inspections and appraisals.
Moving Costs: Moving costs money, especially if you are moving long distance. Plan for this, so it doesn't surprise you. Average costs of moving trucks, boxes, tape, etc., is going to be a couple thousand dollars. For 45 moving tips and hacks, check out this post.
Appliances: Many homes are not sold with the appliances and these can cost you thousands of dollars to buy upfront. It's difficult to live without a refrigerator, washer and dryer, so make sure you find out if your home is coming with any of these appliances. If not, take some measurements and price out what size and type of appliances you'll want or need.
With these costs in mind, you should have a good starting point for the amount of money you'll need to save up for. While it may seem insurmountable at first, it's amazing what can be accomplished a little bit at a time.
2. Set a Monthly Savings Goal:
Now that you have that big number to reach for, it's time to set smaller, attainable goals to help you get there.
Based on how much you need for your target house, plan backwards and figure out how much you'll need to save each month in order to reach that goal.
If the amount you'd like to save each month in order to buy a home in the period of time you'd like seems unreasonable, keep reading, because we have some tips on how to increase your income and trim your expenses, too.
3. Trim Your Expenses:
The best way to save more is to spend less. This maximizes what you're already earning and lets it work harder for you.
We've seen some really creative ways to save money from our clients over the years. Here are some tips they've shared with us:
Cut cable. You can get a streaming service like Hulu or Netflix for much cheaper.
Cut expensive coffee. You'd be surprised how much those $6 coffees can cost you over the course of a month or year. Start making your own at home. Check out this coffee blog for easy at-home coffee recipes.
Grocery shop online. One of our clients slashed their grocery bill by shopping online and picking up their groceries. Not only did this save them time wandering around a store, but they only bought what they actually needed.
Cancel Subscriptions. Many of us are signed up for subscriptions we aren't even using. On your phone, you can check all the apps and subscriptions you're paying for. Cancel magazines you're not even reading. Cancel monthly boxes you're not even using. I once cut over $100 a month in unused subscriptions or monthly subscriptions I could live without. $100 a month = $1200 a year, just from one cut.
Use Super Coupons Sites. Rakuten is our favorite, but there's several of them that tell you about available coupons for any site you're shopping on and give you cash back for using their app. We've gotten over $700 in cashback just in the last year from using Rakuten. That's money back on things we were going to buy anyway.
Cut Eating Out. I bet if you check how much money you're spending on take-out and fast food, you'll be shocked. We certainly were. Once you see that monthly number, you realize - it is not worth it to spend that much money on something that only lasts a few minutes. We would spend $50 buying take-out from a restaurant for something we could make at home for $10. By limiting take-out to just 1-2x a week, a client of ours saved thousands of dollars a month. Even $1000 a month adds up to $12,000 a year!
Consider Downsizing. Are you renting a house or apartment that is costing you big time? Is there a way to move to a new place or even a new area for a short period of time so you can cut your housing costs significantly? These moves are often easier to do when you know there's a time limit on it.
Rent Out Space: This is unlikely to work for a family, but for one of our clients - a couple with no kids - they started renting out a spare room on AirBnB and were able to save thousands a month.
Skip Vacations: Not forever, but maybe for a year or two, skip those vacations, but save the amount you would have spent on them in your down payment savings account.
Shrink Gifts: If you come from a big family, you might be spending thousands of dollars a year in birthday and Christmas gifts. One birthday card can cost $5 or more. Look for ways to shrink gifts. One way is to handwrite cards and look for more cost effective wrapping. A card and gift-wrap can add $10-$15 to the cost of a gift and it just gets thrown away. There are ways to spend less without the person feeling any less loved or special. One of our clients was able to save hundreds more a month with this method.
These are just some of the ways that we have used and have heard from clients for spending less and being able to save more. A few of these combined could help you save tens of thousands of dollars a year.
4. Increase Your Income:
Another way to save faster is to increase your income. Not only have we done some of these things, but we've heard a lot of ideas from clients on how they've quickly increased their income in order to buy a house faster.
Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
Start a side hustle. Consider what you're good at or what you do for a hobby and think of ways to monetize it. One client is excellent with pets and started offering pet walking, pet sitting and pet training sessions. This helped them save thousands of dollars a month. Other side hustles we've heard of were freelance writing for clients, driving orders for Instacart, driving for Uber, making and selling handmade items online or at fairs, baking cakes and sweets, and much more. Another great side hustle is selling real estate! If you're interested, join our team and let us help you build your business!
Ask for a raise. How often are you receiving cost of living raises or adjustments to bonuses? It never hurts to ask, especially if you can show a history of ways you've improved things for your company. If you have bonuses, perhaps negotiate a higher bonus if you meet certain metrics.
Consider a new job. Are you feeling unhappy with your current job? Shop around and see what else is out there. If you are offered a higher paying position, you can leverage this to see if your current job will increase your salary. One of our clients recently made a switch and it increased their base by over $20,000 a year! They had no idea their position could pay that much at a different company.
With some effort and ingenuity, you might find that you can increase your earnings at the same time that you are cutting expenses, resulting in a much faster way to save for a house.
5. Increase Your Credit Score:
Your credit can really impact the home buying process. Having a higher credit score will help the process go much more smoothly and allow for you to pay less in interest and other costs.
There are definitely ways to increase your credit score, so don't be discouraged by a low score. Here are some tips that will help you improve your credit score:
Pay bills on time
Reduce/pay down debt
Check your credit report for errors and have them removed
Request an increase in credit limits (but don't use it)
Do a credit transfer to lower or no interest credit cards and pay them down
Try to consolidate debt to one source and one payment
Use your credit cards less
Use the snowball method to pay down debt quickly: start by putting as much as you can on the highest interest rate card and pay the minimums on the others. Once that card is paid off, move to the next highest interest rate card.
The goal here is simple: use credit less, pay it off as fast as you can and don't pay your bills late. Sometimes, paying down debt is going to be the fastest way to qualify for a home loan and get the best rates.
We've seen reducing debt transform a client's buying power on the market and allow them to get the house they want faster. Don't discredit the important of paying down debt and improving your credit score!
We hope these tips have given you a lot to think about. Saving for a house is a big deal and purchasing your first piece of real estate is a huge accomplishment.
Give yourself time to reduce debt, cut expenses, increase income and save, save, save. A little bit each day makes a big difference over time.
In the meantime, start looking for a realtor you trust that can help you reach your goals.
If you're a realtor looking to join a successful team, maybe even switch brokerages, and see your business skyrocket - we are currently building our team at Enyart Homes and we would like to speak with you! Call me at 916.524.9733, tell me you saw this blog post and you want to know more about joining our team.
I hope to hear from you soon!
Russell Enyart and the Enyart Real Estate Group are top real estate agents serving serving West Sacramento, Folsom, El Dorado Hills, Granite Bay, Loomis, Rocklin, Roseville, and Sacramento County, Placer County, and El Dorado County.