2. Your choice of mortgage matters
If you’ve never shopped around for a mortgage before, you might be surprised at how different your options are. An FHA loan, for example, only requires a 3.5% down payment and a minimum credit score of 620. If you want to try for a no-down payment USDA loan on the other hand, your credit score needs to be 640 or higher.
Then there are the mortgage terms to consider. A 30-year mortgage is what most buyers choose but if you don’t want to be stuck paying your home off well into retirement, you might think about a 15- or 20-year loan instead. While that means you’re not paying as long, it translates to a higher monthly payment.
If you’re concerned about your income going down at any point as you get closer to retirement age, a higher payment could be a problem. You’d have to run the numbers on what you expect your mortgage payment to be and compare that to how you think your income will change over the next two to three decades to decide whether you can sustain a higher payment over the long term.
3. Down payment help exists if you need it
The industry standard for a down payment on a conventional loan is 20% of the purchase price. On a $200,000 home, that comes to $40,000. Now, if you’ve put off buying until your 40s or 50s, hopefully you’ve spent that extra time beefing up your down payment savings. If you haven’t, it’s time to start researching ways to get your down payment covered.
You could ask a family member to gift the money to you but if your parents are elderly and they need their cash to fund their own retirement that may not be an option. A better choice might be down payment assistance programs. These programs offer money to qualified homebuyers who need money for a down payment or closing costs.