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Illustration of a house with a sold sign - average down payment

What’s the average down payment on a house?

By Shelley Sines

November 2019

How much money should you put down on a home you’re looking to purchase? While the answer varies from person to person depending on the house you want to buy and your other priorities, the average down payment on a house is probably smaller than you think.

The 20% down payment myth

When financing a home, many Americans consider a 20% down payment to be the “normal” amount of money to put down in order to qualify for a conventional mortgage loan. And yet, most people don’t put 20% down on a home – not even close. 

According to NerdWallet, “The 20% Mortgage Down Payment Is Dead,” especially for first-time homebuyers. For buyers 28 years old and younger who financed their home purchases, the median down payment was just 6%, according to a 2019 survey by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). The median down payment for all buyers was 13%. 

After all, it can be difficult for first-time homebuyers to come up with a “full” 20% mortgage loan down payment. In fact, those who think they need a 20% down payment on a house and believe they can’t save up enough money might stay out of the housing market altogether. And many would-be first-time homebuyers prioritize their student loan debt over saving money to come up with a hefty down payment on a home.

Minimum down payment

When it comes down to it, the dollar amount you need to save will depend on the house you want to buy, as well as your other debt obligations and priorities. The minimum down payment for a house also depends on the type of loan and the lender’s requirements. Conventional loans (which are loans that aren’t guaranteed by the federal government) can have down payments as low as 3% for qualified buyers. 

I took a completely unscientific, unofficial survey of 5 of my good friends who are all in their early thirties and have bought single-family homes or condos in the past 10 years to find out their average down payment on a house. 4 of them put less than 10% down on their homes, with the average being 4% down (2 put 3% down; 2 put 5% down). The other friend put 10% down. 

Not one of them put a full 20% down on their homes. “I was relieved we only needed to put 5% down,” one friend told me. “I thought we’d need to wait a few years and save up more money. We ended up buying a house a lot sooner than we thought we could, and we even had a little money left in our savings account so we didn’t feel completely broke after closing.”

Top down payment sources

According to the NAR, top sources of the average down payment on a house for first-time homebuyers include:

  • Savings
  • Gift funds from relatives or friends
  • 401(k) funds, including a loan
  • Sale of stocks or bonds
  • Tax refunds
  • Inheritance

How much should you put down?

So how much money do YOU need to put down if you want to purchase a home? Our handy down payment calculator will give you an idea, especially if you’re considering buying anytime soon. Home loan rates are still pretty low, and real estate values are just starting to climb back up. It’s a great time to buy!

National Association of Realtors® is a registered trademark of the National Association of Realtors.

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Shelley Sines has been writing for MGIC since she graduated from college in 2007. Currently raising a sweet little family with her husband in the suburbs of Milwaukee. Happiest when cooking or gardening. Competitive Scrabble player. Enthusiastic about road trips, wine, good TV.