February 22, 2018

How Your Tax Refund Can Help You Buy a Home

The IRS began accepting tax returns on January 29, and estimates nearly 155 million individual tax returns will be filed in 2018.

man holding a jar of money

If you're expecting a refund this year, here are three ways it could bring you closer to homeownership:

  1. Save for a down payment. Saving for a down payment can be one of the biggest barriers to homeownership. But today's homebuyers persistently overestimate the size of the down payment they need. Depending on your credit history and other factors, many borrowers can make a down payment of about 5 to 10% — not 20%, as a lot of people falsely assume. With Freddie Mac's 3% down mortgage – Home Possible Advantage®–qualified borrowers could make down payment of as little as $6,000 for a $200,000 home.

    Down payment assistance programs can also help you bridge the cash gap. There are thousands of programs across the country that can help you save on your down payment and closing costs. A great place to start is right where you live. Many state, county, and city governments provide financial assistance for people in their communities who are well qualified and ready for homeownership. Check out the programs available in your market and see if your eligible.
  2. Pay for closing costs. A homebuyer typically pays between about 2% and 5% of the home purchase price in closing fees, but the amount varies widely depending on where you live. See where your state stacks up and understand your costs.
  3. Lower your interest rate. You can pay discount points to buy down your mortgage interest rate. A "point" equals one percent of the loan. It's essentially an upfront interest payment to lock in a lower interest rate on your fixed–rate mortgage. So, if you are borrowing $200,000, paying one discount point would mean paying $2,000 upfront at closing — but it may end up saving you more in interest payments over the life of the loan. See how paying extra points might lower your rate.
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