Busting the Biggest Homebuying Myths: 4 Things You Mistakenly Think Are Holding You Back

Real estate agent talking with young couple about buying new house

The housing market has been smoking hot in 2021, and many renters are looking into whether or not they can afford to make the leap to homeownership. But some renters are held back by the financial misinformation that’s floating around the internet. The truth is that many of the most commonly cited reasons for avoiding homeownership are based on myths.

Start Here: 7 Things You Should Know Before Buying a House

To help sort through fact and fiction with the help of real-world data, GOBankingRates conducted a survey of 500 renters and 500 homeowners over age 18 on May 10 to gather information about their general characteristics and future plans. The difference in responses between homeowners and renters regarding the housing market is enlightening. If you’re looking to take the plunge into homeownership, don’t let these common myths regarding the housing market hold you back.

Find Out: What You Need To Do Now To Buy a Home in 1 Year, 2 Years or 5 Years
Read: We Asked 500 Renters & 500 Homeowners: What Would You Do With an Extra $50K?

Myth No. 1: You Need a 20% Down Payment

Putting 20% down on your house is a smart financial move for a number of reasons. For starters, you can avoid private mortgage insurance, or PMI, which can amount to hundreds of dollars per month. Additionally, with 20% down, you’ve already got significant equity in your house, making it less likely you’ll find yourself underwater if the market takes a downturn. However, you absolutely do not need to put 20% down. In fact, the GOBankingRates survey found that nearly 50% of existing homeowners put down less than 20% when they bought their home, with a whopping 29% putting down 10% or less. Fannie Mae, for example, offers qualifying homeowners loans with down payments as little as 3%. Some banks, like Union Bank, still offer loans with as little as 0% down.

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The Scoop: How to Buy a House With 0% Down
Real Talk: How Much Should You Save for a Down Payment on a House?

Myth No. 2: The Monthly Payments Are Too High

Buying a home is the biggest purchase most people will make in their entire lives. As such, it’s natural to think that mortgage payments must be unaffordable. But the truth may be eye-opening for many renters. In many cases, mortgage payments are actually more affordable than rent. According to the respondents in the GOBankingRates survey, more than one-quarter of renters put 50% or more of their monthly salaries toward housing, compared to just 15.40% of homeowners. Additionally, 71.40% of homeowners pay 30% or less of their monthly income toward housing vs. 57.60% of current renters. Although it’s true that homeowners generally earn higher incomes than renters, at least for the survey respondents, a mortgage actually seems more affordable than rent.

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Myth No. 3: The Only Down Payment Assistance You Can Get Is From Your Parents

The biggest obstacle to homeownership for renters in the GOBankingRates survey is being able to afford a down payment. First-time homebuyers in particular often rely on financial assistance from parents or relatives to get enough cash for a sizable down payment. However, this is far from the only source of down payment assistance that’s available. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, there are a number of grants and loans that you may qualify for through federal, state and local programs. Some private and nonprofit companies also assist first-time homebuyers with their down payments. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, is a good place to start, as are the VA, USDA and FHA. A good mortgage broker will be able to provide you with all the information you need about qualifying for down payment assistance.

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See: Real Estate Investing Gurus Mindy Jensen & Liz Faircloth: How Women Can Cash In on the Booming Housing Market
See: 5 Common Misconceptions Millennials Have About the Costs of Homeownership

Myth No. 4: Your Credit Is Too Bad

It’s true that the higher your credit score, the more likely you are to be approved for a mortgage with a low interest rate. However, at least in the GOBankingRates survey, renters seem to have misplaced priorities when it comes to snagging a good mortgage. Although 21.40% of renters view their poor credit as the greatest barrier to owning a home, only 14.60% said they would pay off their credit card debt if given $50,000. Saving for a down payment is important, but if you use your savings to pay off your debt and improve your credit score, you could lock in a low interest rate for 30 years, which could save you a significant amount of money. Even if you have a bad credit score now, you might be surprised at how fast your credit score can jump if you attack your debt. And know this — even if you have a less-than-perfect credit score, you can still likely get a mortgage, you just won’t get the best rates.

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 500 Americans aged 18 and older from across the country on May 10, 2021, asking six different questions: (1) Do you want to own a home at some point in the future?; (2) When do you believe you will be able to afford to own a home?; (3) If given $50,000 tomorrow how would you spend the newfound money?; (4) What is the greatest barrier that is preventing you from being able to own a home?; (5) How much do you currently have saved for a down payment on a home?; and (6) How much of your current monthly salary is going towards rent? (Select the closest figure). All respondents had to pass a screener question of: Do you currently Rent or Own your residence?, with an answer of “Rent”. GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the poll.

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GOBankingRates surveyed 500 Americans aged 18 and older from across the country on May 10, 2021, asking six different questions: (1) At what age did you first become a homeowner?; (2) How much did you put towards your down payment?; (3) How much of your current monthly salary is going towards housing? (Select the closest figure); (4) If given $50,000 tomorrow how would you spend the new found money?; (5) Are you more likely to renovate your current home or buy a new home?; and (6) Have you re-financed your mortgage recently?. All respondents had to pass a screener question of: Do you currently Rent or Own your residence?, with an answer of “Own (including paying off mortgage)”. GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the poll.

Last updated: Oct. 11, 2021

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About the Author

After earning a B.A. in English with a Specialization in Business from UCLA, John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry as a registered representative for 18 years. Along the way, Csiszar earned both Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser designations, in addition to being licensed as a life agent, while working for both a major Wall Street wirehouse and for his own investment advisory firm. During his time as an advisor, Csiszar managed over $100 million in client assets while providing individualized investment plans for hundreds of clients.
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