How Much to Put Down When Purchasing a Home: Weighing Your Options

Purchasing a home is one of the most significant financial decisions you’ll make in your lifetime, and determining the right down payment is a crucial part of the process. The amount you put down can significantly impact your financial health, both in the short term and the long run. In this post, we’ll explore the pros and cons of making a larger versus a smaller down payment, including effects on your monthly payment, mortgage insurance, and interest rate.

The Basics of Down Payments

A down payment is the initial, upfront payment you make towards the purchase price of a home, usually represented as a percentage of the total price. Traditional advice suggests aiming for a 20% down payment, but the reality is that many buyers put down much less, with options as low as 3-5% available through various loan programs.

Pros of a Larger Down Payment

  1. Lower Monthly Payments: A larger down payment reduces the amount you need to borrow, which in turn lowers your monthly mortgage payment. This can free up your monthly budget for other expenses or savings.
  2. Avoid Mortgage Insurance: For conventional loans, putting down 20% or more can eliminate the need for Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). PMI is a policy that protects the lender if you default on your loan, and it can add a significant amount to your monthly payment.
  3. Better Interest Rates: Lenders often offer lower interest rates to borrowers who make larger down payments. This is because a higher down payment decreases the lender’s risk.
  4. Increased Equity: A larger down payment means you start with more equity in your home, which can be beneficial if you need to sell or want to borrow against your home in the future.

Cons of a Larger Down Payment

  1. Less Liquidity: Putting a large sum of money into your home means those funds are no longer easily accessible for emergencies, investments, or other financial needs.
  2. Opportunity Cost: The money used for a down payment could potentially earn more if invested elsewhere, especially in a high market return scenario.
  3. Longer Time to Save: Accumulating a larger down payment can delay your home purchase, which might not be ideal in a rising market or if you have pressing housing needs.

Pros of a Smaller Down Payment

  1. Quicker Homeownership: A smaller down payment can help you buy a home sooner, which is especially beneficial in markets where prices are rapidly increasing.
  2. Preserve Savings: You can maintain more liquidity for emergencies, investments, and other needs by putting less down.
  3. Investment Growth: The money saved from making a smaller down payment can potentially be invested for a higher return, especially if your mortgage interest rate is low.

Cons of a Smaller Down Payment

  1. Higher Monthly Payments: A smaller down payment means a larger loan amount, which will increase your monthly mortgage payment.
  2. Mortgage Insurance: If you put down less than 20% on a conventional loan, you’ll likely need to pay PMI, increasing your monthly costs.
  3. Higher Interest Rates: Lenders may charge a higher interest rate for loans with smaller down payments due to the increased risk.
  4. Risk of Negative Equity: If home values decline, you could find yourself owing more on your mortgage than your home is worth, especially if you’ve made a smaller down payment.


Deciding how much to put down on a home involves balancing financial health, market conditions, and personal circumstances. A larger down payment can save you money in the long run but requires more upfront capital and reduces liquidity. Conversely, a smaller down payment can make homeownership more immediately accessible but comes with higher monthly costs and potential risks. Carefully consider your financial situation, long-term goals, and the current housing market to make the best decision for your needs. Consulting with a financial advisor or mortgage professional can also provide personalized insights tailored to your specific situation.

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