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5 Essential Savings Goals for First-Time Homebuyers


5 Essential Savings Goals for First-Time Homebuyers

It’s an exciting time to be a first-time homebuyer in Arizona! But all of the jargon surrounding mortgage loans can be overwhelming and daunting. Knowledge is power, especially if you’re new to the market.

Here are the basics on what you should be saving up for before you buy a house. Don't forget to look at a house buying checklist for more details on all the documents you will need throughout this process.


Goal 1. Save for a Down Payment

Depending on the type of mortgage loan, you might be needing anywhere between 3% and 20% of your home's purchase price. On a $350,000 home, this would be anywhere from $10,500 to $70,000 to cover your down payment. FHA loans require a minimum of 3.5%, while Conventional mortgage loans require 3%. It’s good to remember that the more you can put down at the beginning, the less interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.

Other less common mortgage loan options include VA and USDA loans. VA loans are available only to members of the military, offer 0% down payment options, but have other pros and cons to consider. USDA loans apply only to those who live in rural areas, but also offer 0% down payment. Research these if they apply to you!


Other creative options for coming up with a down payment as a first-time homebuyer include:

  • Gift funds from a family member
    • Gift letter & funds verification required
  • Down payment assistance programs like WISH 
    • Qualify based on income level
  • Penalty-free IRA withdrawal of up to $10,000
  • First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit, the DASH Act or the HELPER Act 
    • If any of these are passed into law and if you are eligible, you could significantly decrease your out-of-pocket expenses for a down payment

Not ready for this sizeable down payment yet? Start saving today. A separate savings account titled "House Down Payment" could motivate you to set aside extra money on a weekly or monthly basis. 

Interested in faster savings? Check out the yields of a Money Market Account or CD.


Goal 2. Save for Closing Costs

Savings needed to purchase a home don't stop with the down payment. You will also need to cover mortgage closing costs. You will receive an estimate of these from your lender prior to closing, but plan to pay between 2% and 5% of your loan amount towards closing costs.

Closing costs usually include some or all of the following, or could include others not mentioned below:

  • Loan Origination Fee
    • Between 0.5% and 1% of purchase price

  • Initial Escrow Deposit
    • Amount depends on your estimated taxes and insurance for the property. This estimate can be found on your Loan Estimate document.

  • Appraisal Fee
    • Ranges between $250-$600

  • Title Search Fee & Insurance Costs
    • Costs vary by region

  • Other Fees
    • Transfer fee
    • Recording fee
    • Escrow fee
    • More!

Goal 3. Save for Move-In Costs

After closing on your home loan, the process of buying a house is finished! You shouldn't owe the bank or title company any additional money (except, of course, for your monthly mortgage payment).

But don’t forget what you’ll need for moving expenses: between transporting belongings and buying new furniture, to slapping on coats of new paint and updating the light fixtures, you’ll have plenty of costs once you’re in your new home.

Keep in mind what type of home you’re buying, because this will affect move-in costs. They can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.happy-couple-having-fun-on-moving-day

Brand new build/turnkey residence:

  • You’ll probably have less cosmetic work to do to the property and need to think more about moving costs and furnishings.

For an older home:

  • Significant updates may be necessary, but could be spread out over time depending on your situation.

For a fixer-upper:

  • Not for the faint of heart, but very rewarding once complete! This is when you’ll want to have a big chunk of change set aside to get your new house in functioning order. 


Goal 4. Save for 1st Payment + Utilities

Don’t make the mistake of putting every penny in your bank account towards the down payment and closing costs. In addition to moving costs, you’ll have to cough up your first mortgage payment plus utilities within about a month of closing on your loan.

Consider these when coming up with your figure:

  • Estimated monthly mortgage payment = Principal + Interest + Taxes + Insurance + HOA fees (for some homeowners)
  • Estimated utilities: water & sewer, trash & recycling, electric, gas, etc.
    • Try asking current homeowners in the community their average payment for water/sewer, trash, and electric or gas.
    • Research averages online

As a good rule of thumb, you should aim to have the above monthly housing expenses take up no more than about 25% of your monthly take-home income. This leaves you room in the budget plan to put money toward other items such as transportation expenses, medical costs, emergency savings, vacation savings, clothing, groceries and entertainment. 

Pro tip: Before you start looking for homes, try to have a firm maximum house price set in your mind, along with its corresponding monthly payment. This is likely not the same as the maximum your lender preapproves you for. Lenders can often approve you for more than you’re willing to pay on a monthly basis, so keep this in mind. Check out our Mortgage Affordability Calculator below for more info.


Goal 5. Save for Home Improvements and Repairs

Plan to set aside between 1% to 3% of the home’s value per year in a savings account for home repairs and improvements. When trying to set that goal amount, consider the age of the home, anything that comes up on the inspection or appraisal reports that won’t be fixed by the seller before closing, and any personal goals you may have for the home. For instance, if you have a personal vendetta against popcorn ceilings and are buying a home built in the 80s, factor in what it will cost to get that removed – or the time and money it will take you to do it on your own.

couple picking out paint colorsLeaky faucet? Heat-proof windows? Roof repair? New AC? They tend to add up pretty quickly, and experts agree that you don’t want to wait to get problems fixed. A small leak in a pipe, left alone for 6 months, could lead to mold/rot under the flooring. Guess which problem is cheaper to fix?

Luckily, you have time on your side when it comes to this fifth savings goal. Once you’re in your new home and have taken care of any pressing repair needs, you can simply calculate a monthly amount to put aside in a separate savings account and then forget about it… until you need it. Home improvement is a tricky expense to save for!

If you're looking to buy a house, start working towards these savings goals today and you’ll be surprised how quickly those funds add up! We're excited to see you get closer to achieving the amazing goal of homeownership. When you're ready to take the next step, our team is here to help. Simply fill out the interest form below and we'll reach out. 😉



Looking for more info on how to buy a house as a first-time homebuyer? Take a look at our First-Time Homebuyer Loan page and then hop over to download our free eBook: Are You Buying a House in Arizona?


This article is intended to be a general resource only and is not intended to be nor does it constitute legal advice. Any recommendations are based on opinion only. Rates, terms and conditions are subject to change and may vary based on creditworthiness, qualifications, and collateral conditions. All loans subject to approval.

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