By Liz Keuler, Editor – Readynest by MGIC
When you last accepted a new job, you probably researched benefits – everyone wants to know about health insurance, vacation time, the 401k match and whether or not there’s free coffee. But did you ask about employer-sponsored down payment assistance?
If it’s been a while since your employee orientation, you might want to check. You might be surprised – we were!
The assist we almost missed
When my husband and I started looking for our first home in 2012, down payment assistance (DPA) wasn’t really on our radar. That’s not too surprising: A November 2017 report from the Urban Institute indicated that 76% of consumers are not too familiar or not familiar at all with low down payment programs.
We got pre-approved, toured five homes and made an offer on a sixth, one week after it went on the market. We already knew how much of our savings we wanted to use for a down payment (about 10% of the purchase price, so we were planning on financing the rest and taking advantage of private mortgage insurance). We thought we were pretty set, down-payment-wise.
But fortunately for us, house-hunting is a great topic for workplace small talk. And at some point between the offer and the commitment letter from our lender, my husband’s work pal asked him if he knew about their employer-sponsored down payment assistance program.
We thought, “DPA, us? We can afford our down payment, so will we qualify?” But lo and behold: The home was within the program’s geographic boundaries, and we qualified for $3,500 of down payment assistance, forgivable over three years (as long as my husband stayed with his employer).
Every little bit counts
$3,500 may not seem like a lot of money to some people, but to us it was an extremely welcome buffer between closing costs and our remaining savings.
To quote 2012-me in an exclamation-point filled email to my husband (research for this post took me deep into my own email archive): “It will cover our closing costs, plus some of the down payment, so we should be able to get the essentials for the house without dipping too far into our remaining savings!”
Those essentials included a much-needed washer, dryer and dehumidifier. I think about that down payment assistance every time I do the laundry. (Or I would if I ever did the laundry – that’s my husband’s job.)
It doesn’t hurt to check
So if you’re thinking of buying a home, check with your employer to see if they participate in any down payment assistance programs. Even if you think your employer is too small, or you won’t qualify, it doesn’t hurt to ask – it’s one work perk that can really make a difference when you need it the most.
Liz Keuler is a marketing specialist for MGIC and the editor of Readynest, MGIC’s online resource for homebuyers. As a private mortgage insurance company, MGIC has been helping people afford homes with lower down payments since 1957.
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