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Borrowing Money for a Down Payment: How and When to Do It

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Content was accurate at the time of publication.

Considering whether to borrow money for a down payment on a new home? You have options, which include taking out a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC), or even asking a friend or relative for a private loan.

Below, you’ll learn the pros and cons of the various ways you can borrow money for your down payment, so you make the right decision for your financial needs.

5 ways to borrow money for a down payment

If you haven’t quite saved up enough to make a large down payment to buy a new home, you may want to choose from one of these five options. Just be sure to first check your budget to determine whether an extra monthly payment would put a strain on your finances.

1. Take out a HELOC or home equity loan

If you currently own a home, you can convert your equity into cash with a HELOC or home equity loan and use it to buy a new home. This may come in handy if you find a great deal on a new home but haven’t sold your current home and need cash to make a larger down payment.


A HELOC is a revolving line of credit that works like a credit card. When you use a HELOC for a down payment, you can:

  • Use as much (or as little) of the credit line as you need during the draw period, which usually lasts 10 years
  • Pay the balance to zero and charge it again during the draw period
  • Pay interest only on the amount you draw

One caveat: If for some reason you don’t pay off the credit line balance within the draw period, you’ll have to repay it in installments over a repayment period that typically lasts 20 years.

Home equity loan

With a home equity loan, you’ll receive the entire loan balance in a lump sum and make monthly installment payments based on the rate and term you choose. Most home equity loan terms are five to 15 years.


If you’d prefer not to leverage the equity in your current home, you might want to consider an 80-10-10 loan for your new mortgage. You can borrow a first mortgage of 80% and then a home equity loan or HELOC for another 10%, leaving you with just a 10% down payment. When your home sells, you can pay off the home equity loan or HELOC and end up with just one mortgage payment.

2. Get a loan from a friend of family member

Asking a friend or family member for a down payment loan is another option. Lenders will only accept a private mortgage secured by an asset, which means you’ll need to put up your home, car or another valuable — like artwork — as collateral for the loan.

Plan to document the following if you choose this borrowing path:

  • The loan terms, including the loan amount, interest rate, repayment term and monthly payment
  • A written statement from the friend or relative confirming they don’t have an interest in the home you’re buying
  • Proof you’ve received the funds from them
  • Proof you own the asset securing the loan

If your friend or family member is willing to gift you money, they’ll need to sign a gift letter confirming no repayment is expected. Be sure to keep a paper trail of all of the funds going from their account to yours.

3. Tap your retirement savings

Your retirement savings should never be used to bankroll big-ticket purchases. However, if your path to the golden years includes homeownership, you may want to use some of your savings to purchase a home.

If you have a 401(k), you may be able to take out a 401(k) loan for your down payment. You pay back the loan over time, and can typically borrow up to 50% of your account balance or $50,000, whichever is less, according to the IRS. Check with your financial planner or accountant before taking a loan or distribution.

4. Get a bridge loan

A bridge loan is a short-term mortgage that allows you to borrow equity on a home you’re selling to use toward a new home purchase. Bridge loans come in handy if you’re in a tight housing market where sellers won’t accept an offer conditional on the sale of your current home.

There are two different types of bridge loans: a first-mortgage bridge loan and a second-mortgage bridge loan.

First-mortgage bridge loan. This option requires a large loan for more than you currently owe, up to 80% of your current home’s value. You’ll pay off your current loan and use the extra cash as a down payment on the home you’re buying.

Second-mortgage bridge loan. Similar to a home equity loan or HELOC, you’ll borrow up to 80% of your home’s value above your current mortgage balance. This is a good choice if you have a good rate on your current mortgage, since bridge loan interest rates tend to be much higher than traditional mortgage rates.

5. Explore down payment assistance programs

Check with your state or local housing agency to find out if you qualify for a down payment assistance (DPA) program. You may qualify for grants, second mortgage programs and even first-mortgage DPA loans through your local bank.

Just make sure you read the fine print: You may have to live in the home for a set time period to avoid paying back the assistance you’re provided.

Pros and cons of borrowing money for a down payment

Down payment optionProsCons
Home equity loan or HELOC
  • You’ll get a lower rate than a personal loan.
  • You can borrow up to 85% of your home’s value.
  • You may avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI) on your new home.
  • You’ll leave more cash reserves in the bank.
  • You could lose your home to foreclosure if you default.
  • You may have to pay closing costs between 2% and 5% of the loan amount.
  • You’ll have two mortgage payments.
  • Your variable-rate HELOC interest rate could rise and become unaffordable.
Loan from a friend or relative
  • You won’t need to apply for approval.
  • You can leave your home equity intact.
  • You can choose flexible repayment terms.
  • Your relative or friend becomes your lender.
  • Your relationship may suffer if you can’t repay the loan.
  • You’ll have to qualify for a mortgage with a new payment.
401(k) loan
  • You borrow against your own money.
  • You’ll have easier approval terms.
  • You’ll repay the money from your after-tax paycheck.
  • You’ll have to pay the entire balance back if you lose your job.
  • You might pay additional penalties if you default.
  • You’re reducing your future retirement income.
Bridge loan
  • You can tap equity while your home is listed for sale.
  • You don’t have to wait for your current home to sell to buy a new one.
  • You won’t have to move twice since you’ll have enough equity to buy your new home.
  • You may end up making three mortgage payments.
  • You’ll pay higher interest rates and closing costs.
  • You’ll have to qualify with all of the mortgage payments.
  • You could lose both homes if you default on the loan.
Down payment assistance program
  • You may not have to borrow any money for a down payment.
  • You may only have one monthly payment.
  • You may qualify for a grant with no repayment requirements.
  • You may have to live in the home for a set time period.
  • You may have to pay mortgage insurance depending on your down payment and loan type.
  • You could end up repaying the assistance if you sell the home too soon.

When you should borrow money for a down payment

If you have to borrow money for a down payment, it may be a sign that you can’t afford the home you’re thinking about buying. However, it may make sense in the following situations:

  • You’ve accepted an offer for your current home’s purchase, but it won’t close before you buy your new home.
  • You have plenty of extra assets to pay off the down payment loan if needed.
  • You have ample room in your budget to afford payments on all your homes.
  • You’re not getting ready to retire (in the case of a 401(k) loan).

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