Many homeowners who sell in the current market are making less on their home than they anticipated. When it’s time to buy the next home, they don’t have as much for a down payment as they would have liked – or maybe even as much as they need.

While it seems unfair that lenders would start requiring larger down payments when borrowers are so strapped for cash, the stricter guidelines are meant to protect lenders (and the economy) from the ramifications of a system where buyers could acquire huge mortgages with little or nothing down.

The Equifax Personal Finance Blog reports on typical down payment requirements in today’s mortgage market. In her article “Debt-to-Equity Ratios Rising: Unless You Get FHA’s $100 Down Payment Incentive, You’ll Need a Bigger Down Payment,” real estate expert Ilyce Glink says that even the FHA’s minimum down payment for the typical homebuyer has increased from 3 percent to 3.5 percent.

For conventional loans, buyers can expect to pay a cash down payment of 5 percent if they’re planning to live in the home. Investors may have to pay 30 to 40 percent down.

The reasoning is pretty simple. Overall, it’s not about making it easier for buyers to purchase, as in days of old. Instead, it’s about making sure buyers fulfill their payment obligations and don’t leave lenders in a lurch. Lenders believe that if you have more cash invested in a property, you’re less likely to walk away from it if times get tough.

And in at least one way, a larger down payment requirement helps homeowners by allowing for lower monthly payments. If you pay more up front, you can budget less each month for the next 30 years of the loan.

Glink provides links to information on two programs that are exceptions to the rule of higher down payments.

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