Tying the Knot? Good Way Couples Can Save for a Down Payment on a Home

Saving money for a down payment on a home has always been a challenge and a lesson in financial discipline but today it’s, perhaps, more difficult than ever.

That’s partly because the down payment is more substantial than in the past few years when zero down could get you into your dream home.

The Washington Post recently reported on a unique, sign-of-the-times approach to saving for a down payment.

These days engaged couples are scrapping the traditional wedding list and opting for a non-traditional wedding registry that creates an opportunity for wedding guests to help collect cash for a down payment.

The National Association of Realtors reported for 2010 that 27 percent of first-time homebuyers used gift money from relatives and friends to make their down payment. Nearly 60 percent of homebuyers were married couples.

Deposit a Gift, a New York City company, has set up about 6,500 gift registries with 30 percent of them, split evenly, for down-payment funds and home-improvement funds, since it launched in 2009.

It seems no more “white elephant” gifts; people are asking for and getting what they really need–cash for their home.

The down-payment gift registry helps take the awkwardness out of guests simply giving money. Today, couples are uploading photos on blog sites and showing their dream home much like the old days when couples would ask for dinner china or fine stemware.

The down-payment fund touches many people in a very personal way. Some people have already lost their home to foreclosure; still others know the enormous struggle to make ends meet. Getting some financial help to purchase a home is largely a universal need.

A quick search on the Internet can put you in touch with a number of wedding gift registries. You should research them carefully. Many include other helpful options such as connecting you with a directory or wedding vendors and even a rebate for using their select vendors.

Once the money starts rolling in, however, you have to understand how you can use it. The rules for using gift money depend on the type of loan you are getting. So be sure to ask a qualified expert for assistance.

Generally, a down payment will require that at least 5 percent of the money comes from your own savings, not gift money from the registry. There might be some exceptions, so check with the mortgage company.

Some mortgage companies, like SunTrust Mortgage, even have a bridal registry that works just like a down payment registry. In 1996, the Federal Housing Administration encouraged lenders to establish bridal registry accounts to accept money for savings toward a down payment from the couple’s relatives and friends. However, this never really caught on with lenders.

SunTrust Mortgage offers other programs for first-time buyers to help them save for a down payment. The Home Purchase Registry Account allows contributions from relatives and friends who do not have a financial interest in the transaction. Various other rules apply; be sure to go over the details with your agent and lender.

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