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California Mortgage Planning – Down Payment Considerations


The first step to buying a house in California is to figure out how large a mortgage and down payment you can afford. Keep in mind that these rules are very general and apply to all jurisdictions of California. This includes all major cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Palm Springs, Bakersfield, etc., and for that matter in any other state in the US.

Unfortunately, many people first decide where they want to live. My recommendation is to start by figuring out how much you can afford because doing so may make you downscale your dreams at once. Otherwise, you may get your hopes up and then be disappointed when you find out you cannot afford to move to the town or neighborhood of your choice. In a dieting metaphor, this is like deciding you want to weigh 130 lbs. by the time your cousin gets married in two months – but you weigh 170 lbs. now. Even if you start losing weight in the meantime, you will not be your goal. Why get your hopes up or nothing? It’s better to make a realistic plan and lose some weight.

When buying a house in California, or anywhere else for that matter, the worst thing would be to end up feeling you’ve settled for less than you’ve hoped for. You may find that you can afford more than you’ve apply for, and this may convince you to buy a bigger house, or opt to find a better location.

But if it turns out that you can be happy with less house than you can actually afford, by all means do so; you can use the extra cash in your pocket every month, and you will not feel so house poor. Do not plan to buy a house unless you’ll be there at least five years because it probably will turn out to be a bad investment. But the time you pay the closing and moving costs and expose yourself to a potential drop in value, it could prove to be a very expensive mistake. After all, depending on your particular mortgage, it takes an average of four years to recoup your closing costs alone. The old days of buying a home in selling a year later for a 20% profit are gone, at least for the time being.

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