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Using a cash windfall as a down payment on a home

Should you use an inheritance or other cash windfall as a down payment on a home? Obviously, the more money you have for a down payment the better. But is getting a mortgage loan to buy a home the best use of your money at this time?

Do you have a lot of debt?

Owning a home is part of the American dream. But it can be easy to rush into home ownership without really being ready for all the financial responsibilities. For instance, many people apply for mortgage loans even though they have a lot of credit card debt, auto loans, student loans and other bills. Take a careful inventory of your finances and decide whether it makes more sense to use a cash windfall to pay off some of your debt, especially high-interest debt like credit cards.

Do you have emergency savings?

Owning a home means that you’ll be responsible for all maintenance and repair costs. It is not a good idea to purchase a home without having money set aside in savings for routine maintenance and other projects that may come up. It is also important to have money in savings for other emergencies that may occur, such as car repairs, medical expenses or a sudden drop in income. If you have little or no money saved up, you may be better off using your windfall to boost savings.

Do you anticipate a large expense soon?

Are you about to send your kid to college or anticipating some other important event that will cost big bucks? Put together a spending strategy that prioritizes future expenses. As you go through the numbers it may become apparent that this is not the time to get a mortgage to buy a home. You also may find that you need to put together a budget so that you can take care of your financial obligations and still save up for buying a place in the future.

Take time to plan ahead

Avoid rushing into home ownership even if you can qualify for a home mortgage. Too many Americans have made the mistake of getting mortgage loans when they really could not afford them. If you need help knocking out debt and building up a savings, get help from a debt counselor. If you do receive a windfall for a significant amount, a knowledgeable financial adviser can help you figure out the best way to handle it.

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