There's no doubt that the biggest hurdle to owning a home is the down payment. However, many "should-be" homeowners are still renting because they simply aren't aware of their options. With the average rent in DC hoovering above $2,200 per month, DC renters are shelling out more than $26,000 a year...and walking away at lease-end with nothing. You're investing in your landlord, not yourself. It's time to stop renting and start owning! You don't need a 20% down payment and a perfect credit score to buy a home these days. Here are five secret sources of down payment money that can make home ownership a reality.

    1. Go Local
      The days of federal down payment assistance programs are long gone, but there are still plenty of options at the local level. The DC Open Doors Program is the District's #1 down payment assistance program because borrowers can make up to ~$132,000 year and have their FHA (3.5%) or conventional (3%) loan's down payment paid with grant funds. DC Open Doors is also a streamlined program, so you don't need additional inspections that make it harder to compete in a Sellers' market. I host a monthly DC Open Doors Homeowners Workshop, so check this link ( for more info and to RSVP to the next program.
      2. Hit up your relatives
        Most mortgage programs will allow for some portion of your down payment to come in the form of “gift money,” which is exactly what it sounds like: money someone gives you to help you buy a home.
      3. Ask your employer
        Universities and municipal departments that employ first-responders such as police and firefighters frequently make down payment and other home-buying assistance programs available to staffers. Large employers or even smaller companies seeking to lure top-level recruits do something similar: relocation assistance programs.
      4. Tighten your budget
        Get gut-level real with yourself about what’s truly important to you. If the answer is buying a home, then it’s time to examine your spending and look for leakage that you can redirect to your down payment savings.
      5. Borrow from yourself
        There are situations in which it may make sense to borrow a few thousand dollars from your 401(k) or IRA. Some retirement accounts allow you to borrow against or pull out funds, penalty-free, to apply them toward your down payment on a home. Is it advisable for everyone, in every situation, to deplete their 401(k) or IRA to plug that cash into a house? Absolutely not. But if getting your down payment to the 20% mark by borrowing from your 401(k) gets your mortgage interest rate down and allows you to repay that cash to your own retirement account (versus to your mortgage lender) with interest, you and your financial adviser might agree that this move is right for you.