Buying a home is a big financial goal, however saving for the down payment can be a major roadblock. There are several different routes to achieving this goal. When the lease on the apartment my boyfriend and I rent was nearing expiration, we considered buying a home. In the process, we discovered a savings program, called a ‘matched savings’ program, to help speed up down payment savings.
Matched savings programs are also called Individual Development Accounts (IDA) and are generally offered by nonprofits and/or government agencies in local areas. There are three things these programs can be used to fund.
- Buying a home
- Opening a small business
- Saving for college/job training.
As you probably gathered from the name, when you enroll in one of these programs every dollar you deposit is matched. Depending on the program you use and your income, you may receive more than just equal matching. Some programs do limit their match contributions, although that doesn’t limit how much you can deposit personally.
In addition to the fund matching, enrolling in a program will pair you with a financial counselor to help develop your money management skills. This can be very helpful as a source of free financial education in tandem with saving money for the purchase of a large asset like a home.
An IDA program can last anywhere from 1-5 years, depending on the program itself and what your savings goal is. You can withdraw money from the account as soon as you have reached your savings goal. If your goal is a down payment for a home, you will probably withdraw all the money at once. Those saving for college or business may make small withdrawals as needed over time.
In the last decade, over 9,400 homeowners have used IDA programs to fund their down payments. This is absolutely a viable option if you’re interested in buying a home but need some help. You will need to meet with a sponsor to determine your eligibility, and if you carry high credit card debt you may need to repay it to be eligible. Whatever your financial situation, it is definitely worth talking to a sponsor who will help you evaluate your options.
To find a program near you, visit www.idanetwork.org and go to the program directory, which lists programs by state. The Federal Office of Community Services also has a directory of over 200 organizations which offer IDA programs.
If the IDA program doesn’t pan out for you, there are other resources available to help you buy a home or develop your money management skills. For additional financial education, check out www.unitedway.org or www.mymoney.gov. You may also find local programs for affordable housing at www.hud.gov/buying/localbuying.cfm.
Buying a home is a serious financial goal, and if your income is low, you may need a helping hand to achieve it. Contact your local IDA program sponsor and find out if this program is a good fit for you. Good luck and happy house hunting!