Down Payments: What Are Buyers Really Paying?

Average down payments across the nation might be lower than you think.

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We've all heard banks have upped the ante when it comes to borrowers' credit scores and making sure would-be homebuyers have enough "skin in the game."

But what are Americans really putting down to buy a home these days? According to a new LendingTree study, it might be less than you think.

[Read: Let It Snow: Housing Market Heats Up.]

North Dakota had the lowest average down payment in the nation at about 11 percent, while New Jersey led the country with an average down payment of nearly 14 percent.

But both figures fall well short of the proposed 20 percent down payment lenders would have to require—called the Qualified Residential Mortgage, or QRM—to package and sell loans to investors in the marketplace.

That could cause issues further down the road, critics caution. The measure seeks to curb irresponsible borrowing and lending, but opponents fear the 20 percent requirement might cause lenders to cut back on lending or charge higher rates to borrow.

[Read: President Obama Still On Top With Homeowners.]

"If that 20 percent down payment requirement holds, it's safe to say that a very large percentage of the population is going to be locked out of the housing market or pay significantly higher costs," says Doug Lebda, CEO of LendingTree. "The highest state in the country has a 13 percent [average] down payment, so we're still far away from a 20 percent down payment."

It will likely be some time before Congress can agree on the next step for the QRM provision, but in general down payment requirements are trending up. Hopefully that's not one more hurdle for the housing market to surmount, already on a broken leg.

mhandley@usnews.com

Twitter: @mmhandley

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