As a loan officer as well as an agent, 20% is a recommendation for the least amount down to get you the best rate possible. As mortgage guidelines have tightened up 100% financing is virtually impossible. There are lenders that will let you put down at least 3%, but the down side is the interest rate on your mortgage is higher and you are also usually required to pay private mortgage insurance for the mortgage company. So 20% is not locked in stone as the amount you should put down, it will usually result in the best rates. Some lenders do have different requirements, such as 30% down for an investment property. Just make sure that you loan officer knows the guidlines and does not lead you astray.
Welcome to America!
Best of luck to you!
Search and connect at http://www.feenick.com
To chalk up a single answer would be difficult indeed, but RISK is certainly the word that comes to mind. And in light of recent housing corrections and the liquidity crisis that emerged around August 2007, the 100% model of home financing has dramatically changed. There remain some low and no down payment options in the marketplace today, but far fewer than what was witnessed over the past half a dozen years. The Secondary Market has changed and with it, lending criteria has also taken a more conservative stance. 20% down payments are far less common these days (as equity positions have reduced or reversed in multiple markets across the USA). There are, however, wonderful opportunities for down payments less than 20%. FHA is still a prime option with reduced down payment requirements and there are numerous programs geared for industry specific Borrowers, too [Educators, Public Service, First Time Buyers, etc].
Good luck in New Orleans!