Financial experts agree that putting 20% of the purchase price down on the Tucson home of your dreams is ideal. This helps you avoid paying a private mortgage insurance (PMI) and lowers your monthly payment. When you're considering a $180,000 home, that means coming up with a $36,000 down payment. And that's before your closing costs. Don't fret, though. Saving for a down payment is easier than you think.

Overwhelmingly, buyers cite "saving up for a down payment" as one of the biggest hurdles to buying a home. But it's easier to save up than you might think, especially if you think slightly outside the box.

Where to Look for Down Payment Assistance

Lender Programs

Saving for a down payment - Click here to search all available Tucson homes for saleFirst of all, don't let that 20% figure scare you. Many lenders offer programs that allow a down payment of just 3% to 3.5%. That brings the number down to somewhere between $5400 and $6300 on that $180,000 Tucson home purchase. For most veterans (active and retired), the down payment and PMI both disappear. You can buy a home with 0% down. Of course, if you can afford to put any money down, you should. That'll just lessen the amount you borrow and lower your monthly mortgage payment. Several lenders offer special programs for first-time buyers as well. It doesn't hurt to ask your lender a few questions to find out what kinds of programs they offer for buyers in your situation.

Government Programs

Homeownership helps the economy. Buyers consistently rank "saving up for a down payment" as the biggest hurdle to buying a home. The government wants to help. That's why they've set up certain programs to help you save up for your down payment. Tucson offers a down payment assistance program called the Pima Tucson Homebuyer's Solution. It allows you to borrow 3-5% of your down as a "silent second" and gives you 36 months of equal, no interest payments to pay it back. The Tucson Housing and Community Development also offers programs for home buyers that meet certain requirements.

Wedding Registry

In the past, wedding gifts were given to help a couple furnish their household. Today, many couples cohabitate before they wed. So, they don't really need a blender or a toaster. A current trend for couples getting married is to ask for money instead of gifts. The amount of money a guest would normally spend on a gift could be donated to the couple's online registry through places like CMG Financial's Home Fund Me and Feather the Nest. Once you create a profile and receive your link, add the link to your wedding invitations in lieu of a gift registry.

Employer Programs

Some companies offer Employer Assisted Housing (EAH) programs for low and moderate-income workers. Terms and benefits vary depending on what kind of program the employer provides. Talk to your human resources officer or benefits personnel to find out if your company offers any EAH programs.

The Seller

Finally, ask the seller for help. It happens all the time. When the seller grants concessions (paying the closing costs, lowering the asking price, paying buyer fees), the money that the buyer would have paid for those expenses could be transferred over to the down payment. There are limits to the concessions, however, depending on your type of loan. Ask your lender what those limits might be for you.

As you can see, buyers have several options to help them save up for a down payment on their Tucson home purchase. With a little homework, you might be able to find the assistance you need to buy the home of your dreams sooner rather than later.

Rebecca Schulte, Schulte Real Estate Group, Your Source for Tucson Real Estate