Ep 228 – Interview With Andrew And Melissa Who Did NOT Need 20% Down To Buy And Bought Their First Home In A Matter Of Weeks! 

 March 27, 2024

How to Buy a Home | Low Down Payment Home


The down payment is one of those bogeymen that usually scare would-be homebuyers from making their move. A lot of people think that they have to put down 30% for their offer to stand a chance. But this power couple proves that isn’t necessarily the case, even in this market. In this episode, Andrew and Melissa join David in a conversation that details how they bought their first home in a matter of a few weeks without putting down anything close to 20%! Tune in and learn how, with the right tricks and a unicorn to guide you, you can actually find the property of your dreams and snatch it for just a low down payment!

Interview With Andrew And Melissa Who Did NOT Need 20% Down To Buy And Bought Their First Home In A Matter Of Weeks!

Are you stressing out about your rent payment going way up if you try to turn it into a mortgage payment? I understand a lot of people feel this way and instead of just sitting around being concerned about it and worrying about it, I’ve got a great example here. This is Melissa and Andrew. They ended up reading the show and figuring out that they wanted to buy a home. They even knew their rent was going to go up and their rent doubled when they had to figure out what their mortgage payment was going to be.

Read this great interview with them and you’ll hear how they worked the plans, worked the planning, and got the unicorn team. Also, because they’d done so much planning ahead of time, by the time they talked to their unicorn, they ended up buying in a matter of weeks and no, they didn’t use 20% down. They did this all with a low down payment.

I am very excited about this episode because once again, we have another listener who is sitting in their very first home. This is Andrew and Melissa and they closed on their home a year ago around the beginning of March 2023. Andrew and Melissa, give us your best tip. What was your biggest takeaway? I know it was a long time ago for you guys, but that’s the thing with the show. We want to make sure we’re getting as many stories as we can out there. Tell us what you remember in the process that still sticks out in your head.

The Biggest Takeaway

The biggest tip would probably be to find people that you’re comfortable with and that you trust and are experts because we were first time and if we didn’t have the people that we had, I think we would have been way lost. That’s my thought.

Also, once you find those people, listen to them. They have tons of experience hopefully and can guide you through every step of the homebuying process and get you through some sticky moments, which we encountered a little bit during our process.

Find people that you’re comfortable with and that you trust, and they will guide you through every step of the home buying process and get you through some sticky moments.

You guys reached out to me at the beginning of 2023, but you closed pretty quickly. Since your biggest tip is to talk to those people, what kind of planning did you do on your own before you reached out to me or did you just sit back, read the blog, and wait to talk to me until way later?

I started reading your blog. I was in a podcasting mindset because I used it when we were wedding planning. I had done a little bit of online research, dabbling in calculators, and learning about how to get started with home buying. I came across your show and I was like, “I’m going to start reading and see what are the first things we need to do?” You talk about unicorn realtors. I was like, “We don’t know any realtors in the area.” Our parents bought their homes a long time ago. We need to find someone who can work with us as first-time home buyers. That led us to reach out to you and see who you know.

You guys ended up like around $430,000. What had you guys done before that with your savings? What kind of position were you in before you reached out and talked to the unicorns?

We got married and then we started a joint savings account. We had individual savings accounts that we were adding to and then we put those together. We’re saving as much as we can every month. Our credit scores were in pretty good shape so we fortunately didn’t have to worry too much about that. We were focused on saving and ensuring we weren’t making any large purchases that might stand out or prevent us from starting the homebuying process potentially.

You reached out to me in January 2023. When did you guys get married?

In September 2022. It was a few months prior.

You guys jumped in quick.

We’ve been together for about fourteen years up until that point. We had talked and planned about things to finally get around to it.

Was it the topic of the honeymoon? It’s been fourteen years. We did the wedding thing. The house is next.

It was like, “We’re going to get married. We’re going to go on the honeymoon and relax but then when we come back, we’re going to get real serious about the house, home buying, and stuff like that.

How long have you guys been renting?

We were renting for 5 or 6 years.

Was there a significant jump from your rent to your mortgage payment?

It was about double.

I’m guessing with your home, it’s $1,500 to $3,000 or $1,600 to $3,100 or something like that.


Were you prepped for that because you’ve been doing that joint savings account?

Yeah. We were making sure that the salaries that we have would cover that. We are creating budgets and Google Sheets and being like, “If this is our monthly payment on the house, are we going to be okay or are we going to potentially be house poor,” which neither of us wanted. Would we have enough to save, travel, and do the stuff we wanted to do? It was a jump, but fortunately, we’re in a position where we were able to make it work.

I think that’s an important point for the readers to know. Your rent doubled, but you still don’t feel house poor but that’s because of the planning you did ahead of time. You consciously made the choice where you were getting some good rent. That’s low for the national average.

That helps because that place was just starting to raise its rent more aggressively. I think we were probably in a good spot where we were able to save a lot per month before things got a little crazier there.

I think they were going to raise our rent by $300 or $400 if we had stayed for another year. They tried to keep it consistent year over year through the whole pandemic, which was nice that they were trying to do that during that but we were like, “It’s time.” It worked out timing-wise.

In paying that new payment and then getting ready to purchase the home, did you guys have a down payment in mind and did you end up doing that down payment or did the discussions with the unicorns change things?

We had a few ideas. We had a range of a down payment, but we weren’t sure. Until we spoke to somebody we weren’t sure if we were being realistic or if we were totally off base.

Where did you end up?

It’s maybe $30,000 or $25,000. Maybe around there.

Do you want a percentage?

The percentage. Is it 25% to 30%?


Is it 3% or 5%?

It was very low.

Were you aware of that process before you ended up speaking to the people? Reading the blog, you went, “We can get in for a low down payment.”

Before I started reading the blog, a lot of content online was like, “You need to put 30% down or 20% and that was scary reading that because I was like, “We’re renting.” We are saving but with the home prices that are in our area, that’s a lot. Once we started reading your blog and learning that it’s pretty common to not do that and then talk with our realtor. She recommended us to a lender who was saying very similar things. That’s when it started to feel doable and attainable.

I saw a graph for 2023. The average buyer, not first time, was 17% down payment. The average first-time home buyer was 8%. That’s a testament to show that even the people who are selling their house and buying another one or still looking at putting 10% down to try to keep some of that cash. Tell us about your home shopping process. Everyone who reads this blog gets excited and thinks they’re going to hear all HGTV stuff. Instead, we talk about planning and finances because that’s what matters. Tell us about the shopping. Did you guys grow up or live in the area or know the area well where you ended up buying a home?

How to Buy a Home | Low Down Payment Home
Low Down Payment Home: It’s pretty common to not put 30% down, even for people who are selling their house and buying another one.


I want to say we knew that area well. We both were born and raised in Northeast Ohio. We’re probably about half an hour away from where we grew up. It’s not like we’re totally unfamiliar, but it was a pretty different experience compared to our hometowns. Also, we’re only five minutes away from where we were renting and we wanted to stay on the side of town. Our realtor was great at helping us narrow down what we were looking for in the area, and what would work within our budget and we just ran from there.

Finding The Perfect Property

Did you get to keep on your list and what did you have to cut from your list when you started going through?

We had a description. It was a lot of middle-of-the-road stuff. Some land but not too much land. Not too busy, but not in the middle of nowhere. We landed in a suburb, which I think we were happy with.

We wanted a kitchen with an island. After rinsing we were like, “We need a larger kitchen and he likes to cook so it’s nice having a larger space.

One of the things that we had to leave off even though we wanted to was have a yard with a fence. It was just hard to find the perfect house that also had a fenced-in backyard. We decided that we would just build a fence ourselves or hire contractors to do it after the fact. That was a bit of a compromise in the look.

I was going to say, at one point, I looked between you guys and I went, “I see a fence out that window.” It is so difficult because of these darn TV shows and even though half of them are about repairs and remodeling, I tell people all the time, “Look at the location, look at the guts, and the bones of the home but please for the love of everything, don’t talk to me about the color of the carpet or things that you can change and fix pretty darn easy.” It went fast for you guys. Did it feel fast?

It felt very fast, I would say.

We were pretty surprised. I think what surprised us the most was we had read and heard how hot the market was. You might be caught in bidding wars or you have to put in offers immediately upon seeing a home. In one of the homes that we were going to visit, we had a scheduled appointment. I think the day before, we had received an email from our realtor who was like, “The owners already took an offer so they’re canceling all the other appointments.” We’re like, “This is what we’re going to have to deal with.”

That was like in the same week it went on. It wasn’t even that long.

It was within a couple of days of it going on the market, it was gone. We had to learn quickly.

It’s crazy because you come into it and I’ve talked to so many different buyers over the years and they’re like, “We’re having this meeting with you and we’re ready.” They’ll say to me, “We want you to know that if the perfect house comes up next weekend, we’ll still go check it out, but we want to take a couple of months.” I’m like, “If the perfect house comes up next weekend, we’re going to be writing the offer on the trunk of my car as soon as we walk out the door.”

The house that we’re in now, our realtor was like, “Now, you know how quickly houses are going so if you see something, make sure you text me and let me know. I’ll reach out to the seller and we’ll get something scheduled. I think we had seen this house go up on the first day it went up and I texted our realtor after asking you what you thought. She made an appointment for the next day. I think it was a Friday it went up. We went and saw it on Saturday and the sellers were going to use that weekend and then they were going to pick.

I just did an interview with Millie. She has the exact same story except, Andrew, she didn’t ask her partner. She just called the realtor and set up the appointment. She went and looked at it but it was the same kind of thing. It came up on a Thursday and they wrote an offer on a Friday. In her defense, he works the graveyard or second shift. You’ve got to be prepared to move for that speed. Did you do any previewing? Did you preview homes and go to open houses before you got everything together with your unicorn realtor and lender or did you do a big tour on the first day?

You need to be prepared to move fast.

We didn’t do any open houses. We had seen one other home before this one that we’re in now. It was a private tour with our realtor and we didn’t put an offer on that one. We dove in and didn’t have any previous experience going to open houses. We’re like, “We’ll go with our realtor and walk around.”

How was the offer process? Did you get in early enough? Was it just you? Were there multiple offers?

There were multiple offers, yeah.

We talked about it on Saturday or Sunday with the realtor about strategy. We had the finance guy involved at that point and he gave us some examples. “If you offer this down payment, this is what your monthly would look like if you go up to this total offer with this down payment.” That was nice having some physical examples.

Also, tangible numbers.

The actual numbers.

I think it was a Saturday. We had told Tricia, our realtor, let’s go ahead. Let’s jump in and put an offer down. I think we went to dinner with my family that night and Tricia ended up calling me. I left the restaurant and we were talking about the offer and how we would structure it. She was making sure that the lender was on top of things as well. It was like a very boom, boom, boom weekend of getting that all together and submitting the offer because the sellers wanted to make a decision by Monday.

When the sellers know they’ve got the bird in the hand, they run with it. When the market is like this, your realtor and the buyers, you have a parking lot to parking lot conversations because you’re both out doing something on the weekend but it’s like, “We need to talk now and figure it out.” Were there any specific tricks that you remember to win the bid?

How to Buy a Home | Low Down Payment Home
Low Down Payment Home: When the sellers know they have the bird in the hand, they really run with it.



You both nodded like, “What’s your trick?” Share. The people want to know.

The Unicorn Wins The Day

Tricia was great and emailed us a very detailed list of different strategies that we could take. The obvious one would be offering more than the listing price. She kind of gave us an example of some people asking or putting down the listing prices they offer. Some go middle, and some jump and offer a lot. She was like, “But there are other things we can do. We could be flexible in the move-in dates.”

They allowed for an escalation clause. We built that into the offer as well. She even said that this doesn’t always happen so we should take advantage of it when it’s available. That helped too.

I think she said there were 6 or 7 offers on the table. Ours was not the highest but what ended up clinching it was the fact that we were giving them flexibility with time because they were building their next home so they needed until the end of March to move in. I think this was the beginning of February so they needed that cushion. We weren’t in a super big rush so we said, “Take your time to move out. We’ll work with you.” That according to Tricia was what did it.

That’s huge. I tell people all the time that there’s price and terms, but a lot of times I’ll even add time because time is part of the terms, but I like to separate it. It can be your huge asset. You’ve got dollars. Everyone thinks, “I’m going to get the biggest price or show the biggest down payment.” Do you know how stressful moving is? If you can make the sellers move easily, it’s a winner.

That’s why I harp so hard on the planning and you guys were obviously in a great position because you were ready to take that new jump in the monthly payment, which means you had your money set up. As long as you have your living situation, if you can offer them time, and sometimes it goes the other way where the seller’s like, “I need to sell this house so I can get the money to buy my next one. I need to close in fourteen days.”

If you come into it being able to go superfast or as long as you want, sometimes that can be the winner. Tricia is one of my favorite unicorns. It is not always something that you can do or use, but if you have the ability to use it, it’s great because what it means is you’re saying, “Instead of just offering blind your number because a lot of times it’s like poker.” You say, “I’ll do 430,” and you have no idea what the other people are doing.

However, an escalation clause allows you to say, “We’re going to offer this $430,000, but if anyone matches that we’ll go up and you can do up $2,000 or $3,000,” or whatever you want to do. What’s interesting is I was like, “We’re going to talk about escalation clauses but it was the time that did it for you, yeah?”

Both but yeah. I think it was the time.

The time was the big one.

Destressing the situation for the seller. That’s how you get picked. They were in new construction and they didn’t want to move twice because they were moving into something that was being finished. Is that correct?

I think they had already been delayed a couple of times. That was another thing with being flexible because they were pretty sure that it wasn’t going to be delayed again but with it being February and March in Ohio, they were not sure what the weather was going to do. They were like, “We’re hoping that we’ll get in by the end of March.” We’re like, “It’s okay. We’ll make it work.”

As you said when it popped up, and Melissa, you nicely informed your partner Andrew about the home but you said that your unicorn immediately went to set it up. Part of us setting up the appointments is also trying to extract as much information as we can. By not only setting the appointment and opening the door for you, she walked into the deal knowing that you guys had this ace up your sleeve with time.

It’s because as you said, anytime anyone says we’re moving into a new build and it’s February or March, I’m like, “Hmm,” because even here in Southern California, that’s because our construction guys are wimps. If it sprinkles there like, “We’re not working now.” This is fun because you guys were nice enough to say, “Yeah, we’ll do an interview,” and we’ve been trying to get this on the books forever.

However, now we can talk about how you’ve been in your home for a year. What are some of the things that you would let other new homeowners get ready to prepare for that first year or has everything been perfect? That would be great for my show if you said everything’s perfect but you know me. I like to tell the truth.

There hasn’t been any huge thing. I would say that we are lucky because everybody who talked to us was like, “When you buy a house, in the first year something huge is going to go wrong. Just be ready for that.” We haven’t encountered that yet. We’ve been busy with stuff at the same time.

We have an emergency fund set aside because of knowing that things can break. We had that when we moved in and then we’ve continued to add to it just not knowing what could potentially go wrong.

You do have the whole warranty for the first year if something catastrophic happens.

Yeah, but there have been little things. The alarm system is a good example. The previous owners had an alarm system and it was still under their name and I ended up messing with it a little bit. I didn’t realize that I turned it on and then he came home. It went off when he opened the door and we didn’t know how to turn it off because we didn’t have the code. There were random little things that we had to adjust and get used to.

I was going to say that’s a good lesson because I’ve been through this before. If there’s something there, call the alarm guys when you move in and figure out what’s going on. I also have all my people who have fireplaces get a chimney sweep immediately after they move in because who knows if the people have lived there for twenty years and never used it or they used it all the time and never cleaned it and stuff like that. What have you got to enjoy in your new home? I never asked you. Did you get your island or did you compromise on that?

We did.

We got it.

We got the larger kitchen and the island, which we use pretty often.

That Andrew uses. Let’s be real.

You use it every day.

There’s a microwave over there.

I do the cooking at my house too because my wife used to be a choreographer so she was at the dance studio at night. When we got married in our 30s she’s like, “I never cooked.” That was my thing.

He cooks for enjoyment. I cook to survive. He enjoys it. I do it to just make sure that I don’t starve.

In my house, we call that fun versus fuel because I cook for fun and my wife makes stuff for fuel. She’s getting good though. I will give her that. What are you enjoying? You had to put the fence up because you wanted it, but have you got to make the house your own and do things that you couldn’t do in an apartment that gets you all excited?

Yeah. We’ve been basically repainting every room in the house and styling it the way that we want to style it. We’ve been doing DIY projects. I had gone on to YouTube and started looking up DIY things. We’ve built a few floating shelves in our family living room and then we built a built-in Billy bookcase bookshelf following some of those like YouTube tutorials.

They’re the best.

We are getting into the DIY space.

Those YouTube ones are the best because those floating shelves scared the crud out of me because I destroyed walls in apartments with those butterfly things. How fun for you guys and you’re enjoying the area because you were renting there for a long time.

The area’s great. Our neighbors have been fantastic. As Andrew mentioned, we put up a fence and that’s been perfect for our dog. We also added a puppy to the mix. They get to use the yard all the time.

Last Halloween was the first time we’d passed out candy and that was fun. The neighborhood is the perfect shape for that. It’s an oval. There were tons of kids and we got the biggest candy bars we could find. That was cool.

They loved it.

I have in my neighborhood, in my town, the parents get popcorn machines or someone else gets a cotton candy machine and they sit on the driveway. You don’t even go to the doors. They open the garage and everyone sits there and has the best time. The kids can smell it. These guys are new homeowners.

That’s ideas for next year.

Invite your neighbors. In California, we all get our beach chairs and we just set them on the thing. We sit in our beach chairs and hang out. Someone brought their mini fire pit over and it was awesome. If you want to get crazy, give kids s’mores and see their parents get all mad at you because they get the marshmallow all over their costume. This is part of the joy of home ownership, especially if you’re coming from apartment life. There’s a gigantic emotional attachment to a home for you and for your dogs. By the way, I was told before this interview the dogs are going to be loud and I haven’t heard a peep.

They’ve been on really good behavior.

They’ve quieted down, which is nice.

I know a lot of people who live in the big cities that even buy their apartments and have their dog live in an apartment and they figure out how to do it. However, being able to have this space, you didn’t go for the full rural. You went for the suburbs, but now you’ve got a fenced-in yard for your dogs and you can get a puppy and not be freaked out.

That’s been huge for us to have that space where we can do what we want and make it work that we can enjoy. We’re dog parents so making sure they’re happy, can run around, and enjoy is important too.

This was great to be able to thank you for finally being able to make this work with me. I’m dedicating myself this year to getting as many readers as I can because people are finding inspiration and motivation from people like you. I’m looking at you and you guys looked so happy. I’m so excited for you.

Thank you. We’re so happy that we were able to talk with you and hopefully, this is inspiring for other first-time home buyers as well.

The people out there know that you’ve been together for fourteen years. You rented from your late twenties to getting married around 30-ish and buying a home around 31-ish. Here’s the awesome thing. You beat the national average by five years. The national average is 35 years old. There are a lot of people in your situation who might have gone, “Double?” Maybe they would’ve needed to take a year to figure it out but your guys’ salaries were enough and by making that move quickly, you got in and you’ve had a year’s worth of appreciation already. You guys are going to be getting close to being able to get rid of your PMI probably by next year for sure because you’re probably around 10% equity right now, if not more.

A lot of what I had read before I started listening to the podcast was all like, “Don’t do PMI.” I think that scares people off but once we started digging into the numbers with our lender, it wasn’t something to be super scared of. It falls off. It got us into our home.

It got you into your home. I don’t know if it’s gone up yet or not because I did it early. The show is a few years old now. I rerecorded PMI Is Not The Devil because I had to jar people into understanding if it’s a $100 or $150 a month and let’s say you’re 5% down on $400,000, 20% down, that’s tens of thousands of dollars. It’s $60,000. If you had to wait to save up that $60,000 you could just get in at 5% down instead of 20% down and it costs you an extra $150 a month. $150 a month, you lent yourself $60,000. That’s not a bad deal. You guys caught the appreciation of 2023. Are you guys on Zillow? Are you looking to see how much your house is worth or do you guys not even care?

I think a few times. We get things from Tricia about how the market in our area is doing. I think we get emails from you as well about that.

I pay for a service to send to my people after they close just to say, “Look how your house is doing.” The cool thing is I did it because of the PMI watch. When the snow thaws, you’re going to see prices go up where you are because we’re recording this early March and you’re going to be in great shape. You could say, “We have an extra $100 a month,” and you can build a little DIY fund. Start bookmarking all the YouTube things and then wait until the fund matches the new thing to do. I’m excited for you guys. This was great. We were all over the place because it’s been a year, so that’s kind of fun. This is exciting. Thank you guys very much. We appreciate your time. The homies say thank you.

Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.

I love it when I hear the stories from the readers who thought they had to put 20% down. I think they even said 30%. The myths that are out there. A huge myth-busting. PMI is not the devil. You don’t need 20% down and if your mortgage doubles what you’re already paying in rent, it still could be a very wise investment for you to talk to a unicorn team and find out what your options are.

That was a huge lesson we got from Melissa and Andrew. I’m looking at the notes here. They’re smart and keeping that first-year fund so that they made sure that they had enough money for any emergencies that came up. As you heard, their first year has just been a lot of fun for them like creating a space for their dogs and getting to do what they want with their own house.

Isn’t that the goal? Isn’t that the dream? Start your planning now so you can begin to work because then you own the property and you can do whatever you want with it. They were a great example of people who had done planning of their savings. They hadn’t even talked to a unicorn for a long last lease ever program. They talked to a unicorn in January 2023 and they were in a house by the first week of March 2023.

They understood that things moved quickly, but because they had a good unicorn helping them out, their offer stood out amongst all the others and they understood the massive importance of price, terms, and time. It’s a great story. I’m very excited that we have got another member of our revolution here and on the show so they can tell you their story. Go to HowToBuyAHome.com right now no matter where you are. You can start with the seven-day program to give you the basics or you can ask me a question right there on that website.

Also, you can say, “I’m ready. Unicorn time,” and ask me for a unicorn. You can always follow me on social media as well. Look for @HowToBuyAHome or @HowToBuyAHomePodcast and look for my ugly mug. This is a great interview. I am so excited. I love the inspiration and the motivation they give because then it’s not just me telling you, but now I’m sure if you talk to Melissa and Andrew, they would tell you this too. You can do it.


Important Links

This podcast was started for YOU, to demystify things for first time home buyers, and help crush the confusion. After helping first timers for over 13 years, I knew there wasn’t t a lot of clear, tangible, useable information out there on the internet, so I started this podcast. Help me spread the word to other people just like you, dying for answers. Tell your friends, family, and perhaps that random neighbor you REALLY want to move out about How to Buy a Home! A really easy way is to hit the share button and text it to your friends. Go for it, help someone out. And if you’re not already a regular listener, subscribe and get constant updates on the market. If you are a regular and learned something, help me help others – give the show a quick review in Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, or write a review on Spotify. Let’s change the way the real estate industry treats you first time buyers, one buyer at a time, starting with you – and make sure your favorite people don’t get screwed by going into this HUGE step blind and confused. Viva la Unicorn Revolution!

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