Three years: that’s how long it takes for most first-time homeowners to save up their house down payments, according to a new survey by NerdWallet: “Nearly Half of Couples Split Home Down Payment, NerdWallet Survey Finds,”

money rolls 8-19If  you already own a house, you probably recall all the small sacrifices you made to piece together that payment. Going forward, our aim is to grow that equity so that you have even more to put down on your next house.Ways to build equity consistently include:

  • Making just one additional mortgage payment annually
  • Carefully considering major improvements so you don’t spend money that you won’t get back when you sell
  • Staying on top of maintenance and routine repairs, such as roof replacements. If you let things go, small problems can result in major damage.
  • Building an emergency fund of at least $5,000 so you don’t have to go into debt for unexpected problems,such as replacing broken appliances
  • Resisting the urge to take money out when refinancing. Keep money you’ve put into the house in the house.
  • Get involved in local issues that affect property values. One report recently found that houses are worth 77% more in zip codes with good schools. Local policies affect quality of life, which builds or erodes home values.

And, of course, when it’s time to sell, explore your listing options thoroughly. The traditional three percent that listing agents charge comes directly out of your pocket – and can force you to compromise on the next house you buy.