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Can I Withdraw From My IRA for a Down Payment on a Home?

Michael Reynolds | April 29, 2024

[Prefer to listen? You can find a podcast version of this article here: E220: Can I Withdraw From My IRA for a Down Payment on a Home?]

Are you dreaming of buying a new home but struggling to come up with enough money for a down payment? If you have an IRA, you might be tempted to dip into it to fund your dream. But can you actually withdraw money from your IRA for a down payment on a home?

While using funds from your IRA might seem like a convenient solution, it's important to understand the potential consequences. There are specific rules and regulations surrounding IRA withdrawals, particularly if you want to avoid penalties and taxes.

IRA Basics

An IRA is a tax-advantaged investment account designed to help individuals save for retirement. Although the acronym IRA technically stands for "Individual Retirement Arrangement," most people call it an "Individual Retirement Account" because it sounds more logical. 

There are several types of IRAs, including Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs, each with unique tax implications.

  • Traditional IRA: Contributions to this IRA may be tax-deductible depending on the individual's income, filing status, and whether they have access to a workplace retirement plan. The investments in the account grow tax-deferred, meaning you don't pay taxes on the gains until you withdraw the money, typically after age 59½. Withdrawals are then taxed as ordinary income.
  • Roth IRA: Contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars, meaning they are not tax-deductible. However, the benefit is that both the contributions and the earnings can be withdrawn tax-free in retirement as long as certain conditions are met.

IRAs are a cornerstone of retirement planning. They offer individuals the ability to save and invest with tax benefits, potentially increasing their savings over time.

Both types of IRAs generally impose a 10% penalty when funds are withdrawn before age 59½. However, there are some nuances and exceptions, including when you're a first-time homebuyer.

Using IRA funds for a down payment on a home

While withdrawing "early" from your IRA (which means before age 59½) can result in a 10% penalty, the IRS makes an exception for first-time homebuyers. The first thing you need to determine is whether you're eligible to make this type of withdrawal.

According to the IRS, you can use up to $10,000 from your IRA towards a first-time home purchase without incurring the early withdrawal penalty. However, this $10,000 limit is per person, so if you're married and both you and your spouse have IRAs, you could potentially withdraw up to $20,000 penalty-free.

While you will not face the 10% early withdrawal penalty, you will still be required to pay income tax on any amounts withdrawn by you or your spouse.

It's worth noting that the $10,000 limit applies to both traditional and Roth IRAs. So, if you have both types of accounts, you'll need to keep track of the total amount you withdraw to ensure you stay within the penalty-free limit.

The guidelines for Roth IRAs are a bit different. At any point and for any reason, you are allowed to withdraw an amount up to what you've contributed to your Roth IRA without facing taxes or penalties since these contributions have already been taxed.

After your contributions are fully withdrawn, you can take out up to $10,000 from the earnings in your account without incurring a 10% penalty if it's for purchasing a home for the first time.

An important aspect to consider is the duration for which you've held the account. If your Roth IRA has been active for less than five years since your initial contribution, you will have to pay income tax on any earnings withdrawn. However, if your Roth IRA has been established for five years or more, you can withdraw earnings tax-free and penalty-free, provided they are used for purchasing a home as a first-time homebuyer.

The IRS defines a first-time homebuyer as someone who hasn't owned a home in the past two years. If you meet this criterion, you may be able to take advantage of this exception and use your IRA funds for a down payment on a home.

While the home can be a mixed-used property (such as a duplex, for example), the home must be your primary residence.

 Additionally, the $10,000 is a lifetime cap. You cannot use the first-time homebuyer benefit to purchase another home in the future, even if you withdraw from a different IRA.

Weighing the pros and cons of using IRA funds for a home down payment

Using your IRA funds for a down payment on a home can be a tempting idea, especially if you're struggling to come up with enough money through other means. However, it's important to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.


  • Avoiding mortgage insurance: By using a larger down payment, you may be able to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI is typically required when you have a down payment of less than 20% of the home's purchase price.
  • Lowering monthly mortgage payments: A larger down payment can help reduce your monthly mortgage payments, which can provide financial relief in the long run.
  • Building equity faster: With a larger down payment, you'll start off with more equity in your home, allowing you to build equity faster and potentially access other financial opportunities in the future.


  • Reduced retirement savings: Withdrawing funds from your IRA means you'll have less money available for your retirement. This can have a significant impact on your long-term financial security.
  • Foregoing potential investment growth: By withdrawing funds from your IRA, you're missing out on potential investment growth that could have occurred if the funds remained in the account.

While the potential benefits of using IRA funds for a home down payment can be appealing, it's important to consider the long-term implications and weigh them against your immediate needs and financial goals. It may be beneficial to consult with a financial advisor or tax professional to fully understand the impact of this decision on your overall financial plan.

Alternative options for funding a home down payment

If you're hesitant to tap into your IRA for a home down payment or don't meet the eligibility criteria for penalty-free withdrawals, you may want to explore other options. There are alternative options available to help you fund your down payment:

  • Save aggressively: Consider creating a budget and cutting back on discretionary expenses to save as much as possible for your down payment. Set a savings goal and automate regular contributions to a designated savings account.
  • Explore down payment assistance programs: Many states and municipalities offer down payment assistance programs for first-time homebuyers. These programs provide grants or loans to help cover the upfront costs of purchasing a home. These programs can vary from state to state, so search for "down payment assistance programs for first-time homebuyers [STATE]" to find programs specific to your state.
  • Consider a 401(k) loan: If you have a 401(k) with your employer, you may be able to borrow against it to fund your down payment by taking a 401(k) loan. While this option should be approached with caution, as it can also impact your retirement savings, it may be a viable alternative.
  • Gifts or loans from family: If you have family members who are willing and able to help, they may be able to provide a gift or loan to assist with your down payment. Be sure to consult with a tax professional to understand any potential tax implications.

Remember, purchasing a home is a significant financial decision, and it's important to explore all available options before making a choice. Each individual's financial situation is unique, so what works for one person may not be suitable for another.

Steps to withdraw funds from your IRA for a home purchase

If you've weighed the pros and cons and have decided to proceed with using your IRA funds for a home down payment, here are the steps you'll need to follow:

  • Check your eligibility: Ensure you meet the IRS criteria for penalty-free withdrawals, such as being a first-time homebuyer or meeting one of the other exceptions.
  • Contact your IRA custodian: Contact the financial institution where your IRA is held and inquire about withdrawing funds for a home purchase. They will provide you with the necessary forms and guide you through the process.
  • Complete the withdrawal forms: Fill out the required forms accurately, providing all the necessary information, including the amount you wish to withdraw and the reason for the withdrawal.
  • Submit the forms: Return the completed forms to your IRA custodian along with any additional documentation they may require.
  • Follow any additional steps: Your IRA custodian may have specific procedures or requirements for withdrawing funds for a home purchase. Make sure to follow their instructions carefully to avoid any delays or issues.
  • Consider tax implications: Consult with a tax professional to understand the potential tax consequences of your withdrawal. They can help you estimate the amount of income tax you may owe and assist with any necessary tax reporting. It's also generally a good idea to withhold taxes when withdrawing the funds, but again, consult with a professional for advice in your specific situation.

Note that you must close on the transaction within 120 days of receiving the funds.

It's important to note that the process and requirements for withdrawing funds from an IRA may vary depending on your specific financial institution and the type of IRA you have. Be sure to reach out to your custodian for detailed instructions and guidance throughout the process.

Seeking professional advice for IRA withdrawals and home purchases

Making decisions about your retirement savings and home purchase can be complex, so it's always a good idea to seek professional advice. A financial advisor or tax professional can provide valuable insights and help you navigate the intricacies of IRA withdrawals and home purchases.

They can assess your individual situation, consider your long-term financial goals, and provide personalized guidance based on your unique circumstances. They can also help you understand the potential tax implications and ensure you're making informed decisions that align with your overall financial plan.

By seeking professional advice, you can have peace of mind knowing that you're making the best possible choices for your financial future.

Making an informed decision about using IRA funds for a home down payment

Buying a home is an exciting milestone, but it's important to approach it with careful consideration. While using funds from your IRA for a down payment may seem like a convenient solution, be sure you understand the rules, penalties, and potential tax implications associated with these withdrawals.

Ultimately, the decision to use your IRA funds for a home down payment is a personal one that should align with your overall financial goals and priorities. By carefully considering all the factors and seeking expert guidance, you'll be well-equipped to make a decision that sets you up for long-term financial success.