What percentage of what you're paying for a house should be your down payment? There's no single best amount, and it will likely vary according to your situation. Mortgage lenders typically like to have you pay 20% or more down (which means you're financing only 80% of your purchase price), but some special loan plans can get that down payment into the low single digits. By using private mortgage insurance, you can also swing a down payment that's less than 20% of your home's purchase price. In addition, there are some programs available that offer low-cost loans with very small down payments.

If you're fairly flush with funds at the moment, and you work in a profession where you never know exactly how much you'll make in any given year, you might consider paying more than 20% as a down payment. The higher the down payment you make, the lower your mortgage loan and, therefore, the lower your monthly payments will be.

Of course, it's also reasonable to pay only as much as you need to and invest the rest. It's up to you. Just remember that you need to be comfortable with the amount you're putting down and with your monthly payments.

Make sure you shop around for your mortgage, too. Perhaps check out options from lenders such as Countrywide Financial (NYSE:CFC), JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Washington Mutual (NYSE:WM), and Wells Fargo.

You can learn all about how to buy or sell a home in our Home Center, which features lots of money-saving tips and even some special mortgage rates.

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In addition, drop by our Buying or Selling a Home discussion board.

This article was originally published on April 17, 2006. It has been updated by Joey Khattab, who does not own any of the shares mentioned. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Washington Mutual, and U.S. Bancorp are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. For more coverage of stocks that pay you to invest, try out Income Investor free for 30 days.