Can I Use My 403(b) To Buy a House?

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on February 15, 2024

Get Any Financial Question Answered

Can I Use My 403(b) To Buy a House?

Yes, you can use your 403(b) to buy a house, but it's generally not recommended due to potential tax implications and impact on your retirement savings.

There are two ways you might access your 403(b) funds for home purchase: loans and hardship withdrawals.

If your plan permits loans, you may borrow up to 50% of your vested account balance but no more than $50,000, and it must typically be repaid within five years.

A hardship withdrawal could be another option, but it is subjected to income taxes and possibly a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you're under 59½ years old.

Both options could significantly deplete your retirement savings and should be considered carefully. You should consult a financial advisor to evaluate your situation and consider all possible options before making this decision.

Alternatives to Using a 403(b) to Buy a House

Saving Independently for a House

The most straightforward alternative is to save money in a separate account designed for your house down payment. While it may take longer, this method doesn't impact your retirement savings.

Exploring First-Time Homebuyer Programs

There are several first-time homebuyer programs, both at the national and local levels, that offer incentives such as down payment assistance and competitive mortgage rates.

Considerations for Home Mortgage Options

Traditional home mortgages, FHA loans, or VA loans are all possibilities that could finance your home purchase without dipping into your retirement savings.

Each has its own set of criteria and benefits, and the best option depends on your individual circumstances.

Alternatives to Using a 403(b) to Buy a House

Benefits of Using a 403(b) to Buy a House

Quick Access to Funds

Using funds from a 403(b) plan can provide quick access to money for a down payment, especially if you haven't had time to save enough for this purpose.

Potential for Higher Investment Returns

Investing in real estate can potentially provide higher returns than the average return on a 403(b) plan, particularly in areas where home prices are increasing rapidly.

Loan Repayment Through Payroll Deduction

If your plan allows loans and you borrow from your 403(b) to buy a house, repayments are made through payroll deductions, which can be more manageable.

Drawbacks of Using a 403(b) to Buy a House

Possible Early Withdrawal Penalties

As previously mentioned, withdrawing funds before age 59½ can lead to a 10% early withdrawal penalty, although this penalty may be waived for certain hardship withdrawals.

Tax Implications

Withdrawals from a 403(b) are taxed as ordinary income. Even if you avoid the early withdrawal penalty, you'll still need to pay income tax on the amount withdrawn.

Impact on Retirement Savings

By withdrawing from your 403(b) to buy a house, you could significantly impact your retirement savings. Not only are you removing funds that would otherwise grow tax-free, but you could also miss out on employer matching contributions.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Using a 403(b) to Buy a House

Strategies to Effectively Utilize a 403(b) for Home Purchase

Understand Financial Situation and Retirement Goals

Before deciding to use your 403(b) to buy a house, you should have a clear understanding of your overall financial situation and retirement goals. Calculate how this withdrawal or loan might impact your retirement savings in the long run.

Consult With a Financial Advisor

This decision involves complex tax implications and potential penalties. A financial advisor or a tax professional can provide personalized advice based on your unique situation.

Evaluate the Cost and Benefits

You should consider the cost of borrowing or withdrawing from your 403(b), including the potential loss of compounded growth on your investments, potential penalties, and tax implications.

Weigh these costs against the benefits of homeownership, such as potential appreciation and tax benefits.

Legal Implications and Considerations When Using a 403(b) to Buy a House

IRS Regulations on Hardship Withdrawals

The IRS has strict guidelines defining what constitutes a hardship. You must be able to prove that the hardship is immediate and heavy and that you have no other resources to meet the need.

Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)

ERISA is a federal law that sets standards for most voluntarily established retirement plans to provide protection for individuals.

One of the things it mandates is that plan participants receive detailed information about their plan.

State Laws on Retirement Funds and Real Estate Transactions

State laws can also impact your decision. Some states offer more protections than others for retirement accounts in terms of bankruptcy and creditor protections.

Moreover, local real estate laws and tax codes can affect the cost-effectiveness of purchasing a home.

Conclusion

Utilizing a 403(b) to buy a house is an option, but it should be exercised with caution due to the potential tax implications, early withdrawal penalties, and the impact on your retirement savings.

While it can provide quick access to funds and the potential for higher returns, the drawbacks could be significant. Alternatives such as independent savings, first-time homebuyer programs, or other mortgage options should be considered.

It's vital to understand your financial situation and retirement goals, consult a financial advisor, and evaluate all costs and benefits.

Familiarity with IRS regulations, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and state laws governing retirement funds and real estate transactions is also crucial.

The decision requires comprehensive financial planning and an in-depth understanding of the potential impact on your future security.

Can I Use My 403(b) To Buy a House? FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

Meet Retirement Planning Consultants in Your Area