Cassie Leslie and her husband wanted to buy their first home. She had just finished graduate school and he had recently started a new job. Their dilemma was similar to many millennials who want to buy their first home: how do we qualify for a loan?

“I didn’t think there was anyway we would get a loan,” said Leslie. “I had $100,000 dollars in student loan debt.” Securing the loan for the home they eventually purchased was tedious and discouraging.

They first looked at as many as 30 homes in the Boston area. Most of the time other buyers who were able to put cash up front and outbid them. But with six homes, they far enough along to apply for a loan. Each time the banks made requests for more student loan documentation and to fill out tons of forms. “I kept getting held up by the student loan company and it took a really long time to track down all the documents,” said Leslie.

Eventually they were approved for a loan. But it was not a standard loan. Cassie Leslie, 29, and her husband only had to put a few thousand dollars down to buy the apartment, which was not nearly as much as the 20 percent that is needed for a down payment on a standard home loan. This was possible because they were able to secure a loan that was guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Guaranteed loans from the FHA are the best, and sometimes only option for millennials like Cassie and her husband.

Guaranteed loans from the FHA are the best, and sometimes only option for millennials like Cassie and her husband.

According to a recent survey by Apartment List, 79 percent of millennials want to purchase a home but can not afford the 20 percent down payment. In the same Apartment List survey, it is estimated that it will take millennials on average over 10 years of savings to have enough money to afford a 20 percent down payment. If an FHA backed loan can cut that number in half, it can be a key difference between millennials buying a home and not. It was for Regina Whitemarsh

Whitemarsh and her boyfriend recently bought their first home in Madison, Wisconsin.

“I would say the home loan process was short and easy,” said Whitemarsh. Neither one of them had any student loan or credit card debt. Her boyfriend also had “exemplary credit,” said Whitemarsh. They secured a loan through a local credit union.

But Whitemarsh and her boyfriend had one problem: they did not have enough savings for the traditional 20 percent down payment on a mortgage. So they put together enough money for a 10 percent down payment and secured a FHA backed loan from the credit union.

Lowering normal loan standards so more people could afford home loans was a big reason why the housing bubble that caused the Great Recession was so bad. But Daren Blomquist, Vice President of RealtyTrac thinks helping millennials with down payments is not as dangerous.  Banks need to be cautious and give these types of loans to people with strong credit and have jobs. The banks “can’t start opening up the floodgates to every borrower with a pulse.” As long as these standards are kept Blomquist said “low down payment loans intrinsically are not extremely high risk, allowing them opens up one of the best ways of building wealth to millennials.”

This last part makes owning a home a more attractive option. When a person is renting, their monthly payments only goes to their landlord. But if someone monthly payments go towards a mortgage, it will benefit you in the long run. Every time you pay your mortgage, you decrease the principal and increase the equity you have in the home.

With the housing market not fully recovered, owning a home can often be cheaper than renting. According to a report by Truila, a residential real estate website, Renting is 36 percent more expensive than buying a home. Renting might be seen as easier and more flexible, but it is possible millennials will start buying more homes to save money.

The hassle that Cassie Leslie and her husband had in buying their first home, made them reluctant to ever want to buy a home again. But four years later they started looking for a bigger home. But this time it was much easier. They only had to look at one house and they were quickly approved for a loan. “The first time it took us 6 months to finally close on the mortgage. It only took us 6 weeks to sell our condo and buy the new house!” They were not asked a ton of questions about the student loans. They each had built up longer years of employment history and credit. The first time they were only approved for a $209,000 mortgage, this time it was $315,000.

The difference was that Leslie was able to get $60,000 of equity from her first home and use it as a down payment. It was not a FHA backed loan: it was a normal, 20 percent down mortgage.

When Leslie was selling her the condo so they could buy a house, they got a lot of offers. “There was one young kid who put an offer. But he was having trouble with the financing,” said Leslie. “We had other cash offers at full price and had to go with someone else. I remember how hard it was the first time and we wanted to help him but he was not able to get the mortgage approved in time.”