Nationwide first-time homebuyer programs

When assessing your application for a “conventional” mortgage, lenders in the private market will usually expect to see a credit score of at least 620 and a down payment of at least 5% of the overall purchase price.

More: Use these savings accounts to build up your down payment.

If you’re coming up a little short in either respect — as many first-time buyers do — you should look into one of the following nonconventional mortgages, which you can source through the federal government.

FHA loans

In 1934, the Federal Housing Administration created FHA loans to encourage Americans to buy homes. At the time, about 60% of Americans rented instead of buying.

FHA lenders will grant you a loan with a credit score as low as 580 and a minimum down payment of just 3.5%, making these loans accessible to more Americans. But depending on how much money you put down, you will face long-lasting fees to cover mortgage insurance. Try putting down 10% if you can, and 20% is even better.

The FHA's Loan Requirements Explained.

A walkthrough of how to meet the FHA's requirements.

See Guide

VA loans

VA loans were created toward the end of the Second World War to help veterans buy homes of their own. An act passed by Congress in 1944 made it possible for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to guarantee or insure home, farm and business loans made to veterans by lending institutions.

To qualify for one of these loans, you must be an active service member, veteran or a surviving military spouse. You won’t have any down payment or mortgage insurance obligations, but you will have to pay a sizable funding fee.

USDA loans

USDA loans, which are guaranteed by the United States Department of Agriculture, also don’t require down payments or mortgage insurance. These loans are targeted to lower-income rural and suburban Americans.

Borrowers will find they’re charged an upfront 1% guarantee fee and an annual 0.35% fee. But if you do the math, the sum of those fees tends to be less in the long run than the mortgage insurance associated with other types of loans.

That said, you may make too much money to qualify for a USDA loan. The current income limits in most parts of the U.S. are $86,850 for one- to four-member households and $114,650 for five- to eight-member households, but the thresholds may be higher if you live in a county with a steeper-than-average cost of living.

You can find your region’s limit on the USDA’s website.

Who qualifies for Delaware’s first-time homebuyer programs?

DSHA’s basic eligibility requirements for its programs include:

  • A household income at or below the following limits: $115,920 for one to two people and $144,900 for three or more in New Castle; or $98,280 for one to two people and $122,850 for three or more in Kent and Sussex.
  • A minimum credit score of 620. Applicants with credit scores of 659 or below must also participate in housing counseling.
  • A maximum debt-to-income ratio (DTI) of 45% for all borrowers with a FICO score of less than 699. However, there’s no maximum DTI ratio for FICO scores greater than 699.
  • A maximum loan amount of $417,000.

More: Get a free credit score and credit monitoring from Credit Sesame.

First-time homebuyer programs in Delaware in 2021

Infographic on programs for first-time home-buyers in Delaware

DSHA offers qualified buyers 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loans, with interest rates at or below the standard market rate. The loans work through the standard mortgage programs, including conventional, VA, FHA and USDA mortgages.

Both first-time homebuyers and repeat buyers can qualify for these loans through a DSHA approved lender.

DSHA Preferred Plus loan

DSHA also offers help with down payment and closing costs.

All applicants using a DSHA loan can apply for Preferred Plus assistance, which provides a no-interest second mortgage loan of 2% to 5% of the overall purchase price. You can use this second loan for your down payment or closing costs.

The Preferred Plus amount must be repaid upon the sale, transfer or refinance of the home, or when it is no longer your primary residence.

Delaware first-time homebuyer tax credit

When you buy your first home in the state of Delaware, you may also qualify for a special tax break.

You get to claim 35% of the interest you pay on your mortgage as a federal tax credit, reducing what you owe on your federal taxes by up to $2,000 a year.

The credit can be used along with CHFA’s down payment and closing cost assistance program; you’ll just need to apply for the credit through your mortgage lender.

The Best Lenders for First-Time Homebuyers

Click Here

Next steps

Now that you know all your options, you may be asking yourself: “What next?”

A great first move would be to take a look at your credit score and see how you measure up to your ideal loan’s requirements. You can get a free score through the site Credit Sesame.

Was your score disappointing? That’s OK; you have plenty of options. An organization like Self credit repair can help you bring your score up.

When you’re in good shape, don’t forget to gather the important documents you’ll need to prove you’ve got money in the bank and money floating in.

Then you can finally think about getting pre-approved for a mortgage and start shopping for your new digs.

Support for new homebuyers in other states

Arizona Department of Housing (ADOH) Read More
Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA) Read More
California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) Read More
Colorado Housing and Finance Agency (CHFA) Read More
Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) Read More
Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) Read More
Florida Housing Finance Corp. (Florida Housing) Read More
Georgia Dream Read More
Hawaii Housing and Finance Development Corporation (HHFDC) Read More
Idaho Housing and Finance Association Read More
Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) Read More
Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) Read More
Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) Read More
Kansas Housing Resources Corporation Read More
Kentucky Housing Corporation (KHC) Read More
Louisiana Housing Corporation (LHC) Read More
MassHousing (Massachusetts) Read More
Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) Read More
Minnesota Housing Read More
Missouri Housing Development Commission (MHDC) Read More
Montana Board of Housing (MBOH) Read More
Nebraska Investment Finance Authority (NIFA) Read More
Nevada Housing Division Read More
New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority (MFA) Read More
State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA) Read More
North Carolina Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA) Read More
Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) Read More
Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) Read More
Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) Read More
Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) Read More
South Dakota Housing Development Authority (SDHDA) Read More
Tennessee Housing Development Authority (THDA) Read More
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) Read More
Utah Housing Corp Read More
Virginia Housing Read More
Washington State Housing Finance Commission (WSHFC) Read More
Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) Read More
Wyoming Community Development Authority (WCDA) Read More

About the Author

Sigrid Forberg

Sigrid Forberg

Staff Writer

Sigrid is a staff writer with MoneyWise. A graduate of Carleton University's journalism program, she spent the better part of the last six years writing about business and retail. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, baking and riding her bicycle.

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