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 for mortgage insurance. Try putting down 10% if you can; 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 World War II 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’s eligible for first-time buyer programs in Florida?

Florida Housing’s homebuyer programs are designed to help low- to moderate-income households secure affordable, quality housing. To qualify for assistance, you’ll have to fall within Florida Housing’s income and purchase price limits, as well as the standard requirements for your loan type.

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

First-time homebuyer programs in Florida

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

Florida Housing’s homebuyer programs help Floridians find affordable, quality housing within their budgets. Your loan will not be issued directly by Florida Housing. Instead, you’ll work through a participating lender to secure your home loan.

If you need help covering the upfront costs of buying a home, your lender may help you apply for a second loan to cover your down payment and closing costs.

First Time Homebuyer (FTHB) program

This Florida program for first-time homebuyers offers 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loans through participating lenders. While the program is intended for first-time buyers, other buyers may qualify if they’re eligible veterans or are purchasing homes in federally designated targeted areas. Your lender can let you know if you qualify even if you’re not a first-timer.

You’ll also have to meet Florida Housing’s income and purchase price limits, as well as the standard requirements for your loan type. First-time homebuyers are required to complete a Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved homebuyer education program.

Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan program

This mortgage loan program offers military service personnel and veterans access to 30-year, fixed-rate home loans with reduced interest rates. It also includes several down payment assistance options.

To qualify for this program, you’ll need to be purchasing a home that will serve as your primary residence, meet income and purchase price limits, and complete a homebuyer education course.

The Mortgage Underwriting Process Explained

A walkthrough of proven steps to getting a mortgage approval.

See Guide

The Florida Assist (FL Assist) program

This down payment assistance program offers homebuyers loans of up to $7,500 at 0% interest. Repayment is deferred until you sell, refinance or pay off your first mortgage. At that point, you’ll be expected to repay your FL Assist loan in full.

HFA Preferred and HFA Advantage PLUS Second Mortgage

This down payment and closing cost assistance program offers borrowers 3% to 5% of their total loan amount in the form of a forgivable loan. After five years, your loan will be completely forgiven.

Florida Home Ownership Loan Program (FL HLP) Second Mortgage

This second mortgage loan program offers eligible homebuyers loans of up to $10,000 at a 3% interest rate and a 15-year term; borrowers repay in monthly installments. As this is another mortgage loan, your debt-to-income ratio may be considered to ensure you can manage the monthly payments.

Florida Mortgage Credit Certificate Program

A Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) is a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for a set percentage of the interest you pay on your mortgage every year. The MCC gives homebuyers who are using one of Florida Housing’s first mortgage programs a credit of up to 50% of the interest on their income taxes (up to $2,000). To be eligible for the MCC, you’ll have to be a first-time homebuyer and meet Florida Housing’s income and purchase price limits.

The Best Lenders for a Mortgage

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Next steps

Now that you know all your options for buying a home in Florida, 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 Credit Sesame.

Was your score disappointing? That’s OK — you have plenty of options. An organization like Self credit repair can help you give your score a boost.

Once 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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