Guide to First-Time Homebuyer Grants & Programs (Eligibility, FAQs & More)

The dream of homeownership can feel out of reach for many first-time buyers. The high upfront costs, particularly the down payment and closing fees, can be a significant hurdle. Fortunately, numerous grants and programs exist to help alleviate this financial burden.

This blog will explore federal, state, and local initiatives to make homeownership a reality for first-timers. We'll also discuss important considerations and resources to guide you through the process. Understanding eligibility requirements and choosing the right program can make a big difference in achieving your homeownership goals.

Federal Programs

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loans

FHA loans are government-insured mortgages offered by approved lenders. Credit score requirements for FHA loans are generally more lenient than those for conventional loans. FHA Loan applicants must have a minimum FICO® score of 580 to qualify for the low down payment advantage, currently at 3.5%. If your credit score is below 580, the down payment requirement is 10%.

Remember that FHA credit requirements cover more than just your FICO® score; they also determine eligibility based on a borrower’s payment history, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and extenuating circumstances that keep applicants from making timely payments.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loans

VA loans are a fantastic option for veterans, active-duty service members, and spouses. Eligibility is based on meeting specific military service requirements. A significant advantage of VA loans is eliminating the down payment requirement altogether for qualified properties. It's important to note that VA loans may involve funding fees, which can be financed into the mortgage or paid upfront.

Department of Agriculture (USDA) Loans

USDA loans are available to individuals and families looking to purchase homes in rural areas. These loans are particularly beneficial for those who may struggle with a down payment. Similar to VA loans, USDA loans offer the possibility of zero down payment for eligible properties in designated rural locations. However, be aware that USDA loans often come with income restrictions for borrowers.

Targeted Programs

Several programs cater to specific demographics, such as teachers, firefighters, or healthcare workers. These programs offer lower interest rates, down payment assistance, or other benefits.

A well-known example is the Good Neighbor Next Door program, which incentivizes law enforcement officers, firefighters, teachers, and emergency medical technicians to purchase homes in revitalization areas. It's important to research programs based on your location and profession to see if you qualify for any targeted assistance.

Other Federal Programs

  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) may offer programs like the First-Time Home Buyer Mortgage Rate Discount, which can reduce interest rates for qualified buyers.
  • The HomePath Ready Buyer program is a federal program offered by Fannie Mae that provides up to 3% in closing cost assistance to first-time homebuyers who complete an online homebuyer education course. The program is designed to help make homeownership more accessible by reducing the upfront costs for eligible buyers purchasing Fannie Mae-owned properties.

State and Local Programs

State & Local Grant Programs

Many states and localities offer grant programs designed to assist first-time homebuyers. These grants can provide financial aid for down payments or closing costs.

For example, the City of Portland's DPAL program offers a 30-year loan with a 0% interest rate and no monthly payments. The loan amount can be up to $80,000 across the city or $100,000 in certain targeted areas. The loan is forgiven at a rate of 50% after 15 years and fully forgiven after 30 years, provided the borrower meets certain conditions.

Lender-Specific Programs

Some lenders offer grant or assistance programs for first-time homebuyers, adding another layer of potential financial support. For instance, Bank of America's Home Grant program can provide funds to help cover down payment and closing costs.

Another example is the Conventional 100 program offered by This program allows for 100% financing, requiring no down payment. Buyers can finance up to 4% of the purchase price for closing costs and fees.

However, it has specific requirements such as a minimum 660 credit score and a household income limit of 140% of the area median income. It's always a good idea to check with potential lenders about any specific programs they offer for first-time buyers.

Important Considerations

Understanding the eligibility requirements for each program you're interested in is crucial. Some programs may have limitations on income, credit score, location, or property type.

Carefully consider your needs when choosing a program. Do you need help primarily with the down payment, or are closing costs a bigger concern? Some programs offer assistance for down payments, while others focus on closing costs.

A housing counselor can be a valuable resource to navigate the complexities of first-time homebuyer programs and guide you toward the best option for your situation. They can help you understand eligibility requirements, compare programs, and complete necessary paperwork.


The good news is that numerous grants and programs exist to make homeownership a reality for first-time buyers. By researching available options, understanding eligibility requirements, and potentially seeking guidance from a housing counselor, you can increase your chances of achieving your home-buying dream.


Q: How do I learn about first-time homebuyer programs in my area?

A: A good starting point is your state housing agency website. They often maintain a list of available programs and resources. Additionally, local non-profit organizations and community development agencies may offer programs. You can also consult with a mortgage lender or housing counselor for guidance.

Q: Can I combine grant programs and other financial assistance?

A: In some cases, you may be able to combine grant programs with other down payment assistance programs or FHA/VA loans. However, it's important to check the specific program guidelines to see if there are any restrictions on combining assistance.

Q: What are the income limits for these programs?

A: Income limits vary depending on the program and location. Generally, programs target low-to-moderate-income households. For details on income restrictions, refer to the specific program website or contact the program administrator.

Q: Is there a minimum credit score required for these programs?

A: Credit score requirements vary, but some programs may be more flexible than conventional loans. Always check the program's eligibility criteria for credit score requirements.

Q: Which loan is best for a first-time home buyer?

A: Most first-time home buyers use a conventional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to purchase their first home, but that doesn’t make it the “best loan” for first-time buyers. Mortgages are not one-size-fits-all. Let a mortgage company pre-approve your mortgage and give you advice.

Final Note

Buying a home is a significant financial decision. Carefully research your options, compare programs, and seek professional guidance to ensure a smooth and successful home-buying experience.

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