For many potential homeowners, saving enough for a down payment is a major barrier to homeownership. But, it doesn’t have to be. There are thousands of down payment assistance programs available across the country that can help make your dream of owning a home a reality, even if you’re not able to put a significant amount down.
How much do I need for a down payment?
Although the common perception is that you need to have a 20 percent down payment to purchase a home, that’s simply not the case, especially for first-time buyers. Most first-time homebuyers make a down payment of just 6 percent or less. Better yet, you don’t have to come up with all of those funds on your own because there are down payment assistance programs that can help.
What is down payment assistance?
Down payment assistance provides homebuyers with money to cover some or all of their down payment. These programs – more than 2,300 of them – are offered nationwide through a variety of sources, including federal, state, county, or local government agencies, nonprofits, and employers.
In some cases, down payment assistance can be in a form of a grant that you will never have to pay back – basically, free money to get you into homeownership. Most often, the funds come in the form of a loan known as a second mortgage that has low or even no interest. In many cases, you only have to pay back the loan after you sell the home. Sometimes, the loan may be forgiven once you have lived in the home for a required amount of time.
Down payment assistance isn’t just for first-time homebuyers
While homeownership programs are often associated with first-time buyers, there are many programs available for repeat buyers and even current owners purchasing a new home. In fact, 41% of homeownership programs do not have a first-time homebuyer requirement. It’s also important to know that a first-time homebuyer is defined as someone who has not owned a home in the last three years. So if you’ve been renting for the last four years, you’re a first-time homebuyer again.
Who qualifies for down payment assistance?
Down payment assistance programs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are programs for veterans, first-responders, first-time homebuyers, educators, and more. The exact requirements will depend on where you live and what programs are available; the most common eligibility requirements include:
- You must have a qualifying credit score, typically in the 620-680 range or higher.
- You will need to meet income requirements, but they vary and can be generous.
- The home you purchase must be your primary residence.
- Your mortgage payment combined with other debts will be limited to a certain percentage of your gross income.
- You will likely need to complete a homebuyer education course.
Regardless of whether or not you think you will qualify for a down payment assistance program, it’s always a good idea to see what programs are available and apply – you may qualify for more than you expect.
Does down payment assistance limit my mortgage options?
With down payment assistance you’ll need to borrow from a lender that participates in the program. However, those approved lenders generally offer a wide range of conventional loans in addition to ones backed by the government (VA, USDA, or FHA loans). Once you’re approved for a down payment assistance program, you’ll have the flexibility to choose the right mortgage option for you.
How can I find down payment help?
Since there are thousands of down payment assistance programs available, it can be a challenge to know where to start, but Down Payment Resource is here to help. Down Payment Resource is the nation’s only complete database of homeownership programs and they can easily match eligible buyers and properties to available programs.
See what down payment assistance programs are available to you, and take the next step on your path to homeownership!