and First Time Home Buyer Programs

Today many first time homebuyers rely on home buyer assistance programs. Per the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) definition you are a “first-time home buyer” if:

  1. you’ve never owned a home or if you have not been an owner in a primary residence for at least three years before your purchase (if you have owned a home but your spouse has not, then you can buy a home together as first-time homebuyers).
  2. you divorce your current spouse or become displaced from your spouse in any way (however, the only primary residence you have ever owned must be with your ex-spouse. In addition, you must be a parent.)
  3. you’ve owned a primary residence within three years of your purchase but your primary residence has not been permanently attached to anything, like a foundation (e.g living in a mobile home or RV).
  4. you have owned just one piece of property and it has sustained damage that doesn’t measure up to local and state building codes, and the cost to fix the property is more than it would cost to build a new property.

There are more than 2,500 home buyer programs nationally, including loans, grants, tax credits and other programs for eligible homebuyers. The 3 most common types of these programs are:

1. Down Payment Assistance Programs – 72% of the home buyer programs are down payment assistance and closing cost programs. DPA programs come in 2 primary forms – grants which do not have to be paid back, and second mortgage loans with varying payback or loan forgiveness provisions.

2. Affordable First Mortgages – these mortgages are offered by many larger housing finance agencies, particularly at the state level, to accompany their down payment assistance programs. Funds can be used to acquire, build (including purchase and prepare sites and provide water and sewage facilities), repair, renovate or relocate a home.

3. Mortgage Credit Certificates (MCC) – This is an annual federal income tax credit designed to help first-time homebuyers offset a portion of their mortgage interest on a new mortgage as a way to help qualify for a loan. As a tax credit, not a tax deduction, the MCC helps reduce your annual taxes dollar for dollar.

Other assistance programs include Government-Backed Loans, Tax Credits, Closing Assistance, Home Buyer Education. 

To find first-time home buyer assistance programs both nationally and in California, check out the following list: