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Don't Miss These First Time Homebuyer Programs in Florida

Updated: Jun 7

Affiliate Marketing Disclosure

We've written about the student loan problem in Florida before. But for those Floridians suffering from the burdens of their student debt, there are also a number of first time homebuyer programs in Florida designed to help qualifying individuals to jump into homeownership earlier in life.

Florida's programs for first time homebuyers

Florida's programs will require you to meet certain eligibility programs, mainly minimum credit scores, in addition to debt-to-income thresholds you must remain within.

Offered by The Florida Housing Finance Corporation, the state offers the following programs (some of which are mortgage programs and others that are down payment programs or grants):

  1. Florida Homeownership Loan Program

  2. Florida Assist

  3. Salute Our Soldiers

  4. HFA Preferred Grants

And while this article will denote that these programs are reserved for first-time homebuyers, you actually are still eligible if you haven't owned a property in at least three years.

More: Teacher mortgage programs for Florida teachers

1. Florida Homeownership Loan Program (FLHLP)

Offering up to $10,000 in aid in the form of a second mortgage, the FLHLP offers homebuyers this money at 3% interest. It functions as a down payment and closing cost assistance program.

This second mortgage has a fifteen year term unless you first move, refinance, or sell the property.

The FLHLP is especially helpful for those who would struggle to find mortgage funding, either due to low income, bad credit, or some combination of the two. And, the program comes with the following benefits:

  • No need for an upfront payment

  • Could get lower interest rates than you'd get from a traditional lender

  • Can lower your monthly mortgage payments

2. Florida Assist (Second Mortgage Program)

The Florida Assist program is a second mortgage program available to first-time purchasers in Florida. The program lends $7,500 to Floridians at 0% interest. This down payment assistant program is not due until the home is sold (or refinanced).

The program can be used to help with:

  • Down payments

  • Prepaid closing costs

  • Your private mortgage insurance (PMI)

  • Pay down principal

Unlike some of Florida's grant programs, you will have to pay this money back, but it is a loan at 0% interest, and does not have to be paid back until you sell, pay off your mortgage, or refinance.

3. Salute Our Soldiers program

Florida's Salute Our Soldiers program is reserved for active-duty military and veterans across the state. Offering below market rates, the program offers 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages within all 67 counties in Florida.

To be eligible, you need to be purchasing a home that will service as your primary residence. Additional requirements are as follows:

  • The program is available to first-time homebuyers, most veterans, and other military members.

  • A minimum credit score of 640

  • You must maintain a debt to income ratio below 45%

The program does maintain flexibility to receive lawful gifts of equity from sellers, if applicable, but you cannot receive any other cash back at the time of closing.

Home sale price and income limits are established by various counties and not the state, since Florida real estate prices can vary greatly.

Program participants will also be expected to complete a first-time homeowner course to maintain eligibility.

4. Florida HFA Preferred Grants

A program with three different levels of assistance, FL's HFA grants provide qualified borrowers with home purchase assistance to aid in purchasing a home.

At this time, the program offers 3%, 4%, or 5% of the agreed upon purchase price of the house in the form of a grant, meaning the money does not have to be repaid.

The money is structured as a second mortgage, which is then forgiven after five years.

Federal first-time homeowner's programs

Floridians are also eligible for all pertinent national homebuyer assistance programs as well. Among these are various government programs, including:

  • Government-backed loans, including FHA, USDA, and VA loans

  • Fannie Mae's HomePath ReadyBuyer Program

  • The Good Neighbor Next Door program

FHA, USDA, and VA loans

We'll take these one by one since the eligibility requirements are slightly different.

FHA loans are available to qualifying Americans with a credit score of 500 or above, and only require the buyer to put down 3.5% as a down payment. While those with credit scores under 580 will be required to come up with a larger down payment (10%), the program is nonetheless a good option for those without great credit histories or the cash for a large down payment.

Next are USDA loans, which can be a great option for lower and middle income Americans living outside of cities. Also known as the "Section 102 Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program," the program can potentially eliminate your need for a down payment.

Only available on properties designated by the USDA as "rural" or "semi-rural," you'll also need to have an adjusted household income lower than 115% of the median for the area you want to purchase in.,

Finally, some Floridians are also eligible for VA loans, which can cover up to 100% of your home's value without private mortgage insurance (PMI). This means that you will not need any down payment. To take advantage of a VA loan, you will need:

  • A credit score of at least 620

  • To be a current/former military member, military spouse, or eligible beneficiary

The only real downside to a VA mortgage is the funding fee, which can be anywhere in the range of 1.25% to 2.5%, depending on the down payment you make (if any).

If you decide to use a VA loan, you'll also likely find lower closing costs, a definite win!

Related: A first-time home buyer guide

HomePath ReadyBuyer Program

Floridians also may opt to take advantage of Fannie Mae's HomePath ReadyBuyer program. With the goal to spur first time ownership in homes across America, program perks include receiving up to 3% of a home's purchase price to use towards a down payment on the property.

In return, Fannie Mae requires that you complete an online homebuyer education cost, at no cost to you. After you receive a completion certificate, you'll be eligible for the program's benefits if:

  1. You're a first-time homebuyer, or have not owned a property in the last three years

  2. The property will serve as your primary residence

  3. You requested closing cost assistance at the time of your initial offer (on or after April 14th, 2015)

Good Neighbor Next Door

The Good Neighbor Next Door program was an initiative started by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is available to:

  • Law enforcement officers

  • Pre-K through Grade 12 teachers

  • Firefighters

  • EMTs

In an attempt to revitalize communities nationwide, HUD designates certain single family homes within revitalization areas to be listed for sale through the Good Neighbor Next Door program. These homes will be sold by HUD at a 50% discount as long as you commit to live at the property for a minimum of 36 months (your primary residence).

Listings are maintained through the program for seven days, at which point those who submitted interest in purchasing a specific home will be considered. If multiple offers are submitted, a lottery system will decide who will receive the home.

The program will require you to sign a second mortgage for the other 50% that was discounted, but the loan carries no interest or monthly payments. These would only kick in if you neglect to meet your 36-month occupancy requirement.

Other FL city/town first-time buyer programs

By no means is this an exhaustive list of federal (or state) programs available to Florida residents. Always conduct your own research and see what programs may be offered in your local area. The best way to find these is to Google "First-time home buyer programs (your location)."

First time home buyer programs Orlando

City of Orlando Down Payment Assistance (DPA)

For example, the City of Orlando has a localized down payment program known as DPA that provides funds for you to use. Of course, there are eligibility requirements, but no minimum credit guidelines.

To verify if your prospective property qualifies, you may use Orlando's address lookup tool.

Similar programs also exist in Tampa, Miami, Tallahassee, and many other cities and towns across The Sunshine State.

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About Nathan Zarcaro

Nathan Zarcaro is the founder of The Student Debt Destroyer and is passionate about personal finance related causes.  A 2018 graduate of Providence College's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Nathan studied Finance, and worked for one of the world's largest asset management firms before starting his own consulting practice.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

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