There are thousands of home buyer grants and down payment assistance programs across the country. There also are government backed loan programs available with low down payment options in 2024. Let’s take a closer look at what down payment help is available so you can make this the year you bought your first home.

How does one go from dreaming about owning their first home to holding a set of keys your hands? After all, one of the most challenging parts of buying a home for the first time is coming up with a down payment without any existing equity.

What Is Down Payment Assistance?

Down payment assistance refers to financial aid provided to homebuyers to cover a portion of the upfront payment required when purchasing a home. In many cases, a significant obstacle to homeownership is the ability to afford the down payment, which can amount to a substantial sum. Down payment assistance programs come in various forms, including grants, low-interest loans, or deferred-payment loans.

These down-payment assistance programs are typically offered by government agencies, nonprofits, or specific lending institutions to assist eligible buyers in achieving their homeownership goals. The primary aim of down payment grants is to make homeownership more accessible, particularly for first-time buyers or those with limited financial resources. By reducing the financial burden of the initial down payment, these home buyer grant programs can help individuals and families realize their dream of owning a home.

What is a First-Time Home Buyer Grant?

A first-time home buyer grant is a type of program designed to assist homebuyers by providing financial support that doesn’t need to be repaid. The grant money is typically used to help cover closing costs or the down payment, easing the financial burden of purchasing a home.

It’s important to note that these down payment  assistance programs often come with specific eligibility criteria, which might include income limitations and mandatory participation in qualifying courses.

How to Qualify for the Best Home Buyer Grants for Down Payment Assistance in 2024

guide to home buyer grants and down payment assistance programsQualifications vary, but both you as the home buyer and the home itself have to qualify for the specific program.

These home-ownership programs are made for owner occupants only; no investment property purchases are allowed.

You will usually need to qualify for the mortgage through standard underwriting qualifications and complete a home-buying education course.

Typical eligibility for home buyer grant requirements include the sales price of the home, a certain level of income and your history of home-ownership.

Some programs are only open to first time buyers; what this means will vary by program.

For example, some down-payment assistance programs will define ‘first time buyer’ as someone who has not owned a home for three or five years.

But there are some programs that do not require you to be a first-time buyer by any standard.

Purchasing a home is a significant milestone, but for many prospective homeowners, saving for a substantial down payment can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there are various home buying grants and down payment assistance programs that can help make homeownership more accessible.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore some of the best home buying grants available, the eligibility criteria, and how to apply for them. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or looking to make a move, these home buyer grant programs can make your dream of homeownership a reality.

State and Local Grants
Many states and local municipalities offer their own home buyer grants and down payment assistance programs. These programs may include grants, loans, or other financial incentives for eligible homebuyers. Eligibility criteria and available assistance can vary widely, so it’s essential to down payment grant programs in your specific area.

Eligibility: Eligibility criteria for state and local programs will depend on the specific down payment assistance programs and location. Common factors include income limits, employment within the area, and first-time homebuyer status.

Neighborhood Stabilization 
The Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), administered by HUD, offers financial assistance to homebuyers looking to purchase homes in areas heavily affected by foreclosures. This program often includes grants, low-interest loans, and other incentives for homebuyers willing to invest in revitalizing distressed communities.

Eligibility: Eligibility criteria for NSP programs may vary by location, but they typically target specific areas with a history of foreclosures and blight.

FHA Down Payment Assistance Program
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers a Down Payment Assistance Program designed to assist low and moderate-income homebuyers. With an FHA loan, you can access down payment grants and secondary financing, such as loans or gifts from family members. The FHA loan’s flexible qualification requirements and lower down payment options (as low as 3.5%) have made it a popular choice for many homebuyers.

Eligibility: To qualify for the FHA Down Payment Assistance Program, you need to meet the FHA loan requirements, which typically include a minimum credit score and specific debt-to-income ratios.

USDA Rural Loans
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides Rural Development Loans to eligible rural and suburban homebuyers. These loans offer low or no down payment options and come with competitive interest rates. Additionally, USDA loans may include grants to cover closing costs and necessary repairs.

Eligibility: USDA loans are designed for homebuyers seeking properties in eligible rural and suburban areas. Income restrictions apply, and the property must meet certain criteria to qualify.

VA Home Loan Guaranty 
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a Home Loan Guaranty Program to assist veterans, active-duty service members, and eligible spouses in achieving homeownership. VA loans are known for their no down payment requirement and flexible underwriting standards. Some states also offer additional grants for veterans through their own programs.

Eligibility: To qualify for a VA loan, you must be an eligible veteran, active-duty service member, or qualifying spouse. The program’s requirements are linked to your service history and discharge status.

Good Neighbor Next Door 
The Good Neighbor Next Door Program, offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), encourages law enforcement officers, teachers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians to purchase homes in revitalization areas. This down payment grant program provides a substantial discount on the home’s list price, making it more affordable for these community heroes.

Eligibility: You must be a full-time law enforcement officer, teacher, firefighter, or emergency medical technician, working in an eligible area to qualify for this program.

Fannie Mae HomeReady 
Fannie Mae’s HomeReady Program is designed to assist low and moderate-income homebuyers in achieving homeownership. This program offers low down payment options (as low as 3%) and allows you to use income from non-borrowing household members to qualify for the loan. Additionally, Fannie Mae home loans may be eligible for closing cost assistance.

Eligibility: HomeReady is available to all homebuyers, not just first-time buyers. However, income limits and other criteria apply.

Freddie Mac Home Possible 
The Freddie Mac Home Possible Program is a similar option to Fannie Mae’s HomeReady Program, aimed at low to moderate-income homebuyers. With down payment requirements as low as 3%, Freddie Mac loans makes homeownership more attainable. Additionally, flexible income options are available, allowing for co-borrower income to qualify.

Eligibility: Home Possible is available to both first-time and repeat homebuyers within specific income limits.

HomeReady is a 1st-time mortgage program requiring only a 3-percent down payment, tailored to benefit low- and moderate-income homebuyers with reduced rates and decreased loan expenses. This initiative, backed by Fannie Mae, presents a modified conventional mortgage option.

Eligibility:  It mandates a minimum credit score of 620 and permits a debt-to-income ratio of up to 50%. Moreover, applicants can utilize it to finance Accessory Dwelling Units and may incorporate income from the Cannabis industry as part of their application.

Native American Direct Loan

Eligible Native Americans who are veterans have the opportunity to purchase a home on Federal Trust land at a reduced mortgage interest rate through the Native American Direct Loan , also know as the NADL program.

Eligibility: The eligibility requirements for this down payment assistance loan can be intricate. To determine your NADL eligibility and discuss your financial situation, it is advisable to contact your local housing authority.

Applying for Home Buying Grants in 2024

To apply for home buying grants and down payment assistance programs, follow these general steps:

Research Available Programs: Start by researching home buying grants and assistance programs in your area. Look for federal, state, and local options that match your specific needs.

Check Home Buyer Grant Eligibility

Review the eligibility requirements for each program to determine which down payment assistance loans you qualify for. These criteria often include income limits, occupation, location, and homeownership status. Gather the required documentation and get prepared to be rewarded with the gift of down payment assistance.

Overview of Home-Ownership Program? 

There are a variety of home-ownership programs available across the country that include loans, grants, tax credits and other programs that can help you to get a down payment. These programs also are available to help to cover closing costs and fees, so you can get to closing faster. These programs are frequently offered by state housing finance agencies (HFA). Also, cities and counties offer various down payment help programs with criteria that are based upon local home prices and local median income. Housing authorities, nonprofit organizations and employers also offer some down payment programs. See tips for first time home-buyers loans.

Tax Incentives for First Time Home Buyer Grants in 2024?

First-time home buyers can also explore the option of applying for a mortgage interest tax credit. This tax credit, known as a Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC), is available to those purchasing their first home. To qualify for this first time home buyer tax credit you must meet specific income requirements and the property’s purchase price must adhere to certain restrictions.

The Most Common Down Payment Assistance Programs

The first type is the general down payment assistance program. These are usually second or third mortgages or grants. You may enjoy such benefits as zero percent interest rates, deferred payments on the second mortgage, and forgivable loans.

The assistance you receive can be a few thousand or tens of thousands of dollars that you can use for a down payment, closing costs, or repairs. In some cases, you may not have to pay back the assistance at all; in other cases, when you sell the home, you could have to pay back part of the equity that you have earned.

Even if you are buying in a high cost market, you still may be able to find down payment assistance. The benefits and eligibility requirements for downpayment assistance loans are typically adjusted based upon the local home prices and median income.

If you are buying a home in an area that is targeted by a housing finance agency, you could get more help, including more lenient income standards, higher down payment amounts, and the first-time home-buyer requirement could be waived. Learn more about home buying grants: Good Neighbor Next Door, Dollar Homes, Native American Direct Loan and more.

Affordable First Mortgages

Some of the larger state housing finance agencies offer first mortgages in addition to down payment assistance. These programs often give you a below market rate on your mortgage, and could have lower closing costs, fees and no need for mortgage insurance.

These programs are usually funded by state housing finance agencies and can subsidize part of the interest to offer rates under normal market rates. This can lower your buying costs and your payments each month.

For example, the USDA features two first mortgage programs called the Rural Direct Loan and the Rural Guaranteed Loan. Both are options help people with lower and moderate incomes to buy a home in a rural part of the country. The funds can be used to buy, build or repair a home.

Mortgage Credit Certificates

This is an annual federal income tax credit that helps the first-time home-buyer offset part of the mortgage interest as a way to qualify for the mortgage loan. Note that it is a tax credit and not a tax deduction.

It means that an MCC helps you to reduce your total tax bill dollar for dollar. The mortgage credit that you can get depends upon the local or state government that issues the MCC. Note that it is capped at a maximum of $2,000 per year by IRS rules.

Low Down Payment Government Mortgage Programs

Another major way that 1st-time home buyers can get help with a down payment is working with a government loan program such as FHA. These government backed loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration, and only require a 3.5% down payment for most people. Learn about buying a home with a FHA loan.

If you have a credit score of 580 or higher, you should be able to qualify for a 3.5% down payment. Also, the program allows for gifts to pay for your down payment.

If you have a relative who is willing to provide you with financial help to get your first home, he or she can gift you the down payment. In that way, you can get into a home with no down-payment mortgage in some cases, and only need to come up with closing costs.

With one or more of the above options, you should be able to get assistance with a down payment or keeping the down payment very low, making it easier to get into your first home.