First Time Home Buyer Programs in Florida 2021

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Florida State

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing) offers several first-time home buyer programs both on a federal and state level. These programs are restricted to first-time home buyers and individuals who have not owned a home in the last 3 years. Active service members, veterans, and homes in federally designated target areas are also eligible for these programs. They provide financial benefits to home buyers with low credit scores, limited savings, or previous bankruptcies. These benefits include lower mortgage rates, first time home buyer grants, and additional loan options. Each program has a unique purpose and eligibility requirements. The table below shows which programs are available.

No.ProgramTypeJurisdiction
Florida State Programs
1Florida HFA Preferred Conventional Loan Program (Florida First)Main ProgramsFlorida State
2Florida HFA Preferred 3% PLUS Conventional Loan Program
3Florida Assist Second Mortgage Program (FL Assist)Combination Program
4Florida HLP Second Mortgage ProgramOptional Add-Ons
5Florida Housing Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) Program
6Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan ProgramRestricted Eligibility to Active Military Personnel and Qualified Veterans
Federal Programs
IConventional MortgageFannie Mae and Freddie MacFederal
IIFHA LoanFederal Housing Administration
IIIVA LoanUS Department of Veterans Affairs
IVUSDA LoanU.S. Department of Agriculture

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Florida State Programs

Main Programs

Florida Housing offers two main programs: Florida HFA Preferred Conventional Loan Program (Florida First) and Florida HFA Preferred 3% PLUS Conventional Loan Program.

To be eligible for Florida Housing first-time home buyer programs, you must:

Florida HFA Preferred Conventional Loan Program (Florida First)

Also known as Florida First, Florida Housing offers a mortgage with lower private mortgage insurance (PMI) premiums that reduce the total cost of your mortgage. The Florida HFA Preferred Conventional Loan Program offers a 30-year fixed-rate first mortgage at a low-interest rate through participating lenders. Although this program is for first-time home buyers, you may still be eligible if you live in a target area or are a qualified veteran. Borrowers that are eligible for this program automatically qualify for one of Florida Housing’s down payment assistance programs.

You can apply for Florida First and down payment assistance programs when you get a mortgage loan through Florida Housing approved lenders.

Florida HFA Preferred 3% PLUS Conventional Loan Program

The Florida HFA Preferred 3% PLUS Conventional Loan Program is different from the Florida HFA Preferred Conventional Loan Program because the mortgage includes direct down payment assistance in addition to lower private mortgage insurance (PMI) premiums. Home buyers who qualify for this program receive a 3% - 5% grant of the total loan amount for a down payment or closing costs. This grant is classified as a second mortgage but each year, 20% of the original amount for this second mortgage is forgiven and does not need to be paid back. However, if you move out, sell the house, refinance, or pay off the principal mortgage amount, you will have to repay the remaining balance from the original amount.

You can apply for the Florida HFA Preferred 3% PLUS Conventional Loan Program when you get a mortgage loan through Florida Housing approved lenders.

Optional Add-Ons

For first-time home buyers, Florida Housing offers three optional programs that you can use in addition to your primary mortgage: Florida Assist Second Mortgage Program (FL Assist), Florida HLP Second Mortgage Program, and Florida Housing Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) Program.

Florida Assist Second Mortgage Program (FL Assist)

Home buyers who qualify for Florida First automatically qualify for this program. FL Assist offers a second mortgage to help with your down payment and closing costs. The loan has an indefinite mortgage term and no periodic payments, but the loan amount must be paid back if you move out, sell the house, refinance, or pay off the principal mortgage amount.

Terms:

  • Up to $7,500 deferred loan
  • 0% interest
  • No payments

Florida HLP Second Mortgage Program

Home buyers who qualify for Florida First automatically qualify for this program. The Florida HLP Second Mortgage Program is another source of down payment assistance offered by Florida Housing. This loan has monthly amortization payments and it must be paid back in full if you move out, sell the house, refinance, or pay off the principal mortgage amount.

Terms:

  • Up to $10,000 loan
  • 3% second mortgage rate
  • 15-year term

Florida Housing Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) Program

The Florida Housing Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) Program is used to help first-time home buyers save money when making monthly mortgage payments. This program allows eligible individuals to claim part of their mortgage interest payments as a tax credit. This tax credit can be added to your income during your mortgage qualification period if you want to purchase a more expensive home.

Terms:

  • Maximum 50% of paid mortgage interest annually
  • Maximum $2000 annually
  • Federal Tax reduction only
  • Veterans and Target Area Houses are also eligible
  • Cannot be used with FL Assist or other local housing agency bond loans
  • Only applicable to your primary mortgage

You can apply for the MCC Program when you take out a mortgage loan through Florida Housing approved lenders. You do not need a credit score, but lenders have varying income and purchase price requirements.

Programs for Active Military Personnel and Qualified Veterans

Florida Housing has a program restricted to active military personnel and qualified veterans: Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan Program.

Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan Program

This program is restricted to active military service personnel and qualified veterans. To qualify, you must receive a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). This program is what allows veterans to access the same benefits and opportunities that Florida Housing offers to first-time home buyers. It follows the same mortgage terms as Florida First and if you qualify, you are automatically eligible for Florida Housing’s down payment assistance options.

Federal Programs

There are a variety of first time home buyer programs offered nationally such as conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans, USDA loans.

Conventional Loans

Conventional loans are classified as conforming loans when they meet the minimum purchase standards and loan amounts set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Conforming loans typically have lower requirements for credit score, debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, and minimum down payment. They also have competitive fixed-rate, or adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM). Fannie Mae offers a 3% down payment mortgage through the HomeReady program. Freddie Mac offers mortgages with low-interest rates and minimal down payments through their HomePossible program to home buyers without a credit score.

FHA Loan

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans are mortgages offered by FHA-approved lenders restricted to low to moderate-income earners. While the FHA does not provide loans, all loans issued by these lenders are insured by the FHA. The minimum required down payment is 3.5% and you only require a credit score of 500. You can check your monthly mortgage payment with competitive FHA rates and FHA MIP using our FHA calculator. The FHA home loan program provides mortgage options for first-time home buyers who do not have a large down-payment or long credit-histories. For more information, visit the FHA Loans page.

VA Loan

Veterans Affairs (VA) loans are mortgages that are partially or completely backed by the U.S. Government and usually have lower mortgage rates than other types of loans. These loans are restricted to individuals that fulfill the requirements to receive a VA home loan Certificate of Eligibility (COE). These loans do not require a minimum down payment unless the home price exceeds its market value, do not have a minimum credit score requirement, and a debt-to-income ratio of less than 41%. To check your monthly mortgage calculator with a VA funding fee use our VA loan calculator. For more information, visit the VA Loans page.

USDA Home Loan

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans are mortgages that are partially or completely backed by the U.S. Government. Their purpose is to provide individuals in rural areas with average or below-average incomes the opportunity to become a homeowner. These mortgages are eligible for any property type but the property must be located in a rural area. You can use our USDA Eligibility Map to determine if you qualify for a USDA loan. They have no credit score requirement but you must have a debt-to-income ratio of less than 41%. For more information, visit the USDA Loans page.

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