First Time Home Buyer Programs in Florida 2023CASAPLORERTrusted & Transparent
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 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. You can use the Florida Mortgage Calculator to compare different mortgage options available. Each program has a unique purpose and eligibility requirements. The table below shows which programs are available.
First-Time Home Buyer Eligibility Calculator
Florida State Programs
|1||Florida HFA Preferred Conventional Loan Program (Florida First)||Main Programs||Florida State|
|2||Florida HFA Preferred 3% PLUS Conventional Loan Program|
|3||Florida Assist Second Mortgage Program (FL Assist)||Combination Program|
|4||Florida HLP Second Mortgage Program||Optional Add-Ons|
|5||Florida Housing Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) Program|
|6||Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan Program||Restricted Eligibility to Active Military Personnel and Qualified Veterans|
|I||Conventional Mortgage||Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac||Federal|
|II||FHA Loan||Federal Housing Administration|
|III||VA Loan||US Department of Veterans Affairs|
|IV||USDA Loan||U.S. Department of Agriculture|
Florida State 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:
- Have a minimum credit score of 620
- Purchase a property within the state of Florida
- Classify Florida as your primary residence
- Take a 6-8 hour home buyer education course certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- Have an income below the maximum limit for your county
- Not exceed the maximum purchase price limit with your home (varies by county)
- Fall into at least 1 of 4 categories
- This is your first mortgage/home purchase
- You have not owned or occupied a home in the last 3 years
- You are an active military member or qualified veteran
- Your home is in a federally-designated target area
1. 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.
2. 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 mortgage principal, 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.
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.
3. 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.
- Up to $7,500 deferred loan
- 0% interest
- No payments
4. 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 mortgage principal.
- Up to $10,000 loan
- 3% second mortgage rate
- 15-year term
5. 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.
- 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.
6. 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.
There are a variety of national first time home buyer programs such as conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans, and USDA loans.
I. 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.
II. 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.
III. 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.
IV. 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.
Florida First Time Home Buyer Grants
Apart from mortgage programs and second loans, Florida also has a lot of different grants that can be applied towards a down payment or closing costs. It is important to note that most grants are not offered on a state level. Instead, different counties offer their grants specific to the county. Some counties participate with certain agencies that standardize the application process while other counties have their own programs.
One of the largest partnerships that offer grants and other assistance in Florida is called State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP). SHIP operates in all 67 counties, and it provides funds to local governments to create affordable housing for different demographics. Depending on the needs of specific counties, these funds may be used to support first time home buyers, buildings that need to be repaired, homeowners who are close to foreclosing on their homes, and even houses that have been damaged due to natural disasters. The governments can allocate the money differently depending on the needs of the citizens, so even though SHIP operates in all counties in Florida, not all counties provide first time home buyer assistance through this partnership.
When it comes to county specific grants and programs, not all counties provide grants or programs. Some of them may provide a certain assistance but may not provide any programs while others may have some programs but no assistance. Because of that, it is important to look at the website of a specific county or contact a local housing department to receive updated information about what they currently offer. The following table provides useful information about what Florida counties offer on their level in addition to the federal and state programs.