Florida First-Time Home Buyer Assistance Programs

8 Min Read
Published April 30, 2024
A woman looks from the balcony of her Florida home at the ocean.
Written By Rory Arnold
Reviewed By Tom McLean

For most first-time home buyers, having enough money saved up to afford a down payment and closing costs is a daunting task. If you’re looking to buy a home in Florida, there are assistance programs that can help make home buying more affordable. Here’s what you need to know about Florida home buyer and down payment assistance programs.

Key Takeaways:

  • If you’re ready to buy your first home, Florida programs can make it easier to get a loan and assistance to help you afford the down payment and closing costs.
  • Florida also has programs that help people working in public service jobs, military service members and veterans afford a home.
  • To qualify, borrowers must meet income, purchase price, and credit score requirements and complete a home buyer education course.

Florida Housing HFA Conventional Loans

Florida Housing Finance Corp.’s first-time home buyer program offers 30-year fixed-rate first mortgages through private lenders in all 67 counties in Florida. Borrowers eligible for a first mortgage may pair it with a Florida Housing second mortgage program for a down payment or closing costs. The program’s loan may offer reduced mortgage insurance payments when compared with Federal Housing Administration loans.

To qualify, you’ll need to meet the IRS’s definition of a first-time home buyer, income and purchase price limits for the county you’re buying in, a credit score of at least 640, and complete an approved home buyer education course.

Eligible properties include:

What’s Your Goal?

Florida First Government Loans

The Florida First Government Loan Program offers FHA, Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Agriculture loans. Government-backed loans typically come with more lenient qualification requirements because they pose less risk to lenders.

  • FHA loans can be cheaper than conventional loans for borrowers with lower credit scores and who do not have much saved up to make a down payment.
  • VA loans are offered to eligible military service members, veterans, and their surviving spouses. You don’t need to be a first-time buyer to get a VA loan.
  • USDA loans are available to low- and moderate-income borrowers buying a home in specific rural areas.

Ready To Become A Homeowner?

Get matched with a lender that can help you find the right mortgage.

Florida Hometown Heroes Housing Program

Florida Housing’s Hometown Heroes Housing Program helps people working in various public sector jobs afford a home in the communities where they work.

The program offers conventional, FHA, VA and USDA first mortgages with discounted interest rates and reduced upfront fees.

You’ll need to meet income and loan limits based on the county where you buy the home and work in a public service job. Eligible occupations include:

  • Public-school educators.
  • Health care workers, including physicians, nurses and home health aides.
  • Veterinarians.
  • Public defenders.
  • Firefighters.
  • Childcare workers.
  • Law-enforcement officers.
  • Corrections officers.
  • Paramedics and emergency medical technicians.
  • Active military service members.
  • Veterans.

Assistance for a down payment and closing costs is available as a zero-interest deferred-payment mortgage of up to 5% of the first mortgage up to $35,000 maximum. Like the other second mortgage programs, you’ll need to repay this loan if you move, sell the home, refinance, or pay off the first mortgage.

Take The First Step To Buying A Home

Find a lender that will work with your unique financial situation.

Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan Program

The Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan Program offers primary mortgages to qualified military service members and veterans at a lower interest rate and with down payment assistance options. The program provides 30-year fixed-rate mortgages for government-backed loans, including VA, FHA, and USDA loans. These loans typically come with lower mortgage insurance premiums and can be used with down payment and closing costs assistance programs.

Salute Our Soldiers PLUS

The Salute Our Soldiers PLUS program helps provide down payment and closing cost assistance to service members, veterans, and their surviving spouses.

Loans are available for 3%, 4% or 5% of the home’s purchase price, have a 0% interest rate, and be forgiven at 20% per year over its five-year term. The balance on the loan must be repaid if you sell, refinance, or pay off the first mortgage before it’s been fully forgiven.

Florida Assist Second Mortgage Program

The Florida Assist program is a deferred-payment second mortgage of up to $10,000 in down payment assistance. It’s available with conventional, FHA, VA, and USDA loans, and has a 0% interest rate and no monthly payment.

“Florida Assist is a down payment assistance loan in addition to your first mortgage that can cover up to $10,000 for standard, FHA, VA, and USDA loans,” says Nate Johnson, an Atlanta-based real estate investment expert at NeighborWho, a property search site. “You won’t have to make regular payments or pay interest right away because it is deferred but not forgiven.”

Florida Homeownership Loan Program

The Florida Homeownership Loan Program is a second mortgage that can be used for down payment assistance. This loan can be for as much as $10,000 and has a 3%  interest rate. The borrower makes a monthly payment of $69.06 over a 15-year loan term. Payments on the remaining unpaid balance is deferred until you move, sell the house, pay off the first mortgage, or transfer the deed to someone else. After that, you’ll need to repay the outstanding balance.

HFA Preferred Grants Program

Florida Housing also has a grant program that can help cover 3% to 5% of the home’s purchase price to help cover the down payment or closing costs.

“The HFA Preferred Grant program helps a buyer with up to 3%, 4% or 5% of a home’s sales price that can be used for either a down payment, closing costs, or both,” says Omer Reiner, a Realtor and owner of FL Cash Home Buyers in Hollywood, Florida. “To qualify, you have to have a credit score of 620 or more and, obviously, enough income to pay the note. Your income also needs to fall within certain parameters determined by the area in which you are buying a home. This assistance is forgiven in five years.”

HFA Advantage PLUS

HFA Advantage PLUS loans are forgivable second mortgages that can be used toward the down payment and closing costs. This loan can be for 3%, 4%, or 5% of the total value of the first mortgage, has a 0% interest rate, and can be forgiven at 20% per year over its five-year term.

Local Down Payment Assistance Programs

Down payment assistance programs are also available on the local level. For example:

  • Orlando offers a down payment assistance program to eligible first-time home buyers purchasing a home within the city limits. The amount of assistance you can get will depend on your income level. If your income is:
    • Less than 50% of the area’s median income, you can get up to $45,000 in assistance.
    • Between 51% and 80% of the area median income, you can get $35,000 in assistance.
    • Between 81% and 140% of the area median income, you can get up to $20,000 in assistance.
  • Jacksonville has a down payment assistance program for first-time home buyers that will provide up to 75% of your total down payment or closing costs up to $25,000. To be eligible, your income can’t exceed 120% of the area median income.
  • In Miami, eligible home buyers can get an interest-free loan of up to $35,000 for down payment assistance. To qualify, your income cannot exceed $95,620 if you’re single and $109,200 if you’re a couple.

How To Apply For Florida First-Time Home Buyer Loan Programs

If you think you might be a good candidate for a Florida first-time home buyer loan program, here’s what you need to know about how to apply.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for Florida Housing’s first-time home buyer loan programs, you’ll need to meet the following requirements:

  • You haven’t owned a home in the past three years.
  • Your credit score is at least 640.
  • You complete an approved home buyer education course.
  • The purchase price falls within limits.
  • Your income falls within limits.
  • You work with an approved, participating lender.

Home Buyer Education Requirement

First-time home buyer and down payment assistance programs often require the borrower to take a home buying education course. This helps buyers understand the risks and responsibilities of taking on a mortgage and the terms of the assistance they are receiving. This course typically needs to be approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the entity offering the loan program.

Finding A Lender

The Florida Housing Finance Corp. offers an interactive tool to help you find a down payment assistance program that’s right for you. You’ll be able to see the eligibility requirements, income limits, purchase price limits, approved loan officers, and certified real estate agents. Simply enter the number of people in the household and the county where you want to buy.

You can also use this tool from HUD to find a local housing counseling agency to help you make informed housing decisions.

Required Documents

When you apply for a home loan program, you typically will be asked to provide your lender with:

  • Recent pay stubs.
  • Recent bank statements.
  • W-2 forms.
  • 1099 forms.
  • Income tax returns.

The Bottom Line

Buying a home these days comes with steep upfront costs. The good news is that programs are available to help first-time home buyers achieve their dreams of homeownership. If you’re buying a home in Florida, these are some loan programs you should know about.

More From Quicken Loans:


Recommended For You