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California First-Time Homebuyer Programs of 2019

Buying your first home is an exciting process, but it can also be a stressful one. From searching for the right property to handling the paperwork and significant upfront costs, there’s a lot to manage.
Thankfully, there is plenty of help available for first-time buyers, from down payment assistance to VA loans, grants and special programs for teachers. If you’re looking to purchase a home for the first time in California, be sure to check out the variety of assistance programs offered by the state.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

California first-time homebuyer programs

California offers several financing assistance programs for first-time homebuyers. In January 2019, we researched the most current information on first-time homebuyer programs in California, which included reviewing program websites and guidelines from the California Housing Finance Agency. Look through the following program details and eligibility guidelines carefully, and consider your options.
You can check current mortgage rates for your area here.

California Housing Finance Agency

The CHFA serves as an umbrella organization beneath which the following programs fall. Options include conventional loan programs, down payment assistance and assistance specifically for teachers, among others.

How it works

The process is the same for all CALHFA programs below. CalHFA does not act as a direct lender to consumers. As such, homebuyers should contact private loan agencies that have been approved by the California Housing Finance Agency. Gather documents, including bank statements, pay stubs, previous tax returns and employment history, and contact an approved loan officer to begin the homebuying process.

CalHFA Conventional Program

Features

  • Offers fixed-rate first mortgage loans for borrowers
  • Interest rates dependent upon borrower’s financial circumstances and daily market fluctuations
  • 30-year conventional mortgages
  • Privately insured

Eligibility

  • Income limits
    • Income maximums vary by county, ranging from $118,500 to $228,300
  • Property requirements
    • Must be a single-family, one-unit property
    • Manufactured homes eligible
    • May include condominiums/planned-unit developments (PUDs)
    • Possible for in-law quarters, granny units and guest houses to be eligible
    • Property may not exceed five acres
  • Sale price limit
    • $765,000 statewide
  • Homebuyer education
    • Borrowers must take part in homebuyer education counseling
    • Must procure a certificate of completion once course has been completed
    • Courses are available online or in person
    • eHome eight-hour Homebuyer Education program is the only online course accepted by CalHFA and costs $99
    • In-person courses are available through multiple HUD-approved counseling agencies; fees vary by provider

CalPLUS Conventional Program

Features

  • Offers 30-year, fixed-rate, conventional mortgages
  • Slightly higher interest rates than the CalHFA Conventional Program but combined with the CalHFA Zero Interest program to reduce closing costs
    • Fixed interest rates dependent upon borrower’s financial circumstances and market fluctuations, which can happen daily

Eligibility

  • The home must serve as the borrower’s primary residence
    • Co-borrowers who do not live in the home are not permitted
  • Income limits
    • Income maximums vary by county, ranging from $118,500 to $228,300
  • Property requirements
    • Must be a single-family, one-unit property
    • Manufactured homes eligible
    • May include condominiums/PUDs
      • Condominiums must meet first mortgage requirements
    • Possible for in-law quarters, granny units and guest houses to be eligible
    • Property may not exceed five acres in size
    • Co-ops, leaseholds and land trusts are not eligible
  • Sale price limit
    • $765,000 statewide
  • Homebuyer education
    • Borrowers must take part in homebuyer education counseling
    • Must procure a certificate of completion once course has been completed
    • Courses are available online or in person
    • eHome eight-hour Homebuyer Education program is the only online course accepted by CalHFA and costs $99
    • In-person courses are available through multiple HUD-approved counseling agencies; fees vary by provider

CalHFA FHA Program

Features

  • Offers 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages
  • Mortgages are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
    • Fixed interest rates dependent upon borrower’s financial circumstances and daily market fluctuations

Eligibility

  • The home in question must serve as the borrower’s primary residence
    • Co-borrowers who do not live in the home are not permitted
  • Income limits
    • Income maximums vary by county, ranging from $118,500 to $228,300
  • Property requirements
    • Must be a single-family, one-unit property
    • Manufactured homes eligible
    • May include condominiums/PUDs
      • Condominiums must meet first mortgage requirements
    • Possible for in-law quarters, granny units and guest houses to be eligible
    • Property may not exceed five acres in size
  • Sale price limit
    • $765,000 statewide
  • Homebuyer education
    • Borrowers must take part in homebuyer education counseling
    • Must procure a certificate of completion once course has been completed
    • Courses are available online or in person
    • eHome eight-hour Homebuyer Education program is the only online course accepted by CalHFA and costs $99
    • In-person courses are available through multiple HUD-approved counseling agencies; fees vary by provider

CalPLUS FHA Loan Program

Features

  • Offers 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages
  • Rates slightly higher than other CHFA programs but combined with the CalHFA Zero Interest Program to save on closing costs
    • Fixed interest rates dependent upon borrower’s financial circumstances and daily market fluctuations

Eligibility

  • The home in question must serve as the borrower’s primary residence
    • Co-borrowers who do not live in the home are not permitted
  • Income limits
    • Income maximums vary by county, ranging from $118,500 to $228,300
  • Property requirements
    • Must be a single-family, one-unit property
    • Manufactured homes eligible
    • May include condominiums/PUDs
      • Condominiums must meet first mortgage requirements
    • Possible for in-law quarters, granny units and guest houses to be eligible
    • Property may not exceed five acres in size
  • Sale price limit
    • $765,000 statewide
  • Homebuyer education
    • Borrowers must take part in homebuyer education counseling
    • Must procure a certificate of completion once course has been completed
    • Courses are available online or in person
    • eHome eight-hour Homebuyer Education program is the only online course accepted by CalHFA and costs $99
    • In-person courses are available through multiple HUD-approved counseling agencies; fees vary by provider

Cal-EEm + Grant Program

Features

  • Offers 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages combined with grant funds to increase energy efficiency through home repairs and improvements
    • Fixed interest rates dependent upon borrower’s financial circumstances and daily market fluctuations

Eligibility

  • The home in question must serve as the borrower’s primary residence
      • Co-borrowers who do not live in the home are not permitted
      • Income limits
      • Income maximums vary by county, ranging from $118,500 to $228,300
      • Properties must undergo a Home Energy Rating System review
      • Homes must adhere to FHA Energy Efficient Mortgage Program guidelines
      • Borrowers must obtain a home energy assessment
      • Energy-efficient changes and improvements must be cost-effective
      • To be considered cost-effective, energy bill savings must be equal to or greater than the cost of the energy-efficient changes to the property
      • Maximum loan value that can be added to an FHA loan must be the lesser of:
      • 5% of one of the following:
        • the adjusted value
        • 150% of national conforming mortgage cap
        • 115% of median single-family property price in the area
      • OR the price of energy-efficient improvements
      • Property requirements
      • Must be a single-family, one-unit property
      • Manufactured homes eligible
      • May include condominiums/PUDs
        • Condominiums must meet first mortgage requirements
      • Possible for in-law quarters, granny units and guest houses to be eligible
      • Property may not exceed five acres in size
      • Sale price limit
      • $765,000 statewide
      • Homebuyer education
      • Borrowers must take part in homebuyer education counseling
      • Must procure a certificate of completion once course has been completed
      • Courses are available online or in person
      • eHome eight-hour Homebuyer Education program is the only online course accepted by CalHFA and costs $99
      • In-person courses are available through multiple HUD-approved counseling agencies; fees vary by provider

CalHFA VA Program

Features

  • Offers 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages insured by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
    • Fixed interest rates dependent upon borrower’s financial circumstances and daily market fluctuations

Eligibility

  • Only available to members of the military, including veterans, active-duty military (in all military branches, including the National Guard) and reservists
  • National Guard and reservists must have completed six-year duty agreement before applying
    • Exceptions made for those discharged for disabilities incurred during service
  • Also available to military spouses, including surviving spouses
  • The home in question must serve as the borrower’s primary residence
      • Co-borrowers who do not live in the home are not permitted
      • Income limits
      • Income maximums vary by county, ranging from $118,500 to $228,300
      • Property requirements
      • Must be a single-family, one-unit property
      • Manufactured homes not eligible
      • May include condominiums/PUDs
        • Condominiums must meet first mortgage requirements
      • Possible for in-law quarters, granny units and guest houses to be eligible
      • Property may not exceed five acres in size
      • Sale price limit
      • $765,000 statewide
      • Homebuyer education
      • Borrowers must take part in homebuyer education counseling
      • Must procure a certificate of completion once course has been completed
      • Courses are available online or in person
      • eHome eight-hour Homebuyer Education program is the only online course accepted by CalHFA and costs $99
      • In-person courses are available through multiple HUD-approved counseling agencies; fees vary by provider

MyHome Assistance Program

Features

  • Offers deferred-payment junior loans to first-time homebuyers
  • Loan can be applied to down payment or closing costs
  • Up to 3.5% of appraised value or home purchase price, whichever is lower in cost

Eligibility

  • Borrower must be a first-time homebuyer or not have owned a home in the previous three years
  • Required to be bundled with a CalHFA first mortgage loan
  • The home in question must serve as the borrower’s primary residence
      • Co-borrowers who do not live in the home are not permitted
      • Income limits
      • Income maximums vary by county, ranging from $118,500 to $228,300
      • Property requirements
      • Must be a single-family, one-unit property
      • Manufactured homes eligible
      • May include condominiums/PUDs
        • Condominiums must meet first mortgage requirements
      • Possible for in-law quarters, granny units and guest houses to be eligible
      • Property may not exceed five acres
      • Sale price limit
      • $765,000 statewide
      • Homebuyer education
      • Borrowers must take part in homebuyer education counseling
      • Must procure a certificate of completion once course has been completed
      • Courses are available online or in person
      • eHome eight-hour Homebuyer Education program is the only online course accepted by CalHFA and costs $99
      • In-person courses are available through multiple HUD-approved counseling agencies; fees vary by provider

School Teacher and Employee Assistant Program

Features

  • Designed to help teachers, school employees, administrators and others in education achieve homeownership for the first time
  • Includes K-12 public, charter, county and continuation schools
  • Loan can be applied to down payment or closing costs
  • Junior loans
    • Up to 4% of the property sale price
    • Interest rates are dependent upon borrower’s financial circumstances and daily market fluctuations
  • Can be combined solely with CalHFA first mortgage financing

Eligibility

  • Borrower must be a current employee of a California public school, county or continuation school, charter school or a school district
    • Borrowers may be teachers, administrators, staff members or school district employees
  • Borrower must be a first-time homebuyer or not have owned a home in the previous three years
  • The home in question must serve as the borrower’s primary residence
      • Co-borrowers who do not live in the home are not permitted
      • Income limits
      • Income maximums vary by county, ranging from $118,500 to $228,300
      • Property requirements
      • Must be a single-family, one-unit property
      • Manufactured homes eligible
      • May include condominiums/PUDs
        • Condominiums must meet first mortgage requirements
      • Possible for in-law quarters, granny units and guest houses to be eligible
      • Property may not exceed five acres in size
      • Sale price limit
      • $765,000 statewide
      • Homebuyer education
      • Borrowers must take part in homebuyer education counseling
      • Must procure a certificate of completion once course has been completed
      • Courses are available online or in person
      • eHome eight-hour Homebuyer Education program is the only online course accepted by CalHFA and costs $99
      • In-person courses are available through multiple HUD-approved counseling agencies; fees vary by provider

CalVet Home Loans

Features

  • Available for military veterans
  • Below-market interest rates
  • Low or no down payments needed

Eligibility

  • Any military veteran is eligible
    • Do not need to have enlisted or gained commission from California to qualify
    • No prior residency rules
    • Includes National Guard or reservists who have been sent to active duty, including active guard or reserve duty
  • Applicant must have served at least 90 days on active duty
    • Active duty includes service during wartime and/or peacetime, both of which are eligible
  • Service under honorable conditions required
  • CalVet Home loan status
    • Veterans who have used CalVet benefits may use them again
    • Borrower cannot currently have a CalVet loan in their portfolio
  • Debt ratio
    • Maximum debt ratio of 41%
    • Exceptions may be granted
  • Property requirements
    • Manufactured homes must be on a permanent foundation within VA/FHA guidelines
      • Coach must be located on a VA/HUD qualified foundation
      • Borrowers must provide a 433A document to prove the manufactured home is on a permanent foundation
    • Manufactured home in a park may not be more than 20 years old to receive financing
  • Down payments required for manufactured homes in a park
    • New single-wide manufactured home: 15% down payment required
    • New multi-wide manufactured home: 10% down payment required
    • Used multi-wide manufactured home: 15% down payment required
  • Funding fee required
    • Can be waived for veterans with disabilities

How it works

Veterans who are ready to apply for a CalVet Home Loan can begin by applying online or contacting CalVet online or by phone at (866) 653-2510.

National first-time homebuyer programs

In addition to the many financial assistance programs the state of California has to offer, there are numerous federal programs that can help you achieve homeownership, too. Check out our guide to learn more about national first-time homebuyer programs.

 

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