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LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

2024 Florida First-Time Homebuyer Programs and Loans

Updated on:
Content was accurate at the time of publication.

If you’re ready to buy a home, Florida first-time homebuyer programs can jump-start your road to home ownership. These programs offer affordable mortgages, down payment assistance and other help to qualifying Sunshine State homebuyers.

This doesn’t even have to be your first home purchase, as long as you haven’t owned a home in the past three years. Here are the top Florida first-time homebuyer programs, along with the pros, cons and requirements for each. If one of these programs is a fit, it may help you get keys to your dream home sooner and for a lot less than expected.

Looking for a home in the Sunshine State? The Florida Housing Finance Corporation has a variety of first-time homebuyer programs that can help you get an affordable first mortgage, plus a second one to help with your down payment and closing costs. Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of these Florida first-time homebuyer programs:

Florida Housing Homebuyer Loan Program

There are many federal and state first-time homebuyer programs and loans. The Florida Housing Homebuyer Loan Program offers affordable mortgages and automatically qualifies participating borrowers for one of Florida’s statewide down payment assistance programs. This program offers various types of 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loans with approved, participating lenders in all 67 counties in the state of Florida.

Requirements

  • Credit score of at least 640
  • Income limits vary by household size and county
  • Purchase price limits vary by county
  • Must complete approved homebuyer education
  • Must work with an approved program lender

Pros and cons

ProsCons

 Available throughout Florida

 No waiting to close: Does not run out of funds or have a waiting list

 Offers many loan options, including conventional, FHA, VA and USDA

 Available for a variety of property types including single-family, townhomes and mobile homes

 Unlocks access to Florida down payment and closing cost assistance programs

 Income and purchase-price requirements

 Must use an approved lender

 Cannot have owned a home in the past three years

 Borrowers with fair or poor credit may not qualify

 Get your free credit score with LendingTree Spring.

Florida Assist

Florida Assist, also known as FL Assist, is one of several mortgage down payment assistance programs (DPAs) available to Florida first-time homebuyers. The cost of a down payment can make homebuying a distant dream for some, but this program allows qualifying buyers to move into a new home without saving for months or years first. The Florida Assist program offers down payment help of up to $10,000 as a 0%, deferred second mortgage. It’s available on conventional, FHA, VA and USDA loans.

Requirements

  • Credit score of at least 640
  • Income limits vary by household size and county
  • Purchase price limits vary by county
  • Must also use a Florida Housing first 30-year mortgage

Pros and cons

ProsCons

 No monthly payment

 0% interest rate

 Works with conventional, FHA, VA and USDA loans

 Amount available may be higher than some other programs

 Not forgivable

 Borrowers with fair or poor credit may not qualify

 Must be paid back in full immediately if you sell, pay off, refinance or move

Florida HLP

The Florida Homeownership Loan Program, also known as Florida HLP, is another down payment assistance program that can help homebuyers get into their own home faster. If you’ve done an assessment of your situation and decided you’re ready to buy a home, but you don’t have enough saved for a down payment, this Florida program may help. It offers $10,000 as a 3% fully amortizing 15-year second mortgage.

Requirements

  • Credit score of at least 640
  • Income limits vary by household size and county
  • Purchase price limits vary by county
  • Must also use a Florida Housing first 30-year mortgage

Pros and cons

ProsCons

 Can help borrowers who don't qualify for deferred or forgivable second mortgage loans

 Low 3% interest rate

 Fully paid off in 15 years

 Amount offered may be more than some other programs

 Not forgivable

 Monthly payment

 Second mortgage payment may be considered in debt-to-income ratio during underwriting

 Not a 0% loan

 Remaining balance must be paid back immediately if you sell, refinance or move

FL PLUS

The FL PLUS programs, HFA Preferred and HFA Advantage PLUS, provide down payment and closing cost help in the form of a forgivable second mortgage for 3%, 4% or 5% of the total loan amount. The loan is forgiven at 20% a year over five years.

Requirements

  • Credit score of at least 640
  • Income limits vary by household size and county
  • Purchase price limits vary by county
  • Must also use a Florida Housing first 30-year mortgage

Pros and cons

ProsCons

 0% mortgage interest rate

 No second mortgage payments required

 Fully forgivable loan

 Relatively short time to forgiveness

 Income and purchase-price limits

 Must own and stay in the home for five years for full forgiveness

 Loan amount may be lower than with some other programs, depending on amount of first mortgage

Hometown Heroes

The Florida Hometown Heroes program offers a package of homebuying assistance for eligible community workforce employed full-time in the state. The program matches participants with an affordable mortgage, down payment assistance and help with mortgage closing costs. It’s available to frontline workers such as childcare employees, firefighters, teachers, police and active military or veterans.

Requirements

  • Credit score of at least 640
  • Income limits vary by household size and county
  • Purchase price limits vary by county

Pros and cons

ProsCons

 Below-market interest rates on FHA, VA, RD, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac first mortgage

 Reduced fees and closing costs

 Up to $35,000 (or 5% of loan) for down payment and closing costs as a 0%, non-amortizing deferred second mortgage

 No monthly payment on second mortgage

 Limited to eligible public service workers

 Second mortgage amount due in full immediately if you sell, refinance or move

 Second mortgage not forgivable

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Programs for first-time homebuyers have a list of requirements that may include a minimum credit score, maximum income and rules about the price of the home based on the median home prices in the area where you’re buying.

Here are the Florida first-time homebuyer program requirements:

  • Meet IRS definition of a first-time homebuyer (have not owned the home you’ve lived in for the past three years)
  • Credit score of 640 or higher
  • Complete approved homebuyer education class
  • Income below limits for county where home is located
  • Purchase price below limits for county where home is located

Some specific programs also will have their own requirements. For example, the Hometown Heroes program is available only for homebuyers in eligible public service jobs or for active military members or veterans.

Steps to apply for a first-time homebuyer program

Looking at first-time homebuyer programs can seem overwhelming, but it’s easier if you take it step by step. If you think you qualify, here’s a breakdown of the steps to apply for a Florida first-time homebuyer program:

  1. Check your credit. While you can buy a home with a credit score as low as 500, you’ll need a credit score of 640 or higher to qualify for Florida first-time homebuyer programs. That’s below the average credit score in Florida, which was 708 in 2023, according to Experian.
  2. Choose the right lender. To qualify for Florida first-time homebuyer programs, you’ll need to work with an approved lender. It’s smart to shop around because choosing the right mortgage lender can save you as much as $60,000 or more over the life of your loan.
  3. Get preapproved. Getting preapproved for a mortgage loan shows sellers that you’re serious and likely to be able to get a mortgage. During preapproval, the lender looks at factors such as your credit history, income, assets and debt. If you get the green light, they issue you a preapproval letter.
  4. Find the funds. Homebuyers typically need to have funds saved to cover a down payment plus closing costs, which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. If you lack enough cash, a Florida down payment assistance program may be able to help.
  5. Take a homebuying class. You’ll also need to take an approved homebuying class, which will teach you to navigate the homebuying process and buy a home you can afford. You can find an approved class by contacting the Florida Housing Finance Corporation or using the HUD housing counseling services tool.
  6. Pick a real estate agent. Before you begin looking at homes, find a real estate agent. The right real estate agent can help you find your dream home, put in an offer and negotiate a good deal on the home price.
  7. Finalize your loan. At this point, you’ll need to get official approval from your mortgage lender. During the final approval process, you’ll show the bank a purchase contract, get a home inspection to look for hidden problems and get an appraisal to gauge the value of the home.
  8. Close on your home. If everything is a go, you’ll take the final step in the process: Closing on the home. At closing, you’ll sign all the necessary paperwork and get the keys to your new home.

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There are different types of loans and grants available to help Florida first-time homebuyers swing the cost of a down payment and closing costs, which can be pricey. Some of these are forgivable while others have monthly payments or may need to be repaid in the future.

Deferred second mortgage

A deferred second mortgage, also known as a “soft second,” can help you cover a down payment and closing costs. You typically do not need to make any payments on a deferred second mortgage unless you sell or refinance your home. A deferred second mortgage may or may not be forgivable.

Forgivable second mortgage

A forgivable second mortgage is a loan taken to help with a down payment, closing costs or both. With a forgivable second mortgage, you typically don’t need to make any payments, and the loan is forgiven after you live in the home for a certain period of time.

Grant

A down-payment-assistance grant gives you a certain amount, usually a percentage of your home loan, to help with a down payment and closing costs. You don’t ever need to repay these funds.

Mortgage credit certificate

A mortgage credit certificate allows qualifying first-time homebuyers to get a federal tax credit on up to $2,000 in mortgage interest paid each year, plus they can get a deduction for the rest of the mortgage interest they pay. The actual credit amount is determined by the mortgage loan amount and interest rate.

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Keep these things in mind about DPA programs


A down-payment assistance program can offer a path to homeownership for those who don’t have enough money stashed away to cover a down payment and closing costs. But there are some important things to know before you sign.While some homebuyers may qualify for a grant, many DPA programs come in the form of second mortgage loans. And DPAs typically have income limits, timelines and rules about paying back the loan.For example, forgivable DPA may require you to live in the home for a certain number of years to get forgiveness. If you sell your house or refinance your mortgage before that time period ends, you may have to pay back all or part of the loan.

How much of a down payment do I need to buy a house in Florida?

The down payment you need to buy a house in Florida will depend on the cost of the home, the type of mortgage loan and whether you qualify for a mortgage down-payment-assistance program. However, taking a look at averages can help you get an idea of how much you may need. In Florida, the average down payment for first-time homebuyers was $33,272 in 2023, according to the latest LendingTree first-time homebuyer study.

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Can I qualify for down payment assistance in Florida?

You can qualify for down payment assistance if you meet the Florida Housing requirements, which include not having owned the home you’ve lived in for the past three years. You also must have a credit score of 640 or higher, must complete an approved homebuyer education class and must work with an approved lender. Both your home purchase price and income must fall below set limits.

How do I apply for Florida first-time homebuyer down payment assistance?

You must use a Florida Housing Finance Corporation first mortgage loan from a participating lender to qualify for down payment assistance. Start the process by using the FHFC Homebuyer Program Wizard tool, plugging in the number of people in your household and the name of your county. You’ll then get matched with down payment assistance programs, and you’ll see a “Find a Lender” button.

 Here’s what you need to know about the process of applying for a home loan.

Conventional loans

Conventional loans are mortgages not backed by a federal government entity such as the Federal Housing Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs or the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The different types of conventional loans include fixed-rate loans and adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs). Benefits of conventional loans may include competitive mortgage rates and modest down payment requirements, while downsides may include a higher credit score threshold .

FHA loans

FHA loans are mortgage loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration. The benefits of an FHA loan may include easier qualification and lower down payments. Also, FHA loan rates typically are lower than conventional loan rates. Downsides to FHA loans may include lower maximum loan limits and having to pay mortgage insurance that cannot be canceled.

VA loans

VA loans are mortgages backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans, service members and eligible surviving spouses may qualify for a VA home loan. VA loans offer special VA loan rates, limited closing costs, no down payment (though some lenders may require one) and no need to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) on the loan.

USDA loans

USDA loans are backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Though not as common as FHA loans and VA loans, a USDA loan can be a good option for a qualifying homebuyer, offering payment assistance to lower-income residents in rural areas for safe, clean housing.

The right first-time homebuyer loan for you depends on a variety of factors, including your credit score, income and the amount you have saved for a down payment and closing costs. Other criteria, such as whether you’re a veteran or live in a rural area, also may determine whether you qualify for certain types of loans.

Loan programBest for first-time homebuyers who:
ConventionalHave a credit score of 700+ to get best rates, middle-to-higher income and savings for up to a 20% down payment.
FHAHave a credit score of 580+, low-to-moderate income and need a lower down payment.
VAQualify as a veteran, service member or surviving spouse and need a lower down payment or help with closing costs.
USDALive in a rural area and ideally have a credit score of 640+, though some lenders may work with lower scores.

Home prices in Florida are on the rise, going up by 6.8% year over year from the end of 2022 to the end of 2023. Florida ranked 23rd among U.S. states for home price increases last year. Florida’s home price appreciation was slightly higher than the national increase in home prices: 6.5% last year.

But one Florida metro area came in first in the country for home price increases. Home prices in Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, the largest metro area in the state, rose the most of any metro area in the country at 13.8% year-over-year from the end of 2022 to the end of 2023. Another South Florida metro area, just an hour drive to the north, West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach, known for its white sand beaches, also saw steep home price increases during that time, coming in number nine in the country at 11.7% year over year.

In contrast, home prices in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro area rose only 3.6% during that time period, earning it a ranking of 80th out of the 100 largest metro areas in the country for home price growth. Known as a “waterway wonderland” due to its miles of canals, that area is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Ian in 2022, which is evident in its home price trends.

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Is there a first-time homebuyer tax credit in Florida?


The Florida Housing Finance Corporation no longer offers a mortgage credit certificate (MCC) program, but some local housing finance agencies may still have an MCC program that offers a tax credit to Florida first-time homebuyers. Furthermore, there is no longer a federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers, nor one available statewide.

The current mortgage rate trends in Florida are favorable to homebuyers. For example, the rates in Florida on both 30-year and 15-year fixed mortgages have trended downward since the start of the year. That’s good news for Florida homebuyers.

Current 30-year fixed mortgage rates are averaging: 7.52%

Current 15-year fixed mortgage rates are averaging: 6.83%

Today's Mortgage Rates

  • 6.91%
  • 6.87%
  • 7.65%
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