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2022 Hawaii First-Time Homebuyer Programs

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The Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC) offers first-time homebuyer programs that can help you on your path to homeownership. There are qualification restrictions, such as income and location limits, but these programs can make your first home in Hawaii possible.

Hawaii statewide and local first-time homebuyer programs

The HHFDC offers housing programs across the state of Hawaii. These programs include mortgage credit certificates — which reduce the amount of federal income tax you pay, and affordable housing units that are available for purchase through a lottery system. Other Hawaiian counties offer programs specifically for their residents.

Program nameAssistance amountAssistance typeWhere it’s available
HHFDC Mortgage Credit Certificate20% of your annual mortgage interest will be a direct federal tax credit; The remaining 80% will continue to qualify as an itemized tax deduction.Tax subsidyStatewide
HHFDC Affordable Resale ProgramVariesGovernment -supported housingSelect government-sponsored developments
Maui first-time homebuyer down payment assistance programUp to $30,000 or 5% of the purchase priceGrantThe county of Maui
Kaua‘i homebuyer loan programVariesLow-cost mortgageThe county of Kaua‘i
City and County of Honolulu down payment loan programsVariesForgivable second mortgageCity or county of Honolulu

What to know about different types of down payment assistance

  • Tax subsidy. A reduction in tax to reduce the cost of something. In this case, your federal income tax is reduced, which increases your income to help you qualify for a mortgage and make the payments.
  • Government-supported affordable housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines affordable housing as housing that costs no more than 30% of a person’s gross income, including utilities. With governmental support, select organizations own housing units that are reserved and price-controlled for people with a lower income.
  • Grant. A grant provides money directly toward the price of the house, reducing your down payment and loan amount. However, grants come with requirements: you will likely have to live there for a minimum number of years and may have to repay the funds back if you refinance or sell beforehand.
  • Low-cost mortgage. A low-cost mortgage may have little to no fees and/or little to no interest rate and/or require a small down payment.
  • Forgivable second mortgage. A second mortgage can cover the costs you may otherwise have to pay upfront out of pocket, such as the down payment and closing costs. With this type of assistance, the costs are financed for a set time, a lien is secured against your home and you’ll be required to live there for a set time period. In most cases, you don’t have to pay anything. However, if you refinance or sell before the set time period is up, you’ll have to repay a portion of the money you received.

How Hawaii first-time homebuyer programs work

Hawaii’s housing agency offers brochures for each of its programs. However, more local or special homebuyer programs may be funded at different times throughout the year, so check with the local nonprofits and housing authorities where you’re interested in buying to see what’s available.

Here are five common steps you’ll likely take in the process of qualifying for a Hawaii first-time homebuyer program:

  1. Decide on a program. Look at the section below to see the program requirements and limits to determine which Hawaii first-time homebuyer program is right for you.
  2. Complete a homebuyer education class. You must submit a certificate of completion from an HUD-approved homebuyer education course before you can be eligible for the program.
  3. Be aware of the timeline. Some programs have strict timelines once you’re approved. Maui’s first-time homebuyer down payment assistance program requires that applicants submit a home purchase contract within 45 days and close on the property within 90 days.
  4. Cross your fingers. If your approval depends on a lottery, do whatever good luck practices you think best!
  5. Know the payback requirements. You may need to live in the home as your primary residence and keep the same mortgage to avoid repaying the assistance you receive. If you sell or refinance the house before a set time period, you may owe money.

Hawaii first-time homebuyer program requirements

Check out the basic requirements for these programs before you take a class or start filling out paperwork. Here’s a table to help you determine which one(s) may be the best fit:

Program name Credit score minimumDTI ratio maximumMaximum income limitHow long you have to live in home
HHFDC Mortgage Credit Certificate 62043%$99,800 to $166,3929 years
HHFDC Affordable Resale ProgramUnknownUnknown$58,640 to $193,340Not specified
Maui first-time homebuyer down payment assistance programUnknownUnknown$101,360 to $190,960Not specified
Kaua‘i homebuyer loan programUnknownUnknown$77,70020 years
City and County of Honolulu down payment loan programsUnknownUnknown$67,700 to $143,04210 years

**Credit score requirements can vary based on lender
***Income limits vary based on county, first mortgage type and family size

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

The local median income limits have a lot to do with your eligibility for first-time buyer programs and other homebuying assistance. The most up-to-date data for Hawaii income limits is available on the HUD’s lookup tool.

National first-time homebuyer programs

In order to use any of the programs listed above, you first need a mortgage. There are several types of national, government-backed loan programs that offer great benefits and/or have lower minimum requirements. Hawaii’s first-time homebuyer programs can be used in conjunction with the following loan types:

  • Conventional loans. Conventional mortgages are offered by private lenders and aren’t backed by any government agency. They typically have higher requirements but cost less over the life of the loan.
  • FHA loans. If a lower credit score and/or a higher debt-to-income ratio prevents you from qualifying for a conventional loan, you may still be able to secure a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). A downside is that you’ll have to pay two types of FHA mortgage insurance premiums.
  • VA loans. Homebuyers with ties to the U.S. armed forces may be able to get a mortgage backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA loans don’t have loan limits, and don’t require a down payment or mortgage insurance.
  • USDA loans. Borrowers looking for a home in designated rural areas who make low to moderate income could qualify for a mortgage backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a USDA loan. Low interest rates and 100% financing is available.

FAQs about Hawaii’s first-time homebuyer programs

Who qualifies as a first-time homebuyer in Hawaii?

In most cases, you count as a first-time homebuyer if you haven’t owned a home in the past three years. If you were a cosigner or co-owner of a house within that time frame, contact the program administrators to find out if you’re eligible.

Can I qualify for down payment assistance in Hawaii?

You could qualify for down payment assistance if you meet the program’s requirements and, in some cases, you win a lottery. A few programs will draw a lottery from a pool of qualified applicants to determine who receives the assistance.

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

If you’re eligible for one of the low-cost mortgage programs listed above or you qualify for a VA or USDA loan, you don’t need a down payment. Other lenders typically require as little as 3% of the home’s price as a down payment. The minimum FHA down payment requirement is 3.5%.

Home price trends in Hawaii’s major areas

Home prices in three counties, Hawaii, Kauai and Maui, rose by 9.5% over the last year, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. This drove monthly mortgage payments up by $97, $158 and $177, respectively. Honolulu County saw a 5.8% ($79) increase, while Kalawao County had no changes.

 

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