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2023 Illinois First-Time Homebuyer Programs

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

Illinois first-time homebuyers can take advantage of the generous down payment help available through the state. In this article, we’ll review some statewide homebuyer assistance programs available in the Prairie State and what criteria you need to qualify for them. To qualify for most programs, you’ll need a 640 credit score or higher and meet income limits — however, but in Illinois, unlike in some other states, repeat buyers can apply for assistance, too.

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First-time homebuyer programs in Illinois

The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) offers several down payment assistance programs for first-time homebuyers and repeat buyers, all structured as second mortgages. It’s important to know that in order to access any of these programs, you’ll need to qualify for a first IHDA mortgage.

IHDA Mortgage

An IHDA first mortgage works similarly to a conventional mortgage. One important requirement: You’ll have to work with an IHDA-approved mortgage lender. Depending on the county, many IHDA first mortgages provide nearly 100% of the purchase price.


  • Credit score: 640
  • DTI ratio max: 45%
  • Income limit on one-two-unit dwellings: $97,600 in most counties, a range in others; up to $114,100 in Kendall County

Pros and cons


  Down payment assistance available

  Interest rate may be lower than a traditional mortgage

  Offers 30-year fixed rate

  The property must be a single-family dwelling

  With little or no down payment, it’ll take longer to build equity than with a traditional mortgage

  Must meet income and credit score thresholds

IHDAccess Forgivable Mortgage

IHDAccess Forgivable home loans allow qualified recipients to receive 4% of the purchase price up to $6,000 for closing costs and a down payment. IHDAccess Forgivable loans function as a second mortgage, which means that it would act as a second lien on your primary 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage.

If you qualify, you won’t be responsible for monthly payments, but you are required to live in the home for 10 years. If you refinance or sell the home before then, you’ll have to pay back the loan balance.


  • Credit score: 640
  • DTI ratio: 45%
  • Income limit on one-two-unit dwellings: $97,600 in most counties, a range in others; up to $114,100 in Kendall County
  • Must live in the home for 10 years to avoid payment

Pros and cons


  Available for all mortgage types, including FHA, VA, USDA, HFA Preferred and FHLMC HFA Advantage

  No monthly payments

  Available to repeat homebuyers

  Second mortgage ends after 10 years

  Must live in the home for 10 years to avoid making payments

  Can’t refinance the home within the 10-year window

  May have to pay mortgage insurance

IHDAccess Deferred

An IHDAccess Deferred loan provides 5% of the purchase price up to $7,500 for closing costs or towards a down payment. This interest-free loan is deferred for the life of your mortgage. This means you won’t need to pay it off until you’ve sold your home or refinanced your first mortgage.


  • Credit score: 640
  • DTI ratio: 45%
  • Income limit on one-two-unit dwellings: $97,600 in most counties, a range in others; up to $114,100 in Kendall County

Pros and cons


  Interest-free loan

  Payment deferred until you refinance or sell your home

  Repeat homebuyers may qualify

  You must repay the loan

  Homebuyers over a certain income threshold do not qualify

  Must be used with a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage

  Manufactured homes not allowed

IHDAccess Repayable

When you take out an IHDAccess Repayable loan, you qualify for down payment or closing cost assistance up to 10% of the purchase price up to $10,000. This interest-free loan acts as a second mortgage and must be paid down every month; the life of the loan is 10 years.


  • Credit score: 640
  • DTI ratio: 64%
  • Income limit on one-two-unit dwellings: $97,600 in most counties, a range in others; up to $114,100 in Kendall County

Pros and cons


  Zero interest loan

  Can borrow up to $10,000

  Available to first-time and repeat buyers

  Loan isn’t forgiven

  Monthly payments required

  Monthly amount could impact your debt-to-income ratio

Opening Doors

Opening Doors (also called Abriendo Puertas) was designed to help serial renters, including DACA recipients, become homeowners. This IDHA program offers qualified home seekers an affordable 30-year first mortgage with a zero-interest, plus a forgivable second mortgage for $6,000 to use for a down payment or closing costs. Borrowers must remain in their home for at least five years before the second loan is forgiven. Note: the program was suspended on March 7, 2023.


  • Credit score: 640
  • DTI ratio: N/A
  • Income requirements: N/A

Pros and cons


  Forgivable after five years

  Zero interest

  Available to DACA recipients

  New construction allowed

  Program is suspended as of March 2023

  Home must be primary residence

Illinois first-time homebuyer qualifications

To qualify for a first-time homebuyer programs in Illinois:

  • Your credit score must be at least 640
  • Your DTI ratio can’t exceed 45%
  • Your lender must be approved by the program
  • You must take a homebuyer education course
  • Get your first mortgage via IHDA
  • Your income may not exceed the limits set by the program

If you think you might qualify for one of Illinois first-time homebuyer programs, take these steps to apply:

  Step 1: Find an approved IHDA lender. If you want to qualify for any form of down payment assistance, you must use a lender approved by the Illinois Housing Development Authority to originate your IHDA loan. You can use the IHDA mortgage website to find an IHDA lender in your county.

  Step 2: Get prequalified. Getting prequalified with an approved loan officer will help you decide how much money you can borrow. In addition, it will show you how much the loan will ultimately cost, including interest rates and fees. You’ll then need to submit financial paperwork to your loan officer. Consider meeting with different lenders to find your best match.

  Step 3: Take a homebuyer education course. To close on an IHDA loan, you must take a homebuyer education course that meets the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards or the National Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and Counseling. You can search for a course on the IHDA website.

  Step 4: Search for a real estate agent to help you find a home. After you’re prequalified, you can shop for a home in your price range with the help of a knowledgeable agent who can help you navigate your home purchase. If you find a home you love, an agent can help you negotiate your offer price, get the home inspected and set up an appraisal if your offer is accepted.

  Step 5: Decide and apply for the type of mortgage and down payment assistance you want.
All of the IHDA mortgage assistance programs have slightly different criteria for repayment. Like any mortgage, your financial information will be sent to an underwriter to make sure you are qualified for the mortgage. When you’re approved for your first mortgage, you can apply for a down payment assistance program.

  Step 6: Close on the loan. The first step to getting the keys to your new home is to close on your mortgage. Once all your paperwork is signed and approved, the home is yours.


If you receive a time-sensitive form of assistance and then sell or refinance your home before the period ends, you may be subject to a “recapture tax.” However, the IHDA states online that it’ll reimburse homeowners required to pay this tax.

Understanding Illinois first-time homebuyer down payment assistance

When you buy a home, you’ll usually need to make a down payment of at least 3% or 3.5% of the total cost of the home. Down payment assistance programs can help you cover the down payment amount. Illinois assistance programs are available in a few formats:

Deferred second mortgage

Deferred loan funds can be used as down payment assistance in the form of a second mortgage. This kind of loan doesn’t usually need to be paid back until the owner sells or refinances.

Forgivable second mortgage

A forgivable second mortgage doesn’t cost you anything — no interest or payments — if you remain in your home without selling or refinancing for the agreed amount of time, usually a period of five to 10 years.


A cash grant may cover a percentage of the mortgage and doesn’t need to be paid back.

Mortgage credit certificate

A mortgage credit certificate can be used to take a tax credit capped at $2,000, equal to a specific percentage of an annual mortgage.


The State of Illinois requires homebuyers to fall below certain household income limits in order to utilize its first-time homebuyer programs. These limits are based on the median income of your county. As of 2023, income limits for households with three or more people (after taking the mortgage credit certificate) are:

  • Most counties: $97,750
  • Menard, Sangamon counties: $98,325
  • Champaign, Ford, Piatt counties: $99,360
  • DeKalb County: $100,740
  • Grundy County: $103,845
  • Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will counties: $107,180
  • McLean County: $109.595
  • Kendall County: $123,395

Find your county’s median income by using HUD’s median income family lookup tool. In addition, you should know that several home buyer assistance programs are contingent on you staying in your home for a specific period. If you move out or refinance before the term ends, you’d need to repay the loan in full.

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

You’ll need to put down at least 3% of the purchase price. You may be able to obtain a grant or use a first-time homebuyer assistance program to help cover the cost.

Can I qualify for down payment assistance in Illinois?

To qualify for down payment assistance in Illinois, you’ll likely need a credit score of 640 or higher. You’ll then need to complete a homebuyer education course, be approved for a first mortgage through IHDA, meet the income limits in your county and have a debt-to-income ratio of 45% or below. Unlike many other states, repeat buyers are eligible for down payment assistance programs in Illinois.

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

You can apply by visiting the IHDA website and connecting with an approved lender who can help guide you through the process. Once you’ve settled on a lender, you’ll need to share financial documents, like W-2s and tax returns, decide how much tomorrow and fill out a mortgage application. You may be able to do this online, over the phone or in person.

Other first-time homebuyer loan programs

Conventional loans

Conventional loans aren’t part of a government program. Most conventional loans require at least a 3% down payment. However, if you don’t have the cash for a large down payment, Fannie Mae HomeReady® and Freddie Mac Home Possible® each offer down payment assistance for low- to moderate-income borrowers.

FHA loans

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures a type of mortgage called an FHA loan. It allows borrowers to offer down payments as low as 3.5%, with a credit score of 580 or higher. Borrowers with credit scores between 500 and 580 can still use an FHA loan but may need to put down 10% of the purchase price.

VA loans

VA loans are offered to military service members and veterans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These types of loans have no required minimum credit score and don’t require a down payment.

USDA loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers USDA loans designed to help low-to-middle-income families. There are income limits to qualify for one, and you must purchase your home in a USDA-approved rural area.

What are the best first-time homebuyer loans?

There is no one-size-fits-all home loan. The best one will depend on your financial situation and other circumstances. A certified HUD housing counselor (800-569-4287) may be able to give you free or low-cost advice on purchasing your home. In addition, they can offer you information if you’re facing homelessness or the foreclosure of your home.

Home price trends in Illinois’ major areas

The value of a home can often vary between counties in a state, and that applies in Illinois. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, in the third quarter of 2022 — the most recent data available — Cook County (home to Chicago) had a median home value of $323,470; this increased 7.98% from $299,571 in the fourth quarter of 2021. Chicagoland suburb DuPage County had a median home value of nearly $395,000 in Q3 2022, up from $363,000 at the end of 2021 — an 8.86% increase. Meanwhile, in rural Pope County, the Q3 2022 median home value was $128,499, increasing by 20.28% from Q4 2021’s $106,836.

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

Yes. First-time buyers in Illinois may qualify for a mortgage credit certificate (MCC), which allows them to claim 10% to 50% of the mortgage interest paid in a tax year, capped at $2,000.

What are the current mortgage rate trends in Illinois?

Mortgage rates are higher than they were a year ago. As of late March 2023, the average interest rate for a mortgage in the U.S. is around 6.42%. However, you can view rates specific to Illinois and your town or city on the LendingTree mortgage rates page.

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