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2022 Oregon First-Time Homebuyer Programs

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Being able to afford a property starts long before that first mortgage payment is due; you’ll first need to come up with the required down payment. Buyers purchasing their first home may want (or need) help coming up with that down payment. That’s where different first-time homebuyer programs in Oregon can come into play. As long as you meet certain requirements (regarding your income, location and property purchase price), these programs offer grants or zero-interest loans to cover a portion of your first home’s down payment. Here’s what you need to know.

Oregon statewide and local first-time homebuyer programs

There are a few different first-time homebuyer programs to choose from in Oregon, some of which offer down payment assistance while others give buyers access to lower-interest home loans. Some of these programs are statewide, while others may be limited to buyers in specific cities or counties.

Program nameAssistance amountAssistance typeWhere it’s available
OHCS Down Payment Assistance ProgramUp to $15,000Award types vary depending on the awarding programMultiple counties throughout the state
Cash Advantage Program*Up to 3% down payment cash assistanceCompetitive interest rate loan and cash for down payment assistanceStatewide
Rate Advantage Program*N/ACompetitive interest rate and lower monthly paymentsStatewide
Springfield Home Ownership ProgramUp to $7,000Interest-free loan, must be repaid when sold, refinanced or transferredSpringfield

*Both the Cash Advantage and Rate Advantage programs are part of the Oregon Bond Residential Loan Program. This program offers first-time homebuyers a potential zero cash down payment, competitive fixed interest rates  and 30-year loan terms.

What to know about different types of down payment assistance

Two common types of down payment assistance are grants and loans for down payment and closing costs.

  • Down payment assistance loans may charge low (or no) interest and may need to be repaid when the home is sold, refinanced or transferred, although some are entirely forgivable.
  • With a housing grant, you are simply awarded cash to pay your closing costs or down payment, rather than having a lien (as with a second mortgage) on your house. Some grants operate like forgivable loans when it comes to remaining in your house for many years. If you break the grant agreement, you may have to pay back all or some of the grant funds.

How Oregon first-time homebuyer programs work

Qualifying for a first-time homebuyer program in Oregon starts with getting approved for a home mortgage loan through an eligible lender. Here’s how you can expect the process to look:

  1. Apply for a mortgage loan. In order to qualify for any of the Oregon state first-time homebuyer programs, buyers need to first qualify for a home mortgage loan through a participating lender. An extensive network of mortgage lenders participate in OHCS programs throughout the state so there are many to choose from, whether you’re interested in a conventional, FHA, VA or USDA loan.
  2. Ensure the property meets purchase price limits. OHCS programs, such as the Oregon Bond Residential Loan Program, have purchase price limits that are used to qualify (or disqualify) buyers. If your property’s purchase price falls above this limit, you may be ineligible for the first-time homebuyer program.
  3. Complete any required homebuyer education classes. Certain programs require buyers to complete a homebuying or homeowner education course before they can qualify for down payment assistance.
  4. Meet income requirements for down payment assistance. You can expect that most — if not all — first-time homeowner programs will require you to meet income limits in order to be eligible. These income limits are based on factors such as your location and family size.
  5. Close on your new home. Once you’ve been approved for your loan and first-time buyer program application, it’s time to close on your home. This is also when your remaining down payment and closing costs are due, which will be paid to your lender.
  6. Move into the property as your primary residence. Each of the Oregon first-time homebuyer programs require you to reside in the home and use it as a primary residence once it’s been purchased. You may also be required to move in within a specific timeframe.

With the Oregon Bond Residential Loan Program, for instance, buyers are expected to use the home as their primary residence. If they intend to rent it out down the line, they will need to refinance the property through another mortgage loan.

Additionally, buyers may be subject to recapture of their down payment assistance if they sell the home within nine years of its purchase through the Residential Loan Program. Recapture is only applicable if the buyer’s income exceeds the annual limit in the year the home is sold, and if there is a gain (profit) made on the sale.

Oregon first-time homebuyer program requirements

While some first-time homebuyer programs have their own credit score, income and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio requirements, Oregon defers to the individual lenders. Each program works with a network of mortgage lenders throughout the state, each of which set their own eligibility requirements for buyers to meet.

With the OHCS down payment assistance program, for instance, potential buyers will need to work with organizations in their local area. These organizations have been awarded funds to use toward down payment programs, and can each set their own requirements and limits for eligibility.

Program name Credit score minimumDTI ratio maximumMaximum income limitHow long you have to live in home
OHCS Down Payment Assistance ProgramVaries by programVaries by programVaries by programVaries by program
Cash Advantage Program*Varies by lenderVaries by lenderVaries by county and household sizeN/A
Rate Advantage Program*Varies by lenderVaries by lenderVaries by county and household sizeN/A
Springfield Home Ownership ProgramVaries by lenderVaries by lender$28,400 (one person) to $85,750 (eight or more)N/A

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

Down payment and closing costs assistance programs for first-time homebuyers generally set limits on the buyer’s income. If a buyer makes too much money (according to their location and family size), they may be ineligible for the program entirely.

These programs’ income limits are usually based on the median family income for that fiscal year, which are set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). To see these limits for your area, you can check out HUD’s median income family lookup tool.

National first-time homebuyer programs

In order to apply and qualify for an Oregon first-time homebuyer program, buyers will first need to qualify for a mortgage loan through one of the national home loan programs. These mortgage loans are not limited to first-time buyers, and each have their own eligibility requirements, limits and network of lenders.

Conventional loans. Conventional loans can be conforming or non-conforming, depending on whether they follow the guidelines set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These loans can be some of the most affordable, but often have stricter approval guidelines. They are offered by a wide variety of lenders, from national banks to local credit unions and financial institutions. Fannie Mae HomeReady® and Freddie Mac Home Possible® programs are two options for a conventional mortgage.

FHA loans. FHA loans are offered by various lenders but are backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Because of this, they allow for down payments as low as 3.5%, as long as buyers meet certain credit score requirements. These loans may be easier to obtain (compared to conventional loans) but are often more expensive.

VA loans. Eligible active duty and veteran service members may opt for a VA loan, which is backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These loans allow for 0% down payments and competitive interest rates for buyers, but may also have stricter requirements around things such as the home appraisal.

USDA loans. Buyers in eligible, rural areas who choose to purchase an eligible home may qualify for a USDA-backed home loan. These loans offer a down payment as low as 0% to buyers who meet the location, income, and credit score requirements of the program. Income with these loans is limited to 115% of the median household income for that area.

FAQs about Oregon’s first-time homebuyer programs

Who qualifies as a first-time homebuyer in Oregon?

The Oregon first-time homebuyer programs are intended for buyers who are purchasing their first home. The goal is to make homeownership a possibility for more residents, especially those who don’t already have their own property and aren’t sure how to cover the upfront costs involved.

To qualify, you generally can’t hold an ownership interest in another home. According to HUD, a first-time homebuyer is someone who does not, and has not, held ownership interest in another property for the three years preceding this home purchase. Exceptions include those who have only owned property with a former spouse, or those who own a home that is not permanently affixed (such as a mobile home).

Can I qualify for down payment assistance in Oregon?

Qualifying for homebuying assistance in Oregon depends on the individual program and/or lender’s requirements. For example, the Oregon down payment assistance program actually involves many different programs in specific locations. These programs can set their own eligibility and application requirements.

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

The down payment necessary when buying a house in Oregon depends on the mortgage program chosen by the buyer. These programs have their own requirements, and may also use factors like your credit history to set their individual requirements.

Conventional loans often have down payment terms ranging from 5% to 20%, depending on the borrower’s credit history. USDA and VA loans may allow for 0% down, while FHA loans accept down payments as low as 3.5%, depending on the borrower’s credit.

Home price trends in Oregon’s major areas

Home prices in Oregon have steadily trended upward in recent years, resulting in median home sale prices that are at an all-time high. The more expensive a home, though, the more it will cost the buyer each month when they make their monthly mortgage payments.

According to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), homes in Oregon have certainly followed this trend. In Multnomah County, part of the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro metro area, median home prices rose 18.9% from the fourth quarter of 2020 to the fourth quarter of 2021, to $531,245. This means an average monthly mortgage payment of $2,036, up from $1,654 in the previous year. In Marion County, where the state capital of Salem is located, median home prices rose 20.7% to $372,197. The monthly mortgage payment rose to $1,427 from $1,142.

 

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