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2022 Rhode Island First-Time Homebuyer Programs

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Many first-time homebuyers struggle to afford the cost of homeownership. The state of Rhode Island offers a variety of both statewide and local programs that provide financial support to first-time homeowners. Some first-time homebuyer programs have eligibility requirements including minimum occupancy periods, so it’s important to know all the details before you pursue them.

Read on for more insight into how first-time homebuyer programs work, what the options are for Rhode Island residents and how to qualify for these programs.

Rhode Island statewide and local first-time homebuyer programs

First-time homebuyers living in Rhode Island have a variety of options when it comes to down payment assistance (DPA) programs on both the statewide and local levels. Each program offers varying levels of support and has unique qualification requirements.

Program nameAssistance amountAssistance typeWhere it’s available
City of Woonsocket, Rhode Island First Home Down Payment Assistance ProgramUp to $7,500Partially forgivable loanWoonsocket
Closing Cost Assistance ProgramUp to $3,000Forgivable grant after five yearsCranston
Down Payment Assistance ProgramUp to $5,000Forgivable grant after five yearsCranston
RIHousing Extra AssistanceThe lesser of up to 6% of the purchase price or $15,000Non-forgivable second mortgageRhode Island

What to know about different types of down payment assistance

There’s no set standard for how down payment assistance programs for first-time homebuyers must work, and each program provides different levels of support and has its own set of applicant qualifications. That being said, most programs are based on the following structures.

Grants

Grant-based programs don’t require you to repay the money you received for down payment assistance. It’s more common to come across grants offered through the state or local municipality. To qualify for a grant, applicants usually have to qualify for a mortgage loan first, and these mortgages can come with high interest rates to help cover the costs of the grant. Sometimes, grants will include requirements like having to live in the home for a certain amount of time.

Second mortgages

Second mortgages require you to obtain a regular mortgage (which is your first mortgage). The second mortgage (aka the down payment assistance) is placed behind the first mortgage and acts as a lien on the property. Sometimes this type of down payment assistance requires making payments on the second mortgage, but some programs forgive that loan partially or in full after the borrower meets minimum occupancy requirements.

How Rhode Island first-time homebuyer programs work

There are a few different first-time homebuyer programs specifically designed to aid Rhode Island residents. Each of these programs has its own unique application process, but you can generally expect to move through the following steps if you want to apply for one.

1. Meet all program requirements. Each program will have eligibility requirements based on factors such as income and recent homeownership, as well as if you will be the one to occupy the home. It’s best to familiarize yourself with these requirements before applying so you don’t waste time on a program you won’t qualify for.

2. Find a home in an eligible location. While certain first-time homebuyer programs work on a statewide level, others only apply to select counties, cities or communities. Do some research on not just statewide programs but also local ones.

3. Be aware of length-of-ownership restrictions. Some first-time homebuyer programs have occupancy requirements that state how long you must live in the home to benefit financially from the program. In some cases, you may need to repay all or some of the aid received if you don’t meet the length of ownership restrictions.

4. Undertake homeownership counseling or education. Some first-time homebuyer programs require participants to either undergo homeownership counseling or some form of homeowner education program that prepares them for the responsibilities associated with homeownership.

Rhode Island first-time homebuyer program requirements

Before you apply for any Rhode Island first-time homebuyer programs, it’s helpful to become familiar with the basic requirements of any programs for which you want to apply, which may include credit score minimums and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio maximums.

These are a few examples of what the requirements are like for select Rhode Island first-time homebuyer programs.

Program name Credit score minimumDTI ratio maximumMaximum income limitHow long you have to live in the home
City of Woonsocket, Rhode Island First Home Down Payment Assistance ProgramBased on lender requirements41%$91,350 for an eight-person household5 years
Closing Cost Assistance ProgramN/AN/A$91,350 for an 8-person household5 years
Down Payment Assistance ProgramN/AN/A$91,350 for an 8-person household5 years
RIHousing Extra Assistance620Depends on lender requirements$114,689 for a three-person householdN/A

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

First-time homebuyer programs generally have income restrictions that limit who can qualify for support. Certain programs have set dollar limits that correlate with household size. Other programs place limitations on income based on how much the applicant makes in comparison to local average income limits.

To learn more about Rhode Island income limits you can visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website and enter your state and county information.

National first-time homebuyer programs

If you can’t qualify for any state or local first-time homebuyer programs, there are programs that are available nationwide. Generally, you need to qualify for one of these nationwide loan programs in order to be eligible for one of the Rhode Island programs shared above, so it’s worth looking into these programs regardless. These loans aren’t exclusive to first-time homebuyers..

Conventional loans. A conventional loan generally comes from a private lender and requires a higher credit score than government-backed loans do — generally you will need a minimum of a 620 credit score. On the bright side, they tend to come with larger loan amounts.

FHA loans. A Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan is an example of a government-backed loan. FHA loans accept borrowers with lower incomes who may struggle to qualify for conventional loans. To qualify, borrowers must share proof of having a stable income over the past two years.

VA loans. VA loans from The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are a potential option for active-duty and veteran service members. Eligible applicants may be able to qualify to buy up to a four-unit dwelling (if used as a primary residence) without a down payment or private mortgage insurance (PMI).

USDA loans. Guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a USDA loan is another type of government loan. These loans are only for homes in rural areas and like VA loans, they don’t require a down payment or PMI.

FAQs about Rhode Island first-time homebuyer programs

Who qualifies as a first-time homebuyer in Rhode Island

Typically, you’re considered a first-time homebuyer if you haven’t owned a home in the past three years (ending on the date of purchase). However, it’s worth confirming the specific ownership qualifications of every program you want to apply for.

Can I qualify for down payment assistance in Rhode Island?

Yes, you can qualify for down payment assistance in Rhode Island if you find a program in which you can meet their specific eligibility requirements.

How much of a down payment do I need to buy a house in Rhode Island

How much of a down payment you need to make to buy a house in Rhode Island depends on the mortgage loan for which you apply. For example, with a VA loan, no down payment is required, but an FHA loan will require a down payment of 3.5% or more.

Home price trends in Rhode Island major areas

The cost of your home can affect what your monthly mortgage payments on a 30-year loan look like. For example, according to data from the National Association of Realtors, the median home price in the second quarter of 2021 for Newport County was $449,661, up 11.5% year-over year. This translated to a monthly mortgage payment of $1,706, up from $1,575 a year earlier. In Providence County, the median home price was $297,297, also up 11.5% year-over-year, with a mortgage payment of $1,128, from $1,041 the previous year.

 

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