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2022 First-Time Homebuyer Programs in Washington

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First-time homebuyers in Washington state may be eligible for an array of programs including down payment assistance, low-interest mortgage loans and tax credits meant to encourage people to buy a home. To qualify for most of these programs, buyers must meet income limits, take a homebuyer education class and live in the home as their primary residence. Often, you must stay in the house for a minimum number of years or repay the financial benefit if you move, sell or refinance early. Here’s what you need to know if you are considering a home purchase in Washington.

Washington statewide and local first-time homebuyer programs

Washington residents may be eligible for one of several statewide, regional or local programs for first-time homebuyers. Two resources to help you find homebuyer programs and understand their requirements are the Washington State Housing Finance Commission and an HUD list of community contacts in Washington for homebuyer programs.

Program nameAssistance amountAssistance typeWhere it’s available
Home Advantage Down Payment AssistanceUp to 4% or 5% of total mortgage amountSecond mortgage with 0% interest rate, deferred paymentsStatewide
Opportunity Down Payment AssistanceUp to $15,000Second mortgage with 1% interest rate, deferred paymentsStatewide
Seattle Down Payment Assistance Up to $55,000Second mortgage with 3% interest rate, deferred paymentsSeattle
Bellingham Down Payment AssistanceUp to $40,000Second mortgage with 3% interest, deferred paymentsCity of Bellingham
EnergySpark Home Loan¼ percent on mortgage rateReduced interest rate on first mortgageStatewide

What to know about different types of down payment assistance 

One of the biggest challenges for most homebuyers is to accumulate the cash required for a down payment. Multiple programs are in place to help residents of Washington accomplish their goal of becoming a first-time homebuyer. In Washington, homebuyers who qualify for loan programs with lower interest rates and lower down payment requirements may also be eligible for down payment assistance.

Typically, down payment assistance in Washington is in the form of a second mortgage loan at a low interest rate ranging from 0% to 3%. In addition to the low interest rate, most of these second loans offer deferred payments for 30 years, which keeps monthly costs more affordable. The loan and any accumulated interest must be repaid when the homeowner sells their home or refinances.

How Washington first-time homebuyer programs work

The process of applying and qualifying for a first-time homebuyer program in Washington starts with finding the right program for your needs. In addition to statewide programs, there are often regional and local first-time homebuyer programs that may offer benefits such as down payment assistance or low-interest mortgages. State and local housing agencies will have the most current information on homeownership programs in Washington.

To participate in a homeownership program in Washington, take the following steps:

  1. Take a homebuyer education class. Most first-time homebuyer programs require you to complete an online or in-person homebuyer education class. The information should be useful to you even if you don’t qualify for homeowner assistance.
  2. Check out the income limits for your area. Most first-time homebuyer programs have limits on your income and other guidelines to meet to qualify.
  3. Find a lender with experience with homebuyer programs in Washington. Homebuyer programs require special training for lenders, so check the list of preferred lenders in Washington to find one in your area who can help you navigate the steps.
  4. Understand repayment requirements. Some programs require homebuyers to live in the home they are buying for a certain period of time and to repay the assistance under specific guidelines.

Washington first-time homebuyer program requirements

Guidelines for first-time homebuyer programs vary according to rules set by the housing agency. These requirements may change, so it’s best to check with your lender or the housing agency providing the program for up-to-date rules.

Program name Credit score minimumDTI ratio maximumMaximum income limitHow long you have to live in home
Home Advantage Down Payment Assistance620Set by lender$160,000n/a
Opportunity Down Payment AssistanceDepends on loan programDepends on loan program$50,000 to $90,500, depending on county and size of householdNine years
Seattle Down Payment AssistanceDepends on loan programDepends on loan program$64,000 to $115,700, depending on household sizen/a
Bellingham Down Payment AssistanceDepends on loan programDepends on loan program$47,800 to $90,100, depending on household sizen/a
EnergySpark Home Loan620Depends on loan programUnder $160,000n/a

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

In addition to being a first-time homebuyer, you typically need to meet income limits to qualify for homebuyer assistance programs, which are frequently designed to help people in low- to moderate-income households buy their first home. Whether the funds for these programs come from state or federal resources, first-time homebuyer assistance programs typically follow HUD income limit guidelines, which vary by location and household size, and are updated annually. You can use HUD’s median income lookup tool to find out the limits in your area.

National first-time homebuyer programs

Most first-time homebuyer programs in Washington function as a supplement to a regular mortgage loan. That means that borrowers usually must qualify for one of the loan programs below in addition to qualifying for the specific state or local first-time homebuyer program in Washington. The loan programs listed below are not exclusive to first-time homebuyers.

Conventional loans. Conventional loans refer to mortgages available from a variety of lenders that meet guidelines established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, such as loan limits and minimum credit scores. Typically, you’re required to pay private mortgage insurance on a conventional loan unless you make a down payment of 20% or more. Examples of conventional first time homebuyer loans include the Fannie Mae HomeReady® and Freddie Mac Home Possible® programs.

FHA loans. Many first-time homebuyers choose an FHA mortgage, which is insured by the Federal Housing Administration. FHA loans are generally easier to qualify for, which appeals to buyers with a lower credit score or a higher debt-to-income ratio. FHA loans require a down payment of 3.5% and require two types of mortgage insurance, paid upfront and monthly.

VA loans. Mortgages insured by the Veterans Affairs department are available to veterans and active members of the military. VA loans offer two main benefits: They don’t require a down payment or mortgage insurance. In addition, VA loans don’t have any limits on the amount that can be borrowed as long as the borrower can prove they can afford the payments.

USDA loans. USDA loans are popular with first-time buyers because they don’t require a down payment. These mortgages are a program of the federal Dept. of Agriculture to increase homeownership rates in rural areas, particularly among low and moderate income households. Borrowers must purchase a home within a designated rural area and are subject to income limits.

FAQs about Washington’s first-time homebuyer programs

Who qualifies as a first-time homebuyer in Washington?

The definition of a first-time homebuyer in Washington follows the definition established by the federal government. In HUD’s definition, a first-time homebuyer hasn’t owned a home in the three years prior to the closing date on their home. In addition, a first-time homebuyer includes someone who has only owned a home with a former spouse.

Can I qualify for down payment assistance in Washington?

Qualifying for down payment assistance in Washington depends on several factors, including whether you meet the household income limits for a program. You’ll also need to qualify for a mortgage and to take a homebuyer education class. Down payment assistance programs must be funded, so sometimes even if you qualify for help you may have to wait for the program to be funded.

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

The amount of your down payment depends on the mortgage program you choose. For example, you won’t need to make any down payment with a VA or USDA loan. FHA loans require 3.5% down payment and conventional loans can require as little as 3% for a down payment. Even with down payment assistance, some first-time homebuyer programs in Washington require a minimal down payment from the borrower.

Home price trends in Washington’s major areas

Home prices have been rising in Washington for years, and Seattle is known as one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. But there’s a wide range of home prices across the state. For example, in Spokane County, the median home price in the second quarter of 2021 was $328,400, according to the National Association of Realtors. This translates to a monthly mortgage payment of $1,246 with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. In Pierce County, home to Tacoma, the median home price was $425,613 in the second quarter of 2021. This means a typical monthly payment of $1,615. In King County, home to Seattle, the median home price was $755,784 in the second quarter of 2021, with a mortgage payment of $2,868.

 

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