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Do government programs exist that can help me finance a home?

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Yes, although many are designed to assist first-time homebuyers, generally defined by lenders as people who have not owed a home in three years.

HUD offers several programs through the FHA that require down payments of as little as 3 percent. Veterans can get loans from the VA to buy, build, or improve a home, as well as refinance an existing loan at interest rates that are usually lower than those on conventional loans.

VA guaranteed loans are made by private lenders. The guarantee made by the VA protects the lender against loss if you fail to repay the loan, which also requires no down payment.

Most states have a housing finance agency that offers help for first-time homebuyers. And many local governments offer down payment assistance for first-time buyers.

Stay in touch with federal, state, and local housing offices regularly. They offer many programs that come and go based on a changing economy and political administrations. Some city and county programs are available only in targeted neighborhoods where local leaders are trying to spark reinvestment or increase the homeownership rate.

Funds can disappear quickly, so stay on top on what is going on.

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