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Many people dream of owning a home, but it can be difficult to save enough money for a down payment and closing costs. Fortunately, federal, state and local governments offer a variety of programs to help people purchase their first home.

Federal Programs
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers insured loans, which means that the lender will not lose money if the borrower defaults on the loan. FHA loans offer smaller down payments and lower closing costs than other types of loans and have competitive interest rates. Down payment requirements depend on the borrower’s credit score.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sponsors the Good Neighbor Next Door program, which helps police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and teachers buy homes. In regions designated as “revitalization areas,” buyers can receive a significant discount on the purchase price, as long as they agree to live in the house for at least three years.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also offers assistance to homebuyers. The USDA guarantees loans for homes in rural areas. The properties do not need to be used as farms. Income limits and down payment requirements vary.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are entities sponsored by the federal government that offer loans to people with low- and moderate-incomes through local lenders. The loans are offered with low down payments and competitive interest rates.

Assistance for Veterans
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers home-buying assistance for active-duty members of the military, veterans and surviving spouses. The VA partially guarantees the loans and offers them with no down payment, no minimum credit score, no private mortgage insurance and competitive interest rates.

The VA also offers the Native American Veteran Direct Loan. The program helps Native American veterans and their spouses purchase houses located on federal trust lands. These loans do not require down payments or private mortgage insurance and come with low closing costs and fixed rates for 30 years.

Help With Home Improvements
Many people would like to make their homes more energy efficient to reduce their long-term energy costs. The Energy-Efficient Mortgage program allows buyers to make upgrades to improve energy efficiency without raising their down payments. The loans are insured through the FHA or VA.

Some first-time homebuyers look for inexpensive fixer-uppers. The Section 203(k) rehabilitation program, which is backed by the FHA, allows buyers to borrow money to make improvements and includes the costs in the total value of the mortgage.

Other Programs
Many states and cities also offer programs designed to help first-time homebuyers. You can learn about these programs by visiting your state or local government’s website or talking to a local real estate agent or a HUD-approved housing counseling agency.

Research Available Options
Buying a first home can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Several programs are available to help first-time buyers in a variety of circumstances. Explore your options to get help so you can be on the road to buying the home of your dreams.

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