When speaking with clients and friends, saving money for a downpayment and closing costs is the # 1 reason people are holding off on purchasing a home. Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or have previously owned a home, this can be a big hurdle. But fear not! There is a lot of help out there. You just need to know where to look and what you’re looking for. I came up with a trusty list of some of my favorite homebuyer assistance grants and loan programs. With a little help, your dream of owning a home may not be as far off as you thought!
There are a few things to keep in mind about all of the programs and grants listed below:
- All of these programs must be applied to primary residence purchases only. No investment properties qualify.
- While commonly thought of as first-time homebuyer programs, all of these programs only require that you currently do not own a home and haven’t owned a home in the last 3 years.
- You cannot receive any cash back at settlement for any reason. Unfortunately, none of these programs or lenders will pay YOU to buy a house, but they can put a significant amount towards your purchase!
- Many of these programs can be combined. I’ve had buyers qualify for First Front Door, Philly First Home, and the NOP program and bring as little as $3,500 total to buy their home.
- Read the fine print. You want to look into if the grant must be re-paid in part or in full if you sell the property before a certain length of ownership. Know that if you sell before the required length of ownership that you’ll be repaying at least some of that grant money. Your Realtor can help you understand the terms and conditions.
- Most of these programs require some type of homebuyer counseling to be completed to qualify. Sometimes the counseling for 1 program can fulfill the counseling requirement for another. These may be in person or online sessions and are informative and painless.
- Lastly, the requirements listed in this article are based on information pulled from May 2020. The financial and geographic information is subject to change based on data from the census tract and other resources. Philly Home Girls are always researching and staying updated on the current requirements, we can help you navigate the up-to-date information.
FIRST FRONT DOOR
A grant subsidy providing a maximum of $5,000 to be used toward closing costs and down payment assistance (For every $1 contributed, FFD will provide qualified first-time homebuyers $3 in assistance, up to a maximum of $5,000.)
- Be a first-time homebuyer — meaning you have not owned a home within the past three years or owned a home only while married but not as a single person within the last three years. This includes a married couple if either has not owned a home in the past three years.
- Secure a first mortgage through a participating lender, such as Bryn Mawr Trust. Ask your PHG realtor for preferred lenders!
- Have an income at or below 80 percent of the area median income and not have assets in excess of $15,000 (excluding retirement accounts)
- Not be a student working less than 30 hours per week.
- Complete at least four hours of homeownership counseling prior to purchasing the home.
- Agree to maintain the home for five years in order to retain the full amount of the grant. If the home is sold prior to five years, some of the grant subsidies may need to be repaid.
Learn more about First Front Door.
NEIGHBORHOOD OPPORTUNITY PROGRAM
Designed to assist individuals and families with limited income, or who are purchasing in low- and moderate-income areas, realize their dreams of homeownership. Put as little as 3% down with no private monthly mortgage insurance!
- Low down payment options – up to 97% financing
- No Private Mortgage Insurance required
- Discount on closing costs – reduced fees
- Minimal reserves – flexible guidelines
- Seller’s assist up to 6% depending on the loan-to-value
- Competitive mortgage rates
- If the property is in the low to moderate-income census tract, there are no income restrictions for the borrower. Areas of Point Breeze, Kensington, Port Richmond, Brewerytown are included!
- If the property is outside the low to moderate-income census tract, income restrictions of $77,300/yr household income for 1-4 person households.
- A minimum credit score of 620. Between 620 and 680 the borrower must put down 5%. Above 680 credit score borrowers can put down 3%.
HomeReady® mortgage, is a premier affordable lending product designed for creditworthy low-income borrowers. This loan allows for as little as 3% down with no geographic limits and a lower interest rate.
- Home Ready income limits are 80% of the area median income. In Much of Philly, that number is $72,080. The income limit is based on the borrower’s income, not household income. NOP (mentioned above) uses household income to qualify where HomeReady uses the borrower’s income. This means a couple that makes 120K don’t qualify together, but if they want to borrow just based on one of their income, they can with HomeReady.
- Home Ready allows for a non-occupant co-borrower. So parents could help the borrower qualify.
- Borrower is not required to be a first-time buyer
- Gifts, grants, and cash-on-hand permitted as a source of funds for down payment and closing costs
- When all occupying borrowers on a HomeReady purchase transaction are first-time homebuyers, at least one borrower must complete the Framework online education course, regardless of LTV
- Borrowers can qualify with credit scores as low as 620, but the lender relies on Fannie Mae’s Desktop Underwriter to approve the loan based on all the risk factors.
M&T BANK LOAN SUBSIDY
Grant funds up to $10,000 that can provide thousands of dollars toward downpayment, closing cost, prepaid, and mortgage insurance assistance in certain areas. Provides 6% assistance on FHA loans and up to 3% assistance on conventional loans, up to $10,000 total.
- The property must be located in a census tract where the population is greater than 50% Black and/or Hispanic, in an eligible county. Eligible counties in Pennsylvania include Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia. (Your PHG agent or M&T Bank loan officer can confirm this information via census map).
- Eligible M&T mortgage programs include Fannie Mae’s HomeReady, FHA and other loan programs.
- Homebuyer must not currently own a home but doesn’t have to be a first-time homebuyer.
PHILLY FIRST HOME
Philadelphia will provide grant assistance up to $10,000 or six percent of the home’s purchase price — whichever is less. ***Applications for this program are on hold due to COVID-19***
- Be a first-time homebuyer or a buyer who has not owned a home for at least three years
- Be a resident of the City of Philadelphia for three years and must purchase a home in Philadelphia
- Have a household income at or below 120% Area Median Income (AMI). Currently, 1 person household income must be at or below $81,250, and 2 person household income must be at or below $92,750. AMI is based on calculations done annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which for Philadelphia includes the city and many of the surrounding suburbs. Income is calculated using gross income for all members of the family who will live in the home.
- Complete housing counseling at a DHCD funded housing counseling agency
- The financial assistance the city provides will become a lien on the property’s first mortgage During the first 15 years of ownership, the lien will become due and payable upon the sale or lease of the home or the refinancing of the first mortgage to take cash out of the property. After 15 years of ownership, the lien will be forgiven.