Struggling to buy a house? A Florida first-time home buyer grant may be able to help. These programs provide money you can put toward a down payment, closing costs and other expenses that are typically part of the homebuying process.
What is a first-time home buyer grant?
First-time home buyer grants are available throughout the Sunshine State. Some are gifts that don’t have to be repaid, while others are forgivable loans that have to be paid back, for example, if you sell or refinance the house. A variety of entities offer these grants, including local governments, community development organizations and nonprofits.
Each grant program has its own terms, conditions and eligibility requirements, but generally you must:
- Be a first-time home buyer, as defined by the program.
- Take a home buyer education course.
- Stay within income limits.
- Stay within purchase price limits.
- Buy a property in an approved location.
- Use the house as your primary residence.
In addition to the grants listed here, you may qualify for other Florida programs designed to make homebuying more affordable. The Florida Housing Finance Corporation, or FHFC, offers mortgages, grants and a mortgage tax credit program you might find helpful.
First-time home buyer grants across Florida
The FHFC manages the State Housing Initiatives Program, known as SHIP. SHIP money goes to all Florida counties and dozens of cities. Local governments use those funds to provide down payment and closing cost assistance, homeownership counseling and other beneficial programs. Contact your city or county government to learn more about SHIP grants in your community.
» MORE: Tips for first-time home buyers
Grant programs in the Florida Panhandle
This grant program gives up to $12,500 in down payment and closing cost assistance. Funds are provided as a forgivable loan, which generally means you won’t have to repay it as long as you abide by the program’s terms. To qualify, the home must be built after 1978 and be located within Escambia County or designated redevelopment areas in Pensacola.
This program provides up to $15,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance in the form of a forgivable loan. Typically, these loans aren’t repaid as long as you abide by the terms of the program. These funds are reserved for low- to moderate-income families. The home must be located within Pensacola, and purchase price limits apply.
Through this grant program, qualified applicants can receive up to 50% of their required down payment and up to $3,000 in closing cost assistance. In addition to meeting general eligibility requirements, you must have at least $1,500 of your own funds to apply towards closing costs and be able to qualify for a mortgage. The house must be located in Panama City and can’t cost more than $150,000.
Offered through the Tallahassee Lenders’ Consortium, this program lends qualified, low-income applicants up to $7,000 for a down payment and closing costs. Based on need, applicants may qualify for an additional $5,000 in assistance. All funds are provided in the form of a loan.
Grant programs in north Florida
This grant program provides first-time home buyers with up to $8,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance, with an additional $2,000 available for minor repairs. In addition to meeting program eligibility requirements, borrowers need to make at least a 2% down payment on their own and live in the property for a minimum of 10 years. Only properties within the city limits of Gainesville are allowed.
First-time home buyers earning a low to moderate income can use this program to help with down payment and closing costs. The program provides up to $20,000 in the form of a no-interest loan. Assistance is limited to properties within Ocala city limits.
This grant program helps eligible households “close the gap” of funds needed to buy a home. The amount of assistance depends on a borrower’s income level, but the program provides up to $30,000 for a down payment and up to $6,000 for closing costs. Funds are provided in the form of a deferred subordinate loan with no interest. The home must be in Volusia County, but outside the city limits of Daytona Beach, Deltona or Ponce Inlet.
This program helps qualified applicants purchase a home within the city limits of Daytona Beach. Up to $50,000 in assistance is available, depending on program funding and applicant income. Grant money may be used for a down payment, closing costs and the rehabilitation of the home. In addition to meeting general eligibility requirements, you must also contribute at least $500 toward the purchase and occupy the home as your primary residence.
Grant programs in central Florida
First-time home buyers can receive up to $30,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance through this program, depending on their income. Funds are provided in the form of a 10-year deferred loan that must be repaid if the borrower sells, rents, refinances or moves out of the property before the loan period expires. In addition to meeting general eligibility requirements, applicants also need to contribute $1,000 or 1.75% of the sales price (whichever amount is greater) and be a resident of Orange, Osceola, Seminole or Lake County. The home must be located in Orange County, but outside the city limits of Orlando. Mobile homes aren’t eligible for purchase under this program.
This grant program gives qualified buyers up to $14,999 in down payment and closing cost assistance. Funds are provided in the form of a deferred-payment loan that’s fully forgiven if the borrower owns and occupies the house for at least five years. In addition to meeting general eligibility requirements, applicants must contribute some of their own funds toward the purchase. The home must be located within Tampa city limits and must pass a city inspection.
This program provides first-time home buyers with a grant of up to $50,000 for down payment and closing costs, depending on their income. In addition to meeting general eligibility requirements, applicants must qualify for a mortgage through a certified Seminole County lender.
Grant programs in south Florida
Provided through the Miami-Dade Advocacy Trust, this grant program gives first-time home buyers up to $7,250 for down payment and closing costs, depending on their income. The funds are provided as a no-interest, no-payment loan that’s forgiven after 10 years as long as the borrower still occupies the home and has not done a cash-out refinance. In addition to meeting other eligibility requirements, applicants must be residents of Miami-Dade County, contribute some of their own money toward the purchase and work with an approved mortgage lender.
Offered through the Hallandale Beach Community Redevelopment Agency, this program provides first-time home buyers with up to $50,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance. Funds are provided in the form of a no-interest loan that can be forgiven if the house is the borrower’s primary residence for at least 10 years. In addition to other eligibility requirements, applicants must contribute $2,000 toward the down payment.
Administered by the West Palm Beach Department of Housing and Community Development, this grant program makes available up to $60,000 of down payment and closing cost assistance, depending on income. Assistance is provided in the form of a no-interest, deferred-payment loan. No repayment is required as long as the borrower owns and occupies the home for a set period of time determined by the assistance amount. In addition to other eligibility requirements, applicants must contribute at least 1.75% of the home’s purchase price toward a down payment. Only properties within the city limits of West Palm Beach are allowed.
Your next step
If one of the first-time home buyer grants listed above seems like a good fit, contact the program administrator directly to get additional details about eligibility requirements and the application process. These administrators can also help you locate an approved home buyer education class and a participating lender, if the program requires them. Make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions of any grant program before you apply.
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