First Time Home Buyer Mortgage Loans of July 2024

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A first-time home buyer loan is a financial product designed to assist individuals in purchasing their first home. These loans often come with favorable terms and benefits aimed at making homeownership more accessible. They may offer lower interest rates, reduced down payment requirements, and additional financial assistance such as grants, down payment assistance, and closing cost assistance. First-time home buyer loans can be found through various mortgage lenders, government programs, and nonprofit organizations, each with specific eligibility requirements and benefits.

These loans are not exclusively limited to individuals who have never owned a home before. Many mortgage programs define a first-time homebuyer as someone who has not owned a home in the past three years. The goal of these programs is to help ease the financial burden associated with buying a home, especially for those with moderate income or limited savings. Key features often include lower down payment requirements, flexible credit score criteria, and payment assistance programs, making them an attractive option for eligible buyers navigating the homebuying process for the first time.


  1. Lower Down Payment Requirements. Many first-time home buyer loans require a smaller down payment compared to conventional loans. Programs like the FHA mortgage loan allow for a minimum down payment as low as 3.5%, while USDA loans and VA loans offer no down payment options for eligible buyers. This can significantly reduce the initial financial burden on first-time homebuyers.

  2. Down Payment Assistance Programs. These programs provide financial aid to cover down payment costs, often in the form of grants, forgivable loans, or low-interest second mortgages. These assistance programs aim to help buyers who may not have substantial savings set aside for a down payment.

  3. Government-Backed Loan Options. Several first-time homebuyer loans are backed by government agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). These government-backed loans offer additional security to lenders, which can translate into more favorable terms for borrowers.

  4. Homebuyer Education Courses. Many first-time homebuyer programs require or encourage participation in homebuyer education courses. These courses provide valuable information on managing mortgage payments, understanding loan terms, and maintaining a home, helping buyers make informed decisions.

  5. Income Limits and Property Requirements. Some programs have income limits or property location requirements to ensure they are helping those who need it most. For example, USDA loans are available to buyers in designated rural areas, while some down payment assistance programs are targeted at low- and moderate-income borrowers.

Pros and Cons


Closing Cost Assistance. First-time home buyer loans often include assistance to cover closing costs, which can add up to a significant amount. This assistance can come as grants or low-interest loans, easing the financial strain during the final stages of the home-buying process.

Flexible Credit Score Requirements. First-time homebuyer loans typically offer more lenient credit score requirements. For example, FHA loans may accept credit scores as low as 500 with a higher down payment, or 580 with a lower down payment. This flexibility opens up homeownership to a broader range of buyers.

Reduced Mortgage Insurance Premiums. Some first-time home buyer programs offer lower mortgage insurance premiums. For instance, the HomeReady mortgage program from Fannie Mae provides reduced private mortgage insurance (PMI) costs, making monthly payments more affordable.


Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). Low-down-payment loans often require PMI, which adds to the monthly mortgage payment until a certain equity level is reached, increasing overall costs.

Income and Property Restrictions. Some programs have income limits or property location requirements, which may limit eligibility or the choice of homes available to buyers.

Complex Application Process. The application process for these programs can be more complex and time-consuming, requiring additional documentation and steps compared to conventional loans.

How to Get a Home Loan as a First-Time Buyer

Apply for a loan

  1. Assess Your Financial Health. Obtain a copy of your credit report and check your credit score. Most mortgage lenders require a minimum credit score for approval. Calculate your DTI by dividing your monthly debt payments by your gross monthly income. Lenders typically prefer a DTI of 43% or lower. Aim to save at least 20% of the home's purchase price to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI), though some lenders offer options with lower down payments.

  2. Determine Your Budget. Use a mortgage calculator to estimate your monthly mortgage payment based on various loan amounts, interest rates, and down payment sizes. Factor in property taxes, homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance, and potential homeowners association (HOA) fees.

  3. Get Pre-Approved. Research mortgage lenders, including banks, credit unions, and mortgage brokers, to find one that offers favorable terms and rates. Provide necessary documentation, such as proof of income, tax returns, and bank statements, to the mortgage lender for pre-approval. A pre-approval letter indicates the loan amount you qualify for, which can strengthen your offer when buying a home.

  4. Research Loan Options. Explore various loan programs for first-time homebuyers, such as conventional loans, for example, Fannie Mae HomeReady®, Fannie Mae Standard 97% LTV, Freddie Mac Home Possible®, and Freddie Mac HomeOne®. Conversely, there are government-backed loans such as FHA loans, VA loans, USDA loans, and others. Each program has different eligibility criteria, benefits, and requirements.

  5. Choose Your Mortgage. Consider the interest rate, loan term, monthly payment, and any additional costs or fees when choosing the best mortgage offer. Once you’ve chosen a mortgage, you may have the option to lock in the interest rate to protect against rate increases before closing.

  6. Complete the Application. Provide detailed information about your financial situation, employment, and the property you wish to purchase. Some lenders charge fees to process your application.

  7. Go Through the Underwriting Process. Be prepared to submit further documentation as requested by the lender during underwriting. The lender will order an appraisal to ensure the property’s value supports the loan amount. A title company will verify the property’s title to ensure there are no legal issues.

  8. Close on Your Mortgage. This document outlines the final terms of your loan, including the loan amount, interest rate, monthly payments, and closing costs. Review it carefully. Sign the necessary documents to finalize the loan. Bring a cashier's check or arrange a wire transfer for your down payment and closing costs. Once all documents are signed and funds are transferred, you’ll receive the keys to your new home


  1. Credit Score. Conventional loans typically require a minimum credit score of 620. Programs like HomeReady® and HomeOne® may allow for lower scores with compensating factors. FHA loans require a minimum credit score of 580 for a 3.5% down payment and 500 for a 10% down payment. VA loans generally require a minimum credit score of 620, though the VA does not set a specific minimum; lenders often impose this requirement. USDA loans have no official minimum credit score, but most lenders prefer at least a 640 score.

  2. Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio. Conventional loan lenders prefer a maximum DTI of 36%, though some programs allow up to 45% or even 50% with compensating factors. FHA loan lenders allow a maximum DTI of 43%, with some flexibility up to 50% in certain cases. VA loan lenders typically allow a maximum DTI of 41%, but exceptions can be made. USDA loan lenders generally require a maximum DTI of 41%.

  3. Income Limits. HomeReady® and Home Possible® restricted to borrowers with incomes at or below 80% of the area median income (AMI). USDA loan's borrower income must not exceed 115% of the median household income for the area. FHA and VA loans have no income limits.

  4. First-Time Homebuyer Status. Required for certain loan programs like Fannie Mae Standard 97% LTV and Freddie Mac HomeOne®, where at least one borrower must be a first-time homebuyer (defined as not having owned a home in the past three years). This is not a requirement for HomeReady®, Home Possible®, FHA, VA, or USDA loans.

  5. Property Requirements. USDA Loans: The property must be located in a designated rural area. VA Loans: The property must meet the VA's minimum property requirements to ensure it is safe, sound, and sanitary. HUD Homes: Must be purchasing a HUD-owned property. Native American Direct Loan: The home must be located on federal trust land.

  6. Other Requirements. Borrowers must meet the VA's minimum service requirements, which vary based on service type and duration. For Good Neighbor Next Door Program borrowers must be full-time law enforcement officers, teachers, firefighters, or EMTs purchasing a HUD home in a revitalization area. For HomePath Ready Buyer Program borrowers must complete an online homebuyer education course to qualify for certain benefits.


  1. Interest Rates. Interest rates can vary significantly depending on the lender and loan type. Fixed-rate mortgages offer a consistent interest rate over the life of the loan, while adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) have rates that can fluctuate. Government-backed loans (FHA, VA, USDA) often have more competitive rates compared to conventional loans.

  2. Loan Terms. Home loans typically come in 15, 20, or 30-year terms. Fixed-rate mortgages maintain the same interest rate and monthly payment throughout the term, while ARMs may start with a lower initial rate that adjusts over time based on market conditions.

  3. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). Conventional loans require PMI if the down payment is less than 20%. PMI can be removed once the homeowner reaches 20% equity. FHA loans require both an upfront mortgage insurance premium (MIP) and an annual MIP regardless of the down payment amount. MIP cannot be removed without refinancing into a conventional loan. VA loans do not require ongoing mortgage insurance but do have an upfront funding fee that can be financed into the loan. USDA loans require an upfront guarantee fee and an annual fee.

  4. Closing Costs. Typically, closing costs range from 2% to 5% of the loan amount. Some programs allow these costs to be included in the loan amount or covered through grants and assistance programs. FHA, VA, and USDA loans often provide options to reduce out-of-pocket expenses at closing.

  5. Assistance Programs. Many states, local governments, and nonprofit organizations offer down payment assistance loans, grants, or matching programs. These can significantly reduce the amount of money first-time buyers need to bring to the table, making homeownership more attainable.

Ways to Get the Money

  1. Certified Check. Some borrowers may choose to receive mortgage funds in the form of a certified check issued by the lender or closing agent. This method provides a physical form of payment that can be deposited into the borrower's bank account.

  2. Escrow Disbursement. In some cases, mortgage funds are held in an escrow account and disbursed to the appropriate parties at closing. This method ensures that all closing costs and fees are paid before releasing the remaining funds to the borrower.

  3. Direct Deposit. Certain lenders offer the option for mortgage funds to be directly deposited into the borrower's bank account on the day of closing. This electronic transfer provides immediate access to the loan proceeds without the need for physical checks or wire transfers.

Best Places to Get a Home Loan as a First-Time Buyer

Chase Mortgage, a leading national lender, extends preferential rates and reduced processing fees to its existing clientele, particularly those with significant deposits or investments. While these benefits primarily target current customers, new deposits and investments may also qualify for rate reductions. However, the availability of specific loan products may vary by state, potentially limiting accessibility for certain borrowers. Overall, Chase Mortgage caters to existing customers seeking relationship discounts and low down payment options.

Guaranteed Rate distinguishes itself with swift closing times, offering the possibility of closing in as little as 10 days through its Same Day Mortgage program. Despite its focus on rapid processing, there is no absolute assurance of closing or loan approval within the stated timeframe. This online lender appeals to borrowers who prefer a fast, digital application process, particularly those with urgent closing needs.

PenFed Credit Union Mortgage, available to all, specializes in VA loans while also offering FHA, conventional, and jumbo loans. With relatively low lender fees, particularly its flat origination fee for VA loans, PenFed enables borrowers to save on upfront costs. However, the credit union's reliance on traditional credit data and limited mortgage product options may pose constraints for some borrowers. PenFed is best suited for those pursuing VA loans and seeking to minimize upfront lender fees.

Rocket Mortgage sets itself apart with a diverse range of home loan options and a user-friendly digital platform. Offering flexibility in loan terms through products like YOURgage and a low down payment option, One+ By Rocket Mortgage, caters to borrowers seeking customizable solutions. However, Rocket Mortgage tends to have higher interest rates compared to national averages, and its average time to close a purchase loan is slightly longer than some competitors. Nevertheless, for those prioritizing digital convenience and loan flexibility, Rocket Mortgage presents a compelling option.

Things to Pay Attention To

  1. Interest Rate and APR. Compare both the interest rate and the annual percentage rate (APR) to understand the total cost of the loan, including fees and other charges.

  2. Loan Term. Consider the length of the loan term and how it affects your monthly payments and total interest paid over time.

  3. Type of Mortgage. Determine whether a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is more suitable for your financial situation and long-term goals.

  4. Down Payment Requirements. Understand the minimum down payment required by the lender and consider how it impacts your upfront costs and monthly payments.

  5. Closing Costs. Review the breakdown of closing costs, including appraisal fees, title insurance, and origination fees, and ensure they align with your budget.

  6. Prepayment Penalties. Check if the mortgage includes penalties for paying off the loan early and consider whether this aligns with your plans for the property.

  7. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). Understand if PMI is required for your loan and how it affects your monthly payments, especially if you're making a down payment of less than 20%.

How to Repay a Home Loan?

  1. Understand Your Mortgage Terms. Familiarize yourself with the terms of your mortgage, including the interest rate, loan amount, loan term, and any prepayment penalties or other fees. Determine the frequency of mortgage payments (e.g., monthly, bi-weekly) and the due date for each payment.

  2. Set Up a Payment Method. Consider setting up automatic payments through your bank or mortgage servicer to ensure timely payment each month. Explore online payment options provided by your lender or servicer for convenience and ease of use. If preferred, you can also mail payments to the address provided by your lender, ensuring they are received by the due date.

  3. Consider Additional Payments. Determine if you can make extra payments towards your mortgage principal to pay down the loan faster and save on interest. Explore the option of making bi-weekly payments instead of monthly payments to accelerate the repayment schedule.

  4. Communicate with Your Lender. Keep your lender informed of any changes to your financial situation that may impact your ability to make mortgage payments. If you encounter financial hardship, such as job loss or medical expenses, contact your lender to discuss potential options for assistance or loan modification.

Reasons for Getting Rejected for a Home Loan

  1. Low Credit Score. Lenders often require a minimum credit score to qualify for a home loan. For conventional loans, this is typically around 620, while FHA loans require at least 580 for a 3.5% down payment. If your credit score falls below these thresholds, your application is likely to be rejected.

  2. High Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio. Lenders prefer borrowers with a DTI ratio (monthly debt payments divided by gross monthly income) below 36% for conventional loans, though some allow up to 45% or even 50% with compensating factors. FHA loans generally allow up to 43%, and VA and USDA loans typically allow up to 41%. A higher DTI ratio suggests you may struggle to manage monthly mortgage payments, leading to rejection.

  3. Insufficient Down Payment. Many loan programs require a minimum down payment. For instance, conventional loans may need at least 3%, while FHA loans require 3.5% with a credit score of 580 or higher. If you cannot provide the required down payment, your loan application may be denied.

  4. Unstable Employment History. Lenders look for a stable employment history, usually preferring at least two years in the same job or industry. Frequent job changes or periods of unemployment can make you appear risky, resulting in rejection.


Some nonprofit organizations and community development financial institutions (CDFIs) offer credit products designed to assist low- and moderate-income borrowers with homeownership. These programs may offer more flexible terms and down payment assistance compared to traditional lenders.

A personal loan is an unsecured loan that can be used for various purposes, including home renovations or purchases. Personal loans typically have fixed interest rates and repayment terms, providing predictability for borrowers. While not secured by the property, personal loans may have higher interest rates compared to mortgages.

With a lease-to-own agreement, you rent a home with the option to purchase it at a later date. A portion of your monthly rent payments may go toward the purchase price, providing an opportunity to build equity over time without committing to a mortgage upfront.

Some retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, allow participants to borrow against their account balance for various purposes, including home purchases or renovations. 401(k) loans typically have lower interest rates compared to other credit products and may not require a credit check. Borrowers must repay the loan according to the plan's terms or face penalties and taxes.

Editorial Opinion

First-time homebuyer loans provide valuable opportunities for individuals to achieve homeownership, offering various benefits such as lower down payment requirements, flexible qualification guidelines, and potential assistance with closing costs. These programs play a crucial role in expanding access to homeownership, particularly for individuals with limited savings or credit history. However, it's essential for prospective buyers to carefully evaluate the terms and requirements of these loans to ensure they align with their long-term financial goals and capabilities.


Keeping your Debt-to-Income (DTI) ratio below 30-40% of your monthly income is crucial. This will help you avoid potential financial problems in the future. Additionally, always assess the necessity and feasibility of taking a loan, ensuring you can comfortably manage its repayment.

How to Choose a Mortage Lender

  1. Check Associations. Look for lenders who are members of reputable organizations, such as the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). Membership in these organizations can indicate a higher level of reliability and professionalism.

  2. Review Terms and Conditions. Carefully examine all the terms and conditions of the mortgage contract. Pay special attention to details like the loan term, fixed vs. variable interest rates, and any prepayment penalties.

  3. Interest Rates and Costs. Scrutinize the interest rates and ensure that your contract includes a detailed breakdown of the total cost of the mortgage, including closing costs, origination fees, and any other charges.

  4. Right of Rescission. Remember you can utilize your right of rescission, which typically allows you to cancel the mortgage within three days after signing the agreement. Additionally, use the "cooling-off" period to thoroughly review the contract and make an informed decision before finalizing the mortgage agreement.

  5. Compare Offers. Shop around and compare offers from multiple lenders to find the best rates and terms that suit your financial situation.

Additional resources


Which bank is best for first-time home buyers?

Determining the "best" bank for first-time homebuyers depends on various factors, including individual financial circumstances, location, and specific loan programs offered by different lenders. Many large banks, credit unions, and online lenders provide tailored mortgage products designed specifically for first-time buyers. Institutions like Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Chase often offer comprehensive support and guidance through the home buying process, with resources such as pre-approval programs, educational materials, and dedicated mortgage specialists. Additionally, smaller community banks and credit unions may offer personalized service and competitive rates, making them attractive options for those seeking a more hands-on approach to home financing.

What does your credit score need to be to get a first-time home loan?

Credit score requirements for first-time home loans vary depending on the type of loan and lender. Generally, conventional loans typically require a minimum credit score of around 620 to 680, while FHA loans may accept lower credit scores, with some lenders approving borrowers with scores as low as 500 to 580, provided they make a larger down payment. However, higher credit scores can lead to better interest rates and more favorable loan terms, so prospective buyers should aim for a score of at least 620 or higher to increase their chances of approval and secure more favorable loan terms.

How much do most first-time home buyers put down?

The amount that most first-time homebuyers put down can vary based on loan type, personal financial situation, and available assistance programs. While conventional loans often require a down payment of at least 3% to 5% of the purchase price, FHA loans typically require a minimum down payment of 3.5%, and VA and USDA loans may offer no-down-payment options for eligible borrowers. Many first-time buyers aim to put down around 10% to 20% of the purchase price to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI) and secure more favorable loan terms, but assistance programs and down payment grants can help reduce this upfront cost, making homeownership more accessible for those with limited savings.