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Home Buyer Help is Available

Right now in the Tampa Bay area, there are 2 big hurdles to home buyers. One is lack of available homes to purchase, and the other one is affordability. There isn't much I can offer for the first one right now, but there is help for the 2nd.

Do you know about Florida Housing Finance Corporation? Florida Housing was created by the Florida legislature over 40 years ago to assist in making housing more affordable. What that could mean to you is help making buying a home more affordable through the use of their programs.

Their basic homebuyer program offers both loan programs and down payment assistance (DPA) programs.

To qualify for their loan programs, you must have a 640 or higher credit score, take a home buyer education course, purchase below the limits for your county, have income below the limit for your county, and be considered a first-time buyer. Loan limits for Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco counties are $420,680 for FHA or USDA loans and $647,200 for VA or conventional loans. The income limit for those counties is $123,150. Being a first-time buyer doesn't mean you've never owned a home. It just means you haven't owned a home in the past 3 years.

Florida Housing offers 3 versions of DPA programs.

FL Assist can provide up to $10,000 in the form of a deferred 2nd mortgage with a 0% interest rate and no payments. This program is not forgivable. Repayment is deferred until the property is sold, refinanced, paid off, or until you no longer live there.

The Florida Homeownership Loan Program (FL HLP) 2nd mortgage offers $10,000 is similar to FL Assist, but you do have to make monthly payments at 3% over 15 years. Repayment is also due in full under the same conditions as FL Assist. Because there are monthly payments, this program could affect your debt-to-income ratio with your lender.

3%, 4% and 5% HFA Preferred and HFA Advantage PLUS Second Mortgage offer down payment and closing cost assistance of 3%, 4%, or 5% of the loan as a 2nd mortgage that's forgiven over 5 years when used with a Florida Housing first mortgage.

Florida Housing also offers a special program called Hometown Heroes. This program is for frontline community workers such as law enforcement, educators, veterans and many others to provide assistance so they can purchase a home in the community in which they serve. Eligible frontline workers can also receive lower than market rates on a first mortgage, reduced upfront fees, no origination points or discount points. Borrowers can also receive up to 5% of the first mortgage loan amount (maximum of $25,000) in down payment and closing cost assistance. As with most other programs, the DPA is in the form of a deferred 0% 2nd mortgage due under the same conditions as the FL Assist program. There are income and purchase price limits which are the same as listed above.

Get the ebook of all these programs here for more information. If you're not ready to buy yet and are having trouble finding an affordable rental, Florida Housing offers an online affordable housing locator service.

PS: I almost forgot to mention the local Realtor sources. The Pinellas Realtor Foundation offers a First-Time Home Buyer Grant of up to $6,000 to assist these buyers in purchasing their first home, and you can use this program with any other grant or DPA program. There are income limits and some restrictions. Find out more here. The Realtors Care Foundation offers a similar program with an up to $7,500 grant. You can find out more about that program here.


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