In most areas of the country, owning a home is a significantly better investment than renting an apartment. If you have a bit of money in savings and can consistently pay your rent on time, you may be ready for homeownership.
For many, however, there is one big hurdle: the down payment.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that many programs exist specifically to help first time and low-income home buyers. The majority of these programs offer down payment assistance of some sort, making it easier to buy a home for many who would otherwise struggle.
If you’re wondering how to buy a house with low income, here are the top programs to consider.
HUD Housing Counselors
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-certified local housing counseling agencies are a great place to begin.
A housing counselor may charge a small fee. However, they can walk you through your federal, state, and local homebuying program options and they are a wealth of knowledge. A good housing counselor can help you create a housing budget and more.
You can find a counselor in your area through the HUD.
FHA loans are mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Authority. The FHA guarantees that if you default on the loan, it will pay the bank for its losses.
This encourages banks to lend to people who don’t have excellent credit or a huge down payment. In fact, you can use an FHA loan to finance up to 96.5% of a home’s purchase price. With a conventional mortgage, you can generally finance only 80 to 90% of a home’s purchase price, depending on lender requirements. This means you don’t have to save nearly as much for a down payment.
Also, FHA loans don’t require great credit like conventional mortgage loans might. You still need to show a stable job history and prove you’re in a good position to pay the mortgage. But requirements are much less strict, opening up a mortgage possibility for lower-income individuals and families.
Other Government Programs
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) runs the Rural Housing program. It offers both loans made directly through the program and loans guaranteed by the program. It offers loans on single family and multi-family properties. These programs are specifically for low-income individuals who are unable to obtain normal financing.
Most applicants for a direct Rural Housing loan do not pay a down payment. The program keeps mortgage interest rates very low. This makes for a very low monthly payment for the lowest-income applicants.
The VA program is specifically for veterans. It’s got some incredible benefits, including the option for a no down payment loan. These low interest rate loans don’t require private mortgage insurance, even if you don’t put down a dime. If you get into financial trouble after taking on the loan, the VA also offers payment assistance programs.
For those who qualify, these two programs should be a first line before checking out the FHA programs. This is mainly because FHA loans do require PMI for the life of the loan. This can add significant cost to your loan that it’s best to avoid it possible.
Other Special Programs
The HUD and other organizations also offer a variety of programs for lower-income home buyers. These include:
Fannie Mae HomePath
The HomePath program isn’t specifically for low-income home buyers. But it’s a good place to start for first-time buyers.
It’s an online program that breaks down the home-buying process into lessons. The program costs $75, but that gets rolled into your closing costs. And if you complete the program, you can get assistance with those closing costs! Learn more about the HomePath program here.
Fannie Mae HomeReady
This program, another from Fannie Mae, looks similar to an FHA loan. If you qualify, it might even be better.
The program offers up to 97% financing, and it offers cancellable PMI. (Unlike FHA, which requires a refinance to another loan type to get out of PMI.) You can also use the program in tandem with Fannie Mae’s Homestyle renovation loan program.
Freddie Mac’s Home Possible Program
This program from another government-linked lender, Freddie Mac, also offers 3-5% down payment options. It’s specifically for home buyers with low to moderate income who live in typically underserved communities. You can find out more here.