With year-round sunshine, fantastic weather and miles of beaches, Florida is a beautiful place to call home. Are you a first-time homebuyer ready to settle down in the Sunshine State?
Whether you’re tired of renting or you need to move your family to a bigger space—or you’re getting ready to retire—buying your first home is an exciting milestone. Getting onto the property ladder takes work – you’ll have to save for a down payment and closing costs, secure a home loan, and prepare for monthly mortgage payments.
If you’re a first-time homebuyer in Florida, there are plenty of statewide and local homeownership assistance programs available to assist you with your purchase. From down payment assistance to securing low interest fixed rate home loans, read on to learn more about these programs, their eligibility requirements and how to apply.
Who Qualifies as a First-Time Homebuyer in Florida?
For a quick clarification, a first-time homebuyer is defined as any family or individual who has either never owned a home – or at least not in the past three years, depending on the region. Some local programs, for example, suggest residents of Florida are still eligible if they haven’t owned a home in the past three years.
As always, when you’re doing your research, read the fine print. Also refer to limitations listed below.
And here’s some good news: most of the local programs aren’t restricted to first-time homebuyers! The emphasis is on helping low-income families across Florida with the largest purchase of their lives.
Statewide Homeownership Assistance Programs
The Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC) has a series of statewide assistance programs that are worth exploring for first-time homeowners. The organization was founded four decades ago, with the specific aim to help with creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income families.
While the programs differ, the overarching requirements include being a resident of Florida, a first-time homebuyer, working with a participating lender, and purchasing eligible property types which must be used as a primary residence. These programs are available across all 67 counties. Across the board, homebuyers will need to complete a homebuyer’s education course.
Here’s a detailed list of each program.
FHFC Florida First Government Loan Program
The Florida First loan program is a government-backed (FHA, VA, or USDA-RA) first mortgage loan. Qualified homebuyers can secure a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage loan. This is a popular route for first-time homebuyers – you’ll pay back the loan for your house over the course of 30 years with an interest rate and monthly payment that doesn’t change.
If you’re a veteran, you don’t have to be a first-time homebuyer to qualify.
Read more about the Florida First program.
FHFC HFA Conventional Loan Program
The FHA Conventional Loan Program is a first mortgage that offers reduced mortgage insurance to borrowers with a lower income compared to FHA loans.
Check out the HFA Conventional Loan program details.
FHFC Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan Program
Are you a military serviceman or veteran? The Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan Program offers American military personnel and veterans a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage at a lower rate. It can be coupled with several down payment assistance program options to help you with a lump sum down payment.
The program is available to homebuyers across all 67 counties. Your home purchase must be your primary residence, you must qualify for a first mortgage loan and meet income and purchase price limits. You’ll need to complete a homebuyer’s education course.
Check out the Salute Our Soldiers program official website for more details.
Running alongside this program is the Salute Our Soldiers PLUS program. The PLUS program offers a 0% loan worth 3%, 4% or 5% of your home’s sales price in down payment financial assistance. It’s forgiven at a rate of 20% a year over the five-year term.
The Salute Our Soldiers PLUS program details can be found on this official flyer.
FHFC Hurricane Michael Recovery Loan Program
On the heels of Hurricane Michael in 2018, Florida Housing launched this recovery program targeting 11 impacted counties. You don’t need to be a first-time homebuyer to qualify, but the home must be your primary residence.
Those eligible can secure a 30-year fixed rate interest rate mortgage, along with up to $15,000 in down payment assistance. The DPA is a 0% loan, forgivable at 20% over five years.
Read more about the recovery loan program.
FHFC Florida Assist Loan Program
Saving for a down payment is one of the biggest roadblocks consumers face when trying to buy their first home. Florida Housing offers a Florida Assist program in the form of a 0% second mortgage of up to $7,500 to help eligible homebuyers with down payment and closing costs.
It’s a “silent second mortgage,” which means you’ll need to pay it back upon the sale, refinance or transfer of deed for your home.
Keep in mind, this program is not available as a standalone – it’s only available in conjunction with one of the organization’s homebuyer programs listed above. If you’ve qualified for a Florida Housing first mortgage loan via these programs, you may be able to secure this second mortgage.
Check out the full details on the Down Payment Assistance Program site.
FHFC HFA PLUS Second Mortgage
In this case, the HFA PLUS Second Mortgage provides financial help for down payment and closing cost expenses via a 0%, non-amortizing five-year loan. It’s forgiven at a rate of 20% a year over the five-year term. This means that if you reside in your home for the full five years, you aren’t required to repay the loan.
This could be a great help for low-income qualified homebuyers. Read more about the HFA PLUS Second Mortgage.
FHFC Homeownership Loan Program Second Mortgage
The Homeownership Loan Program grants homebuyers a second mortgage of up to $10,000 at a fixed rate of 3% over a 15-year term. The second mortgage carries a monthly payment, but it’s set up for any homebuyers who need a hand with coming up with the cash for a down payment and closing costs.
If you sell, refinance or stop using the home as your primary residence, you’ll need to pay back the loan in full. Check out the Homeownership Loan Program’s full details.
FHFC Mortgage Credit Certificate Program
The MCC, offered by Florida Housing, provides eligible first-time homebuyers a non-refundable federal income tax credit used with your first mortgage. In a nutshell, it reduces your federal income taxes, creating additional income for you to use towards your mortgage payments and other household expenses.
The tax credit amount can be up to 50% based on your loan amount. Homeowners with the MCC are allowed to use a percentage of their actual mortgage interest as a direct dollar-for-dollar federal tax credit. In the fine print, the official website notes there may be a $2,000 cap.
The FHFC encourages applicants to double – and triple dip – where possible. If you’re a first-time homebuyer securing a Florida Housing loan, and you’re eligible for an MCC as a low- to middle-income homebuyer, for example, you can apply for the tax break also.
Eligibility hinges on being a first-time homebuyer, and sticking to limitations on purchase price and total household income. You’ll need to work with a participating lender.
Read more about the Mortgage Credit Certificate here.
State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP)
Florida Housing runs the SHIP program, which provides funds to local governments organizing their own affordable housing programs. Many of the city-led programs listed below are funded via SHIP.
You can read more about the SHIP program, and locate a local office on its official Florida Housing website.
Homebuyer Programs by Location in Florida
While these statewide programs can give you a leg up on your journey to homeownership, there are plenty of local homebuyer assistance programs across Florida worthy of research, too.
The programs are a mixed bag – some are exclusively for first-time homebuyers or anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the past three years, while others shift the focus to any homebuyers who are from a lower-income bracket. Read more for our full rundown of local programs.
Shopping for new homes in Daytona Beach? With its wide beaches and high-speed racing, we don’t blame you! The city provides down payment and closing costs assistance to low-income homebuyers – as long as you contribute at least $500 towards your home purchase and complete a homebuyer’s education course.
The program applies to anyone who hasn’t had a mortgage, filed for bankruptcy or had a foreclosure within the last three years. You are not eligible if you’ve already received assistance.
Check out the Daytona Beach flyer for more details, including how to apply.
If your heart is set on buying a home in Delray Beach, the city runs a program to help homebuyers who have traditionally been unable to secure a private mortgage loan. Through the City of Delray Beach’s Homeownership Program, homebuyers can get help with securing a below market interest rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.
You can also take advantage of down payment and closing costs assistance through a 0% interest loan of up to $75,000.
The catch? You must be first-time homebuyers, displaced homemakers, single parents or families who haven’t owned a home in the past three years. You are required to contribute at least 2% of your home’s total purchase price at closing and also meet household income limits.
Find out more on the City of Delray Beach website.
Homebuyers looking for a home in Fort Lauderdale can apply for a loan of up to $75,000 to apply to their down payment and closing costs. The loan is organized through the city’s First-Time Homebuyers Program and you will be required to demonstrate financial need to qualify.
The Fort Lauderdale official website lists requirements and who to contact to apply.
Homebuyers shopping for a property in Gainesville should look into the city’s SHIP-funded Down Payment Assistance program. The program provides low-income first-time homebuyers with up to $8,000 in down payment assistance.
Check out the program’s full details on the city of Gainesville’s official website.
Offered through the Hallandale Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (HBCRA), the First-Time Homebuyer program provides homebuyers with up to $80,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance. The funding is provided through a no-interest loan – it’s even forgiven if the property is your primary residence for at least 10 years.
An additional $5,000 incentive is up for grabs for first responders, teachers and nurses.
The catch? You need to purchase your first home in the CRA district. Read more about the Hallandale Beach program.
First-time homebuyers shopping for a property in Miami can make use of the city’s Homeownership Assistance Program, which provides a 0% deferred loan of up to $7,250 to help with your down payment.
The loan is forgiven if you own and occupy the property for more than 10 years. You’ll need to attend a homebuyer’s education course and work with a partner lender.
Read more about Miami’s Homeownership Assistance Program here.
Looking for a home in Miramar, part of Broward County? The city helps very-low and low-income first-time homebuyers with a 15-year, 0% interest deferred second loan to cover down payment and closing cost expenses.
The second loan converts to a grant if participants meet all the program’s conditions.
How much you’ll receive in assistance is dependent on your income. The program is available on a first-come, first-qualified basis until funds are exhausted.
Check out the full details.
If you’re looking for new homes in Ocala, it’s worth looking into the city’s Purchase Assistance Program. It’s providing low- and moderate-income homebuyers with funds to help with their down payment and closing costs.
You need to be a first-time homebuyer purchasing a home within Ocala city limits to qualify.
Details can be found on the city of Ocala’s website.
First-time homebuyers in Orange County should look into whether they qualify for any down payment and closing cost assistance. The amount of funding provided is based on your household income; for example, you can qualify as very low income, low-income, and moderate.
Based on your category, you could receive assistance from $15,000 to $35,000.
Visit Orange County’s website for details and how to apply.
If you’re looking for properties in Palm Beach, the county’s Housing Finance Authority offers the Own a Home Opportunity grant program, which provides a second mortgage loan of up to $10,000 to first-time homebuyer’s down payment. The loan is set at 0% interest and is due only upon the sale or refinancing of your home.
Learn more on the Palm Beach County website.
Are you looking at homes in Panama City? The city runs a Gap Finance Program, which provides up to half of the required down payment and up to $3,000 in closing costs.
Via the SHIP program, homebuyers may also be eligible for full down payment and closing cost assistance.
Qualifying for these programs is dependent on income and your ability to obtain a loan. You don’t have to be a first-time homebuyer. Mobile homes do not qualify for this program.
Check out Panama City’s homebuyer programs.
Want to find a home in Pensacola? The city runs a HOME Homebuyers program, funded via SHIP, to help low-income families. Eligible first-time homebuyers can receive up to $12,500 in a forgivable down payment loan.
To be eligible you must not have owned a home in the past three years. You’ll also need to purchase a newly constructed home or an existing home build after 1978.
Check out the full requirements for the HOME Homebuyers program.
If you’re a low-income homebuyer in Tallahassee, the city is offering up to $12,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance.
The program also provides you with homebuyer education, credit and finance counselling and help with selecting a mortgage lender.
To qualify, you’ll need to demonstrate financial need.
The program’s full details and how to apply can be found here.
Shopping for a new home in Tampa? The city’s Housing Counseling team runs a Mortgage Assistance Program, providing a loan of up to $15,000 to low-income first-time homebuyers.
The city also runs free homeownership and financial education courses.
Read more on the city of Tampa’s official website.
Volusia County’s Homebuyer Assistance Program provides first-time homebuyers with a 0% interest loan for up to 15 years. The funding, provided by SHIP, helps with down payment and other moving expenses.
The program’s details, including how to apply, are on the county’s website.
Ready to Buy a Home in Florida?
Whether you’re shopping for a home in Orlando or considering buying a home in Naples, there is no shortage of housing options in the Sunshine State. The real estate market in Florida is vast – you can zero in on beachfront homes, to mobile homes, golf course communities or houses next to the world’s most popular theme parks.
And wherever you decide to hunker down, there are multiple programs to help you secure your home purchase.
The links on this site were researched by NewHomeSource. This is as cohesive a list as possible. Individual homebuyers should contact entities to fully understand requirements and processes.
Other Florida Resources
Carmen Chai is an award-winning Canadian journalist who has lived and reported from major cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, London and Paris. For NewHomeSource, Carmen covers a variety of topics, including insurance, mortgages, and more.