First-Time Homebuyer Programs: How to Afford Your Dream Home in Houston

While many Houstonians and their families share the common goal of homeownership by a certain point in their lives, the process may appear a bit daunting at a first glance, especially when it comes to affordability in today’s market.

However, many are likely not aware that there are several citywide programs available to help them see if they qualify for financial or other home buying assistance. The following five programs are a great place to start when it comes to helping you find your dream home.

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Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs

This program is meant to allow qualified Texans to gain access to home loans with competitive interest rates, along with down payment and closing cost assistance. To qualify to apply for a loan through this program, potential homebuyers must meet the following minimum requirements: 

  • They must be a first-time homebuyer, or a homebuyer who has not owned a home as his or her primary residence within the past three years
  • Their income must not exceed the program’s income limit guidelines
  • The home’s purchase price must not exceed the program’s purchase limit guidelines
  • They must meet the program’s credit score/debt-to-income requirements, with a minimum credit score of 620 for government (Federal Housing Administration, Veteran Affairs, and U.S. Department of Agriculture) and conventional (Fannie Mae Housing Finance Agency Preferred) loan products. 

Prospective candidates can verify their family’s income and review other program tools on the program website.

City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department

This program administers the City’s Homebuyer Assistance Program (HAP) for eligible low- to moderate-income families. Allocated funds are available for use to assist an approved applicant in paying a down payment, closing costs, and principal buy-down on their new home. To take advantage of the program, buyers must: 

  • Be a first-time homebuyer or not have owned a home within the last three years
  • Not have more than $15,000 in liquid assets before closing (deferred assets such as pensions, 401(k)s, etc. are not included in this requirement)
  • Be U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens
  • Must be able to obtain a fixed-rate mortgage. Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) or seller-financed mortgages are not permitted through this program.

Through this program, eligible homebuyers at or below 80 percent area median income (AMI) may receive $30,000 in assistance. Their selected home must be located within the property tax jurisdiction of the City of Houston, and eligible property types include single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes or quadra-plexes, attached townhomes, condominiums, or cooperative units. 

All applicants are required to take an eight-hour Homebuyer Education Course through an approved U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development counseling agency. Applicants must occupy their new home as their principal residence for a minimum of five years. The back-end of the loan ratio cannot exceed 45 percent, and the property must pass an environmental and inspection review. Additionally, the borrower(s) cannot be delinquent on any student loans, federal income taxes, state and local taxing authorities, utility payments, or City of Houston services. 

Visit the program website to view a chart of the maximum household size and income limits, and to review the Homebuyer Assistance Program Guidelines for further information. 

Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation

This program provides fixed-rate mortgage financing, down payment assistance grants and second liens, as well as mortgage credit certificates for teachers, police officers, corrections officers, fire fighters, EMS personnel, veterans and low- and moderate-income households looking to buy a home. In addition to first-time buyers, this program is also open to repeat home buyers and existing homeowners. 

City of Houston HOPE Program

This program serves with the goal to reinvest in some of Houston’s historic neighborhoods through various stabilization activities and by supporting locally-led community building activities.

Additionally, Houston HOPE aims to build strong neighborhoods that meet the needs of their current residents and remain attractive to new and returning families. Prospective candidates may qualify for up to $30,000 to buy their home through this program. The program’s partners and local area builders also offer homes in a variety of floor plans with energy-efficient amenities.

Visit the website for full household size and income requirements, along with further details and information. 

New Home Programs - Houston

This program is a national real estate brokerage firm that works to provide solutions for home buyers and sellers. Prospective buyers can find their ideal home using its Houston Home Search tool.

Although the firm serves first-time home buyers and Houston relocation buyer markets, it offers a variety of real estate brokerage services for residential and commercial customers, in addition to apartment locating services. New Home Programs is a member of the National Association of Realtors as well as various local realtor associations.

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