By Grant Edrington – Updated: April 28, 2023
Are you starting your journey as a first-time homebuyer in Florida? You might need a helping hand. Skyrocketing home prices—which were amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic – coupled with soaring mortgage interest rates have made it even harder for first-time homebuyers in Florida to break into the market. The annual median household income in Florida is $61,777, while the average income for an individual in the state is $35,216. Making owning a home even more challenging, hopeful homeowners in Florida struggle to keep pace with housing prices, which rose by more than 17.27% from January 2022 to December 2022.
Fortunately, Florida is home to several programs that first-time homebuyers can take advantage of, bringing some sunshine back to their lives. Here, you’ll learn about these programs and how they can help make buying your first home simpler and more affordable.
How Do I Qualify as a First-Time Home Buyer in Florida?
In Florida, you could qualify for first-time homebuyer programs if you haven’t owned and occupied a primary residence (or had ownership stakes in a primary residence) in the past three years.
Beyond that, you should also meet the following criteria to qualify for many of Florida’s first-time homebuyer loans and down payment assistance programs:
- Have a minimum credit score of 640.
- Complete approved homebuyer education.
- Meet the purchase price and income limits for the county where you’re buying a home.
If you meet all of the above criteria, you’re well on your way to receiving loan, down payment, and closing cost assistance as a first-time homebuyer in Florida.
2023 Florida Home Buyer Statistics
Understanding Florida’s housing market can help you prepare for the competition, pricing, and timeline to expect. While 2023 statistics aren’t out yet, here are some relevant statistics from Florida REALTORS® for December 2022, the most recent data at the time of writing:
- Median home price: $395,000
- 3% down payment on median home price: $11,850
- 20% down payment on median home price: $79,000
- Median time homes spent on market before closing: 78 days
- Active listings state-wide: 65,786
- Closed sales in December alone: 19,158
Learn more about what to expect when buying a home in Florida.
Florida Housing’s First-Time Homebuyer Programs
Virtually all state-wide first-time homebuyer programs in Florida are issued by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, an entity created by the state’s legislature 40 years ago to provide affordable housing solutions and opportunities.
Florida Housing, as it’s commonly known, works with local governments, non-profits, and others to provide home buying and down payment assistance, including forgivable loans. These programs often have perks like low interest rates, with accessible eligibility requirements.
Florida Homeownership Loan Program
The Florida Homeownership Loan Program (FL HLP) provides 30-year, fixed-rate FHA, VA, USDA, and conventional mortgages to first-time homebuyers. With these loans, you don’t have to wait for funds to be available, and they don’t impact maximum seller-paid closing cost limits. You must participate in the FL HLP to access Florida Housing’s down payment and closing cost assistance.
Florida Assist offers a deferred, zero-interest, non-amortizing second mortgage that can provide up to $10,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance for FHA, VA, USDA, and conventional home loans. “Deferred” means you don’t have to repay the loan right away. When you move, refinance, sell, transfer the deed, or pay off your first mortgage, you’ll be required to repay the amount of assistance you received—with no interest.
HFA Preferred and HFA Advantage PLUS Second Mortgage
The HFA Preferred and HFA Advantage PLUS programs offer closing cost and down payment assistance in the form of zero-interest second mortgages for up to 5% of your first mortgage amount. These second mortgages don’t require payments—they’re forgiven at 20% per year over a five-year term. In other words, they essentially provide free money to help cover your out-of-pocket home buying expenses.
Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan Program
This program for active-duty military personnel and veterans provides 30-year, fixed-rate first mortgage loans with lower interest rates than other options. It also offers access to the Salute Our Soldiers PLUS down payment assistance loan, which is a zero-interest, non-amortizing second mortgage for up to 5% of your first mortgage total.
Salute Our Soldiers PLUS loans are forgiven at 20% per year for five years, unless you sell, refinance, pay off the first mortgage, transfer the deed, or move before the five-year term is up—at which point you’ll need to repay the portion of the loan that’s not eligible for forgiveness. If you’re required to relocate due to active-duty orders, the loan will be forgiven.
FL HLP Second Mortgage
The FL HLP Second Mortgage program offers up to $10,000 in closing cost and down payment assistance as a second mortgage. It’s a 3%, fully amortizing, 15-year loan with a monthly payment of $69.06. Any remaining unpaid principal balance at the end of the term is deferred until you sell, refinance, pay off your first mortgage, transfer the deed, or move.
Hometown Heroes Housing Program
If you’re a firefighter, educator, healthcare worker, or other frontline employee, you may be eligible for the Hometown Heroes Housing Program. Through this program, you can receive low-interest first mortgages with reduced upfront fees and no origination or discount points.
You can also receive up to 5% (limit of $25,000) of the first mortgage amount in down payment and closing cost assistance. The assistance will be a zero-interest, non-amortizing, deferred second mortgage with a 30-year term. As with other non-forgivable down payment assistance options, the amount is due in full when you sell, refinance, transfer the deed of, or move out of your home.
City-Specific Mortgage and Down-Payment Assistance Programs for First-Time Home Buyers in Florida
Statewide programs through the FHFC aren’t the only options for affordable mortgages and down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers in Florida. Many cities and counties offer their own programs, such as:
- Hallandale Beach’s First-Time Homebuyer Program
- Jacksonville’s Home Sweet Home Program
- Miami’s First-Time Homebuyer Program
- Miami-Dade County’s Homeownership Assistance Program
- Ocala Homebuyer Assistance Program
- Orange County’s Down Payment Assistance Program
- Orlando’s Down Payment Assistance Program
- Pensacola’s Homebuyer Programs
- St. Petersburg’s Purchase Assistance Program
- Tallahassee’s Down Payment Assistance Program
- Tampa’s Dare to Own the Dream Program
- Broward County’s Home Buyer Purchase Aƒssistance
- Ft. Lauderdale’s Purchase Assistance Program
Divvy Can Help You Own Your First Home
If you don’t qualify for the above programs or if they just don’t fit your needs, Divvy Homes can be another option. Divvy’s rent-to-own process helps you to save toward a down payment while living in the home, and our all-cash buying power can give you a leg up to live in the home of your dreams.
At the end of the lease, you can either purchase your home from Divvy or keep your savings, minus a surrender fee and any other potential deductions. And you’ll still have access to traditional first-time homebuyer programs, if you’re eligible.
With Divvy, you can choose almost any home on the market or select one of our vetted properties. Plus, you get to live in the home before you buy it, so you’ll get a feel for it before having to commit to its purchase. Interested? Browse our available homes in Florida:
While Divvy isn’t quite the same as a traditional first-time homebuyer program, we’re still a viable option for aspiring homeowners struggling to get a mortgage due to savings, credit score, income, or other reasons. We’re here to stand alongside you as a reliable partner on your path to homeownership and make the process less challenging.
Note: Divvy is not affiliated with the first-time homebuyer programs mentioned in this article. Be aware that requirements for these programs may change. We recommend consulting with a lender or real estate agent when evaluating first-time home buyer programs.
Florida First-Time Home Buyer FAQs
What is the income limit for first-time homebuyers in Florida?
The income limit to qualify for first-time homebuyer assistance programs varies by county and program. Generally, you should be around or below 80% of your area’s median income, which is $35,216 for an individual and $61,777 for households in Florida.
What benefits do first-time home buyers get in Florida?
Florida offers first-time homebuyers access to ample down payment and closing cost assistance programs, including some forgivable ones. If you qualify for a forgivable loan, then you won’t need to repay the assistance provided to you—essentially, you receive free money to help you realize your dream of homeownership.
What credit score is needed to buy a house in Florida?
To qualify for FHFC programs, you need a credit score of at least 640.
How much of a down payment do I need to buy a house in Florida?
Based on the median home price in December 2022 (the most recent statistics at the time of writing), you’d need at least $11,850 for a 3% down payment. However, you may be able to secure down payment assistance for up to 5% of your first mortgage.
Does Florida have down payment assistance programs?
Florida has many down payment assistance programs, offered by both the state and locales. Among these programs are the Florida Homeownership Loan Program, Florida Assist, HFA Preferred and HFA Advantage PLUS Second Mortgage programs, Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan Program, FL HLP Second Mortgage, Hometown Heroes Housing Programs, and various city- and county-specific assistance programs throughout the state. These programs include forgivable loans and special offers for military personnel, veterans, and public workers like teachers, law enforcement, and firefighters.
What is the Hero Program in Florida?
The Hometown Heroes Housing Program in Florida offers frontline employees—such as firefighters, educators, and healthcare workers—low-interest first mortgages with extra savings and up to $25,000 in down payment assistance through a zero-interest, deferred second mortgage.
- Federal Reserve Economic Data (https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/STTMINWGFL)
- Federal Housing Finance Agency (https://www.fhfa.gov/Media/PublicAffairs/Pages/FHFA-House-Price-Index-Down-0pt1-Percent-in-November-Up-8pt2-Percent-from-Last-Year.aspx)
- US Census Bureau (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/FL/INC110221)
- Florida Housing Finance Corporation (https://www.floridahousing.org/programs/homebuyer-overview-page)
- Florida Realtors (https://www.floridarealtors.org/tools-research/reports/florida-market-reports)
- Florida Realtors (https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/fla-top-state-2022-home-value-increases)
- Florida Housing Finance Corporation: Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan Program (https://www.floridahousing.org/programs/homebuyer-overview-page/salute-our-soldiers-military-loan-program)
- Florida Housing Finance Corporation: FL HLP Second Mortgage Program (https://www.floridahousing.org/docs/default-source/programs/homeowners/homeownership-programs/fhfc-ebook-rev-4-4-2022.pdf?sfvrsn=b0ddf87b_6)
- Florida Housing Finance Corporation: Florida Hometown Heroes Housing Program (https://www.floridahousing.org/programs/homebuyer-overview-page/hometown-heroes)
- Florida Housing Coalition: Affordable Housing in Florida
Grant is a member of the marketing team and focuses on connecting aspiring homeowners in our metros with Divvy. He's worked on marketing teams spanning all parts of the homeownership journey, including home loans, power tools and home improvement, siding and flooring, and now Divvy. Grant graduated from Villanova University and became a homeowner in 2021.