California First-Time Home Buyer Programs of 2023

Phil Metzger
By Phil Metzger 
Updated
Edited by Johanna Arnone

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The homebuying process can be daunting, not to mention expensive. That's why the California Housing Finance Agency, or CalHFA, offers several loan programs to help qualified first-time home buyers get a mortgage.

CalHFA doesn’t review applications or lend money; mortgage decisions are made by its network of preferred loan officers and approved lenders. These lenders may have their own rules about income limits, credit scores and eligible properties. If you’ve found a first-time home buyer loan program that seems like a good fit, reach out directly to a lender for more information.

You may also benefit from a national loan program that features low credit score or down payment requirements. Explore all the options for buying your first home in the Golden State.

CalHFA highlights and eligibility requirements

If you haven’t owned and occupied your own home in the past three years, you’re considered a first-time home buyer in California, and you may want to choose one of these CalHFA programs as a more affordable path to homeownership.

Highlights

  • Down payment and closing cost assistance available for low- to moderate-income borrowers.

  • Some condos, manufactured homes and properties with guesthouses or in-law quarters allowed.

Eligibility

  • Property must be in California and be the borrower’s primary residence.

  • Must have a minimum credit score of 660.

  • Must meet all income and sales price requirements of the lender and mortgage insurer.

  • Must take an approved home buyer education course and obtain a certificate of completion.

  • Leaseholds/land trusts and co-ops not permitted.

  • There may be additional program-specific requirements.

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Rocket Mortgage - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on Rocket Mortgage

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5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Rocket Mortgage - PURCHASE logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
580

Min. down payment 
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Check Rate

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Better - PURCHASE logo
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4.5

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4.5

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Min. credit score 
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