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The Good Neighbor Next Door program might sound almost too good to be true: Teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians can buy homes for 50% off the list price and finance the purchases with down payments as low as $100.
But there's a big limitation to understand before getting your hopes up. The program may have no homes, or only a handful of properties, available for purchase in your state.
Here's what you should know about the program, as well as some alternatives to consider if you want help buying a house.
Good Neighbor Next Door houses
The homes that are available for purchase are foreclosed properties that were financed by FHA mortgages, which are insured by the Federal Housing Administration. After foreclosure, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, becomes the owner of the properties and offers them for sale.
Good Neighbor Next Door homes are all located in neighborhoods designated as “revitalization areas” to expand homeownership opportunities. HUD works with local governments across the country to designate revitalization areas in neighborhoods that have relatively low median household income, high foreclosure rates and low homeownership rates.
Although there are many revitalization areas, the supply of homes for the Good Neighbor Next Door program is very limited.
Who can qualify for Good Neighbor Next Door
You may qualify if you're a full-time law enforcement officer, teacher, firefighter or emergency medical technician who works for an agency, school or department serving the area where the home is located.
You or your spouse must not have purchased a Good Neighbor Next Door home before or have owned any home in the year before bidding on a property in the program.
You must also:
Certify your intention to continue working as a law enforcement officer, teacher, firefighter or EMT for a year after the home purchase.
Agree to own and live in the home as your sole residence for three years, and annually certify that you're living there during that period. HUD mails the certification every year, and the homeowner signs and returns it.
Buying a Good Neighbor Next Door home
You can search for homes for sale through the Good Neighbor Next Door program at the HUD Homestore website. First, click on the Good Neighbor Next Door link in the box to the left of the map, and then click on a dark-blue state to see available properties. The light-blue states currently have no homes for sale through the program. To get more information about a home, click on the property case number to see photos and details, such as square footage, number of rooms and year the home was built.
The inventory of homes changes weekly, and the homes are sold “as is.” If you find a property you want to purchase, you'll have to act quickly — you have just seven days to make a bid. To do so, you'll need to work with a real estate agent who is a registered HUD broker. The HUD Homestore website has a tool for finding one in your area. The broker submits the bid electronically for the full list price, and then HUD will apply the 50% discount. If more than one person makes an offer, the buyer is selected by lottery.
Good Neighbor Next Door mortgages
You can use any type of mortgage to buy a Good Neighbor Next Door home, as long as you meet the lender's requirements, but using an FHA loan has special benefits: The required down payment is as low as $100, and the closing costs can be financed. Normally the minimum down payment for an FHA loan is 3.5%. You can also use a renovation loan, such as an FHA 203(k) loan, which rolls the cost of needed repairs into the mortgage.
It's important to get preapproved for a mortgage before shopping for any type of home. A mortgage preapproval is an offer from a lender to loan you a certain amount under specific terms. You'll want that preapproval in your back pocket when making an offer.
The mortgage through a lender pays 50% of the home's list price. Meanwhile, a second mortgage through HUD finances the other half of the price. Buyers don't have to make any payments on the second mortgage as long as they meet the program's requirements. The buyer is released from the second mortgage after living in the home for three years.
Alternatives to Good Neighbor Next Door
A 50% discount from the list price on a home is hard to beat. But there are other programs and options that help people buy and finance homes. Here are some to consider.
Homes for Heroes
Current or former first responders, teachers, military members and health care professionals can save money on certain homebuying services through the Homes for Heroes program. The program has a network of real estate agents, mortgage professionals, home inspectors and other service providers who offer rebates, which can help save on closing costs.
Homebuying programs for teachers
A variety of mortgage and down payment assistance programs are available for educators through local and state government agencies, unions and some lenders.
Down payment assistance programs
Many states, counties and cities offer programs to help home buyers pay the down payment and closing costs on a house. The help comes in the form of grants, forgivable loans and low-interest loans.
First-time home buyer programs
Many state housing authorities offer a variety of mortgage programs, including down payment and closing cost assistance, for those who haven't owned a home for three or more years. Some mortgage programs are specifically geared toward teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMTs.
Home buyer education classes
These free or low-cost HUD-approved classes are often required to get particular low-cost mortgages or down payment assistance. But it can be worth taking a class even before you apply for help. The classes cover such topics as how to comparison shop among real estate agents and lenders, how to improve your credit score and which mortgage loan products to consider.