First-Time Home Buyer Loans and Programs: A Beginner’s Guide

Options include loans with low (or zero) down payments and financing for fixer-uppers.
Abby Badach Doyle
Taylor Getler
By Taylor Getler and  Abby Badach Doyle 
Updated
Edited by Johanna Arnone Reviewed by Michael Soon Lee
8 First-Time Home Buyer Loans and Programs

Some or all of the mortgage lenders featured on our site are advertising partners of NerdWallet, but this does not influence our evaluations, lender star ratings or the order in which lenders are listed on the page. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners.

From setting a budget to picking a neighborhood, first-time home buyers have a lot of decisions to make.

Here’s another one: What type of mortgage should I get?

There’s not just one choice for a “first-time home buyer loan.” More likely, you’ll compare a few mortgage types. Each one has different requirements, such as how much down payment you’ll need. Then, you’ll choose which one is the right fit for your financial situation.

From there, you can look at combining your mortgage with first-time home buyer benefits such as down payment or closing cost assistance. Read the fine print to make sure you qualify as some programs might have income or purchase price limits. When buying your first home, it pays to do your research to get every dollar you can qualify for.

Did you know...

Often, you’re considered a first-time buyer if you haven’t owned your principal residence in the past three years.

Here’s how to compare first-time home buyer financing options and find what’s best for you.

Overview: Best loans for first-time home buyers

Here are six first-time home buyer loans and programs that are worth exploring.

  • FHA loans are government-insured mortgages that require as little as 3.5% down.

  • VA loans are zero-down-payment loans for qualified military borrowers.

  • USDA loans offer financing on rural and some suburban properties with 0% down.

  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back conventional loans with just 3% down. (Fannie and Freddie don’t lend money directly; you get the loan through a mortgage lender.)

  • State first-time home buyer programs include loans and assistance programs (such as grants or tax credits) tailored to the borrower’s location.

  • Fixer-upper mortgages, known as renovation loans, allow you to buy a home and roll remodeling costs into your mortgage with one convenient monthly payment.

Mortgage loans from our partners

New American Funding - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on New American Funding

New American Funding

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
New American Funding - PURCHASE logo

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
500

Min. down payment 
3.5%

Check Rate

on New American Funding

Better - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on Better

Better

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Better - PURCHASE logo

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
620

Min. down payment 
3%

Check Rate

on Better

NBKC - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on NBKC

NBKC

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
NBKC - PURCHASE logo

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
620

Min. down payment 
3%

Check Rate

on NBKC

Rocket Mortgage - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on Rocket Mortgage

Rocket Mortgage

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Rocket Mortgage - PURCHASE logo

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
620

Min. down payment 
1%

Check Rate

on Rocket Mortgage

Guaranteed Rate - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on Guaranteed Rate

Guaranteed Rate

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Guaranteed Rate - PURCHASE logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
620

Min. down payment 
3%

Check Rate

on Guaranteed Rate

Mortgage loans from our partners

New American Funding - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on New American Funding

New American Funding

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
New American Funding - PURCHASE logo

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
500

Min. down payment 
3.5%

Check Rate

on New American Funding

Better - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on Better

Better

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Better - PURCHASE logo

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
620

Min. down payment 
3%

Check Rate

on Better

NBKC - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on NBKC

NBKC

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
NBKC - PURCHASE logo

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
620

Min. down payment 
3%

Check Rate

on NBKC