First-time home buyers in Washington can take advantage of special loan programs and down payment assistance available just for residents. Got your eye on a cottage in King County? Or maybe a split-level in Spokane? The Washington State Housing Finance Commission knows the lay of the land and the lenders that can help.
WSHFC highlights and eligibility requirements
- 30-year fixed-rate home loans
- Down payment assistance up to 5% of the mortgage amount
- Available for single-family houses, condos, townhouses and manufactured homes
- A home buyer education course is required, in person or online
- Annual household income typically cannot exceed $97,000
- Some down payment assistance programs are restricted to first-time home buyers
- If you haven’t owned and occupied your primary residence in the past three years, you qualify as a first-time home buyer
- Specific areas are exempt from the first-time home buyer requirement
Washington state home buyer loan programs
This 30-year fixed-rate program covers a lot of ground — from conventional loans to FHA, VA and USDA mortgages. Home Advantage has an income limit of $97,000 and is also available to former homeowners. It’s the primary mortgage program that is used with any down payment assistance you may qualify for. Rates and origination fees vary by type of loan.
Compared with the Home Advantage program, Opportunity has lower income limits, which vary by household size and purchase location. It also provides a higher level of assistance. With generally lower interest rates, this program is combined with specific down payment assistance programs. Your WSHFC-approved lender can help you determine the proper loan program for your particular situation.
Energy Spark Program
This loan program works with the Home Advantage program and any down payment assistance you receive. It’s used to help buyers purchase an energy-efficient home or make green upgrades to a house at the time of purchase. You’ll need a credit score of at least 620 to qualify.
Washington state home buyer assistance programs
Home Advantage DPA #1
Receive up to 5% of your loan amount in down payment assistance, depending on the type of loan you choose (conventional, FHA, VA, etc.). It’s a 0% interest loan, with payment deferred for 30 years. Repayment is due sooner if you sell the home or refinance the mortgage. Income limits apply, which vary by loan program and sometimes by location.
Home Advantage DPA #2
Provides up to $10,000 in down payment assistance, with needs-based qualifications. Borrowers entitled to VA loans are granted exceptions to some qualifying restrictions.
Down payment assistance of up to $10,000 is provided with a 1% interest rate, deferred for 30 years. To qualify, you must be a first-time home buyer or live in certain areas of the state.
House Key Veterans
For borrowers who are military veterans, or current or former members of the Washington National Guard or Reserve, $10,000 in down payment assistance is structured as a second mortgage with a 3% interest rate, and deferred for up to 30 years.
This program is for borrowers who have a disability — or have a family member living with them who does. It provides up to $15,000 in down payment assistance in a 1% deferred second mortgage.
Mortgage Credit Certificate
This program has been suspended by the WSHFC.
Your next step
Washington provides ample options for first-timers to get into a home. It all starts with a conversation with a lender — or better yet, several lenders. Find someone you feel comfortable with who will take the time to help you make sense of these programs.
Interest rates and loan terms vary by lender, which is why it makes sense to shop around for the best deal.
For full details on any program, visit the Washington State Housing Finance Commission online.
You’ll find lenders that participate in these programs on the WSHFC website.
National first-time home buyer programs to consider
The Washington State Housing Finance Commission provides a wide variety of loan programs and down payment assistance. Most are tied to national loan programs administered by government agencies — such as the VA or FHA — or federally authorized companies, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
It’s a good idea to explore these programs to see which one you may be most qualified for.
FHA-backed loans are a primary resource for first-time home buyers of modest means. These loans allow for lower credit scores and offer down payments as low as 3.5%.
VA loans, backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, require no down payment and are available to active-duty military service members and veterans and certain surviving spouses.
USDA mortgages are available to finance properties in rural and suburban locations. With no down payment required, they are meant to provide “adequate, modest, decent, safe and sanitary dwellings,” according to the USDA.
Conventional loans are made possible by government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Qualifying for them may be a bit harder, but down payments go as low as 3%.
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