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texas first-time home buyer programs

Both the Texas state government and the federal government offer special programs for first-time home buyers. These programs may allow you to get a loan with low down payment and credit score requirements. There are also programs designed for specific demographics, such as veterans or school teachers.

If you want financial help during the homebuying process, we recommend using SmartAsset’s SmartAdvisor matching tool to find an advisor.

Federal First-Time Home Buyer Programs

Before we get to the programs available only to Texas residents, we’ll first touch on several national home buyer programs that anyone can access. It’s a good idea to consider both federal and state programs when you conduct your mortgage search.

FHA Loans

Pros – No down payment required
– Can be for the entire value of your new home
Cons – Larger down payment needed for those with a credit score below 580
Eligibility – As little as a 3.5% down payment
– Credit score must be 500 or above
Best For – Those who don’t have a great credit history and money for a down payment

FHA loans, which many typical lenders include as part of their mortgage portfolio, is actually handled in conjunction with the Federal Housing Administration. These loans offer the lowest down payment options available (save for those programs offered specifically to veterans). In fact, just a 3.5% down payment is expected when you get one of these loans. For reference, a conventional mortgage typically calls for a 20% down payment.

The 3.5% down payment only applies to applicants who have a FICO® credit score of 580 or higher. Should you fall below that threshold, the FHA will require you to pay a 10% down payment, which still beats what most mortgages in Texas can offer.

VA Loans

Pros – Can have up to 100% loan coverage of your home’s value
– Usually come with lower closing costs than conventional loans
– No private mortgage insurance
Cons – The application process can be drawn out
– Must pay a VA funding fee
Eligibility – Must be a current or former military member, or a member’s spouse or another eligible beneficiary
– Must have a credit score of 620 or higher
Best For – Veterans with little monthly income and savings for a comfortable down payment

Veterans, current members of the U.S. military, their spouses and other eligible beneficiaries can apply for a VA mortgage through the Department of Veterans Affairs. These are perfect for applicable first-time home buyers who lack the capital for a normal down payment but have the monthly income to take on a mortgage. So as long as your new home’s value falls within the standards of a VA loan, you can have as much as 100% of the price covered by your loan.

As great as this sounds, VA loans do come paired with a VA funding fee that can range anywhere from 1.25% to 2.4%. You could think of this as a substitute down payment, but even if you do, it’s still less than the vast majority of other options. On top of this, you need a minimum FICO® credit score of about 620 for approval under most individual lenders, although the VA doesn’t technically enforce a credit score minimum.

Outside of this funding fee, you won’t have to pay much else at the time of your purchase. Closing costs are forever present, but the VA has lowered these beneath what most other options charge. Also, because these loans are insured by the VA, buyers won’t have to get private mortgage insurance to cover themselves in case of a default.

USDA Loans

Pros – Can have up to 100% loan coverage of your home’s value
Cons – If you qualify for a conventional mortgage, you can’t get one
Eligibility – Adjusted household income can’t surpass 115% of the area median income for most USDA loans
– Must purchase a home within an eligible rural area
Best For – Low-to-mid-income Americans looking to live in a rural or suburban area

In an effort to get home buyers to move into rural, semi-rural and certain suburban areas around the U.S., the United States Department of Agriculture developed the USDA loan program. These apply to single-family homes that are located in approved areas.

Similar to their VA loan counterparts, USDA loans do not come with minimum down payment requirements, allowing you to finance up to 100% of your new home’s value. Should your FICO® credit score land too low, your down payment may be pushed to 10% of your home’s value, though.

The only factor that could hold you back from getting approved for a USDA loan is having too high of an income. To qualify for a common USDA loan through the guaranteed loan program, your household income generally can’t exceed 115% of the median income for the area you wish to live in.

Good Neighbor Next Door Program

Pros – Get a flat 50% discount on the value of your new home
– After three years, you can sell the home and keep all equity
Cons – Not available to most people and in most areas
– You’re required to live in the home for at least three years following purchase
Eligibility – Must be a police officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician or a pre-K to 12th grade teacher
Best For – Teachers or emergency personnel with little in savings

The Good Neighbor Next Door Program was specifically put in place to attract pre-K through 12th-grade teachers and emergency personnel to areas around the U.S where there is a need for such professionals. The federal government has identified these various places and deemed them “revitalization areas.” So if you’re a police officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician or school teacher, you can use this program to get a house in one of these areas for 50% off.

While this program is obviously beneficial, you don’t physically obtain your mortgage through it. Instead your discount will apply through the program, and you can pay cash or get a conventional, FHA or VA mortgage to cover the balance. You will, however, be required by law to leave this home as your primary residence for no less than three years, at which point you can sell it and keep the profits.

Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac

Pros – Very low down payment stipulations
– Little to no credit needed for approval
– Many loan styles available
Cons – Could come with higher interest rates
Eligibility – In some cases, no income requirements in underserved areas
Best For – Anyone who is looking for a low down payment loan option, but doesn’t qualify for any of the above options

The federal government created Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to help build stability in the mortgage market, and each offer a loan program geared towards first-time home buyers.

Fannie Mae’s HomeReady® mortgage requires a lower down payment than an FHA loan at 3%. So on a $250,000 home, that would be a $7,500 down payment, which should be doable for most applicants. Just make sure that your monthly income doesn’t cross the U.S. median by much, if at all, and your credit score is at least a 620. While you will be required to pay for private mortgage insurance, you can cancel once you have accrued 20% equity in your home.

The Home Possible: 95% LTV and Home Possible Advantage: 97% LTV mortgages from Freddie Mac are very similar to Fannie Mae’s offering, just with some minor tweaks. The first of the above loans is available in 15- to 30-year fixed-rate terms, and also as a 5/1, 5/5, 7/1 or 10/1 adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). But the Home Possible Advantage loan comes in just a fixed-rate variation, with terms available from 15 to 30 years.


Pros – Minimal credit score requirements
– No down payment and no private mortgage insurance
– Cheap closing costs
Cons – Limited group of eligible borrowers
Eligibility – Home must be located on allotted lands, Alaska Native corporations, Pacific Island territories or federally-recognized trusts
Best For – Native American veterans that lack money for a down payment

As an alternative to traditional VA loans, the Department of Veterans Affairs created the Native American Direct Loan (NADL) just for Native American veterans and their spouses. These mortgages feature a 0% down payment requirement and do not call for private mortgage insurance, as they’re backed by the VA. You’ll also receive lower closing costs than most mortgage alternatives to even further ease the initial financial stress. NADLs are extremely forgiving when it comes to credit score requirements for approval as well.

Unfortunately, you cannot use these loans to purchase, build or renovate just any home. To remain eligible, the house has to be situated on allotted lands, Alaska Native corporations, Pacific Island territories or federally-recognized trusts.

Texas First-Time Home Buyer Programs

texas first-time home buyer programs

My First Texas Home

Pros – Can get up to a 5% loan to help cover your down payment or closing costs
– Relatively simple credit requirements
Cons – Limited applicant standards
Eligibility – Only for first-time home buyers or people who haven’t owned a home in the last three years
– Need at least a credit score of 620
Best For – Mid- to low-income borrowers

The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) handles not only the My First Texas Home program, but all of the state’s first-time home buyer offers. This program is a 30-year fixed-rate loan with relatively easy-to-meet credit stipulations, along with decent interest rates.

It’s also paired with down payment and closing cost assistance that could be worth as much as 5% of your new home’s value. So while this is definitely preferential for first-time home buyers, those who haven’t been a homeowner within the last three years are also eligible.

Texas Bootstrap Loan Program

Pros – Allows you to get a loan to build your own home
Cons – Very labor intensive and time consuming
– Must be under the supervision of a NOHP
Eligibility – Cannot have an annual household income higher than 60% of the state/local median family income
– Need a “reasonable” credit history
Best For – Low-income families with very little homebuying options

The Texas Bootstrap Loan Program is one of the more distinctive first-time home buyer programs around the country. Rather than help you purchase a home, this offer quite literally has you build your own home. Within the context of this program, your title will be an “owner-builder.” You’re required to be under the supervision of a Nonprofit Owner-Builder Housing Provider, or NOHP, that is certified by Texas. The purpose of this relationship is to make sure you know what you’re doing and that you are following all laws.

Should you enter this program, you’re required to do at least 65% of the labor associated with the building. The NOHP, family members, friends and volunteers are allowed to fill the gap. Your total debt-to-income ratio can’t exceed 45%, and you have to have lived in Texas for at least six months before applying. The maximum benefit of the program is $45,000, although you are not barred from seeking finances from other places as well.

Texas Mortgage Credit Certificate Program

Pros – Can get a 40% annual mortgage interest payment federal tax credit
Cons – Tax credits are capped at $2,000
Eligibility – Must be either a first-time home buyer, an eligible veteran or someone who hasn’t owned a home over the last three years
Best For – Those looking to save a little extra on their federal taxes

This program is only being offered in combination with the My First Texas Home program. Similar to programs many states offer, the Texas Mortgage Credit Certificate Program allows borrowers to save on their federal income taxes by applying as much as 40% of their mortgage interest payments as a tax credit. However, this is limited to a maximum of $2,000 per year.

To get in on this beneficial program, you only need to have not been a homeowner during the last three years. First-time home buyers and veterans who meet specific requirements don’t have to abide by this, though.

A Final Word on Buying a Home

texas first-time home buyer programsAs a first-time home buyer, you’ll undoubtedly be thrust into financial situations that you’ve simply never come across before. That’s why it may be a good idea to speak with a financial professional. The SmartAsset financial advisor matching tool can pair you with advisors in your area. Take a few minutes to answer some questions about your finances, and the tool will find local advisors who can meet your needs.

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Chris Thompson, CEPF® Chris Thompson is a retirement, savings, mortgage and credit card expert at SmartAsset. He has reviewed hundreds of credit cards and loves helping people find the one that best matches their financial needs. Chris is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. He graduated from Montclair State University where he received the Journalism Achievement Award. Chris’ articles have been featured in places like Yahoo Finance, MSN and Bleacher Report. He lives in New Jersey and is a Mets, Jets and Nets fan.
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