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Best First Time Home Buyer Programs in Georgia

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Want to jump straight to the answer? The best mortgage lender for most people is definitely Rocket Mortgage® by Quicken Loans®.

Thinking about buying your 1st home in the Peach State? 1st-time home buyer programs can be a big help if you’re ready to dive into the housing market as a Georgia resident. Here’s what you need to know.

Best First Time Home Buyer Programs in Georgia:

  • The Georgia Dream Homeownership Program
  • The Georgia Dream Standard Down Payment Loan
  • The Georgia Dream PEN Down Payment Loan
  • The Georgia Dream CHOICE Down Payment Loan
  • The Georgia Dream Hardest Hit Fund (HHF)

Best National First Time Home Buyer Programs:

First Time Home Buyer Programs in Georgia

Georgia offers home loan and down payment assistance programs. Here’s the scoop on each program and its eligibility requirements. 

1. The Georgia Dream Homeownership Program

The Georgia Dream Homeownership program is a 1st-time home buyer program that offers affordable 30-year fixed-interest rate mortgages. It offers conventional mortgages, FHA loans, USDA loans and VA loans through approved private lenders. 

Eligibility requirements: 

  • You must be a 1st-time home buyer, someone who hasn’t owned a home for at least 3 years or someone buying in a targeted area. 
  • Income. The income limits vary depending on where you live. 
    • The income limit is $76,000 for households of 1 to 2 people and $87,500 for 3 or more people in the following counties: Barrow, Bartow, Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Heard, Henry, Jasper, Newton, Paulding, Pickens, Pike, Rockdale, Spalding and Walton. 
    • Income limit of $64,000 for households of 1 to 2 people and $73,500 for 3 or more people in all other counties. 
  • Assets. You must have less than $20,000 or less than 20% of the sales price (whichever is more) in liquid assets. Liquid assets are readily available assets like money in checking and savings accounts. 
  • Purchase price. There is a purchase price limit of $250,000 in the following counties: Barrow, Bartow, Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Heard, Henry, Jasper, Newton, Paulding, Pickens, Pike, Rockdale, Spalding and Walton. The purchase price limit is $200,000 in all other counties. 
  • Contribution. You must contribute at least $1,000 of your own funds to the purchase. 
  • Education. You must complete an approved home buyer education class. 
  • Credit score. You must meet the credit score requirements of the underlying mortgage. For example, if your Georgia Dream Homeownership loan is through the FHA, you must meet FHA’s credit score requirements.

2. The Georgia Dream Standard Down Payment Loan

The Georgia Dream Standard down payment loan offers a second mortgage you can use for your down payment and closing costs. The standard loan amount is $5,000. It’s a 0% loan with no monthly payment. It doesn’t have to be repaid until you sell or refinance the property or no longer use it as a primary residence. 

Eligibility requirements: 

  • You must get a mortgage through the Georgia Dream Homeownership Program and meet all of the program’s requirements.

3. The Georgia Dream PEN Down Payment Loan

The Georgia Dream PEN down payment loan also offers a 0% interest, no down payment second mortgage. It provides $7,500 if you work in an eligible profession. As with the standard down payment loan, it needs to be repaid when you sell or refinance your home or if you no longer live there. 

Eligibility requirements: 

  • You must work in 1 of the following professions:
    • Protectors. Police department and correctional employees, firefighters (including volunteer firefighters), EMS, DMV employees, service members and civil servants working for a military base. 
    • Educators. School employees, including bus drivers. 
    • Nurses and other healthcare workers. Hospital employees, dental and medical office employees, lab and pharmacy technicians, home healthcare workers, assisted living employees, Red Cross employees, public health workers and others in similar professions.
  • You must get a mortgage through the Georgia Dream Homeownership Program and meet all of the program’s requirements.

4. The Georgia Dream CHOICE Down Payment Loan

This down payment program is similar to the PEN and standard down payment loan programs, but offers $7,500 to applicants with disabilities or those who have a disabled dependent as a member of their households. 

Eligibility requirements

  • You must provide documentation of the disability. This can be:
    • A Social Security Disability determination letter
    • A denial from Social Security that states a disability exists but you aren’t eligible for income
    • Documentation from an acceptable medical source that you have a disability that appears on Social Security’s listing of impairments
  • The person with the disability must be the applicant, the applicant’s spouse or a dependent of the applicant
  • You must get your mortgage through the Georgia Dream Homeownership program and meet all of its requirements

5. The Georgia Dream Hardest Hit Fund (HHF)

The Georgia Dream Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) helps 1st-time home buyers purchase homes in areas that have experienced economic challenges. It offers $15,000 per household as a forgivable loan with no interest and no monthly payments. The loan is forgiven after 5 years and the funds can be used for down payments and closing costs. 

Eligibility requirements:

  • You must buy an existing home in one of the following counties:
    • Fulton
    • DeKalb
    • Clayton
    • Muscogee
    • Douglas
    • Chatham
    • Bibb
  • You must have a credit score of 640 or higher. 
  • You can’t have a conviction in the past 10 years for felony larceny, theft, fraud, forgery, money laundering or tax evasion. 
  • You must get your mortgage through the Georgia Dream Homeownership program and meet its requirements. 

Best National First Time Home Buyer Programs

Georgia has a wide array of programs, but it’s also worthwhile to consider national programs. These programs are for anyone who qualifies, but they’re a great fit for first-time home buyers. 

FHA Loans

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures mortgages to encourage people to buy homes. These loans have low down payment and low credit score requirements, so they’re a great choice for folks new to homeownership. 

Eligibility requirements:

  • Down payment and credit score. You can make a down payment of 3.5% if you have a credit score of 580 or higher. If you have a credit score of 500 to 579, you have to make a down payment of 10% or more. You must have a credit score of at least 500. 
  • Purchase price limits. The FHA sets purchase price limits by area. In most of the country, it’s $331,760, but in high-cost areas, the price limits can go up to $765,600. 
Avg. Days to Close Loan
30
Minimum Credit Score
580

Best National FHA Lender: Rocket Mortgage®

Rocket Mortgage® by Quicken Loans® offers a user-friendly online mortgage experience. Even though it’s online, you still have support along the way. You can reach out to experts via chat or phone and take advantage of its award-winning customer service. Rocket Mortgage® experts are familiar with the FHA loan process and can help you. 

VA Loans

Current servicemembers and veterans may be eligible for loans backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and offered by private lenders. These home loans don’t require a down payment and don’t have mortgage insurance. 

Eligibility requirements:

  • The VA has minimum service length requirements you need to meet to qualify for a VA loan. You can find out if you qualify by contacting the VA and checking for your Certificate of Eligibility (COE).
  • The VA doesn’t have specific income or credit score requirements. It requires lenders to make sure you can afford the home loan and review your overall credit history. 
Avg. Days to Close Loan
30
Minimum Credit Score
620

Best National VA Lender: Veterans United

Veterans United is a popular choice with veterans. It’s been the top VA purchase lender for 4 years and it has stellar user reviews. You can start the process online or by contacting representatives 24/7. It focuses exclusively on the needs of service members and its representatives are experts on the VA loan process. 

USDA Loans

The USDA backs loans to encourage people to buy homes in rural areas. You can purchase a home with no down payment. To see which areas are eligible, you can enter an address into the USDA’s eligibility tool

Eligibility requirements:

  • You must buy a home in a designated area. 
  • You must be below the income limits, which vary by area. 
  • You must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien. 
Avg. Days to Close Loan
31-40
Minimum Credit Score
680+

Best National USDA Lender: New American Funding

New American Funding is an excellent lender for 1st-time home buyers. You can opt for an FHA, USDA or VA loan. New American Funding also has educational resources to help 1st-timers understand the mortgage process. 

Which Mortgage is Right for You?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all your options, that’s understandable. Consider whether you have any special needs or circumstances. For example, if you’re self-employed, it can be more challenging (but not impossible) to find a mortgage. Look for lenders willing to work with you if you’ve had credit challenges. 

Look for local lenders with expertise in Georgia’s programs. Ask the lender which programs might be a good fit for you. It’s always a good idea to contact multiple lenders so you can compare rates, service and mortgage options. Make sure to get all the information in writing so you can refer to it later.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get a loan as a 1st-time buyer with bad credit?

Yes! Your credit score is just a single factor among many that lenders review when determining whether to give you a loan. You can also focus on your credit for a while and improve your money habits if you want to get better terms.

What’s the best way to go about getting a loan as a 1st-time buyer?

Check out a home buyer education class. These classes explain the home buying process from start to finish so you know what to expect at every step along the way. Ask questions about any areas you feel uncertain about. Once you have a good foundation, review your lender quotes and make an informed decision about which option works best for you. 

Get Ready for Take Off

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