The Essential Guide for First-Time Homebuyers in Florida

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If you’re a first-time homebuyer in Florida, there are plenty of benefits—like tax breaks, state programs, and federally-backed loans—that will help you secure the home of your dreams.
It’s no secret: buying your first home is a big deal. You’ll have to look over your budget, research houses that fit your criteria, consider mortgage options, and more—all before you even make an offer! If all of the moving parts are making your head spin, don’t stress out. Jerry, the only super app for car insurance shopping, is here to help.
We’ll walk you through the whole process: whether you qualify as a first-time home buyer, what benefits you can expect if you do, and what steps you should take to make sure you get the sweetest deal on Florida’s booming housing market.
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Who qualifies as a first-time homebuyer in Florida?

To qualify as a first-time homebuyer in Florida, you’ll have to meet several national criteria as well as a few state criteria.
On the national level, you’re a first-time homebuyer if any of these things are true:
  • You’ve never bought a home before (pretty simple, right?)
  • You haven’t owned a principal residence in the last three years
  • Your spouse has never owned a home before
  • You’re a single parent and you’ve only owned a home with your spouse while married
  • You fall under one of these rare exceptions
On the state level, Florida Housing has some extra requirements that you should be aware of:
  • You’ll need a minimum credit score of 640
  • You’ll have to work with an approved lender
  • You should complete an approved homebuyer’s education course (this will take roughly six to eight hours)
  • Your home purchase price needs to be under your county’s limit
  • Your income needs to be under your county’s limit
And voila! If you’ve met these standards, you’re on your way to home-buying greatness. To get a better idea of the income and purchase price limits in your county, check out Florida Housing’s handy online wizard

What benefits do first-time homebuyers in Florida get?

From down payment assistance to relaxed minimum credit requirements, there are some awesome benefits available to first-time Florida homebuyers. This time, let’s dive into the state programs first, then walk through some national benefits.

State benefits for first-time homebuyers in Florida

Program nameBenefit amountBenefit TypeHow long you should keep the home
Florida AssistUp to $10,000 on government and conventional loansDown payment assistance as a 0% deferred loanN/A
Florida Homeownership Loan Program$10,000Down payment assistance as a 3% loan15 years
HFA Preferred and HFA Advantage PLUS3 to 5% of total loan amountForgivable down payment assistanceFive years for full loan forgiveness
Salute Our SoldiersUp to 5% of loan amountDown payment and closing cost assistance for veteransFive years for full loan forgiveness
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If all of the technical terms are making you dizzy, don’t sweat it! Here’s the basic idea behind each program:
  • Florida Assist: This is a deferred loan, which means that you won’t have to pay the loan back until you refinance or sell the home.
  • Florida Homeownership Loan Program: This is a second mortgage loan, so you’ll have to make monthly payments like you would on an ordinary loan. You won’t have to pay the full balance until you refinance or sell.
  • HFA PLUS loans: These are forgivable second mortgage loans. This is good news—each year, a little bit of your loan is forgiven. So, if you keep your home for the full five-year term, you won’t have to pay the loan back!
  • Salute Our Soldiers: Another forgivable second mortgage loan—a little slice of your loan will be forgiven each year that you stay in the home.

National benefits for first-time homebuyers

Whether you live in Florida, Texas, or Tennessee, you can look forward to these handy benefits as a first-time homebuyer:
  • Conventional loans: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two federally-backed home mortgage companies, both offer a first-time homebuyer loan with a 3% down payment. Pair this with a Florida home buying program for maximum savings!
  • FHA loans: These are great options for low-credit buyers. As long as your credit score is above 500, you’ll be able to secure a loan—but you should expect a higher down payment of 10% or more.
  • VA loans: Veterans and current service members can take advantage of a VA loan, which rarely has a down payment and doesn’t require a certain credit score.
  • USDA loans: If you’re living in a rural area, you might be able to secure a USDA loan through the US Department of Agriculture. Low and middle-income families can often qualify for a loan without a down payment!
Key Takeaway First-time homebuyers in Florida can get down payment assistance from the state. Low-credit buyers and veterans can also benefit from statewide and national programs.

What steps should I take as a first-time homebuyer in Florida?

Now that we’ve got most of the technical stuff out of the way, let’s walk through a quick checklist of first-time home buying tips and tricks.

Step 1: Brush up on your finances

Three words: savings, spending, and credit! Sometimes, there’s a hitch in the buying process—make sure that your savings account has you covered for three to six months of living expenses if need be.
Next, put together a budget with your monthly spending rate and check your credit score to ensure that you’re in a good position to buy a home. A FICO score of 620 or higher will help you land a loan with strong terms.

Step 2: Understand your buying options

Thankfully, we already tackled most of these earlier in the article! After you’ve chosen the benefit program that makes the most sense for you, use Florida’s Mortgage Calculator to get a better idea of what you can and can’t afford.

Step 3: Research your perfect home

Once you’ve locked in a price range for your home, put together a list of must-have features and a few that are negotiable. At this point, it’s also a great idea to find a real estate agent—they can simplify the process for you and help you find your dream home.

Step 4: Make an offer

Now, it’s time to get down to business. Once you’ve settled on your favorite home (and had it inspected!), your agent will help you make an offer. Before you do, revisit your budget one last time, factoring in closing costs, commuting costs, and maintenance costs.
If you’re super lucky, the seller might agree to your price right away. More likely, though, they’ll make a counteroffer, and the negotiation is afoot. Don’t stress out, though—your real estate agent should make the negotiation as stress-free as possible.
Remember to be patient: from start to finish, it usually takes 30 to 45 days to close on a home.

Step 5: Finalize your decision

If you can’t land on an agreement, no problem! Now that you’re a pro at the process, the second time around shouldn’t be too much trouble.
If you reach an agreement, congratulations! After the one to two-hour closing session, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the triumph—you’ve conquered the Florida housing market.

How to save money on insurance in Florida

Here’s a fantastic way to stay one step ahead of other first-time homebuyers: bundle your home and auto insurance with Jerry.
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Most first-time homebuyers put about 6% down on their house. With the help of certain programs, though, you could lower that amount to 3% or less!
From start to finish, you can expect closing on a home to take 30 to 45 days. The research process is quite a bit longer, though, with many families taking several months before they find the right home.

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