Whether you want to live in the hills of western Maryland or the historic neighborhoods of Baltimore, buying a house for the first time can be intimidating.
That’s why the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, or DHCD, offers mortgage and financial assistance programs to make homeownership more accessible, especially for first-time home buyers.
If you haven’t owned residential property in the past three years, you’re considered a first-time home buyer in Maryland. Even if you’re a repeat buyer, you may still be eligible for a DHCD mortgage if you meet income limits and the property is located in an economically distressed target area.
Highlights and eligibility requirements to consider
30-year mortgages with competitive interest rates Down payment and closing cost assistance, including non-repayable grants Rate discounts and tax credits available to some borrowers Some programs can be combined for added savings
Borrower must be a first-time home buyer unless property is in a targeted area Borrower must meet income guidelines, which vary by location and household size Borrower’s liquid assets, including gifts, shouldn’t exceed 20% of the purchase price Property must be the borrower’s primary residence Individual programs may have additional eligibility requirements
» MORE: 25 tips for first-time home buyers
Maryland DHCD first-time home buyer programs
MARYLAND MORTGAGE LOAN ASSIST
The products in this loan program are designed for borrowers who can afford the ongoing costs of homeownership but may have trouble covering initial expenses such as a down payment or closing costs.
Maryland Mortgage Premier: This mortgage offers competitive interest rates with up to $5,000 for a down payment and closing costs in the form of a no-interest, deferred loan. You don’t have to repay this loan until you sell, refinance or make your final mortgage payment.
Maryland Homefront: If you’re a veteran or active-duty military member, this 30-year mortgage features a special interest rate discount of 0.25 percentage points.
You’ve Earned It: This loan provides an interest rate discount of 0.25 percentage points, along with $5,000 in down payment assistance. To qualify, you must have at least $25,000 in student loan debt and purchase a home in one of Maryland’s Sustainable Communities. If you qualify for the You’ve Earned It loan and use the HomeCredit mortgage credit certificate, state fees may be waived.
Maryland SmartBuy: If you’re willing to purchase a home owned by the state of Maryland, this program could eliminate your student debt. To qualify, you must have at least $1,000, but no more than 15% of the home’s purchase price, in student loans. Meet these and other eligibility requirements, and SmartBuy will provide the cash needed to pay off your student loans.
MARYLAND MORTGAGE RATE ASSIST
Maryland Preferred Rate loans involve a bit of give and take: Instead of down payment and closing cost assistance, you get the lowest available interest rate on a 30-year home loan. When combined with the HomeCredit mortgage credit certificate program, this could mean affordable monthly payments for the life of your loan.
Maryland DHCD down payment assistance programs
MARYLAND MORTGAGE GRANT ASSIST
4% Grant Assist: Borrowers who qualify for this program receive 4% of the mortgage amount to use for a down payment or toward closing costs. Because these funds are provided as a grant, they never have to be repaid. If you choose the 4% Grant Assist, you won’t be able to take advantage of any other down payment assistance or Partner Match programs offered through the DHCD, however.
6% Opportunity Grant: You could get a grant for 6% of the total mortgage amount for a down payment and closing costs through this program, but only if you use a Freddie Mac HFA Advantage conventional mortgage. If you qualify for the 6% Opportunity Grant and choose to use the HomeCredit mortgage credit certificate, state fees may be waived.
Some employers, home builders, real estate developers, community organizations and local governments offer their own financial assistance programs for home buyers. If you get financial assistance from another organization and choose a Loan Assist mortgage, the state of Maryland will match those funds up to $2,500. Partner Match funds are provided in the form of a no-interest deferred loan, so no payment is required until the mortgage is paid off.
The HomeCredit program provides a tax credit equal to 25% of your mortgage interest, up to $2,000 a year. Although the HomeCredit program involves both state and lender fees, it could save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.
Your next step
Now that you’ve been introduced to the first-time home buyer programs Maryland has to offer, it’s time to get better acquainted. For full details on any of the programs listed above, visit the Department of Housing and Community Development website.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your home buying journey, contact a participating lender to discuss your options. Note that each lender may have rules about eligibility and how much you can borrow.
To find a DHCD participating lender, search the database here.
National first-time home buyer programs to consider
Though the DHCD offers a variety of assistance programs, it’s important to explore all your options. If you don’t find a Maryland mortgage program that’s right for you, consider these national loan types:
FHA loans from the Federal Housing Administration are popular among first-time home buyers who may have a smaller down payment or lower credit score.
VA loans, backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, are often the ideal choice for current and former military personnel, and in some cases their spouses. These loans can typically be obtained with no down payment at all.
USDA loans help people buy homes in rural and some suburban areas, and require 0% down in most cases. These loans are backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Conventional mortgages enabled by government-sponsored entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can be another affordable path to homeownership, offering down payment requirements as low as 3% for qualified borrowers.
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