Do you qualify for a 0-down mortgage?

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In this tough economic climate not many people have cash squirreled away for a down payment on a house. But your thin savings account doesn’t mean that you are doomed to forever fork out rent payments: You can turn to the federal government to find a mortgage that does not require a down payment.

Here are two government-backed, zero-down mortgage programs you may qualify for.

Rural housing loan program

This U.S. Department of Agriculture program was originally created to help farmers, but it has broadened over the years to encompass entire rural communities. The program — aimed at low- to moderate-income families — is backed by the U.S. government should the borrower default on the mortgage, and can be taken out for as much as 100 percent of the appraised value of the property.

What’s the catch? You have to live in a rural area of the United States (with a population of 20,000 of less). You also have to demonstrate that while you can afford to carry a mortgage, you currently lack adequate housing. Also be prepared for a long application process. To apply for the Rural Housing Service, or RHS, Guaranteed Loan Program contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office in your state.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs loans

If you (or your spouse) is a veteran, a member of the reserves or active duty, you may qualify for a VA loan, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Similar to the USDA program, this federal agency guarantees the loan in case of default, which means that lenders are willing to allow borrowers to receive up to 100 percent of the appraised value of the property. There are different service requirements that will determine eligibility for this loan, so check with your local VA office first. Just because you have served your country, it’s not a guarantee that you will get a zero-down loan. You also have to have enough income to carry a mortgage payment, and while your credit history doesn’t have to be spotless, it must be good. A benefit of this type of government-backed loan is if you should run into trouble down the road paying your mortgage, the VA can step in to help to modify the loan.