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Whether you like the cosmopolitan appeal of Atlanta or prefer the coastal calm of Tybee Island, there’s something for everyone in Georgia. Admittedly, the Peach State can be pricey: the median sale price of a home in the state was $350,000 in January 2024, according to data from the Georgia Multiple Listing Service (MLS) — just under the national average. Don’t let the price tag deter you, though: Georgia offers plenty of pathways to first-time homeownership, even if your budget doesn’t feel too peachy right now.
Georgia first-time homebuyer programs
Georgia Dream Homeownership Program
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (GDCA) oversees Georgia Dream, an affordable 30-year fixed-rate mortgage program for first-time homebuyers applicable to conventional, FHA, VA or USDA loans
For this program, a first-time buyer is someone who has not owned a home in the last three years. Buyers who aren’t first-timers (by this definition) but purchasing in select areas might also be eligible.
- 640 minimum credit score
- Must meet income limits ranging from $74,500 to $99,500, depending on the size of your household and the county in which you plan to purchase
- Must contribute at least $1,000 of personal funds
- Must have no more than $20,000 in liquid assets or 20 percent of home purchase price, whichever is greater
- Must complete homebuyer education workshop or individual housing counseling session
- Must meet purchase price limits ranging from $297,000 to $350,000 depending on location
- Must be your primary residence
Note that these specific purchase price and income limits are for 2023. Limits may change for 2024.
Georgia down payment assistance
Georgia Dream down payment assistance (DPA)
The Georgia Dream program includes down payment assistance up to $10,000 in the form of a zero-interest, no-monthly payment second loan. The loan is only due when you sell your home, refinance your first mortgage or the home is no longer your primary residence. Certain borrowers, including those in some public service professions, active military or those with a disabled family member, can receive up to $12,500 in assistance.
Other Georgia homebuyer assistance programs
Depending on where you’re looking to buy, you might be able to qualify for other affordable housing options. Let’s break down some of these city-specific programs.
Atlanta first-time homebuyer assistance
As the state’s largest metropolis, Atlanta does a lot to help prospective homebuyers. Invest Atlanta, the economic development authority for the city, offers a series of local down payment assistance programs to help specific types of borrowers, including first-time homebuyers, get into a home. Here are a few of the options available:
- Vine City Renaissance Initiative (VCRI) – This program offers a forgivable grant, up to $20,000, to borrowers who plan to stay in their Vine City home for at least five years. The borrower can choose a conventional, FHA or VA loan through an Invest Atlanta-affiliated lender. You must not have more than $25,000 in liquid assets. There is also a $1,000 fee to participate, but no maximum purchase price. Income limits ($100,100 to $154,420) apply depending on household size.
- Intown Mortgage Assistance Program – This program includes a conventional, FHA or VA mortgage, plus $10,000 for a down payment and closing costs (which is fully forgiven after living in the home for five years). The credit score requirements range from 660 to 680 based on your DTI ratio and the type of loan. There is a program fee of $1,200, and you can’t have more than $25,000 in assets. Income limits range from $85,800 for a one-person household to $132,360 for a five-person household. The maximum purchase price is $385,000.
- Atlanta Affordable Homeownership Program – This program from the Housing Authority of the City of Atlanta, Georgia (AH) offers up to $20,000 (or $25,000 for professionals employed in healthcare, education, public safety and active-duty or military veterans) to first-time homebuyers buying within Atlanta city limits. It’s a no-interest loan that’s fully forgiven if the home remains a primary residence for 10 years. The home’s purchase price must be $375,000 or less and your household income must be 80 percent of the area’s median income to qualify.
Savannah’s DreamMaker down payment assistance program
In Savannah, the city’s DreamMaker Home Purchase Assistance Program offers deferred payment, no-interest 30-year loans (up to $50,000) to cover a down payment and closing costs, plus gap funding up to $7,500. You may qualify for more if you’re buying in a redevelopment area. There are also income limits depending on the funding source, and you will need to pass a home inspection for approval.
Macon down payment assistance
The city of Macon offers up to $25,000 in down payment assistance for buyers who want to live in the College Hill neighborhood. You must make 80 percent or below of the area’s median income to qualify.
Other Georgia first-time homebuyer loans
On a national level, there are loans geared toward first-time homebuyers that Georgians can take advantage of. Some of the loans you can explore include:
- FHA loans: Loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) have more lenient financial requirements than other loans. You can get an FHA loan with 3.5 percent down and a credit score as low as 580.
- VA loans: For active-duty military, veterans and surviving spouses, a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a great option. These loans typically come with lower interest rates and don’t require a down payment.
- USDA loans: Loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also require no down payment, but you’ll need to buy in a designated rural area and meet area-specific requirements.
- HomeReady and Home Possible loans: HomeReady and Home Possible are loan programs created by government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They’re specifically for first-time homebuyers, requiring only 3 percent down and having more flexible income requirements.
As a first-time homebuyer, you should research all of the options available, not just for assistance in Georgia, but for first-time homebuyer assistance nationwide. Along with knowing what programs are available to you, it’s important to understand the housing market in Georgia.
Buying a house is a big step. Each state handles home buying differently, and Georgia is no exception. Learn more about what it means to buy a house in Georgia. Once you’re ready to look for a lender, be sure to shop around for the best mortgage rates and offers, comparing Georgia mortgage lenders’ products.