When buying your first home, where you live can be as important as what kind of property you choose. Georgia is a state ripe for growth and opportunity, ranking among the top 10 states for entrepreneurship, in the top five for small business-friendliness and above the national average for women- and minority-owned businesses. The Atlanta metro area is also one of the top 10 housing markets expected to recover well post-pandemic, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs helps build strong communities in the state through affordable housing, mortgage and down payment assistance programs for first-time homebuyers and others. Here’s what you need to know about the programs available to help you purchase your first home in Georgia.
Georgia first-time homebuyer loan programs
Georgia Dream Homeownership Program
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (GDCA) oversees Georgia Dream, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage program applicable to conventional, FHA, VA or USDA loans. For first-time homebuyers, the program includes down payment assistance up to $5,000 in the form of a zero-interest, no-monthly payment second loan, due when you sell your home or refinance your first mortgage. Certain borrowers, including those in some public service professions, active military or those with a family member who’s disabled, can receive up to $7,500 in assistance through this program.
First-time buyers are considered those who have not owned a home in the last three years. Buyers who aren’t first-time buyers but purchasing in select areas might also be eligible.
- 640 minimum credit score
- Maximum debt-to-income ratio tiered, based on credit score; 700+ credit scores might allow for a higher DTI
- Must meet income limits (in Atlanta metro area, $84,000 for up to a two-person household and $96,000 for a three-person or larger household; in other areas, $72,000 for up to a two-person household and $83,000 for a three-person or larger household)
- Must contribute at least $1,000 of own 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 be a single-family home, condominium or townhome (no mobile homes)
- Must meet GDCA purchase price limits (based on county)
Georgia down payment assistance
Invest Atlanta down payment assistance programs
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:
- HOME Atlanta 4.0 – This program provides 30-year fixed-rate FHA or VA loan borrowers a 3.5 percent forgivable grant to help with a down payment or closing costs. For an FHA loan borrower with a 45 percent debt-to-income ratio or less, the minimum credit score required is 660; for the same borrower with a 45.01 percent to 50 percent DTI ratio, the minimum credit score is 680. Income limits range from $81,060 for a one-person household to $125,160 for a five-person household, and the maximum purchase price is $358,800.
- Vine City Renaissance Initiative – This program offers a forgivable grant, up to $10,000, to borrowers who plan to stay in their Vine City home for at least five years. The borrower can have a conventional, FHA or VA loan, must meet income limits and must not have more than $10,000 in liquid assets. There is also a $1,000 fee to participate, but no maximum purchase price.
- Atlanta Affordable Homeownership Program – This program, centered in DeKalb and Fulton counties, offers up to $14,000 for a down payment and closing costs, fully forgivable after the buyer lives in the home for five years. The assistance can be paired with a conventional, FHA or VA loan; eligibility requirements include a 580 minimum credit score and maximum DTI ratio of 43 percent. The income limits are somewhat lower compared to other programs: $46,350 for a one-person household to $71,450 for a five-person household. The maximum purchase price is $223,000 for an existing home and $238,000 for a new build.
- Intown Mortgage Assistance Program – This program is designed for borrowers who plan to stay in their home for 10 years or longer, and includes a conventional, FHA or VA mortgage plus $10,000 for a down payment and closing costs, fully forgiven after 10 years. The credit score requirements are 640 for a conventional loan and 660 for an FHA loan (45 percent DTI ratio or less), or 680 for an FHA loan (45.01 percent to 50 percent DTI ratio). Like the Vine City program, this program has a $1,000 fee and an asset cap of $10,000. Income limits range from $69,480 for a one-person household to $107,280 for a five-person household. The maximum purchase price is $424,100 for a conventional loan and $358,800 for an FHA or VA loan.
Other first-time homebuyer loan programs
Savannah Dream Maker programs
The Savannah Housing and Neighborhood Services Department offers three Dream Maker programs to help qualified borrowers purchase homes. All of the programs are no-interest second mortgages deferred for 30 years, and require the buyer to take a homebuyer course and contribute a minimum of $1,000 to the purchase.
- Dream Maker 1 – Available across the city of Savannah and gives borrowers up to $5,000
- Dream Maker 2 – Available in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) neighborhoods and gives borrowers up to $7,500
- Dream Maker 3 – Gives borrowers in Savannah Gardens up to $60,000, borrowers in certain “redevelopment areas” up to $30,000 and borrowers in CDBG neighborhoods up to $20,000
If you’re a first-time homebuyer in Georgia, you should also explore national programs that can help advance your goal of homeownership. Check out Bankrate’s helpful guide to first-time homebuyer loans and programs.
For other Georgia homeownership programs, visit HUD.gov.
Now that you have an overview of your options as a first-time homebuyer in Georgia, you’re ready to get started with your home purchase. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs has a list of participating mortgage lenders who can help you navigate the process. Regardless of the program you choose, be sure to shop around for the best mortgage rates and offers and compare products to ensure you’re getting the best deal for your situation.