If you’re looking for your first home in the Cornhusker State, you’ll find it fairly affordable: The median sale price as of December 2023, according to Redfin, was $271,600 — nearly half the national average.

Still, if that figure seems daunting, the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority — the state’s housing finance agency — can help you obtain an affordable mortgage and down payment assistance if you qualify. The organization’s programs are typically reserved for first-time homebuyers and include homebuyer education to help guide you as you embark on your purchase.

If you’re interested in lowering the barrier to homeownership in Nebraska, read on to find out what might be available to you.

Nebraska first-time homebuyer loan programs

NIFA Homebuyer Assistance Program (HBA) Welcome Home

The Nebraska Investment Finance Authority’s (NIFA) Homebuyer Assistance Program (HBA) offers both low-interest mortgages and down payment assistance. The program is available to first-time homebuyers (those who haven’t owned a home in the past three years), qualifying veterans or buyers purchasing in a target area. You can get a 30-year conventional, FHA, VA or USDA loan through HBA.

As long as you have at least $1,000 to contribute to the purchase, you could qualify, although that can depend on the type of loan you’re getting and your closing costs. Other eligibility requirements include that you must:

  • Have a 640 minimum credit score with a 45 percent debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, or 660 minimum credit score with a 50 percent DTI ratio
  • Complete a homebuyer education course
  • Meet the NIFA income limit of $160,000
  • Meet NIFA purchase price limits of $470,000 for one unit
  • Occupy the property within 60 days of closing

NIFA First Home Program

First-time homebuyers who don’t need down payment assistance — just an affordable mortgage — could also look into NIFA’s First Home Program, which applies to a conventional, FHA or USDA loan. The rates through this program tend to be lower than the rates of an HBA loan, but the eligibility requirements are the same.

If you’re not a first-time buyer but are purchasing a home in a target area, you can take advantage of the First Home Targeted program, which is similar to the First Home loan but has more flexible income and purchase price limits.

NIFA Military Home Program

Active-duty military and qualified veterans — first-timers or not — can also take advantage of a low-rate mortgage through NIFA’s Military Home Program, with low or no down payment. The program mainly applies to VA loans, but can also work with an FHA or USDA loan.

Nebraska down payment assistance

NIFA Homebuyer Assistance Program (HBA)

The HBA program includes assistance in the form of a second mortgage, taken out simultaneously with the first. Amounting to 5 percent of the home’s purchase price, the 10-year loan carries a 1 percent interest rate.

NIFA First Home Grant Program

If you qualify for an HBA first mortgage through NIFA, you’ll also be eligible for down payment assistance, which comes in the form of a grant of up to $5,000. The grant doesn’t need to be paid back and can be applied to your down payment or closing costs. Note: The supply is limited. As of Jan. 31, 2024, there were only 34 grants left.

Other Nebraska homebuyer assistance programs

Northern Ponca Housing Authority

The Northern Ponca Housing Authority provides sustainable housing, home ownership and community development services to members of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska and other eligible Native Americans. Qualifying Native Americans can apply for down payment assistance by contracting its office directly by phone, in person or by filling out an online form.

North East Housing Initiative (NEHI)

NEHI, a private nonprofit operating in six northeastern Nebraska counties, offers a purchase/rehab/resell program. It allows qualified first-time homebuyers to identify a home that meets specific conditions as outlined by NEHI, whose staff then inspects the property. If the property and a rehab cost estimate is approved, NEHI will purchase it, make the renovations and then sell it to the applicant for the original purchase price, plus rehab costs.

At closing, NEHI provides the buyer with down payment assistance of up to $20,000, in the form of a zero-interest, deferred loan.

High Plains Community Development Corporation

This HUD-approved housing counseling center services northwest Nebraska. It can help homebuyers see if they qualify for a closing costs assistance grant from the Nebraska Housing Developers. Open to those living in Daes, Box Butte, Sheridan, Sioux or Morrill counties, the program $6,000 of grant money is available for income-qualified individuals on a first-come, first-served basis. Info is available on the High Plains CDC website.

Other first-time homebuyer loan programs

Along with Nebraska state first-time homebuyer programs, there are other programs available on a national level that could help you get into your first home sooner.

  • FHA loans: Even with a credit score of 580, you may still qualify for an FHA loan, and you only need to have 3.5% of the purchase price down.
  • VA loans: Qualifying service members, veterans or eligible spouses, a VA loan is an option with big benefits: No down payment required, no minimum credit score to qualify, and competitive interest rates.
  • USDA loans: USDA loans are worth investigating if you want to purchase a home in a rural area (look here to see if your property meets the metrics for this mortgage). Like VA loans, there is no down payment required, and you may only need a credit score of 640 to qualify with USDA-approved lenders.

Get started

If you plan on buying a home in Nebraska, before contacting mortgage lenders, consider starting with the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority (NIFA) to learn what programs might be a fit for your situation. You can connect with a NIFA-approved lender (or two) to determine what you need to apply for a home loan: Comparing mortgage rates and loan offers is smart to ensure you get the lowest rate and best terms possible. And, for more info on what you as a novice might be eligible for, visit Bankrate’s guide to first-time homebuyer loans and programs.