2021 Wisconsin first-time homebuyer assistance programs

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When you’re ready to buy your first home, it’s smart to consider all of the options available, from where to live to what property to buy and what programs can help you along the way. Wisconsin has plenty to draw homebuyers, including four distinct seasons, a business-friendly economic climate and a cost of living 6.5 percent below the national average.

Whether you’re looking for a home in Madison, Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine, Green Bay or anywhere else in The Badger State, you’ll want to check out the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, which helps residents, including first-time homebuyers, secure affordable housing. Some of the larger municipalities across the state also offer local homebuying assistance.

Wisconsin first-time homebuyer loan programs

WHEDA Advantage Conventional loan

The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) offers a 30-year fixed-rate conventional loan, Advantage Conventional, that can be used in tandem with the agency’s down payment assistance programs. This conventional mortgage has a lower interest rate and also reduced mortgage insurance (if your income is below a certain threshold), and is open to first-time homebuyers, although that’s not a requirement. (First-time buyers can get special pricing, however, through this program.)

The agency also offers a conventional HomeStyle Renovation loan for those who want to buy and fix up a home with one mortgage, which includes financing for the purchase price of the home, the renovation and up to six months’ of mortgage payments.

Borrower requirements:

  • 620 minimum credit score
  • Amount borrowed can’t exceed conforming loan limit
  • Must complete homebuyer education course if a first-time homebuyer; must complete landlord education course if buying a two- to four-unit home
  • Must meet WHEDA income limits, which depend on household size and county where property is located

Property requirements:

  • Must be a single-family home, condominium, townhome, manufactured home (double-wide) or two- to four-unit home (3 percent down payment from borrower funds required if a two- to four-unit home)
  • Must be in Wisconsin
  • Must be a primary residence
  • Must meet WHEDA purchase price limits if a first-time homebuyer ($294,600 for a single-family home and $377,219 for a two- to four-unit home outside of a “Target Area”)

WHEDA Advantage FHA loan

WHEDA’s 30-year fixed-rate FHA loan can also be combined with the agency’s down payment assistance programs, and is available to repeat and first-time homebuyers.

Borrower requirements:

  • 3.5 percent down payment (down payment assistance available)
  • 640 minimum credit score
  • Amount borrowed can’t exceed FHA loan limits, which depend on county and type of property
  • Must complete homebuyer education course if a first-time homebuyer; must complete landlord education course if buying a two-unit home
  • Must meet WHEDA income limits, which depend on household size and county where property is located

Property requirements:

  • Must be a single-family home, HUD-approved condo, townhome, manufactured home (double-wide) or two-unit home
  • Must be in Wisconsin
  • Must be a primary residence

Wisconsin down payment assistance

WHEDA Easy Close DPA

In conjunction with its Advantage Conventional and FHA loans, WHEDA offers the Easy Close down payment assistance (DPA) program, which provides a minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of 6 percent of the home’s purchase price in assistance. The Easy Close program is a 10-year fixed-rate mortgage with a monthly payment and the same low interest rate as the first mortgage. It is available to both first-time and repeat homebuyers who qualify for a first mortgage, and there is no additional application.

WHEDA Capital Access DPA

WHEDA also offers the Capital Access DPA program for buyers using either of the agency’s first mortgage programs (Advantage Conventional or FHA). The program is a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a zero-percent interest rate and no monthly payments. There are income limits to qualify, but they’re different from the first mortgage requirements and typically lower, according to the agency.

  • For conventional loan borrowers, the minimum Capital Access DPA is $3,050 and the maximum is the greater of $3,050 or 3 percent of the home’s purchase price.
  • For FHA loan borrowers, the minimum is $3,050 and the maximum is the greater of $3,050 or 3.5 percent of the home’s purchase price.

Other Wisconsin homebuyer assistance programs

Home-Buy the American Dream

The City of Madison offers the Home-Buy the American Dream down payment and closing cost assistance program, which provides anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000 in assistance with no interest or monthly payments, and is repaid by the borrower when the home is sold or the first mortgage is refinanced. When it comes time to repay, the borrower will owe the assistance amount plus a portion of appreciation.

To be eligible, borrowers must be a first-time homebuyer (or haven’t owned a home in the last three years) or a single parent with a dependent minor, and buying a single-family home, condo or one-half of a duplex in Madison or Dane County. There are additional requirements, as well, including that the borrower:

  • Must have a 30-year first mortgage
  • Must contribute 1 percent to the purchase
  • Must meet income limits, which range from $54,950 for a one-person household to $103,650 for a household of eight
  • Must not have more than a year’s worth of PITI payments in liquid assets after closing

Section 32 Homeownership Program

Offered by Milwaukee’s Housing Authority, the Section 32 Homeownership Program assists low-income residents with buying a home, selected from the authority’s inventory of rehabbed properties. The homes’ prices are established through a third-party appraiser.

The program is available to first-time homebuyers either currently living in public housing, or, not living in public housing but who have low income (at or below 80 percent of the county’s median income) or are on rental assistance. A first-time buyer is considered someone who hasn’t owned a home in the past three years.

The program includes the following borrower requirements:

  • Must contribute at least 1 percent to the purchase
  • Must live in the home as a primary residence for a minimum of five years
  • Must attend HUD homeownership counseling

There might be an opportunity to obtain a forgivable second mortgage to help with the purchase through this program, and there is also no property tax for the year the home is bought.

Other first-time homebuyer loan programs

While you’re considering first-time homebuyer programs in Wisconsin, be sure to explore national programs that could also help you achieve your goal of homeownership. Check out Bankrate’s helpful guide to first-time homebuyer loans and programs to learn your options.

For other Wisconsin homeownership programs, including by city, visit HUD.gov.

Get started

Now that you know your options as a first-time homebuyer in Wisconsin, you’re ready to get started. The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) has a network of community-based mortgage lenders and brokers to help you narrow down your choices. The agency also services its mortgages and has a team of professional loan advisors who provide customer service directly to borrowers.

Regardless of which first-time homebuyer loan in Wisconsin you choose for your purchase, it’s important to shop around for the lowest mortgage rates. Compare loan offers carefully, including the annual percentage rate (APR) and fees, to ensure you’re getting the best deal for your unique situation.

Nearby states first-time homebuyer programs

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Written by
Jennifer Bradley Franklin
Contributing writer
Jennifer Bradley Franklin is a multi-platform journalist and author, often covering finance, real estate and more.
Edited by
Mortgage editor
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