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Washington First-Time Homebuyer Programs

If you live in Washington and are looking to buy your first home, you should know the state offers several programs that can help you get a more affordable home loan, assistance with down payments, homebuyer education, and interest breaks for buyers of energy-efficient homes. In January 2019, we researched the most current information for first-time homebuyer programs now offered in the state. Here’s what you need to know:

Washington first-time homebuyer programs

In Washington, the Washington State Housing Finance Commission (WSHFC) is the agency that now helps most first-time buyers find the help they need. When it comes to down payment assistance, the WSHFC offers programs both statewide and in specific areas, like Seattle.

Eligibility for Washington assistance

Anyone looking for first-time homebuyer assistance in Washington will need to take a homebuyer education seminar within two years of closing their loan. After taking the seminar, buyers are issued a certificate. The seminar is free and takes about 5 hours. While it’s generally recommended that homebuyers take the seminar in person, a self-study course is also available online. You can find a scheduled seminar in your area by visiting the Washington State Housing Finance Commission website.

Potential homebuyers should also know they’ll need to work with the lenders in Washington that have been approved for each program. To see who’s been approved, check the site for each assistance program.

Keep reading for more details on the individual assistance programs offered through the WSHFC:

Home Advantage

Features

  • Lower mortgage rates
  • Down payment assistance up to 4% of the first mortgage loan amount
  • Low add-on fees for high-balance loans issued by government-sponsored enterprises
  • Flexible underwriting
  • Discounted fees
  • Loan processing fees capped at $1,500
  • Typical homebuyer gets an average of $10,000 in down payment assistance

Eligibility

  • Credit score of 620 or higher
  • Household income cannot exceed $145,000
  • Debt-to-income ratio must be 50% or lower
  • Homebuyer education seminar completed within the past two years
  • Down payment assistance available only when used with the Home Advantage loan program
  • Must occupy the property as a personal principal residence within 60 days of loan closing
  • Only covers single-unit, single-family residences in Washington state
  • Double-wide or larger manufactured homes may be considered, but different credit requirements may apply.

To apply for the Home Advantage program, buyers must take the free homebuyer education seminar, then contact a commission-trained loan officer who will try to match them to the appropriate loan. The WSHFC considers certain loan officers to be top partners in the program. To find them, search here, by region.

House Key Opportunity

Features

  • Lower mortgage rates
  • Flexible underwriting
  • Discounted origination fees
  • Down payment assistance

Eligibility

  • Minimum credit score of 620
  • Income requirements vary by occupancy, region and location of the property, and can be found on the program’s website
  • Debt-to-income ratio is capped at 50%
  • Must have completed the homebuyer education seminar within the past two years
  • Limits for the acquisition cost of the property will range based on location and region, and can also be found on the website
  • Targeted areas — defined as qualified census tracts — may have different acquisition limits and income requirements
  • Unless the buyer is a veteran, or the property is located in a targeted area, the borrower must be a first-time homebuyer
  • Must occupy the property as a primary residence within 60 days of loan closing

To apply for the House Key Opportunity program, buyers will still need to first take the free homebuyer seminar in their area. After that, they can look for a qualified loan officer.

EnergySpark

Features

  • Offers interest breaks to buyers of energy-efficient homes

Eligibility

  • Credit score of 620 or higher
  • Household income below $145,000
  • Loan must be for a new property that exceeds Washington’s energy standards by at least 15%
  • An older home that will save 10% or more in energy use once upgraded
  • Energy savings confirmed through pre- and post-purchase energy audits

As with other WSHFC assistance programs, buyers interested in the EnergySpark home loan program must first take a free homebuyer seminar. They can then contact a participating lender.

HomeChoice

Features

  • Down payment assistance up to $15,000
  • Simple interest rate of 1%
  • Deferred payment due at sale, transfer, refinancing, or end of 30-year term

Eligibility

  • Income maximum of $103,400 for King and Snohomish counties; $81,100 for all other counties
  • Borrower must either have an ADA-defined disability or a disabled family member
  • Homebuyer education seminar completed within the past two years
  • Requires individual purchase counseling with a commission-approved loan provider

Buyers interested in the HomeChoice Down Payment Assistance program should first meet with an approved lender to make sure they’re qualified. After that, they’ll be referred to a qualified loan officer as well as a homebuyer education seminar in their area.

Veteran’s DPA

Features

  • Washington state veterans and family members
  • Down payment assistance up to $10,000
  • Simple interest rate of 3%
  • Deferred payment

Eligibility

  • Income maximum of $103,400 for King and Snohomish counties, $81,100 for all other counties
  • Washington state veterans with an honorable discharge or unmarried surviving spouses of veterans
  • First-time homebuyers or those buying in a targeted area

Interested veterans and surviving spouses who have never remarried can visit the Veterans Down Payment Assistance website for more details. They can also reach out to approved lenders to determine whether they qualify.

Section 184 Indian Home Loans

Washington is one of three states, along with Idaho and Oregon, where Native Americans may be able to get a federal Section 184 home loan for financing new home construction, renovating a home, buying an existing home and refinancing. Purchases can either be on a reservation or off. To learn more, visit the homepage for the Section 184 Indian Home Loan program.

National first-time homebuyer programs

Washington offers statewide homebuyer assistance programs, but many cities and counties also have their own programs for helping with closing costs and down payments. It may be worth looking into these region-specific options before committing to one of the statewide programs since they may have higher limits. As an example, the Seattle down payment assistance program allows for as much as $55,000 in deferred payment assistance.

If you aren’t eligible for a program in Washington, consider looking into one of the many nationwide programs for first-time homebuyers.

 

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