Buying a house for the first time is exciting, but it’s filled with lots of financial ups and downs. Between saving enough for a down payment, closing costs, mortgage payments, homeowners insurance, pricier utilities, maintenance, and moving expenses to name a few, first-time home buyers should take advantage of all the help they can get to help with expenses.
For first-time buyers in Illinois, that help can be easy to get. There are several programs and mortgage assistance options that can help make first-time home buying more affordable than you ever thought it could be.
Illinois Programs for First-Time Home Buyers
Most Illinois home buyer assistance programs are geared toward those in need of cash assistance to help with a down payment or closing costs. Some are structured more like traditional loans, and others can be completely forgivable. In any case, first-time buyers must meet certain qualifications like the ability to make monthly payments and minimum credit scores.
IHDAccess Forgivable is a program geared toward first-time buyers looking for down payment assistance. Buyers can get assistance for a down payment of 4% of a home’s purchase price up to $6,000, and assistance is forgiven monthly without payment over the course of 10 years.
The IHDAccess Deferred program assists buyers with an interest-free loan worth 5% of a home’s purchase price up to $7,500, and many first-time buyers turn to this program when looking for help with closing costs.
The best part? No monthly payments. The assistance from the state is paid off when selling a home, paying off the mortgage, or refinancing, instead of being forgiven.
IDHAccess Repayable isn’t a forgivable type of loan, but an interest-free loan that is to be paid back over the course of 10 years. Through this program, buyers can get the highest amount of cash assistance upfront: 10 % of the home’s purchase price, up to $10,000. This allows buyers to get the most upfront, but the drawback is that it acts more similarly to a classic loan.
1stHomeIllinois provides first-time buyers with $7,500 to assist with closing costs or a down payment. Borrowers who live in the home for at least five years don’t have to pay the cash back. This type of assistance is great because it can be combined with other types of fixed-rate loans, or with a or a conventional mortgage.
Regionally-Focused Assistance Programs
In a city like Chicago, and surrounding suburban areas, real estate prices can skyrocket. Grant programs like NeighborhoodLIFT in Cook County and the Chicago Home Buyer Assistance Program can help life the financial burden of buying in such a pricey market.
NeighbordhoodLIFT provides grants up to $17,500 for qualified home buyers. These funds are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis, so applicants must inquire through the NeighborhoodLIFT program.
The city of Chicago also offers grant assistance of up to 7% of a home buyer’s loan amount. First-time home buyers applying must complete an eight-hour home buying education course, and contribute $1,000 or one % of the purchase price — whichever is less. The property must be in Chicago, and if the house is sold or refinanced in the first five years, the borrower must partially repay the grant.
Federal First-Time Home Buyer Programs
FHA Loans are the most popular types of federal assistance for first-time buyers because the acceptance qualifications are more flexible than a standard home loan. One of the most enticing perks for first-time buyers is that your down payment can be a gift from a friend or family members, meaning little to no money upfront for buyers.
Loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture are great for low-to-average income home buyers in rural areas that qualify as a USDA location, and are less expensive than FHA loans. Home buyers shouldn’t shy away from the term “rural area,” if they aren’t buying in a small town, however. About 97% of the U.S. qualifies as a USDA location, meaning most of the country can have access to this zero down-payment loan.
Some Illinois communities offer HUD's HOME Investment Partnership Program. Communities participating in the program may use the funds for numerous housing activities, including assistance to home buyers. To find out if your community offers this type of assistance, ask your local HOME program contact.
Are you a teacher, police officer, or firefighter? You could also qualify for the Good Neighbor Next Door Program through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This program provides home buyers in these three professions 50 % off with only a $100 down payment.
Learn More: The Complete Guide to FHA Loans By State
Private Lender Programs in Illinois for First-Time Home Buyers
Conventional 97 programs created by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac allow home buyers to pay a down payment as low as 3%. Similar to an FHA loan, this down payment can be a gift from a family member or friend, or a grant, making this type of assistance another possible zero down payment option.
HomeReady by Fannie Mae is a low down payment mortgage option for moderate to low income homebuyers. This type of assistance is ideal for borrowers with little to no cash for a down payment and who are creditworthy.
HomeOne by Freddie Mac is another low down payment option for first-time buyers. Borrowers have to pass a complete risk assessment before being approved, that does include an appraisal of the property, credit, and how likely the borrower is to repay the loan on time. However, its biggest perk is that just one of the borrowers needs to be a first-time buyer, and there are no income or geographical restrictions, making this option available to a wider audience.
Home Buyer Rebate
Home buyers in Illinois can also apply for even more assistance in the form of a home buyer rebate. A home buyer rebate is when a certified real estate agent gives a portion of the commission they receive from the seller back to their client. This rebate can be used to help with closing costs, a down payment, or even to purchase points on a mortgage.
Getting a home buyer rebate doesn’t have to be difficult with the help of a good real estate agent. Clever has a nationwide network of top-rated real estate agents who have already agreed to offer a commission rebate up to 1% of the purchase price of your home. No negotiation necessary.
Learn More: How to Get a Home Buyer Rebate
With all of the resources available to first-time home buyers in Illinois to help lift some of the burden, buying can be affordable and much less financially stressful.