First-Time Home Buyer Guide for Oregon

Danetha Doe

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Danetha Doe

March 17th, 2022
Updated March 17th, 2022

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First-time home buyer requirements | Assistance programs | Low-income options | FAQs

The state of Oregon and various local non-government organizations provide several first-time home buyer assistance programs to help you on your path to homeownership.

These programs can assist first-time home buyers with:

First-time home buyers may also qualify for grants to cover a portion of their down payment or closing costs.

Many first-time home buyer programs in Oregon can be good alternatives to conventional loans if you don't have a down payment saved up, have a low credit score, have low income, or live in an expensive area.

Keep reading for more information on how to achieve your goal of buying your first home.

🏠 Oregon's housing market

Property values are rising slightly: In 2022, homes in Oregon will likely appreciate by 8.3%.

Mortgage rates are rising: In Oregon, mortgage rates average 4.96000% for a 15-year mortgage and 5.54000% for a 30-year mortgage. Nationally, a 30-year mortgage averages 5.46000%.

It's a competitive seller's market: The average time a home is on the market in Oregon is 75 days vs. the national average of 77 days.

What are first-time home buyer requirements in Oregon

Savings needed | Credit score | Debt-to-income ratio

A first-time home buyer is someone who has never owned a home or who hasn’t owned and occupied their home in the last three years, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

To qualify for a first-time home buyer program through the Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS), you must also be an Oregon resident. An Oregon resident is someone who has lived in Oregon for 12 months or more.

What shape do my finances need to be in?

You'll need savings to cover the down payment and closing costs, in addition to having a qualifying credit score.

For the down payment, you'll need at least 3–10% of the home purchase price if you're getting first-time home buyer assistance. For conventional loans outside of Oregon's first-time home buyer programs, some lenders require a down payment of 20%.

A down payment of less than 20% may mean you need to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI).

For the closing costs, plan on needing 3–6% of the home purchase price.

If your finances aren't in tip-top shape, you may need to look for additional ways to save money on your home purchase. One option is Clever, which can match you with top-rated agents who can score you a great deal on your new home.

Eligible buyers will also get 0.5% cash back after closing. While you can't use this money to fund your purchase, you can use it to cover upgrades or living expenses after you close.

How much should I have saved?

Based on the median Oregon sale price of $486,642, anticipate saving $29,198–126,526 to cover your down payment and closing costs.

The down payment would be between $14,599 (3% of the price) and $97,328 (20%).

The closing costs would be $14,599–29,198 (between 3–6% of the home price).

You also need to budget for your monthly mortgage and unexpected expenses. The average homeowner shells out an additional $15,405 each year on top of their mortgage for maintenance and repairs, utilities, and property taxes.

If saving thousands of dollars to buy a home feels unattainable, don’t give up! Several programs can help you with the costs.

What credit score does a first-time home buyer need?

In Oregon, many lenders require a minimum credit score of 620. However, the credit score requirement for a first-time home buyer depends on a variety of factors.

For example, lenders may be lenient on your credit score if you have a low debt-to-income ratio (DTI) or a lot of savings. When it comes to buying a home, nearly everything is negotiable.

Some of Oregon’s first-time home buyer programs don't explicitly state a minimum credit score requirement because they're willing to be flexible with buyers.

» LEARN: How to Fix Your Credit Score in 6 Months

What debt-to-income ratio (DTI) does a first-time home buyer need?

Generally speaking, lenders prefer a DTI of 43% or less. Some Oregon programs accept up to 50% DTI. Since 2017, Oregon has been more lenient about DTI requirements for its state programs.

Let’s say you earn the median family income in Oregon, which is $89,700. Your monthly income would be approximately $7,475. A 43% DTI would mean you have less than $3,214 in debt payments per month. A 50% DTI would mean you have less than $3,737 in debt payments per month.

The DTI you need depends on the first-time homebuyer program you're applying to, your credit score, and the amount of money you have in savings.

What are first-time home buyer programs in Oregon

The main government programs for first-time home buyers are operated through the Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS). As a first-time home buyer, check first with OHCS for assistance.

In general, Oregon first-time home buyer programs assist with several things:

  • Securing a favorable interest rate
  • Coming up with cash to cover down payment
  • Coming up with cash to cover closing costs

Many of these programs are designed to help low-income residents own their first home.

» JUMP: Down payment assistance | Mortgage assistance | Tax credit programs | Grants | Closing costs

What are first-time down payment assistance programs in Oregon?

In Oregon, several government and non-government programs help first-time home buyers cover down payment costs. A program can do one of two things:

  • Reduce the down payment from 20% to a lower percentage
  • Cover a percentage of the down payment

The down payment for a home in Oregon without home buyer down payment assistance is usually 20% of the purchase price. With down payment assistance, you may be able to get that to 3–10% of the price.

Considering the median home price in Oregon is $486,642, this means you'd probably need anywhere from $14,599–48,664 for the down payment if you qualify for a down payment assistance program.

Down payment assistance programs are helpful if you haven't been able to save up the cash to cover these costs.

Down payment assistance programs

Oregon Housing and Community Services (OCHS) disperses funds to various non-profit organizations throughout the state to provide closing cost assistance to qualified first-time home buyers.

The following organizations can provide a loan of up to $15,000 to assist with closing costs if you meet their requirements. Contact the organization in the county where you're buying a home for more information.

If you don't see your county listed, call or email OCHS to inquire about a program in your area.

Organization
Counties served
Program details
ACCESS
Jackson, Josephine
  • Must attend a home-buyer education class approved by ACCESS
  • Must have submitted an offer on a home before applying
  • Income must be less than area limits
Columbia Cascade Housing Corporation
Hood River, Sherman, Wasco
  • Income must be less than area limits
  • Veterans can apply for a forgivable loan with 0% interest
Community Connection of Northeast Oregon
Baker, Grant, Union, Wallowa
  • Income must be less than area limits
  • Credit score minimum is 620
  • DTI maximum is 43%
  • Loan may be forgiven if qualifications are met
Community in Action
Harney, Malheur
  • Income must be less than area limits
  • No repayment is required
Habitat for Humanity of Oregon
Benton, Columbia, Coos, Clatsop, Deschutes, Douglas, Hood River, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Sherman, Tillamook, Union, Wasco, Washington, Yamhill
  • Must demonstrate a need for safe, affordable housing
  • Offers financial support that meets your income needs
  • Each of the 26 Habitat House locations has its own requirements
NeighborWorks Umpqua
Coos, Curry, Douglas
  • Must be a veteran
  • Income must be less than area limits
  • This is a grant
Portland Housing Center
Clackamas, Columbia, Multnomah, Washington, Yamhill
  • Must register to work with a housing specialist through the Portland Housing Center
  • Some programs offer a loan, and some programs are a grant
  • Your housing specialist will determine which program you qualify for


Additionally, the city of Portland offers a down payment assistance program. The Portland Down Payment Assistance Loan (DAPL) covers a down payment amount up to $80,000 -100,000. The loan is a 30-year term with a 0.012% APR. DAPL offers an option for forgiveness at the 15-year and 30-year mark.

Non-government down payment assistance programs

In addition to the programs listed below, check with your local city or county organizations for additional assistance. The Oregon Realtors’ website has a round-up of programs by county.

Loan type
Assistance
Requirements
Terms
Individual Development Accounts
Matches your savings, usually $5 for every $1 you use for your down payment
  • It's a matching program, not a grant or a loan. It doesn't have to be paid back.
MAP 100
Low, fixed interest rate on a loan for up to $80,000 to cover the down payment
  • Home must be located in Clackamas, Columbia, Multnomah, Washington, or Yamhill County
  • Income limits are up to 100% of the county’s median income
  • Must provide $500 toward down payment
  • Fixed interest rate varies


What are first-time mortgage assistance programs in Oregon

First-time mortgage assistance programs help with securing an affordable, fixed interest rate loan. A fixed interest rate means the rate won't change over time, providing a stable monthly mortgage payment. That's not the case with a variable interest rate.

First-time mortgage assistance programs can also reduce your down payment, sometimes as low as 0%.

The first place to check for first-time mortgage assistance programs is Oregon Housing and Community Services (OCHS), which has two offerings. Then check your local county and your local credit union.

What credit score do I need for these mortgage assistance programs?

First-time mortgage assistance programs generally require a credit score of at least 620. However, Oregon's programs rarely mention credit score requirements, and a lot of the program aspects are county or city specific. It's best to call and ask for details on the programs.

Government programs

Loan type
Mortgage assistance
Requirements
Terms
Rate Advantage
Competitive interest rate to keep monthly rates low
  • Must work with an approved lender for the program
  • Income limits vary by county and city
  • Each lender has different requirements
  • 2.875% interest per year*
Cash Advantage
Competitive interest rate to keep monthly rates low, plus 3% of home purchase price in cash
  • Must work with an approved lender for the program
  • Income limits vary by county and city
  • Each lender has different requirements
  • 3.625% interest per year*
  • If you use a FHA loan, you can't use cash provided through the Cash Advantage loan for the down payment
*As of Jan. 27, 2022. Visit Oregon Bond Residential Loan Program for details.


Government programs

Loan type
Mortgage assistance
Requirements
Terms
0% interest loan
  • First-time home buyers in Benton, Clackamas, Lane, Linn, Lincoln, Marion, or Polk County
  • Meet the income limits
  • 2.875% interest per year*
Eliminates the PMI if you don't have the 20% down payment
  • Home must be located in Clackamas, Columbia, Multnomah, Washington, or Yamhill County
  • Income limits are up to 100% of the county’s median income
  • Must provide $500 toward down payment
  • Fixed interest rate varies by location
*As of Jan. 27, 2022

What are first-time home buyer tax credit programs in Oregon?

The Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) program allows low-income families who are first-time home buyers to claim a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for a portion of the mortgage interest paid per year, up to $2,000.

A tax credit essentially reduces your federal tax bill, leaving more money in your pocket.

Individual Oregon cities run MCC programs, and they vary by city. For example, Portland offers 20% MCC. Call your city directly to see if MCC is available.

What are first-time home buyer grant programs in Oregon?

A variety of grant programs are available to first-time home buyers in Oregon. A grant provides funds to cover specific home buying costs.

These grant funds are 0% interest and forgiven. In other words, it's free money you don’t have to pay back. Grant programs are often given based on location.

Government home-buyer grant programs

City and county governments are your best bet in Oregon, as the state doesn't appear to offer statewide grants.

Community in Action, for instance, is a down payment assistance grant available to first-time home buyers in Malheur County. The grant is up to $15,000. To qualify, you must meet the income limits. For example, your annual income can't exceed $29,050 for a one-person household or $41,500 for a household of four.

Non-government home-buyer grant programs

Grant
Assistance
Requirements
Process
NeighborWorks Umpqua
Up to $15,000
  • First-time home buyer in Coos, Curry, Douglas, Klamath, or Lake County
  • Veteran
  • Meet the income limits
  • Complete a HUD-certified home-buyer education course
HOME Foundation Buyers Assistance Grant
Up to $3,000
  • Must demonstrate a need for the assistance
  • The need is open ended to be inclusive

What are first-time home buyer closing costs assistance programs in Oregon?

Closing costs assistance programs, which are often loans to help to cover the expenses associated with finalizing the real estate transaction, are available through several programs in Oregon.

Closing costs typically range from 3–6% of the home purchase price. Using the median home price in Oregon of $486,642, this means that you should anticipate saving $9,732–24,332 for the closing costs.

Closing cost assistance programs

Oregon Housing and Community Services (OCHS) disperses funds to various non-profit organizations throughout the state to provide closing cost assistance to qualified first-time home buyers.

The following organizations can provide a loan of up to $15,000 to assist with closing costs if you meet their requirements. Contact the organization located in the county where you're buying a home for more information.

If you don't see your county listed, call or email OCHS to inquire about a program in your area.

Organization
Counties served
Program details
ACCESS
Jackson, Josephine
  • Must attend a home-buyer education class approved by ACCESS
  • Must have submitted an offer on a home before applying
  • Income must be less than area limits
Columbia Cascade Housing Corporation
Hood River, Sherman, Wasco
  • Income must be less than area limits
  • Veterans can apply for a forgivable loan with 0% interest
Community Connection of Northeast Oregon
Baker, Grant, Union, Wallowa
  • Income must be less than area limits
  • Credit score minimum is 620
  • DTI maximum is 43%
  • Loan may be forgiven if qualifications are met
Community in Action
Harney, Malheur
  • Income must be less than area limits
  • This is a grant. No repayment is required.
Habitat for Humanity of Oregon
Benton, Columbia, Coos, Clatsop, Deschutes, Douglas, Hood River, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Sherman, Tillamook, Union, Wasco, Washington, Yamhill
  • Must demonstrate a need for safe, affordable housing
  • Offers financial support that meets your income needs
  • Each of the 26 Habitat House locations has its own requirements
NeighborWorks Umpqua
Coos, Curry, Douglas
Portland Housing Center
Clackamas, Columbia, Multnomah, Washington, Yamhill
  • Must register to work with a housing specialist through the Portland Housing Center
  • Some programs offer loans, and some programs are grants
  • Your housing specialist will determine which program you qualify for


Non-government closing cost assistance programs

Loan type
Assistance
Requirements
Terms
Individual Development Accounts
Matches your savings, usually $5 for every $1 you use for closing costs
  • It's a matching program, not a grant or a loan. It doesn't have to be paid back.
MAP 100
Low, fixed interest rate on a loan for up to $80,000 to cover closing costs
  • Home must be located in Clackamas, Columbia, Multnomah, Washington, or Yamhill County
  • Income limits are up to 100% of the county’s median income
  • Must provide $500 toward down payment
  • Fixed interest rate varies

What assistance is available for first-time home buyers with low income in Oregon?

Many state, local, and non-profit programs in Oregon are available to folks with low income looking to buy a home.

Low-income buyers can find help with:

What defines a low-income home buyer in Oregon?

The definition of a low-income buyer varies by city in Oregon. The factors include location and number of members in the family.

For example, in Portland, the low-income limit is $67,830 for a one-person household and $96,900 for a four-person household. In Springfield, it's $35,950 for a one-person household and $51,300 for a four-person household.

What assistance is available for first-time home buyers with disabilities in Oregon?

Oregon doesn't offer specific programs for buyers with disabilities.

However, the HomeReady Mortgage by Fannie Mae is a federal program that offers special assistance for persons with disabilities.

What's the process of buying a house for the first time in Oregon?

These eight steps can guide you through the process of purchasing your first home.

Step 1: Evaluate your financial situation

Check your credit score and your savings. Ask yourself, “Am I prepared to cover 3–20% down payment costs and the 3-6% closing costs?”

Step 2: Choose the right neighborhood

Think about the things you need in your neighborhood. This could be public transportation, a quality public school system, arts and cultural activities, or a high walkability score.

Write these down and keep them in mind as you assess the different homes you're viewing.

Step 3: Find a great real estate agent in Oregon

Take your time to interview real estate agents. A great real estate agent is helpful because they can potentially introduce you to properties that are not available on public listings and they may have connections to local lenders who could set you up with a first-time home buyer program that is not widely known.

At Clever, we connect you with top local agents who can help you get a great deal on your first home.

Step 4: Get pre-approved for a mortgage

You'll need to know how much home you can afford for your realtor to be able to best support you in the home-buying process.

» MORE: Get pre-approved by a licensed lender

Step 5: Start house hunting in Oregon

Check out a ton of open houses to get a sense for what you like and what's available on the market.

🔑 Tip
Think ahead to how your home can help you build wealth, even during times when the value of your home may dip due to the economy.

One “house hack” to build wealth is to look for a home that has an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) or where you can add an ADU. Oregon recently passed a house bill that allows for more housing even if the location isn’t zoned for it.

An ADU allows you to build an income stream with your primary residence. — Jake Hermeling, Principal Broker at Oregon Home Team

Step 6: Make offers

In Oregon, you’ll want to move quickly with your offer because homes are selling fast.

Before you submit your offer, get clear on what aspects of your offer you're willing to be flexible on and which ones you're unwilling to negotiate. If there's a counter-offer, you'll know where you stand.

Step 7: Inspections and appraisals

Always go through the inspection process. Otherwise, you may end up with an expensive headache if you later find issues with the home that require you to spend a lot of money to fix.

Step 8: Final walkthrough and closing

Sometimes hiccups come up in the closing process, and the opportunity to buy the home falls through. That's ok. Keep pushing, and you’ll soon land the home of your dreams.

When you close, pop the champagne and celebrate.

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Clever's service is 100% free, with zero obligation. Interview as many agents as you like until you find the perfect fit — or walk away at any time.

FAQs for first-time home buyers in Oregon

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