Buying your first home can be confusing and expensive. Down payments, mortgage payments, mortgage insurance, closing costs–these can be daunting hurdles to overcome. However, the federal government and many states, including Florida, offer insured home mortgages that are designed to help Florida first time home buyers purchase the home of their dreams.

The Federal Housing Authority (FHA) defines a first time home buyer as someone who hasn’t owned a home in three years. The FHA insures loans to first time home buyers, and those loans can offer lower down payments, lower interest rates, and limits on costly fees. It’s all designed to help people with low to moderate incomes purchase houses.

Who Can Qualify?

It’s important to remember that the FHA is only insuring the mortgage loans. The loans are made by mortgage lenders, and buyers have to qualify for them. Qualifying usually requires:

  • Income. Your income determines how much mortgage lenders will loan you, and that determines how much you can spend on your new home. In general, no more than 43 percent of your monthly gross income can go toward the minimum payments on any credit debt. Exceptions can be made for higher debt ratios with compensating factors.
  • Savings. Home buyers will need enough money to make a down payment and pay any closing costs, like title fees and the cost of a home inspection. If you haven’t started saving, begin now. For FHA loans, the normal minimum down payment amount is 3.5 percent of the sales price of the home you want to buy. However, this varies based on the specific mortgage lender and other circumstances. Of course, the larger your down payment, the lower your monthly payments will be.
  • Credit. A solid credit history is important. While perfect credit may not be required, Florida first time home buyers with better scores get lower interest rates. Keep your credit card balances low, pay them promptly, and monitor your credit by checking it with one of the major credit agencies (Equifax, Experian, or Trans Union). You can request a free report each year at Annual Credit If you find problems or inaccurate information, dispute it.

Other Considerations

FHA loans require mortgage insurance, unless you obtain a conventional mortgage loan, and are able to make a down payment of at least 20 percent of the sale price of the home. This private mortgage insurance (PMI) is added to your monthly mortgage payments. In addition, FHA loans require that you live in the home you purchase, and can’t be used for rental or investment property.

In addition to FHA loans, eligible borrowers may be able to take advantage of other programs available through the state of Florida, or even at the county or city level. These programs may offer down payment and/or closing cost assistance to make homeownership more affordable for low- and moderate-income borrowers.

Get My Perspective

Because first-time home buying can be a complex process, it’s important to talk to an expert to make sure you’re getting the best loans, rates, and terms for your situation. I’m Stephen Thaggard, and I have more than 17 years of experience in Florida mortgages. Contact me at 407-733-6425, and let me help you find a Florida first time home buyers program that works for you.


Stephen Thaggard, NMLS 356309,  Sr Loan Officer, licensed in Florida

Embrace Home Loans, NMLS 2184,, 485 N Keller Road, Suite 550, Maitland, FL 32751