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California first time home buyers

Top 8 Programs for California First Time Home Buyers

By Joe Silver

Most people who live in California would love to buy their first home but they may not be able to afford it. California has some of the highest real estate prices in the country, and they continue to climb. This makes it difficult for first time buyers with no existing home equity to stop paying rent and buy a home.

But all is not lost! There are a number of grants and other types of financial assistance programs available for first time home buyers in California. Here are some of the best ones:

California Down Payment Assistance Grant

This is known as the HELP down payment assistance grant for residents of California who have a low to moderate income. This California first time home buyer grant can be used to pay closing costs or part of the down payment.

The program will provide as much as 4.5% of the loan amount in a grant. It never needs to be paid back and may close in less than 30 days.

You do not need to be a first time home buyer, and only FHA, 30 year loans may be used. There is no home buyer education requirement, but you need to have at least a 650 credit score.

Dream Makers Grant

This is a 1st time home buyer grant in California that provides $5000 in closing cost or down payment help for qualified military veterans and active military.

This program is only for first time home buyers, and only a 30 year fixed loan can qualify. At least 3% down payment is required, and income cannot go over 80% adjusted median income for the county. First time home buyer course has to be completed.

City of Riverside Down Payment Assistance

This program provides up to $50,000 in loan assistance that is available to people who are first time buyers and have low income. You need to have 1% in reserves and put down 1% of the purchase price.

San Bernardino Home Ownership Assistance

Provides a deferred and silent second mortgage on the property. The funds may be used for either closing costs or down payment help. The loan is forgiven after 20 years.

Note that if you sell, refinance or do not live in the home, the full deferred amount of the loan becomes due.

Low Income Purchase Assistance (LIPA)

You can receive up to $60,000 in down payment help in the form of a grant in the city of Los Angeles. However, the assistance funds have to be repaid when you sell the home and the city of LA will take 20% of the appreciation of the home.

MyHome Assistance Program

How many first time home buyers in California panic at the thought of coming up with a down payment? A lot of them! In this expensive state, a starter home in some of the biggest metro areas can be $400,000 or more. How to find the funds to make the required down payment of at least 3.5% for an FHA loan, or 5% or more for a conventional loan?

One option offered by the California Housing Finance Agency is the MyHome Assistance Program. This program provides the first time home buyer with a deferred-payment junior loan. It can be up to 3.5% of the purchase price or appraised value.

These funds may be used either for closing costs or a down payment. The loan needs to be combined with a CalHFA first mortgage loan.

To qualify, you need to meet these standards:

  • Be buying your first home
  • Live in the home as your primary residence
  • All CalHFA borrowers are required to complete a homebuyer education counseling program and get a certificate of completion
  • Total income for everyone on the loan needs to be under the MyHome income limits
  • The sales price of the property may not go over the sales price limit for the particular county in California

Extra Credit Teacher Home Purchase Program

This is a great first time home buyer program in California for teachers, administrators and school district employees who work for any K-12 public school in the state. This does include charter schools and county/continuation schools. Remember, you must be a first time home buyer to qualify.

This is a junior loan that can be obtained by a person who qualifies for the program. The funds can be used for closing costs or down payment assistance.

The ECTP junior loan that is available can be from $7500 to $15,000, depending upon the county in which the first time home buyer is buying the home.

As with the MyHome program, you need to be buying the home as a primary residence, must complete a home buyer education course and also meet CalHFA income limits. And of course, you need to be currently working in a K-12 public school in California.

Golden State Finance Authority (GSFA)

This program can provide California first time home buyers and other buyers with up to 5% of the first lien amount as a grant (not a loan) to pay closing costs or to make a down payment.

The GSFA is focused on making home ownership more affordable for Californians who have a moderate income.

To qualify for this California first time home buyer grant program, you need to meet the following standards:

  • Works for FHA, VA and USDA loans
  • 640 FICO score minimum
  • 640-659 FICO has a 45% debt to income ratio limit
  • 660+ FICO has a 50% debt to income ratio limit
  • Primary residence only

The only catch such as it is that the GSFA charges you an origination fee of 1.5%, but you get 5% back.

Below are the current income limits for the top counties in California:

  • $80,155 - Riverside & San Bernardino County
  • $98,785 - Orange County
  • $80,155 - Los Angeles County
  • $83,950 - San Diego County

The Bottom Line

No one said that buying a home in California is easy. But with one of the above programs, home ownership is within reach for many moderate income Californians. provides a news and information service by offering editorial content related to the housing and mortgage industry. FTHF has no affiliation with the State of California, the FHA or any other government agency. This site does not guarantee California first time home buyer approvals of any kind. This website is not responsible for the accuracy of information or responsible for the accuracy of the rates, APR or home loan guidelines posted by advertising banks, lenders and brokers.

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