Whether you like the big-city appeal of Atlanta or prefer the coastal calm of Tybee Island, there’s something for everyone in Georgia. The average sale price of a home in the state rose to just over $352,000 in 2021, according to data from the Georgia Association of Realtors. Don’t let price tag deter you — there are plenty of pathways to move to The Peach State, even if your budget doesn’t feel too sweet right now.
Georgia first-time homebuyer loan programs
Georgia Dream Homeownership Program
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (GDCA) oversees Georgia Dream, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage program applicable to conventional, FHA, VA or USDA loans. For first-time homebuyers, the program includes down payment assistance up to $7,500 in the form of a zero-interest, no-monthly payment second loan, due when you sell your home or refinance your first mortgage. Certain borrowers, including those in some public service professions, active military or those with a family member who’s disabled, can receive up to $10,000 in assistance.
For this program, a first-time buyer is someone who has not owned a home in the last three years. Buyers who aren’t first-time buyers but purchasing in select areas might also be eligible.
- 640 minimum credit score
- Must meet income limits ranging from $72,000 to $96,000, depending on the size of your household and the county in which you plan to purchase
- Must contribute at least $1,000 of own funds
- Must have no more than $20,000 in liquid assets or 20 percent of home purchase price, whichever is greater
- Must complete homebuyer education workshop or individual housing counseling session
- Must meet purchase price limits: No more than $325,000 in Barrow, Bartow, Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Heard, Henry, Jasper, Morgan, Newton, Paulding, Pickens, Pike, Rockdale, Spalding or Walton County; and no more than $275,000 anywhere else in the state
Georgia down payment assistance
In addition to the GDCA’s down payment assistance, there are several local programs that can help eliminate the stress of a down payment and closing costs, especially if you’re planning to live in Atlanta.
Invest Atlanta down payment assistance programs
Invest Atlanta, the economic development authority for the city, offers a series of local down payment assistance programs to help specific types of borrowers, including first-time homebuyers, get into a home. Here are a few of the options available:
- HOME Atlanta 4.0 – This program provides 30-year fixed-rate FHA or VA loan borrowers a 3.5 percent forgivable grant to help with a down payment or closing costs. For an FHA loan borrower with a 45 percent debt-to-income (DTI) ratio or less, the minimum credit score required is 660; for the same borrower with a 45.01 percent to 50 percent DTI ratio, the minimum credit score is 680. Income limits range from $84,560 for a one-person household to $130,340 for a five-person household, and the maximum purchase price is $325,000.
- Vine City Renaissance Initiative – This program offers a forgivable grant, up to $10,000, to borrowers who plan to stay in their Vine City home for at least five years. The borrower can have a conventional, FHA or VA loan, must meet income limits and must not have more than $10,000 in liquid assets. There is also a $1,000 fee to participate, but no maximum purchase price. Income limits ($84,560 to $130,340) apply.
- Atlanta Affordable Homeownership Program – This program, centered in DeKalb and Fulton counties, offers up to $20,000 for a down payment and closing costs, fully forgivable after the buyer lives in the home for a period of five to 10 years (the forgiveness point depends on the loan amount). The assistance can be paired with a conventional, FHA or VA loan; eligibility requirements include a 580 minimum credit score and maximum DTI ratio of 43 percent. The income limits are somewhat lower compared to other programs: $48,300 for a one-person household to $74,500 for a five-person household. The maximum purchase price varies: $215,000 for existing homes in DeKalb County; $223,000 for existing homes in Fulton County; and $238,000 for new construction in either county.
- Intown Mortgage Assistance Program – This program includes a conventional, FHA or VA mortgage, plus $10,000 for a down payment and closing costs. These funds must be repaid when you sell the home. The credit score requirements range from 640 to 680 based on your DTI ratio and the type of loan. There is a program fee of $1,000, and you can’t have more than $10,000 in assets. Income limits range from $72,480 for a one-person household to $111,720 for a five-person household. The maximum purchase price is $325,000.
Other first-time homebuyer loan programs
Depending on where you’re looking to buy, you might be able to qualify for other affordable housing options. For example, in Savannah, the city’s DreamMaker program offers no-interest 30-year loans for a down payment, closing costs and gap funding up to $7,500 — and if you’re buying in a qualified neighborhood redevelopment area, you might be able to secure additional funds. In Macon, the city offers up to $25,000 in down payment assistance for buyers who want to live in the College Hill neighborhood and meet income qualifications. Be sure to ask your loan officer or real estate agent for advice on any local programs that might be a good fit for you.
If you’re a first-time homebuyer in Georgia, it pays to explore national programs, as well. Check out Bankrate’s guide to first-time homebuyer loans and programs.
Now that you have an overview of your options as a first-time homebuyer in Georgia, you’re ready to get started with your home purchase. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs has a list of participating mortgage lenders who can help you navigate the process. Regardless of the program you choose, be sure to shop around for the best mortgage rates and offers and compare products. Once you find your ideal rate, you can lock it for 75 days. The GDCA typically changes rates on a weekly basis, but can change them more frequently.
With additional reporting by David McMillin