If you’re one of the roughly 3.6 million teachers nationwide, purchasing a home might be a lot easier than you realize, thanks to homebuyer programs for teachers specifically designed to save on down payments and other fees.
Some of these programs, such as Homes for Heroes, are nationwide and encompass both lending benefits and other discounts and reimbursements. Others, such as the California Employee Loan Program, or CELP, are targeted to residents in a particular state.
In any case, investigating what’s available to you and whether you can qualify for more than one program can add up to significant savings for teachers, who at the elementary-school level have a median annual income of about $57,160.
“A lot of times, these are first-time homebuyers who are wanting to purchase a home, but the extra $6,000 to $8,000 in closing costs can be the difference between them being able to really qualify for the home,” says Jon Baird, an agent based in Chico, California, who specializes in single-family homes. Baird has worked with clients using CELP, which has covered about 30% of the buyers’ closing costs — savings they’ve used for appliances, replacing flooring, and other expenses.
Let’s brush up on some of these programs.
1. Homes for Heroes
What it is: The Homes for Heroes Foundation provides money for housing or emergency financial assistance for community heroes — military veterans, firefighters, law enforcement personnel, healthcare and emergency workers, and teachers. It does this by offering discounts through affiliated real estate agents, lenders, and title and inspection specialists, so you’re saving money while paying it forward.
- Buyers save 0.7% of the purchase price, or $700 on every $100,000.
- The buyer’s agent does not receive a full commission on the sale, instead collecting only about 70% of the typical buyer’s agent commission. Of the remaining 30% commission, the foundation keeps 5% for its funding, then returns the rest to the buyers via a check. “I’ve had a lot of my clients go and buy new appliances with it or put in new flooring,” said Daryl B. Hanna, a real estate agent with roughly 16 years of experience serving the Las Vegas, Nevada, area. “It’s nice to get a little check in the mail about a week after you close.”
- An average $500 savings on lender fees.
- An average $150 savings on title services.
- An average $50 savings on the home inspection.
- Savings also apply for sellers and homeowners who refinance.
Hanna said even if his clients don’t use a Homes for Heroes lender, he’ll ask their lender to “Give them some perks,” which most do, including paying for the home appraisal and offering credits at closing.
Special considerations: Pre-K, K-12, and post-secondary teachers can qualify, but rewards are limited or restricted in Alaska, Kansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
2. HUD’s Teacher Next Door National Homebuying Program
What it is: This program offered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) helps teachers find federal, state, and local home loan and homebuying programs, such as Home in Five Advantage (available in Maricopa County, Arizona) and HomePlus Mortgage (available in San Diego, California). It also offers its own down payment assistance and grants.
- Up to $10,681 in down payment assistance through HUD providers.
- Up to $5,000 in individual grants (which do not have to be repaid).
- A first-time homebuyer program, which can combine down payment assistance and grants.
- Available in all 50 states.
- No application fee or fee for using the program.
- No income restrictions.
Special considerations: None, except for what an individual lender may specify.
Where to learn more: Teacher Next Door FAQ page.
3. HUD’s Good Neighbor Next Door initiative
What it is: This program is for teachers and other public-service employees, such as emergency responders, nurses and health care workers, government employees, and former and active-duty military personnel. It promotes the renewal of specific housing areas through an incentive that discounts 50% off the list price of eligible properties.
- No credit check required.
- You cannot already own a home.
- You must sign a second mortgage and note for the discount amount (this will be released after you’ve lived in the home for three years).
- Buyer must comply with HUD’s regulations, including using the house as a primary residence for three years (or you must repay the full cost).
Special considerations: Available for full-time Pre-K through twelfth-grade teachers who are employed in the same area as the home they intend to purchase. Applicants must be preapproved for lending; The number of homes is limited and available for purchase through the program only for five days. If there’s more than one interested party, HUD decides who gets the house through a random lottery.
Where to learn more: The Good Neighbor Next Door Program FAQ page for teachers.
4. Educator Mortgage Program
What it is: Available through Supreme Lending, this program is open to teachers, coaches, librarians, professors, counselors, and other school employees.
- Up to $800 in reduced closing costs.
- Up to $800 in discounted fees from participating real estate agents.
- A donation after closing of up to $200 to the school program of your choice.
- Retired teachers can apply.
- Veterans also can combine a VA loan with this program.
Special considerations: No down payment assistance. Applicants must have as little as 3.5% for a down payment, which can be a gift from a relative. A credit score of at least 620 is required.
Where to learn more: Educator Mortgage’s FAQ page.
5. Landed shared-equity down payment program
What it is: Founded in 2015, Landed receives support from nonprofits, such as the DRK Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and partners with more than 90 school districts in the Western United States.
- Receive up to 10% of the home’s value to use for a down payment (after contributing at least 10% of the home’s cost yourself) to reach a full 20% down and avoid private mortgage insurance.
- Available in: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, California; Denver and Boulder, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; Washington State; and the State of Hawaii.
- Applicable to eligible employees of K-12 public school districts (including administrative personnel) as well as faculty and staff at colleges and universities.
Special considerations: You must have two or more years of experience (working more than 20 hours per week for at least twelve weeks during an academic year). Your home must be used as a primary residence for the first year, and you must agree to stay with your current employer for at least the next two years. Once you sell your home, Landed receives 25% of its investment gain or loss.
Where to learn more: Landed’s down payment program FAQ page.
6. State and local-level programs
What they are: These programs provide loan benefits to any current or retired state, city, or county employees, including teachers.
Each program has specific perks. For instance:
- Under CELP, consider about 30% of your closing costs covered. “There are no income restrictions, and it can even apply to relatives of teachers who cosign for the benefit,” Baird said. (Learn more here.)
- Under Homes for Texas Heroes, teachers, teacher aides, school librarians, school counselors, and school nurses who work in a K-12 Texas public school can receive up to 5% of down payment assistance — provided as a grant or forgivable second-lien loan. (Learn more here.)
- Teachers who serve three years of employment in an area of Mississippi that the State Board of Education designates as having a “critical shortage” of teachers can receive up to $6,000 in an interest-free grant to help pay closing costs under the Mississippi Employer-Assisted Housing Teacher Program. (Learn more here.)
Where to learn more about programs near you: The National Council of State Housing Agencies has a nationwide directory of mortgage financing agencies.
Do your homework
As you research what homebuying programs for teachers are open to you, talk with your real estate agent and lender about exactly what each program entails.
“If you’re looking for down payment assistance, do you have to pay it back? What will your interest rate be?” Baird said.
For instance, a down payment assistance option may result in a higher interest rate for your loan than an FHA loan — so although you reap those initial savings, you’ll pay a higher monthly payment overall, he explains. Depending on your finances, the FHA loan might be a better choice.
A knowledgeable real estate agent or lender, or a resource like Teacher Next Door, can also advise you which programs you can combine for additional benefits, such as lending programs that don’t consider student loan debt as part of your debt-to-income ratio.
“There are some programs out there that will allow you to get your debt-to-income ratio up a little bit, which then allows you to go for a bigger purchase price,” Hanna says.
Homebuying programs for teachers all want to say thank you for the valuable service you provide: The gift of knowledge and education. Take the time to educate yourself about the resources out there to put yourself on a well-deserved path of homeownership.
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