How to Buy a House With No Money: Guide to Getting a No Down Payment Mortgage

By Alene Laney · June 07, 2024 · 5 minute read

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How to Buy a House With No Money: Guide to Getting a No Down Payment Mortgage

Even in a hot real estate market, it’s possible to learn how to buy a house with no money down. The trick is, you need to know where to look. Zero-down home loans aren’t available everywhere and to every borrower, but if you do qualify and can find an area with a zero-down mortgage, homeownership could be much more attainable.

Here’s exactly what you need to know about how to buy a house with no money down.

Can You Buy a House With No Money Down?

You can buy a house with no money down with certain loan programs in certain areas. There are more homeowner resources to help you buy a home than you may realize, and first-time homebuyer qualifications can be more flexible than you know. Here’s where to look for and what to expect on a zero-down mortgage.

Recommended: Learn more about first-time home buyer programs.

How to Buy a House With No Money

Of all the things you need to buy a house, a down payment holds many buyers back. But there are a few avenues you can take to get a mortgage loan and buy a home with no money down.

•   Buy a home with a VA or USDA loan. These loans, from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are no down payment mortgages

•   Receive assistance for your down payment or closing costs from a state or local program or a family member

•   Receive a lender credit

•   Ask for a seller concession

USDA Loan

A USDA loan requires no money down and is intended for buyers in rural areas. There are two ways the U.S. Department of Agriculture loans money:

•   Single-family housing direct loans

•   Single-family housing guaranteed program

The direct loans are issued by the USDA and come with a 33-year term for low- and very-low-income households. (Very-low-income applicants may stretch the repayment term to 38 years.) The guaranteed program is run through approved lenders with a 30-year fixed rate for low- to moderate-income households.

VA Loan

A VA loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is a zero down payment mortgage with low interest rates for qualified veterans, active-duty service members, certain reservists and National Guard members, and surviving spouses. Most borrowers pay a one-time funding fee, which can be rolled into the loan. Lenders can be more flexible with credit scores, mortgage amounts, and debt-to-income ratios.

Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance Programs

Many city and state agencies offer different mortgage types and down payment assistance to buyers, especially low- to moderate-income homebuyers, first-time homebuyers, veterans, and people buying in federally targeted areas.

The terms vary. Sometimes the assistance for a down payment is in the form of a second mortgage that is repaid over time. Other terms include deferred payments that are only due if the property is sold, loans that are forgivable if the property is occupied by an owner for a specified amount of time, and even grants.

HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, steers homebuyers to city, state, and nonprofit programs that offer down payment assistance.

Down Payment Gift From a Family Member

A down payment gift from a family member can also help you buy a house with no money down. The main thing to remember about a down payment gift from a family member is that the money must be properly documented with a gift letter. Your lender will likely provide a template to make sure you have all the crucial elements included.

Lender Credits

Lender credits are what you get when you agree to pay a higher interest rate in return for some money that the lender contributes toward your closing costs. The more lender credits you receive, the higher your rate will be. With some lenders, you can cover your closing costs entirely with lender credits. This is a common practice when refinancing a loan.

Seller Concessions

One strategy real estate agents have used is to ask for a credit from the seller, to be contributed toward the buyer’s closing costs. Making an offer above asking price in tandem with the seller concessions makes this option more palatable for sellers in a competitive housing market.

Recommended: Home Loan Help Center

The Takeaway

Learning how to buy houses with no money takes some research, but could be well worth your time. With a VA or USDA loan, down payment assistance, gift money, or lender credits, it is possible to obtain a no money down mortgage. Qualifying first-time buyers can also still catch a break with a conventional mortgage loan — some lenders will let you put just 3% down.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.


SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

Can cash gifts be used as a down payment?

Yes, but certain rules must be followed for the gift to be documented by the lender, usually in the form of a gift letter.

Are there any homebuyer grants?

Sometimes. They’re usually reserved for first-time buyers, veterans, or people buying homes in federally targeted areas. You might start a search for assistance with your state housing finance agency or HUD and then look for city and county programs.

What are down payment assistance programs?

Down payment assistance programs help homebuyers afford down payments and sometimes closing costs as well. This is done in the form of grants and loans and can vary by location.

What credit score do I need to buy a house with no money down?

For a zero down mortgage backed by the USDA or VA, lenders are advised to look at a borrower’s situation case by case. Approved USDA loan lenders usually require a minimum credit score of 640, though the department itself doesn’t have a credit score requirement.

Most VA loan lenders will want to see a credit score above 620, but again, the VA does not have a minimum credit score. Applicants may qualify with a score below 620 when debt, income, and the ability to shoulder future mortgage payments are given a close look.

Down payment assistance programs often require a minimum credit score of 620.


Photo credit: iStock/Paperkites

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*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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¹FHA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by FHA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. FHA loans require an Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP), which may be financed or paid at closing, in addition to monthly Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MIP). Maximum loan amounts vary by county. The minimum FHA mortgage down payment is 3.5% for those who qualify financially for a primary purchase. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.
Veterans, Service members, and members of the National Guard or Reserve may be eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by VA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. VA loans typically require a one-time funding fee except as may be exempted by VA guidelines. The fee may be financed or paid at closing. The amount of the fee depends on the type of loan, the total amount of the loan, and, depending on loan type, prior use of VA eligibility and down payment amount. The VA funding fee is typically non-refundable. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.

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