Take Advantage of California First-Time Home Buyer Programs

Do you live in California and are trying to buy your first home? Did you know that there are California First-Time Home Buyer Programs available? These programs are run by CalHFA. You do not apply for the loan directly through CalHFA. Instead, you apply with a CalHFA approved lender.

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Keep reading to learn the programs that are available.


CalHFA has two conventional loan options, the CalHFA Conventional and the CalPLUS Conventional Program.

Both are 30-year fixed interest rate loans meant for owner-occupied properties only. You can buy a home that is within the CalHFA limits for your county as long as you meet CalHFA’s income limits. Typically, borrowers can get a loan up to $424,100. If your loan exceeds this amount, the lender may grant an exception, but you’ll pay a high balance fee. You will pay for private mortgage insurance on the conventional market for this first-time homebuyers program.

In order to qualify, at least one occupying homebuyer must take the Homebuyer Education courses offered by CalHFA. You can take the classes online or in person, whichever is most convenient for you. You can apply for the loan through an approved CalHFA loan officer. Once your loan is approved and meets CalHFA standards, CalHFA will purchase the loan after closing.

The CalPLUS Conventional Program is a combination of a first mortgage and closing cost assistance. It has a higher interest rate than the CalHFA Conventional Loan, but it is also a 30-year fixed program. The closing cost program that comes alongside it is the CalHFA Zero Interest Program.


The California First Time Home Buyers programs also include government-backed loans, including FHA and VA loans.

The CalHFA FHA and VA loans offer financing for a primary residence. The CalPLUS FHA loan offers first mortgage financing plus closing cost assistance. You must meet the income limits for the area as well as buy a home within CalHFA’s guidelines.

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For each program, you must take homebuyer education. CalHFA strongly believes in homebuyer education and that it helps prevent defaults down the road. The education programs are offered either online or in person. But if you choose the online version, you will still have a one-hour face-to-face meeting with a counselor to make sure you don’t have any questions.

CalHFA also offers the Cal-EEM + Grant Program. This program provides a first FHA loan as well as a grant to make energy efficient changes to the home. This too is a 30-year fixed interest rate loan that is only for first time and owner occupied buyers.


CalHFA also offers down payment assistance with two available programs:

  • MyHome Assistance – This junior loan provides up to 3.5% of the sales price for a down payment. You can use the money for the down payment and/or the closing costs. It is a deferred payment program.
  • School Teacher and Employee Assistance Program – Any teachers working for the California public school system can apply for a junior loan up to 4% of the sales price only if they also apply for one of CalHFA’s first-time homebuyer programs.

Keep in mind, you are a first-time homebuyer if you’ve never owned a home, obviously. But, you can also qualify as a first-time homebuyer if you have not owned a home in the last 3 years. This is good news for borrowers that may have lost their home in the housing crisis and are trying to get back on their fee.t With the closing cost assistance or even the down payment programs, you can become a homeowner again.


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