Such loans are offered by government agencies and private lenders, including nonprofit groups and employers. In fact, there are government programs at both the federal and state level to help cash-strapped buyers. Under many state housing agency guidelines, borrowers must usually be first-time homebuyers or have a limited family income to qualify for low down payment loans.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers several programs through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that require down payments of 3 to 5 percent.
Several times over the past few years, President Bush has proposed a “zero down mortgage” insurance program for first-time homebuyers with good credit. First proposed for his 2005 budget, it was promoted as a tool that would qualify about 150,000 FHA-insured borrowers in the first year alone. The 2006 budget indicated 200,000 potential borrowers would be helped. The plans, which required congressional approval, never got off the ground.
Fannie Mae, the nation’s largest supplier of home mortgage funds, has a popular program for low- and moderate-income homebuyers called Community Home Buyers. Under the program, borrowers may buy with just 3 percent down—with a 2 percent gift from family members, a government program, or nonprofit group—and obtain private mortgage insurance to protect the lender against default. The program is available through participating mortgage lenders and requires that borrowers take a home-buyer education course.