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What to know about buying a house in Georgia

As a Georgia first-time home buyer, you have lots of great resources available to you. The Peach State offers some assistance in the form of home buyer education courses and counseling. And, better yet, you could be in line for cash assistance to help cover your down payment and closing cost needs.

Here’s how to get started.


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Georgia home buyer overview

The median home purchase price in Georgia was $345,000 in April 2022, according to the Georgia Association of Realtors. That’s a 21% jump from last year.

Finding affordable housing can be challenging for Georgia first-time home buyers — especially when rising home prices lead to higher down payments and closing costs. If you’re in that predicament, read on to discover grants and loans that could help you bridge the gap.

Georgia home buyer stats

Average Home Sale Price in GA1 $345,000
Minimum Down Payment in GA (3%) $10,350
20% Down Payment in GA $69,000
Average Credit Score in GA2 693
Maximum GA Home Buyer Grant3 $14,000 loan forgivable over five years (Atlanta)

Down payment amounts are based on the state’s most recently available average home sale price. “Minimum” down payment assumes 3% down on a conventional mortgage with a minimum credit score of 620.

If you’re eligible for a VA loan (backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs) or a USDA loan (backed by the US Department of Agriculture), you may not need any down payment at all.

First-time home buyer loans in Georgia

If you’re a first-time home buyer in Georgia with a 20% down payment, you can get a conventional loan with a low interest rate. And you never have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Of course, few first-time buyers have saved enough for 20% down. But the good news is, you don’t need that much. Not by a long shot.

Qualifying borrowers can often get into a new home with as little as 3% or even 0% down using one of these low-down-payment mortgage programs:

  • Conventional 97: From Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. 3% down payment and 620 minimum credit score. You can usually stop paying mortgage insurance after a few years
  • FHA loan: Backed by the Federal Housing Administration. 3.5% down and a 580 minimum credit score. But you’re typically on the hook for mortgage insurance until you refinance to a different type of mortgage, move, or pay off your loan
  • VA loan: Only for eligible veterans, active military members, reservists, and National Guard. Zero down payment is required. Minimum credit score varies by lender but often 620. No ongoing mortgage insurance after closing. These are arguably the best mortgages available, so apply if you’re eligible
  • USDA loan: For those on low-to-moderate incomes buying in designated rural areas. Zero down payment required. Credit score requirements vary by lender but often 640. Low mortgage insurance rates
  • Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA): May include competitive interest rates and can be used with down payment assistance. More information below

Note that government loan programs (including FHA, VA, and USDA home loans) require you to buy a primary residence. That means you can’t use these loans for a vacation home or investment property.

In addition, most programs let you use gifted money or down payment assistance (DPA) to cover your down payment and closing costs. Depending on the mortgage loan you choose, you could potentially get into your new house with minimal cash out of pocket.

If you’re unsure which program to choose for your first mortgage, your lender can help you find the right match based on your finances and home buying goals.

Georgia first-time home buyer programs

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) operates statewide. And it has a list of approved homebuyer education agencies. But if you want an all-online course, you’ll have to use eHome America’s service.

Of course, not all first-time buyers need to receive homeowner education. But it’s mandatory if you wish to get a mortgage or receive down payment assistance through the DCA. You will also need to choose a participating lender from the program’s list.

Those lenders can hook you up with a Georgia Dream loan. That might be a conventional mortgage (one not backed by the government) or an FHA, VA, or USDA loan.

Qualifying Georgia Dream program applicants must:

  • Be first time buyers or have not owned a home in the past three years
  • Not exceed household income limits (varies by county)
  • Have liquid assets of no more than $20,0000 or 20% of the home purchase price
  • Meet lender credit score requirements

Via the Georgia Dream program, eligible home buyers may be in line for an affordable mortgage as well as down payment and closing cost assistance. Expanded assistance packages are available for first responders, educators, nurses, and home buyers living with someone who has a disability.

Georgia first-time home buyer grants

There are a variety of down payment and closing cost assistance programs in every state. There may be options in your local area, so ask your real estate agent or loan officer if you’re hoping to get a home buyer grant.

If you use the Georgia Dream home loan program, you might be eligible for down payment assistance that can also be used toward your closing costs and/or prepaid items (property taxes and homeowners insurance due at closing).

  • The current standard assistance is $7,500, which is available to all eligible applicants statewide
  • That rises to $10,000 if your household contains a disabled person or someone who is a protector, educator, or nurse (PEN). That PEN also embraces those who work in those “industries,” as well as those active in the military

This money isn’t a grant. But it’s an interest-free second mortgage with no monthly payments. You repay it in full when you sell the home, refinance, or move.

There are household income limits and purchase price limits which vary by county. So download a PDF of the Georgia Dream brochure to see if you’re eligible. That’s available in English and Spanish.

DCA says it sometimes runs other programs, too. So you should ask for details on any that are current in case they offer you a better deal.

Buying a home in Georgia’s major cities

Unusually, home price inflation has been lower in Georgia’s three biggest cities than in the wider state. But it’s still high, especially in Atlanta. So if your savings need an extra boost, look into the homeownership programs listed below.

Atlanta first-time home buyers

The median list price in Atlanta was $412,000 in April 2022, according to Realtor.com. That was up 5.9% year over year.

If you want to buy a home at that median price, your down payment options might fall between:

  • $12,360 for 3% down payment
  • $82,480 for 20% down payment

Atlanta has a dazzling array of down payment assistance programs, many of which are more attractive than the DCA’s statewide offering. These include:

  • HOME Atlanta 4.0: A whopping 3.5% grant (never needs repaying) toward your down payment and closing costs on an FHA or VA mortgage
  • Atlanta Affordable Homeownership Program: “Homebuyers receive up to $20,000 toward the down payment and/or closing costs that is fully forgiven after living in the home for 5 or 10 years, depending on the amount”

There are also programs that cover particular neighborhoods, including Vine City and Intown. Click the link above to access full details, including terms, conditions, and eligibility requirements.

Augusta first-time home buyers

The median list price in Augusta was $215,000 in April 2022, according to Realtor.com. That was up 26.5% year over year.

If you want to buy a home at that median price, your down payment options might fall between:

  • $6,450 for 3% down payment
  • $43,000 for 20% down payment

You can get down payment assistance of $500-$5,000 if you’re buying a single-family home in Augusta-Richmond County. Although that’s an interest-free loan, it’s forgiven in equal parts over five years. So, provided you remain in residence and don’t sell or refinance, you should owe nothing at the end of the loan term.

As with all these programs, there are loads of terms, conditions, and eligibility criteria. So download the 10-page Augusta Down Payment Assistance Manual (PDF) for the lowdown.

Columbus first-time home buyers

The median list price in Columbus was $185,000 in April 2022, according to Realtor.com. That was up 9.5% year over year.

If you want to buy a home at that median price, your down payment options might fall between:

  • $5,550 for 3% down payment
  • $37,000 for 20% down payment

The Columbus Homebuyer Assistance Down Payment Assistance Program offers loan amounts up to $10,000, but that can’t exceed 5% of the sales price. And you cannot use the money for closing costs.

This assistance comes in the form of an interest-free loan. But it’s not clear whether that will ultimately be forgiven or will require repayment. If you’re interested, you should call the Columbus Community Reinvestment department at (706) 225-3916 and request further details.

Where to find home buying help in Georgia

All the organizations we’ve listed above should provide advice freely to any first-time home buyer in Georgia or their local area.

In addition to our selection, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides a few lists of statewide, regional, and local resources.

The Georgia Dream Homeownership Program is the main statewide home buyer program. But check out HUD’s webpage for Georgia first-time home buyers to see programs at the county and city level.

Note that HUD provides two forms of funding, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the HOME Investment Partnerships program. And you might be eligible for both. So check out the ones where you are so you can choose the better.

Additional statewide mortgage assistance programs

Local first-time home buyer programs in Georgia

What are today’s mortgage rates in Georgia?

You can see today’s live mortgage rates in Georgia here.

When you’re ready to start the home buying process, make sure you get personalized rate quotes from at least three mortgage lenders.

Don’t just look at advertised rates online; actually apply for preapproval and compare the interest rates and fees you’re offered. That’s the only way to know you’re getting the best deal possible on your new home loan.

1Source: Georgia Association of REALTORS Housing Data Report
2Source: Experian.com study of 2021 and 2020 data
3Based on a review of the state’s available DPA grants at the time this was written

The information contained on The Mortgage Reports website is for informational purposes only and is not an advertisement for products offered by Full Beaker. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the policy or position of Full Beaker, its officers, parent, or affiliates.




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