Investing and Wealth Building

How To Buy A house with No Money or Little Money Down

The dream of homeownership remains out of reach for many Americans, with the steep down payment requirement posing a major barrier to entry. However, with the right mortgage program and savvy financial planning, you can buy a home with little or even no money down.

This guide will walk you through the array of options available to purchase a home with minimal cash upfront. While each program has its own criteria and limitations, they open doors for aspiring homeowners who lack the funds for a 20% down payment. With smart shopping and research, you can find a mortgage that fits your budget and timeline.

Leveraging Zero-Down Payment Mortgage Programs

The most direct route to buy a house with no money down is utilizing a mortgage program specifically designed for little or no down payment. These government-backed loans provide a leg up for eligible borrowers, removing the most cumbersome hurdle to homeownership.

We’ll explore the leading zero-down programs: VA loans for veterans and service members, USDA loans for rural buyers, and specialized offerings for qualifying borrowers from private lenders. While competitive and requiring pristine credit, these loans allow you to finance 100% of the purchase price.

Read More: Hottest Housing Markets In The USA

VA Loans (Veterans Affairs)

VA loans are mortgage products backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, designed to help veterans, active-duty service members, National Guard members, and Reservists buy a home with no down payment. These loans offer significant advantages compared to conventional mortgages:

  • No down payment required: VA loans allow buyers to finance 100% of the purchase price. This removes the barriers of saving for a down payment and paying private mortgage insurance (PMI).
  • No monthly mortgage insurance: VA loans replace PMI with a one-time funding fee that can be rolled into the loan amount, avoiding monthly premiums.
  • Flexible credit guidelines: VA loans have more lenient credit standards than conventional loans. Minimum credit scores can be as low as 580 for eligibility.
  • No income limits: There are no income caps to qualify for a VA loan. All borrowers must show they have steady income to make the monthly payments.
  • No maximum purchase price: VA loans can be used to buy homes at any price point without a limit on the loan amount.

To be eligible, buyers must have sufficient service time in the military and commit to living in the home as their primary residence. VA loans offer huge savings and flexibility for those who served our country.

USDA Loans (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

USDA loans are a powerful option for rural homebuyers looking to purchase a primary residence with no down payment. Backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these loans help low-to-moderate income buyers in eligible rural and some suburban areas achieve homeownership.

Key features of USDA loans:

  • 100% financing: No down payment is required, and the upfront costs are limited. Buyers can finance the entire purchase price plus closing costs.
  • Low interest rates: USDA loans often offer very competitive interest rates compared to other loan products. This makes the monthly payments more affordable.
  • Fixed rates: USDA loans come with fixed interest rates and payments, avoiding unpredictable adjustments over the loan term.
  • Low mortgage insurance: An annual mortgage insurance premium is required but more affordable than with conventional loans.

USDA eligibility is based on location, income limits, credit history, and the ability to repay the loan. For the right borrower, USDA loans are an attractive path to buy a home with minimal cash out of pocket.

Zero-Down Home Loans with Private Lenders

While less common, some private lenders like banks, credit unions, and mortgage companies offer niche programs that require no down payment. These proprietary loans help lenders attract buyers and compete for business.

To qualify for a zero-down home loan from a private lender, strict criteria must be met:

  • Excellent credit (720+ score)
  • Low debt-to-income ratio (below 43%)
  • Significant cash reserves post-closing
  • Strong income and employment history
  • Lower loan-to-value ratio (80-90% LTV)
  • Optionally, mortgage insurance

Even with impeccable finances, no-money-down loans from private lenders may limit loan amounts and require mortgage insurance. Lender participation varies, so shop around for the best rates and terms. Also read our guide on best mortgage lenders.

FHA Loans (Federal Housing Administration)

FHA loans are government-insured mortgages that only require a 3.5% down payment from the buyer, making them a popular choice for first-time homebuyers.

Benefits of FHA loans include:

  • Low down payments, starting at just 3.5%
  • Flexible credit requirements – minimum 580 FICO score
  • Low closing costs
  • Options for gift funds and down payment assistance
  • Availability for first-time and repeat buyers

To obtain an FHA loan, buyers must complete a homebuyer education course and pay mortgage insurance premiums. But the small down payment opens the door for buyers with limited savings.

HFA Loans (Housing Finance Agency)

State-level HFA loans offer down payment assistance and below-market interest rates to qualifying first-time and low-to-moderate income homebuyers.

HFA loans provide:

  • Down payments as low as 3%
  • Subsidized interest rates
  • Tax credits in some cases
  • No maximum income limits
  • More flexible credit standards

HFA loan availability and terms vary by state. Buyers must commit to live in the home long-term to receive down payment help. When affordable, HFA loans are an excellent pathway to homeownership.

Fannie Mae’s HomeReady Mortgage & Freddie Mac’s Home Possible Mortgage

These low down payment mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac help qualified low- to moderate-income borrowers buy a home with as little as 3% down.

The Pros:

  • Down payments as low as 3%
  • Flexible credit requirements
  • Income limits are higher than other programs
  • No first-time homebuyer requirement
  • May be combined with down payment assistance

The Cons:

  • Require completion of homebuyer education
  • Higher interest rates than conventional loans
  • Monthly mortgage insurance premiums

Ideal for buyers who exceed income caps for other aid but still want a small down payment option.

Alternative Paths to Affordable Homeownership

If the mortgage options requiring little or no down payment don’t fit your situation, alternatives like adjustable-rate mortgages, seller financing, and shared equity programs can assist with the purchase.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

ARMs start with lower interest rates than fixed mortgages, reducing the monthly payment. However, rates eventually adjust upwards, raising costs. ARMs allow buyers to initially qualify for a larger loan, but the risk of rising payments makes them less predictable.

Seller Financing

Some sellers may finance all or part of the purchase price directly through a mortgage held privately. This avoids bank qualification and down payments, but carries risk if the seller defaults. Seller financing works best between parties who trust each other.

Shared Equity Programs

Programs like community land trusts and deed-restricted homes allow buyers to purchase below market value. In exchange, resale value is capped to keep the home affordable long-term. This grants immediate equity without a large down payment. Also read our guide on how to save money on home insurance in Atlanta.


The mortgage market offers multiple avenues to buy a home without meeting the traditional 20% down payment threshold. Government-backed mortgages like FHA, VA, and USDA loans open doors for buyers with low savings and moderate incomes. Those with pristine finances may qualify for no-money-down programs from private lenders. And alternative options like ARMs and seller financing provide other paths to ownership. With an understanding of the programs available, you can chart a course to homeownership that fits your financial situation.

Grace Turner
Grace Turner a real estate "Maven," she's not just an expert; she's a standout, a go-to figure known for her exceptional skill, insight, and achievements in the real estate industry. Grace's influence and success make her the "big fish" in the vast and competitive waters of real estate.

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