An Overview of California's 5 First-Time Homebuyer Mortgage Programs

Home / Blog / An Overview of California's 5 First-Time Homebuyer Mortgage Programs

An Overview of California's 5 First-Time Homebuyer Mortgage Programs

First-time home ownership remains a sought-after goal for many young Californians. First-time home buyers made up 35 percent of all home buyers in 2016, according to information from the 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, an annual report published by the National Association of Realtors.

Though the financial environment for buying a home has tightened significantly, home ownership is a goal that can still be achieved by those who are determined to make it happen. California offers first-time home buyer programs that can fit most purchasers’ needs. Here is a brief overview of five of those programs, along with background on the state agency that makes them possible.

The California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA)

The California Housing Finance Agency, also known as CalHFA, is the state agency that offers and administers the five major first-time home buyer programs for California. The agency has been in existence for more than 40 years. It was chartered in 1975 to serve as the state’s affordable housing lender, tasked with serving low to moderate-income Californians and making low-interest loans available to qualified consumers.

CalHFA is not a lending institution and, therefore, does not make loans directly to home buyers. Instead, the agency works with approved private lenders, specifically banks, to qualify loan applicants and provide accessible mortgage loans.

Most first-time home buyers are likely to deal with CalHFA at some time during their home purchase process.

Conventional Loan Programs

  • CalHFA Conventional Loan Program: This loan program offers a first mortgage loan that is insured through mortgage insurance on the conventional loan market. The interest rate stays fixed throughout the loan's 30-year term. Down payment assistance can be obtained by combining this loan with the Extra Credit Teacher Program (ETCP).
  • CalPLUS Conventional Loan Program: This program is also secured through conventional means, but it will have a slightly higher fixed interest rate than CalHFA’s standard conventional program. The loan is fully amortized for its 30-year term and is combined with the CalHFA Zero Interest Program (ZIP) for closing costs.

Government-Insured Loan Programs

  • CalHFA FHA Loan Program: This first mortgage loan is insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The interest rate will be fixed for the 30-year term. It can be combined with the ETCP for down payment assistance.
  • CalPLUS FHA Loan Program: This loan program provides an FHA-insured first mortgage. The fixed interest rate will be somewhat higher than with the CalHFA Conventional Loan Program. The loan will be fully amortized for its 30-year term. It can be combined with the ZIP program to cover closing costs.
  • Cal-EEM + Grant Program: This program combines an FHA-insured Energy Efficiency Mortgage (EEM) first mortgage with an additional grant from Cal-EEM. The grant is intended to improve access to home improvements that boost energy efficiency. The interest rate is fixed for 30 years. The loan can be combined with the ECTP for down payment assistance.

Consistent Requirements Among Loan Programs

All five CalHFA first-time home buyer programs have some requirements and conditions that stay the same from one first-time home buyer program to another.

  • Home buyer education: Each first-time home buyer program administered by CalHFA requires a home buyer education course. The course presents in-depth information of interest to those who have just purchased a home and includes details that CalHFA believes are “critical to the success and happiness of a homeowner,” according to the CalHFA Website. Only one occupying first-time purchaser on each loan transaction must take the course. The courses can be taken in person or online.
  • Necessary documents: CalHFA recommends that prospective home loan customers have certain documents available for reference when they contact a loan officer. These documents are: 1) pay stubs and income statements, 2) bank statements, 3) employment history, and 4) previous year’s tax returns. Each person included in the loan transaction should prepare these documents and have them available.
  • Interest variability: CalHFA stresses that, in each first time home buyer program, the interest rate on the loan will vary. Interest rates will be affected by factors such as lender fees and the loan seeker’s financial circumstances. Interest rates can change from day-to-day. CalHFA-approved loan officers can provide loan seekers with an up-to-date interest rate quote for each first-time home buyer program.
  • Occupancy and income requirements: Borrowers must be the ones to occupy the home as their primary residence. Non-resident co-borrowers are not permitted. Loan seekers must also meet CalHFA income limits for the program.

Interested in pursuing a mortgage loan to finance your first home? Übermortage is a qualified CalHFA lending institution and can help you through the first-time home buyer program of your choice. Contact us today to speak with a loan officer or for more information on the first-time home buyer program that is right for you.


cffbb534 289e 4212 8f62 2d56742a2ddb 7427445c 7ef9 4fb4 bc8d 7718d85b6345 1fc6c7c1 bf47 46eb 90f7 1721c021f50f 28cc4089 1ef8 4e52 bce9 7999fba27c4c 30a5cea7 cc58 4314 8dc1 d124c4de0130 32213a8a 3b13 4ecd bb4b 6d5d917ffe75 e0f02436 04aa 4d6d 84a8 e3b7f6510b86 cdeef6a4 077b 4d17 8694 1d23a08e350c 6d7b09b8 7d02 46b4 94f6 eaa5a9d154e4 ced76057 3fdb 4043 a7c9 3d448001899a 86563c27 de42 4255 b55f 737ceab3d4cf 6aa5a54f 9393 4f3d bd7d 8d66da8faf37 f21bb21e 2078 4f2b a657 a8962438a90a 796dffca 083a 47ac a618 c06c84e292f2 df83a4f2 74c4 4ab5 9b1d dd6e0a02885a d781c547 7cb4 410d 81aa bb8a270e18b3 c973f8b1 b916 4d31 aedb 59589b52a72e bed57249 1163 45bf 8bbb c19e750100a7 d65e45bd d73a 443d 9116 4ee12ae906aa c004e774 9c09 4cf3 a5d9 e316b61694a9 1825ead5 9f46 4340 9085 319f2d562d6d 0230a020 7a64 4ad4 859c 67f6b14a3781 a1a774e6 f115 40ab a38c 6b0a0ab7a011