Buyers Information and Tips

Thinking about buying your first home? Before you can unlock the door to home ownership, you have to take some important first steps. From finding the perfect location to financing your purchase, shopping for your first home has challenges that go beyond curb appeal and interior features.

Some of the important steps to home ownership include:

  • Getting approved for a mortgage.
  • Choosing the right real estate agent.
  • Finding the right home that fits your budget.
Find the best mortgage deal now or do you need to know you can afford a home? Shop for a mortgage with one of my lenders or choose your own.

Homebuyers (en Español)

CalHFA understands that buying a home is a huge responsibility; it is also a huge opportunity. Owning your home means you can paint the walls with your favorite color, plant flowers and vegetables if you choose and plant the seed for an investment in your future.

Of course, before you leap into all of the benefits of homeownership, you should get prepared first. To help you get ready and get the most out of CalHFA’s loan programs and assistance, follow these easy steps.

Your Steps to Homeownership with CalHFA

Step 1

Learn about CalHFA’s financing options and eligibility requirements.

Most people borrow the large amount of money they need to buy a home. This type of borrowing is called a first mortgage loan. There are also mortgage loans that can help out with down payment or closing costs, called junior loans.

CalHFA has first and junior loan options for low to moderate income families, including low to zero interest rate down payment assistance loans. Although many of our programs are for first-time homebuyers, you do not need to be a first-time homebuyer to use CalHFA’s FHA and Conventional first mortgage loans. CalHFA does not accept loan applications directly. A CalHFA approved Lender will qualify you for a home loan, so you will need to apply with one of our Preferred Loan Officers or approved Lenders (See Step 2). You can find the details about CalHFA mortgage loans by clicking the “Loan Programs” tab above.

You’ll also want to look at our income limits, sales price limits, and other eligibility criteria. You can find out more by clicking on the “Borrower & Property Eligibility” tabs above. Another option is to use our Eligibility Calculator to see what programs are right for you.

Don’t forget to check with your local housing authorities and agencies for additional down payment assistance that you can use with CalHFA’s first mortgage and down payment assistance loans to lower your overall monthly mortgage payment.

Step 2

Talk to a CalHFA Preferred Loan Officer to get pre-qualified for a loan amount.

After determining if you are eligible for a CalHFA home loan, the next step is to speak to a knowledgeable loan officer and get pre-qualified to determine how much of a loan you can afford. You may also use a prequalification calculator to give you an idea of where you stand financially before contacting one of our Preferred Loan Officers. Lenders will figure how much you can borrow based on a formula. This formula considers your gross income, current debts, new mortgage payment (including taxes and insurance), and credit. CalHFA teams up with a number of preferred loan officers who know all about our programs, financing, documentation, eligibility and other details. Click on the “Find a Loan Officer” tab above to contact a Loan Officer in your area.

Step 3

Attend a homebuyer education course if you are a first-time homebuyer.

If you are a first-time homebuyer, and have been pre-qualified, you must attend a homebuyer education course. This education will help you understand the importance and responsibilities of homeownership. In order to obtain a CalHFA home loan, your loan officer must produce your certificate of completion from one of the following entities:

Step 4

Figure out your needs and wants.

Make a list of the things you’ll need to have in your home, and a list of things you’ll want in your home. Ask yourself how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’ll need and get an idea of how much space you want. How big do you want the kitchen to be? Do you need lots of closets and cabinet space? Do you need a big yard for your kids and/or pets to play in?

Once you’ve made a list of your must-haves, don’t forget to think about the kind of neighborhood you want, types of schools in the area, availability of public transportation, the length of your commute to and from work, and the convenience of local shopping. Take into account your safety concerns as well as the rate of home appreciation in the area. Choosing where you are going to live should be done with care.

Step 5

Start looking for a home.

This is the time to employ a real estate agent. A real estate agent will assist in finding a home within your budget and help you make an offer on the home. They’ll also know about open houses and help you through much of the paperwork involved in the home purchase.

Once you’ve found a home that fits most of your needs and is in your price range, make an offer through your real estate agent. If your offer is accepted, congratulations! If not, don’t lose heart, and don’t feel pressured into making an offer that’s outside your budget; there are other homes just waiting for the right new owner.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  1. Do I qualify for CalHFA programs?
    To determine your eligibility, you can review the information provided under the Borrower Eligibility tab above.
  2. What is the FICO Score requirement?
    FICO score requirements will vary for each program, but the minimum score is between 640 and 680, depending on some other factors. A Preferred Loan Officer can assess your financial situation and tell you what score you’ll need to qualify.
  3. What programs are available?
    CalHFA offers a variety of first mortgage and down payment assistance programs. You can find details on all of these programs under the Loan Programs tab.
  4. What is the interest rate?
    Interest rates will vary depending on your financial circumstances, lender fees, and other factors. Interest rates can also change daily. We recommend that you check with aloan officer to receive an accurate rate quote.
  5. What are the income limits?
    Income limits vary according to program and the county in which the property is being purchased. It’s best to review the individual Program Descriptions to determine the income limit in your area. You can find the details for income limits in the borrower requirements section of each Program Description.
For more FAQs visit our knowledgebase.