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Hometown Heroes Loan Program - Learn How to Get up to a $35,000 Grant in Jefferson County, Florida

Owning a home is a vital element of the classic American dream. Luckily for some, they can save up some cash and get approved for a conventional mortgage. But for others, raising the down payment is already too expensive, not to mention the high-interest rates and closing fees.

To minimize the impact of the unequal income distribution, most states offer assisted mortgage programs for individuals and families who would otherwise not afford a decent home.

The US state of Florida offers Florida Hometown Heroes Loan Program, which makes housing affordable for qualifying individuals.

This program is part of the many homebuyer assistance programs targeted at different demographics of the wider population.

Most federal/state-backed mortgage loans are available as reduced/zero-interest-rate loans, grants, or forgiveness loans to eligible residents.

These programs aim to preserve homeownership and create housing stability by minimizing foreclosure or displacement. Below, we have covered more about Hometown Heroes Loan Program in Jefferson County, Florida.

A Quick Overview of the Hometown Heroes Loan Program

As noted above, Hometown Heroes Loan Program, or simply Hometown Heroes, is one of the many homeowner loan programs available in Jefferson County and the broader Florida.

This program makes housing affordable for eligible full-time workforce, employed by a Florida-based employer.

Hometown Heroes is offered through The Bond Alternative (TBA) program. And unlike the other loan products, it doesn't have the 1% upfront origination fee familiar with other FL first mortgage loans.

The Hometown Heroes loan program offers a unique opportunity for eligible homebuyers to buy a home and remain in a community they love. This saves borrowers thousands of dollars in closing costs.

It also guarantees a lower first mortgage interest rate and several other benefits to individuals who currently serve or are serving their communities.

And while the participating lenders aren't allowed to charge the 1% origination fee, they are permitted to charge reasonable, standard, and customary origination fees.

In return, these lenders are paid 2.5% SRP (Service Release Premium) on all the Hometown Heroes (HTH) first-mortgage loans purchased by the US Bank.

Like the other FL Homeowner Loan Programs, HTH is available as first and second mortgage loans. We have expounded more on this below.

First Mortgage Programs

Three loan products are available under the first mortgage FL Hometown Heroes Loan program. These are:

  • The FL First Heroes Loan (GOVT –FHA, USDA-RD, VA). This government-sponsored TBA loan product offers qualifying individuals a 30-year fixed-rate loan. Those who qualify for this loan automatically qualify for the down payment assistance.

  • The HFA Preferred Heroes. This is a conventional TBA loan product offered by Fannie Mae. It gives eligible borrowers a 30-year, fixed-rate loan and a reduced private mortgage insurance (PMI) premium for eligible borrowers below 80% of area median income (AMI). Those who qualify for this loan automatically qualify for the down payment assistance.

  • The FL HFA Advantage Heroes. Like the HFA preferred, this is a conventional, TBA loan product that gives eligible borrowers a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage. However, it's offered by Freddie Mac and doesn't offer a reduced cost PMI. Those who qualify for the FL HF Advantage Heroes automatically qualify for down payment assistance.

Second Mortgage Programs

The FL Hometown Heroes second mortgages are a 5% loan assistance program available to borrowers earning up to 150% of the AMI.

This program provides 5% of the TOTAL loan amount capped at $35,000, with a minimum of $10,000, in down payment and closing cost assistance.

That said, the FL Hometown Heroes second mortgage is a 0%, non-amortizing, 30-year deferred loan that is not forgivable.

It's worth noting that the loan is deferrable but becomes payable in full if the borrower:

  • Sells or transfers the property's deed.
  • Repays or refinances the first mortgage.
  • The borrower/mortgagor ceases to occupy the property.

Hometown Heroes Loan Requirements – First Mortgage

To qualify for the Hometown Heroes Loan program, you must meet two major loan requirements. These are - income limit requirements and purchase price limits.

We have covered more below.

Income Limit Requirements

The Hometown Heroes' maximum income limit in Jefferson County is $129,000.

Ideally, those who want to acquire a property in Jefferson using the FL Hometown Heroes loan must have an income that doesn't exceed the maximum income limit.

It's worth noting that only the credit qualifying income applies.

Before you are approved for the loan, you must provide enough documentation or proof of your income source and employment history.

Often, you will be required to submit pay stubs or tax returns for the last two years.

Loan Limits Requirements

When buying a property in Jefferson County through the FL Hometown Heroes, the contracted purchase price must not exceed the county's purchase price limits.

That said, the Hometown Heroes loan limit requirements vary based on the loan product you are applying for.

The loan limit for FHA loans is $472,030, while the loan limit for HFA Preferred, HFA Advantage, and VA loans are $726,200. USDA-RD does not have a Cap on Loan Limit.

Who Qualifies for Hometown Heroes Loan Program

Now that you know the different loan products under the first and second mortgage loan programs let's see who qualifies.

To get started, homebuyers must connect with one of Florida Housing’s participating loan officers, have a minimum credit score of 640, be a first-time homebuyer, and earn less than 150% of the area median income, according to their local county data.

The occupational requirement will no longer apply.

  • Borrower(s) must be employed full-time by a Florida-based employer and work 35 or more hours per week.

  • The property the borrower(s) is purchasing will be their primary residence and they will be a Florida resident.

  • The borrower(s) are first-time homebuyers which means, a borrower(s) must have had no present ownership Interest in a principal residence at any time during the three-year period prior to the date on which the Mortgage Loan is executed.

  • All Borrowers must have a minimum FICO of 640 and maximum DTI of 50%. For manufactured housing, minimum FICO of 660 and maximum DTI of 45% is required.

All the first-time loan products are meant for purchase only. Refinances or construction to permanent loans isn't permitted.

A written or verbal VOE indicating employment of 35 hours or more a week must be provided for all borrower(s).

Active military personnel and veterans. Both these groups are exempt from the first-time homebuyer requirement.

Veterans must have a valid DD-214 reflecting discharge status deemed other than dishonorable. Surviving spouses must provide a valid certificate of eligibility (CEO).

Veterans or eligible spouses must meet the VA eligibility requirements for a home loan to be accepted under the FL Hometown Heroes Loan Program.

Some requirements include serving at least 90 days on active duty during wartime or 180 days during peacetime.

Similarly, there are income requirement exceptions for disabled veterans. Contact your mortgage lender to learn more about the program's exceptions and whether your situation qualifies.

Florida Tax Exemption Benefits

One of the top benefits of using the Hometown Heroes Program is tax exemption, saving you thousands of dollars.

Under Section 420.513(1) of the Florida Statutes, this program provides an exemption from documentary stamp tax and intangible tax for first and second mortgages and notes used to secure loans for housing financed through Florida Housing's Homebuyer Programs.

This means that when you purchase a home through these programs, you won't have to pay the documentary stamp tax and intangible tax on your mortgage, saving you a substantial amount of money.

The Florida documentary stamp tax is a real estate transfer tax levied at a rate of $0.70 per $100 paid for the property in most counties, except Miami Dade, where it is $0.60 per $100.

With the Hometown Heroes Program, you can exclude this tax when you meet the program's criteria. Additionally, the Florida intangible tax, which is calculated at 2 mills per dollar of the note's just value secured by the mortgage, is also exempted.

For each $100,000 of your home purchase price, this exemption can potentially save you approximately $2,000 in documentary stamp tax and intangible tax.

Water Hyacinth floating down the Wacissa River in Wacissa Florida on a sunny summer day

What You Should Know About Jefferson County, Florida

Before purchasing a home, you must research and plan. This research tells you more about the home prices in the area.

It also gives you an estimate of the minimum or maximum amount you should have to purchase a property in your most preferred town/city or community.

If you want to buy a property in Jefferson County, you have many great options. Jefferson has plenty of residential suburbs, towns, and neighborhoods you can choose from.

We have covered this and more below.

Cost of Living

Typically, the cost of living in Jefferson County is less than the national average.

The median household income in Jefferson is $39,086, while the average annual household income is slightly above $62,500.

Pre-pandemic, the median home cost in Jefferson was below $200,000, less than that of Florida ($294,900) and the national average ($291,700).

And while these figures might have significantly changed, Jefferson County's housing market remains affordable.

The cost of groceries and food is slightly lower, while utilities and transportation costs are higher than the national average. Healthcare costs are also slightly in this county compared to the national average.

Where to House Hunt in Jefferson County, Florida

Regardless of your unique taste and preferences, there are several places to call home in Jefferson County.

Popular residential areas such as Monticello and Waukeenah welcome new homeowners every year who instantly fall in love with the suburban rural-mix feel these corners of Jefferson County have to offer.

The other towns to consider in your house hunt are:

  • Wacissa – This is one of the popular towns in Jefferson County, FL. 88% of the residents own their homes, with only 12% renting. The area is excellent for families, thanks to the scenic and adventurous outdoors offering many fun and recreational activities.

  • Lloyd – This is a small unincorporated community in Jefferson that's becoming a residential hotspot in the area. Homes in Lloyd offers extra privacy, added flexibility, and perhaps the opportunity to make more decisions about your property without additional government interference.

  • Aucilla – This is an unincorporated community in Jefferson County that, like Lloyd, finds preference among many homebuyers. The people in Aucilla are welcoming, and most residents own their homes. Some nearby communities include Capps, Lois, Greenville, and Sirmans.

The tree towns above are a few of the many areas you can choose from in Jefferson County.

Always pay attention to the availability of excellent infrastructures such as rail and bus networks, social amenities such as parks, and your unique taste and preferences.

Learning Institutions in Jefferson County, Florida

Jefferson County has several learning institutions, including private and public schools, from kindergartens to middle and high schools.

Some of the best colleges and higher learning institutions are located in Tallahassee, a thirty-minute drive from Jefferson County.

Notable public schools include the Jefferson County K-12 Somerset School and the Jefferson County Adult Center.

Private schools in the area include the Franklin Academy Inc. and the Aucilla Christian Academy. Florida State University (FSU) and the Florida A&M are the two major universities serving the area.

Others are the Tallahassee Community College and the Lively Vocational Technical College.

Is Jefferson County, Florida Family-Friendly?

Jefferson County has everything from high-end recreational and entertainment spots to exceptional health care, education, and transportation services.

The county's health department provides medical services from dental to mental health services, plus there are several private hospitals in and around the county.

If you need a place of worship, there are numerous churches. You'll also find a Jewish Synagogue, Temple, Islamic Center, etc., in Tallahassee, just 25 miles from Monticello.

Several other family-essential services and amenities are available in and around Jefferson County, and you'll surely love it here! Banking, insurance, and legal services are also available within the county.

Does it Accommodate Young Professionals?

Thanks to Tallahassee, the capital of Florida, Jefferson is a perfect place for young professionals. Whether you are interested in exploring new career options, finding new employers, or building your own business, Jefferson County has you covered.

The county's strategic location from Tallahassee makes it a perfect residential community. This is the case if you want to be within a commuting distance from the capital while detaching from the city's hustle and bustle.

If you want to further your studies, particularly in the technology and engineering niche, you'll be close to one of the country's best universities, the Florida State University.

The latter is home to the Tandem Van-DE-Graaff Superconducting Accelerator & the Center for Materials Research and Technology.

You will also find some of the world's few supercomputers – a CYBER 205 and the ETA-10 in FSU, thanks to the institution's Supercomputer Computations Research Institute (SCRI). FSU is famous for its criminal justice programs, film school, and humanities.

Qualifying Towns in Jefferson County, Florida

Jefferson County is a relatively small county and the only one in the state of Florida that borders the Gulf of Mexico & the state of Georgia.

As per the 2020 US census, there were approximately 14,500 people, 5,780 households, and 3,760 families in the county.

Monticello is Jefferson's County seat and the only city in the county. It's also one of the most popular areas among homebuyers, thanks to its proximity to county services and amenities.

Some of the census-designated communities in Jefferson County include Aucilla, Lloyd, Lamont, Wacissa, and Waukeenah.

There are also several unincorporated communities popular among homebuyers. These include Capps, Cody, Drifton, Fanlew, Alma, Casa Blanco, Festus, etc.

Contact your lender for clarification if you are unsure which towns or communities within Jefferson County qualify for the FL Hometown Heroes loan program.

Bottom Line

Florida Hometown Heroes program, available as first and second mortgage loans, is a homeowner assistance mortgage program overseen by Florida Housing.

The program offers closing cost & down payment assistance for income-qualified, first-time homebuyers looking to purchase a primary residence in Florida.

The loan carries no interest and can be deferred unless and until the borrower satisfies some conditions, i.e., refinances the home, vacates/sells the house, or repays the mortgage.

This program complements the state, federal and local efforts to preserve and increase affordable housing for Florida's income-qualified workers.

Eligible borrowers would be broadly defined as community workers who have income that's less than 150% of the local or state's median income.

In Florida, the average annual salary is around $62,000, but most community workers earn less by a considerable margin. On the other hand, buying and owning a home is much more expensive.

As of October 2021, the median home price had soared to over $400,000 in several FL counties, with the lowest being slightly below $200,000.

Therefore, the FL Hometown Heroes Program offers affordable mortgages to eligible borrowers who otherwise miss out on conventional mortgages and other state or federal-sponsored mortgage programs.

With FL Hometown Heroes Program, only the borrowers' income and first-time homebuyer status is considered.

In other words, if your spouse doesn't appear on the note, they aren't considered a borrower, hence doesn't need to meet the borrower requirements.

With over 50 years of mortgage industry experience, we are here to help you achieve the American dream of owning a home. We strive to provide the best education before, during, and after you buy a home. Our advice is based on experience with Phil Ganz and Team closing over One billion dollars and helping countless families.

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