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

It's no secret that community workers are some of the most hardworking people in society. These community workforce dedicate their lives to improving the lives of everyone in the community, often at a high cost to themselves.

Unfortunately, these community workers have been lagging behind in homeownership for the longest time since the modest incomes they earn usually aren't sufficient to keep up with the rising cost of housing in Florida.

However, with the introduction of the FL Hometown Heroes Housing Program, community workers in Florida have a reason to smile.

This new program promises to make homeownership more affordable by providing eligible applicants with attractive zero-interest down payment and closing cost assistance totaling up to $35,000.

With that being said, let's dive in. The Hometown Heroes Housing Program has currently been rolled out in all counties in Florida and is set to benefit first-time, income-qualified homebuyers.

This post breaks down everything you need to know about this revolutionary housing program and how to qualify in Leon County, Florida.

Types Of Mortgages Offered By The Hometown Heroes Loan Program

The Hometown Heroes Loan Program is a groundbreaking housing project specifically designed to empower eligible community workers to purchase residences in the communities they work in and serve.

The program currently offers three different types of first mortgage loans and down payment and closing cost assistance in the form of a second mortgage.

Here is a general overview of the various types of home loans that you can qualify for under this program:

First Mortgage Program

There are three government mortgage loans and two conventional loans that you can qualify for in the FL Housing's Hometown Heroes Loan Program. These are:

  • Florida First Heroes Mortgage Loan (FL First) - As a community worker, you may be qualified for 30-year fixed-rate USDA-RD, FHA, or VA mortgage loans. If you qualify for this first loan, you will be immediately considered for a second mortgage to assist with the down payment.

  • FL HFA Preferred Heroes for TBA (Fannie Mae) - Through this program, you can qualify for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Likewise, qualifying for this loan automatically makes you eligible for down payment and closing cost assistance through a second mortgage. You also get to save money on private mortgage insurance (PMI) if your income is less than or equal to 80% of the average median income.

  • FL HFA Advantage Heroes for TBA (Freddie Mac) - This mortgage program offers a 30-year fixed-rate home loan with reduced PMI for borrowers whose incomes are equal to or less than 80 percent of the county's AMI. If you qualify for this first loan, you are automatically eligible for a second mortgage down payment and closing cost assistance.

Second Mortgage Program

If you qualify for one of the Hometown Heroes First Mortgage loans, you'll be eligible for a 0%, non-amortizing, 30-year, repayable second mortgage to help with down payment and closing fees. This second mortgage has a limit of $35,000 and is equal to 5% of the original loan amount.

It's important to remember that this second mortgage is non-forgivable. You'll have to pay it out in full whenever the first mortgage is paid off, the mortgage is refinanced, the property deed is transferred, or you no longer reside in the property.

Program Requirements for The Hometown Heroes Loan Program?

If a borrower is employed full-time (must document 35+ hrs. per week) by a business located in Florida, meets Program requirements, and can credit qualify for a mortgage, many more First Time Homebuyers should be able to qualify for the Florida Hometown Heroes Loan Program.

  • 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%.

There will no longer be an occupational requirement.

Veterans or active military members are also eligible for the Hometown Heroes program loan but you'll be required to provide a copy of your military ID.

While you don't have to be a first-time buyer to qualify for the program as a veteran, you'll need to file DD-214 paperwork indicating that your discharge was honorable rather than dishonorable.

Surviving spouses of veterans and service members can also qualify for a VA-backed mortgage provided they submit a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE).

Hometown Heroes Income & Loan Limits For Leon County, Florida

You must meet Florida Housing income requirements to be eligible for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program.

The income restriction limits how much money a person can earn before getting a mortgage. This ensures that only borrowers with low to moderate incomes are eligible for the loan.

The Hometown Heroes Loan Program income restrictions are usually adjusted based on the size of the household and the county in which the property is being acquired.

So, if you live in Leon County, your income must not exceed $129,000 to be eligible for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program.

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

How To Get The $35,000 Hometown Heroes Grant In Leon County, Florida

Qualifying for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program in Leon County is easy as long as you meet the income requirements set by FL Housing and have already qualified for one of the first mortgage products.

The only documents that your prospective lender will require from you are:

  • COPY of signed, FINAL 1003.
  • COPY of VOE confirming employment of 35 hours a week or more with a Florida based employer.
  • COPY of DD214, if applicable (for Veterans).
  • COPY of LES or SCRA (for active-duty military personnel).
  • COPY of fully executed FL Hometown Heroes Certification Form.

Reserving your first mortgage funds automatically reserves 5% (capped at $35,000) of the amount as down payment assistance.

Once you've done so, your lender will underwrite your loan within 45 days from the date of loan reservation then the forms will be printed out for closing.

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.

Cost Of Living in Leon County, Florida

Nestled in the Panhandle of Florida, Leon County has an estimated population of 293 582 as per the 2019 census. Leon County is considered part of the Tallahassee Metropolitan Area and has the city of Tallahassee as its county seat.

The overall cost of living in Leon County is 8% lower than the Florida average and 6% lower than the U.S average.

The median price of a home in this county is only about $219,700, which is significantly low compared to the state average of $294,900 and the national average of $291,700.

The low cost of housing in Leon County is reflected in the prices of homes and rental costs. The average rental cost for a three-bedroom home is only about $1,470, whereas the average price of the same property in the state is $1,790.

Grocery prices and transport costs in Leon County are also much lower compared to the state and national average. However, utilities and health are some expenses that the average resident in Leon County can expect to spend more on.

The average household in Leon County has an income of $54,929, lower than the national median of $65,712. Most Leon County residents travel alone to work, with an average commute duration of 19.1 minutes, and the average household has two cars.

A couple walk outside their home in Tallahassee Florida

Best Places To Buy A Home In Leon County, Florida

Compared to most counties in Florida, Leon County has a desirable real estate market with many neighborhoods listing affordable properties for sale. It's no surprise that many residents here choose to purchase their homes rather than rent.

If you're looking to move to Leon County, here are some of the neighborhoods where you might consider buying a home:

Levy Park

Levy Park, adjacent to the city's famed Lake Ella, provides a gorgeous setting for those who have no qualms about being at the center of Tallahassee's center of activity.

Living here allows you to enjoy easy access to a variety of pubs and restaurants and all of the other areas of town.

Although property prices in Levy Park are generally higher than in other neighborhoods in Leon County, they are not too steep to be exclusionary.

The median property listing price in this neighborhood is only about $225,000, which is slightly higher than the county's median.

The neighborhood of Levy Park is also near the city's downtown area, where most businesses and local government offices are located. This strategic location makes it easy to move around various parts of the city for your work, family, and social obligations.

Betton Hills

Betton Hills is one of the nicest areas in northeastern Tallahassee for families due to recent construction. The suburb has grown exponentially in recent decades as the city has expanded northward.

The landscape here is punctuated by mature oaks that are as much a defining feature of the city as this quaint community.

With that being said, property prices in Betton Hills tend to be on the high end, with the median price of a home sitting at $599,000.

It's also worth noting that Betton Hills and similar neighborhoods in Tallahassee charge homeowners fees, which go to a community association that helps maintain the neighborhood.

Homeowners' associations also charge fees to organize parties and other community activities that are only open to residents.

The neighborhood is home to five beautiful parks where families can take strolls, have picnics, or engage in light-hearted play.


Southwood is a serene neighborhood in Tallahassee that attracts established families, particularly those with children.

It's close to numerous good public and private schools, yet far enough away from the city core that you won't have to worry about the hustle and bustle that comes with city life. Another advantage is that many state agencies and departments are located in Southwood.

This means you'll only have to make quick commutes if you're fortunate enough to land a job working for the state of Florida in its capital city.

The median home price currently sits at about $400,000, which is on the high end. However, if you have the financial means, Southwood features some of the greatest home options in the city.

Best Public and Private Schools In Leon County, Florida

Leon County Schools (LCS) is the school district that serves Leon County, Florida. It is headquartered at LCS Admin Complex in Tallahassee, Florida, and has a student population of 32,000 served by 2,400 teachers (student-teacher ratio of 17:1).

In total, there are 54 schools in Leon County School District. Of these, 44% are rated below average in terms of school quality, while 26% are rated average, and only 30% are above average.

Even so, the top-performing schools in the county are good enough to compete with some of the best in other Florida counties.

Some of the best public schools in Leon County include:

  • Killearn Lakes Elementary School
  • Hawks Rise Elementary School
  • Gilchrist Elementary School
  • Desoto Trail Elementary School
  • Leon High School
  • Lawton Chiles High School
  • Lincoln High School
  • Leon County Virtual School

Apart from these high-performing public schools, Leon County School District is also home to some of the most prestigious private schools in the state, most of which are religiously affiliated. Among the best private schools in Leon Country are:

  • Maclay School
  • John Paul II Catholic High School
  • Holy Family Catholic School
  • North Florida Christian School
  • Holy Comforter Episcopal School
  • Community Leadership Academy
  • Trinity Catholic School
  • Cornerstone Learning Community
  • Christ Classical Academy

The city of Tallahassee in Leon County is also home to two of Florida's foremost universities, namely:

  • Florida A&M University
  • Florida State University

Is Leon County A Great Place To Live For Families or Young Professionals?

Leon County has a laid-back and suburban feel which many families find attractive. Compared to other Florida counties, property prices in Leon are pretty affordable, which explains why most residents prefer to purchase homes rather than rent.

With an above-average school district and several excellent schools, families who settle here can be sure that their kids will have a solid foundation for their academic lives.

Most neighborhoods also have family-friendly parks and other recreational facilities where families can unwind.

Most of the neighborhoods in Leon County are well-connected with public transportation. Most households have at least 2 cars to help facilitate their commutes.

If you're a young single professional looking to move to Leon County, you will probably find the costs of home ownership and renting equally attractive.

The employment market has also grown by 2% during the past year and is projected to grow by 38.4% over the next decade. So, if you're starting in your career, now would be the opportune time to lay down roots in Leon County.

Overall, Leon County is a great place to live, whether raising a family or a young single just venturing out into the professional world.

Hometown Heroes Loan Program - Eligible Towns and Cities In Leon County

As mentioned at the outset, the Hometown Heroes Loan Program has been rolled out to all counties in Florida, and Leon County is no exception.

Here is a list of the cities and census-designated areas in Leon County, Florida:

  • Tallahassee (city)
  • Bradfordville
  • Chaires
  • Capitola
  • Miccosukee
  • Woodville
  • Fort Braden

A Final Word

The introduction of the Hometown Heroes Housing Program in Florida has undoubtedly put a smile on the face of many eligible community workers in Leon County, Florida.

Thanks to the $35,000 grant offered by the program to eligible applicants, many community workers in the county will subsequently be able to afford homes in the communities they serve and live in.

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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