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

As property prices in most Florida counties continue to rise, many eligible community workers have struggled with housing costs. The ever-increasing property costs, occasioned by high demand for homes, have locked out many of these community workforce who earn modest incomes from enjoying homeownership.

Fortunately, the newly introduced Hometown Heroes Loan Program is set to change, giving community workers in all Florida counties the opportunity to access affordable first mortgages and down payment and closing cost assistance in grants of up to $35,000.

This complete guide will learn everything you need to know about qualifying for the Hometown Heroes Program in Pinellas County, Florida. We will also share some general information on the best areas to purchase a home in the County. Keep reading to find out more.

Hometown Heroes First Mortgage Program Loans In Pinellas County, Florida

As mentioned at the outset, there are various mortgage loans that community workers in Pinellas County, Florida, can qualify for through the Hometown Heroes Loan Program. These include:

  • Florida First Heroes Mortgage Loan (FL First) - Prospective homeowners may be eligible for 30-year fixed-rate, USDA-RD, FHA, or VA mortgage loans. Qualifying borrowers are also automatically eligible for a second mortgage to help with the down payment.

  • FL HFA Advantage Heroes (Freddie Mac) - Applicants of this program who have a median income less than or equal to 80 percent of the County’s average median income are eligible for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage with reduced PMI. Qualifying candidates of this mortgage program can also receive down payment and closing cost assistance through a second mortgage.

  • FL HFA Preferred Heroes (Fannie Mae) - Through this mortgage program, qualifying borrowers are eligible for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Borrowers earning less than 80% of the average median income (AMI) can save money on private mortgage insurance (PMI) with this loan. Similarly, borrowers who are qualified for this first mortgage automatically qualify for down payment and closing cost assistance in a second mortgage.

Hometown Heroes Down Payment And Closing Cost Assistance In Pinellas County, Florida

Community workers who qualify for Hometown Heroes First Mortgage loans are eligible for a 0%, non-amortizing, 30-year, repayable second mortgage to help with down payment and closing costs. This second mortgage is capped at $35,000 and is equivalent to 5% of the original mortgage value.

With that being said, this second mortgage is non-forgivable, and borrowers are required to pay it back in full upon payment on the first mortgage, refinance the mortgage, transfer the property deed, or if they no longer use the property as their primary residence.

Program Requirements For The Hometown Heroes Loan Program

The Hometown Heroes Loan Program is designed to provide community workers with down payment and closing cost assistance to purchase primary homes comfortably.

  • 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%.

Hometown Heroes Loan Program Income Limits For Pinellas County

Applicants must fulfill FL Housing’s qualifying income requirements to be eligible for the Hometown Heroes Housing Program.

The income restriction establishes a ceiling over which a person cannot obtain a mortgage. This guarantees that only borrowers with low to medium incomes qualify for the mortgage program.

The income limits for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program are typically adjusted according to the household size and the County in which the property is being purchased.

So, if you live in Pinellas County, the income limit above which you won’t be eligible for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program is $130,350.

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

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 Pinellas County, Florida

Located on the west-central coast of the State of Florida, Pinellas County has a population of about 959,107, according to the 2020 census.

The County is part of the more comprehensive Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, with Clearwater as its county seat and St. Petersburg as its largest city.

Housing is one of the main expenses that residents of Pinellas County have to contend with. The overall cost of living in Pinellas County is generally lower than Florida’s average, but considerably higher compared to the nationwide average.

The median cost of a single-family home is about $304 700, which is higher than Florida’s average of $294,900 and the national average of $291,700.

Families looking to rent in this region will also find that rental prices can be pretty high compared to other parts of Florida and the nation.

The average cost of renting a 3-bedroom apartment in Pinellas County is about $1,732, whereas the national average for the same property type comes in at $1,681.

Utility, groceries, and healthcare costs in Pinellas County are generally higher compared to the national average by margins of 4.6%, 5.8%, and 1.4%, respectively. On the other hand, transport costs are slightly lower than the nationwide average by 1%.

Pinellas County seems to be performing reasonably well in the economy, with the median household income coming in at $54,090.

Although this is a bit on the low end compared to the state’s average of $59,227 and the nationwide average of $67,521, incomes in the County have been steadily rising. They are expected to continue doing so in the coming years.

Aerial view of a sunny beach in St Pete Beach Florida

Best Places To Buy A Home In Pinellas County

While Pinellas County has a highly competitive housing market, most people generally find owning a home less expensive than renting.

If you’re looking to settle in this part of Florida, here are a couple of neighborhoods where you can find affordable properties and considerably low living costs.

Cromwell Heights

The neighborhood of Cromwell Heights in St. Petersburg has 1,415 people and is one of Florida’s most desirable areas to live in. Cromwell Heights has a minimal suburban feel, with the majority of inhabitants renting their homes.

The median price of a property in this suburb in Pinellas County is about $240,146, whereas the average cost of renting is $1,058.

This bustling neighborhood has numerous parks where residents can enjoy outdoor activities such as picnics and other social events.

The community of Cromwell Heights is generally family-oriented, with most inhabitants tending to be liberal. Cromwell Heights has an above-average public school system with numerous public and private schools. This makes it an ideal location to settle for young families.

Campbell Park

Campbell Park is yet another great neighborhood in St. Petersburg, Florida, with an attractive real estate market and incredibly affordable cost of living. This serene suburb has a population of 3,698, with roughly 53% of the residents owning their own homes.

The high homeownership rate can be attributed to attractive property prices, with the median price of a homecoming at $234 921. On the other hand, the average price of renting a home is about $1,033.

There are plenty of parks and playgrounds in Campbell Park where families can enjoy many recreational activities.

Some of the best parks in the area include Albert Whitted Park, Bodega Park, and Glazer Family Playground. The area also has numerous restaurants where residents can explore a variety of culinary delights in a relaxed and serene atmosphere.

The most popular dining locations are Grattzi Italian Grill, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Red Mesa Cantina, and Red Mesa Mercado.

Clam Bayou

Clam Bayou is a neighborhood in St. Petersburg, Florida, with a population of 1,649. About 20% of the population is made up of families with children. This community has an unmistakable neighborly feel to it with an average family size of 3.63 and an average household size of 2.65.

Roughly half the population of Clam Bayou own their own homes while the other half rent. The median price of a home in this neighborhood is $264,872, while the average rental price is $923.

Some of the famous parks and recreational centers in Clam, Bayou, and St. Petersburg include Clam Bayou, St Pete Park, Clam Bayou Nature Park, and Skyway Trail Head.

The community also provides plenty of dining options for residents ranging from coffee shops, dessert shops, and restaurants.

Mel Tan Heights

The neighborhood of Mel Tan Heights in St. Petersburg, Florida, is one of the most attractive places to live in Pinellas County.

It has a pretty neighborly feel, with over 60% of its population of 1,350 being homeowners. The median home price in Mel Tan Heights is $145,075, while the average rental price is $1,107.

The community’s school district is above average and features several top-rated public and private schools. This makes it an ideal place to live for families with young children. It also has plenty of restaurants where families can enjoy relaxing brunches and dinners.

Best Public and Private Schools In Pinellas County, Florida

Pinellas County Schools is the school district that serves Pinellas County in Florida. As of 2022, Pinellas County’s School District has 162 public schools serving a student population of 101,661. Incidentally, Pinellas County has the highest number of top-rated schools in the Sunshine State.

Based on a school’s combined math and reading proficiency test score ranking, Tarpon Springs Fundamental Ele, East Lake Middle School Academy Of Engineering, and Clearwater Fundamental Middle School are the top-ranked public schools in Pinellas County, FL.

Pinellas County, Florida, public schools have an average arithmetic proficiency score of 57 percent compared to 59 percent overall and a reading proficiency score of 54 percent compared to the statewide average of 56 percent.

Here are 10 of the best public schools in Pinellas County:

  • Tarpon Springs Fundamental Elementary School
  • Plato Academy Clearwater
  • Pasadena Fundamental Elementary School
  • Curtis Fundamental Elementary School
  • Orange Grove Elementary School
  • St. Petersburg Collegiate High School
  • East Lake High School
  • Osceola Fundamental High School
  • Lakewood High School
  • Tarpon Springs High School

In addition to its plethora of public schools, Pinellas County’s School District is home to some of the most impressive and high-performing private schools in the Sunshine State. Most of the private schools in this County are religiously affiliated, typically Christian and Catholic.

The average tuition fee is $9,585, less than the $9,613 average tuition cost in Florida private schools.

Some of the top-rated private schools in Pinellas County include:

  • Bellair Montessori Academy
  • Calvary Christian High School
  • Center Academy - Pearl Harbor
  • Our Savior Lutheran School
  • Admiral Farragut Academy
  • Blessed Sacrament Catholic School
  • Clearwater Central Catholic High School
  • Espiritu Santo Catholic School
  • First Lutheran School
  • Holy Family Catholic School

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

With an above-average school district and much high-performing public and private schools, Pinellas County is one of the best places to raise a young family in the Sunshine State.

Although the utility and grocery costs might be on the higher end compared to other areas in Florida, the cost of healthcare is quite affordable.

Most cities also have a highly accessible transport system and affordable housing, which is within reach for most working families.

There are also plenty of family-oriented recreational spaces and parks where young families can enjoy various activities without spending a lot of money.

Pinellas County also offers a plethora of opportunities for young working professionals looking for a laid-back lifestyle in the Sunshine State.

Although the median income is slightly lower than other Floridian counties, it is projected to increase in coming years as more companies shop in Pinellas County.

The unemployment rate currently stands at about 2.4%, lower than the national average of 3.6%. So, if you’re looking to establish a career in this County, you shouldn’t have much of a problem finding employment.

Overall, Pinellas County, FL, provides a good balance of amenities for young professionals, families, and seniors.

If you’re wondering whether or not to settle here, you might want to take some time to explore the exciting attractions that each town or city in this County has to offer to see if there are any that appeal to you.

Cities and Towns In Pinellas County That Are Eligible For The Hometown Heroes Loan Program

As part of the state of Florida, Pinellas County benefits from statewide programs.

The Hometown Heroes loan program is one of the many incentives available to qualifying citizens. Like those in other parts of Florida, community workers in Pinellas County are eligible for this sort of program.

Here is a list of all the cities and towns eligible for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program in Pinellas County, Florida:

  • Palm Harbor
  • Pinellas Park
  • Largo
  • St. Petersburg
  • Tarpon Springs
  • Seminole
  • Dunedin
  • Madeira Beach
  • Safety Harbor
  • St Pete’s Beach
  • Indian Rocks Beach
  • Treasure Island
  • Belleair
  • Gulfport
  • Tierra Verde
  • Redington Beach
  • East Lake
  • Indian Shores
  • Belleair Beach
  • Redington Shores
  • Belleair Bluffs
  • Kenneth City
  • South Pasadena
  • Bay Pines
  • Gandy
  • Bardmoor
  • Belleair Shore
  • Feather Sound
  • Harbor Bluffs
  • Bear Creek
  • Ridgecrest

Wrapping Up

As property prices continue to rise in Florida, the Hometown Heroes Housing Program will be a lifesaver for many eligible community workers serving Floridian Counties, including Pinellas.

Not only will community workers be eligible for lower than market interest rates on first mortgage loans, but additional down payment and closing cost assistance in the form of a second mortgage.

Thanks to this newly-instituted program, community workers will no longer worry about being locked out of ownership.

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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