Unfortunately, this 'American dream' of owning a home has been drifting out of reach for many American families. Now, with employment experiencing significant shifts and the value of owning a home continues skyrocketing amid an unimagined pandemic, affording a home has become a nationwide crisis.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States in early 2020, the cost of owning a home had already been escalating. These created housing challenges within a pandemic crisis for residents of Hardee County, the most affected being those hailed as Hometown Heroes.
What does it take to own a home in Hardee County, Florida?
In the face of unprecedented challenges, the nurses, paramedics, educators, home health aides, firefighters, and law enforcement portrayed dedicated perseverance. While these front-line workers showcased their true spirit of service, they were also priced out of the market and unable to buy a home.
By 2016, the median price of a home in Hardee, Florida, had skyrocketed by 58% to $373,990, with the household income not rising at the same rate. Floridians would need an income of about $62,000 per annum to afford a median-priced home. However, the average income levels for many Hometown Heroes fall short.
Affording a home for many educators and workers becomes a more significant challenge as their salaries fall below the amount required to purchase a home. But thanks to the Hometown Heroes Loan Program, these hardworking Americans can prove their dedication and "pay forward" the sacrifices they made.
What is the Hometown Heroes Loan Program
The Hometown Heroes Loan Program helps veterans and their families in Hardee County, Florida, by providing up to $25,000 for a down payment on a home. The loan program, administered through the Economic Development Council of Hardee County, provides veterans and their families with low-interest loans to purchase a home or start a business in Hardee County.
The Program assists active-duty military, veterans, and first responders looking to purchase or refinance a home in Hardee County, Florida. The Program is designed to provide homebuyers with a fixed interest rate mortgage and down payment assistance for those individuals with an annual income not exceeding $118,950.00.
Eligibility for the Hometown Heroes Grant in Hardee County, Florida?
Income limits are defined based on family size; for example, a single individual's income may not exceed $28,200.00. However, the amount of down payment assistance that becomes available increases as income is reduced.
The funding is provided through this Program by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and can be used to finance 100% of the purchase price of a home within Hardee County boundaries. The FHA and USDA-RD Hometown Heroes loan limit is $420,680, while the VA, HFA Advantage, and HFA Preferred limit is at VA, HFA Advantage, and HFA is $647,200.00.
The eligible members for this grant include Active-duty military, veterans, and first responders who have served in a combat zone during the last twelve months or have been wounded or injured. These individuals include:
- National Guard reservists and National Guard members
- Active-duty personnel
- Service members
- First Responders
The process of getting the $25,000 Grant in Hardee County, FL
According to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, which received a $100 million fund from the Legislature, to get a $25,000 grant from the Hometown Heroes Loan Program, you must have served in the eligible occupations in Hardee County, Florida.
Here are the essential requirements:
Be an active duty member of any branch of the United States military.
Be an individual who has served on active duty for specified periods.
Be a current Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) member who served on active duty during specific periods.
- Be an individual who was honorably discharged from any branch of the United States military.
Here is what you need to do to qualify for this Program in Hardee County:
Find the ideal loan that suits your needs by connecting with a participating loan officer in Hardee County.
Your credit score should be 640 and above.
First, provide the required documents to your loan officer, including verification of employment (VOE), fully completed Attestation for the Hometown Heroes Program, and Florida State license or certification.
- Finally, you must meet the Hardee County income threshold and provide proof of eligible occupations listed here.
Best Places to buy a home in Hardee County
Veterans and first responders who win the Hometown Heroes Loan Program receive $25,000 of down payment assistance to help them buy a home in Hardee County, FL. The amount you qualify for depends on your monthly income and loan limits.
Hardee County has a very low poverty rate, but there are few reported cases of homeless people. The overall crime rate is very low compared to most counties in Florida and the national average, and the educational attainment for adults is high. Hardee County's per capita income is exceptionally high compared to the rest of Florida, at $38,788 annually.
Here are the best places to buy a house in Hardee County:
Hardee County courthouse is located in the city of Wauchula, in central Hardee County. For the most part, Wauchula is a low-key community that has experienced little growth in recent years.
The population density is 23 people per square mile, and the racial makeup of this place is 97% white, 1% Black or African American, 0% Native American and Alaska Native, 0% Asian, and less than 0.5% from other races. The average cost of a home here is $132,300, with an average home size of 1,680 square feet.
Located in central Hardee County, Bowling Green is midway between Lakeland and Wauchula. This place was established in 1887 and is named after a railroad official. It was initially called "Balo-Town" and "Green Corners," but the name was changed in 1912 to Pinkertown before finally becoming Bowling Green.
Today Bowling Green has a population of around 2,800 residents with an average household income of $42,292. Bowling Green is also a super tourist destination, with ten times more tourists visiting than the regular population.
About an hour's drive from Tampa, Zolfo Springs is about 40 minutes northwest of Lakeland. Native Americans originally inhabited the area, but in the late 1880s, Anglo-American settlers arrived to establish a farming community. In 1971, Zolfo Springs had a population of just around 75 residents. Much of its population growth is attributed to retirees who moved down from northern states and the Midwest. The population today is just around 2,000.
The average income in this area is $52,983, and the cost of a home is just under $150,000. The real estate market is low, with only 5 homes for sale. Zolfo Springs also has a high rate of tourists visiting here annually; it receives 15 times more tourists than the regular population.
Sebring is a city in Highlands County, Florida. It is part of the Tampa Bay Area and the county seat of Highlands County. The Sebring Brothers founded Sebring in 1910 and were incorporated in 1913. Today Sebring has an estimated population of 16,842 residents and homes that cost around $117,700.
Sebring received its name from the surname of a family that had operated a post office on their plantation around 1881. Sebring was a small agricultural town with around 500 until the 1950s when it became a bedroom community for nearby Miami and Tampa. Sebring is known for its golf courses, and more specifically, the Sebring Golf Club has been around since 1914 and has hosted many important tournaments.
Lemon grove is located about 20 minutes southwest of Lakeland and about one hour northeast of Tampa. Native Americans originally inhabited this area, but the first settlers arrived in the late 1880s and established citrus plantations, hence the name "lemon grove." In 1923, Lemon Groove became a municipality, which has grown rapidly since that time, with a population of just around 6,000 in 2010.
The average income here is $44,844, and homes cost around $122,800. This place is predominantly white, with a population that is 99% white.
Fort Green is a census-designated place in Hardee County, Florida, United States. The population was 1,724 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Tampa Bay Area region and is home to around 3,000 residents. In the mid-19th century, Fort Green was established as a US Army post to protect settlers from hostile American Indian tribes. The fortification was built after government officials signed a treaty with the Creek and Seminole tribes, creating an Indian reservation in central Florida in 1856. In 1883, the fort was decommissioned, and the land was acquired by the state of Florida, which opened a prison here.
Limestone is a city located in eastern Hardee County, Florida. The population was 2,564 at the 2010 census. When it was first established, Limestone was called "Newcastle" and was considered a part of the Tampa Bay Area market. The name changed to "Limestone" in the 1920s when its economy shifted away from agriculture to phosphate mining.
Today Limestone has a population of around 2,500 residents with an average income of $44,952. The cost of living in Limestone is estimated at 19% lower than the average in the nation.
Founded in 1884, Gardner is a small community located about 45 minutes northwest of Tampa. Gardner was named after James Gardner who owned a general store here and helped provide the land to build the town. This area was once called "Citizens," and it was incorporated as "Gardner" in 1905.
Today Gardner has a population of around 1,400 residents with an average income of $41,967. The land in Gardner is 0.2% more expensive than the average in the United States, and homes here cost around $124,200. The unemployment rate in Gardner is just above the national average at 5.5%.
Cost of living in Hardee County
The cost of living in Hardee County is 13% lower than the national average, and costs of goods and services here are 1% less than in the rest of the country. The cost of living in a typical home in this county is around $81,000, and the average home size is 2,050 square feet.
The average income per household here is $38,086, with an estimated median family income of $50,900. The median home cost in Hardee County is $119,900. Of the 2,400 housing units, 650 are vacant, and about 25% of households here make more than $50,000 a year. The unemployment rate in this county is 6.3%.
Schools in Hardee County
Hardee County hosts a variety of schools, and they are considered to be some of the best in the state. The Hardee County School District has 16 campuses located throughout the county. There are 3 high schools, 10 middle schools, and 6 elementary schools that serve students who reside within Hardee County.
The largest high school in the district is Lake Worth High School which serves 1,890 students from outside Lakeland to just outside Tampa. Lake Worth High School is ranked as the "Most Improved" school in the state by the Florida Department of Education.
Another large high school located in Hardee County is Tampa Catholic High School which serves nearly 3,000 students from all across Tarpon Springs and its nearby areas. Florida DOE ranks Tampa Catholic High as the "Most Improved" school in the district.
Benefits of Living in Hardee County
Residents of Hardee County enjoy the benefits of living in one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. Many social benefits come with living in a place where people are not competing against each other for jobs.
Hardee County is known for its golf courses which cover approximately 17% of the total acreage in the county, and there are more than 100 courses here. Hardee County is one of the few counties in Florida that does not authorize Golf Cart to use on golf course property.
Low cost of living
The cost of living in Hardee County is 13% lower than the national average, and the cost of goods and services here is 1% lower than in the rest of the country. This county has more lower-income areas than any other in Florida.
Great Residential environment for families
Children in Hardee County have access to the best education in the state, which can give families more financial opportunities for things like vacations or college savings.
Great people and great places
Hardee County is where people gather to share common interests and have a good time. This county has a lot of great places to visit, such as Sebring International Raceway, Lake Parker Outdoors Center, Lemon Grove Park, Fort Green Park, Ledford Park, and Gardner-Olin-Brown Park.
Cities in Hardee County that are eligible for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program
Residents of the following cities in Hardee County are eligible to apply for a Hometown Heroes Loan:
- Bowling Green
- Zolfo Springs
Hardee County is a great place to live, and you will have many exciting opportunities to entertain yourself and your family. The cost of living in this place is 13% lower than the national average, and the cost of goods and services here is 1% lower than in the rest of the country. Many social benefits come with living in a place where people are not competing against each other for jobs.
While living in Hardee County offers an excellent quality of life to people looking for a rural environment, but close to the city, homes, and land in this county are still cheaper than in the rest of Florida.