For over a year, Floridian legislators have been pushing for a bill that will allow critical workers like police officers, firefighters, teachers, and healthcare workers access affordable housing. Their efforts seem to have paid off after the Hometown Heroes Loan Program officially got a rollout date. The program entitles eligible workers to down payment and closing cost assistance as they look to purchase their first home.
Critical workers from all counties in Florida, including Indian River County, can apply for this grant. Here's how you can get the funding as an eligible worker residing in Indian River County, Florida:
Understanding the Hometown Heroes Housing Program
Hometown Heroes is a statewide home financing solution targeting critical workers in Florida who can't afford down payment and closing costs when buying a home. The program is instituted by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FL Housing). Once you qualify, you can enjoy a low-interest first mortgage to fund the home of your dreams.
FL Housing partnered with various mortgage lenders to facilitate the loan program. The role of these participating lenders is to originate, underwrite, close, fund, and deliver Hometown Heroes loans.
Hometown Heroes' goal is to acknowledge critical workers' efforts by helping those who can't afford to buy a home secure affordable housing units. It aims to allow these workers to live in areas they work for convenience.
Understanding the conventional and federal-backed programs that offer Hometown Heroes loans is essential. These programs include the following:
Florida First Heroes (FL First) encompasses USDA-RD, VA, and FHA offerings that offer down payment assistance and a 30-year fixed rate.
HFA Preferred Heroes for TBA is a conventional Fannie Mae offering with reduced PMI premiums for mortgages under 80 percent AMI, down payment assistance, and a 30-year fixed rate.
- FL HFA Advantage is a conventional Freddie Mac offering with a reduced-cost PMI for mortgages under 80 percent AMI, 30-year fixed-rate, and down payment assistance.
Income and Loan Limits for Indian River County, Florida
Like other loan programs, Hometown Heroes has specific income limits applicants must meet. These limits are set for each county in Florida and are based on the household size and the home being purchased.
For Indian River County, FL, you need an income of $119,850 and below to enroll in the Hometown Heroes program. FHA and USDA-RD programs can qualify you for a maximum loan limit of $420,680. You may also get a maximum loan of $647,200 under the VA, HFA Preferred, and HFA Advantage programs.
First Mortgage Requirements in Indian River County, Florida
To qualify for the first mortgage under Hometown Heroes, you have to be licensed or certified and work as a full-time critical worker (healthcare worker, first responder, military personnel, or correctional officer). Submitting a VOE (verification of employment) and copies of your occupational certificate or license will help verify your occupational eligibility.
FL Housing only allows you to take a Hometown Heroes loan when enrolled in another down payment assistance program under specific conditions. The exception is that the agency funding the other down payment assistance program should act as a third lien in your Hometown Heroes loan.
You only have 45 days to reserve the home you want to buy using this loan. There's also a 60-day deadline to meet when you want to lock in a favorable mortgage rate. You risk canceling the loan or paying a hefty extension and reprising fees if you fail to meet these deadlines.
Getting a $25,000 Grant in Indian River County, Florida
Unlike traditional mortgage programs, Hometown Heroes boasts a more straightforward and less time-consuming loan process. Provided you qualify, the loan process starts with your lender credit underwriting the mortgage based on the FL Housing-established eligibility requirements. You must submit an executed sales agreement to the lender before reserving or locking in a mortgage rate to confirm your eligibility.
The loan can only be available to you if you are an eligible critical worker and you plan to use the property you're buying as your primary residence at least 60 days after closing the deal. Your Hometown Heroes loan will act as a purchase-only mortgage instead of a refinancing solution.
Credit Score and Debt-to-Income (DTI) Requirements
Loan programs such as HFA Preferred for TBA, USDA-RD, VA, and FHA require you to have a FICO score of 640 to back your Hometown Heroes loan. If you want to use the loan to finance a manufactured home, these programs will only back the mortgage if you have a credit score of 680.
FHA and VA require a debt-to-income ratio of 50 percent, while the USDA requires a DTI of 45 percent to back your loan. If your credit score is above 680, you only need a DTI of 50 percent when considering a Fannie Mae offer. A DTI of 45 percent is needed for a FICO score ranging from 640 to 679 under the same offering.
The maximum debt-to-income ratio for Freddie Mac offerings is 50 percent for a 680 FICO score. It is also 45 percent for a credit score ranging from 640 and 679.
Your occupation has to be listed under the Hometown Heroes eligible occupations list to stand a chance at qualifying for the down payment and closing cost assistance. You are eligible for the loan if you work in the corrections and juvenile justice sectors in positions such as juvenile probation officers and sworn law enforcement officers. Other eligible professions in these sectors include correctional probation officers, certified corrections officers, and juvenile detention officers.
Working in a field that requires emergency or immediate accident response can make you eligible for the loan program. Occupations in such a field include paramedics, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, and 911 public safety communicators. The loan program may also favor you if you work as a career specialist, school psychologist, classroom teacher, social worker, librarian, media specialist, and school counselor.
Eligible professions in healthcare and medicine include registered nurses, nursing assistants, practical nurses, childcare instructors, and childcare operators. Others include anesthesiologists, dentists, midwives, pharmacists, chiropractors, osteopaths, and podiatrists.
You may enroll in Hometown Heroes when working as a massage therapist, athletic trainer, nursing home administrator, speech-language pathologist, or nutritionist. An occupation in prosthetics, veterinary, orthotics, radiology, and psychology can also qualify you for the loan program.
Requirements for Veterans and Active-Duty Military Personnel
Hometown Heroes can help you secure affordable housing if you are an active-duty military member or veteran. The catch is that you don't need to be new to the home-buying market to qualify for the program. All you need is a copy of your military ID to verify your service for the loan to be processed.
You may also turn to this loan program for down payment and closing cost assistance if you are a veteran with an honorable discharge. However, the mortgage lender will require you to submit a Certificate of Eligibility to confirm whether you qualify for the funding. The VA also allows surviving spouses of veterans to apply for this mortgage, provided they meet the eligibility requirements.
Cost of Living in Indian River County, Florida
The overall cost of living in Indian River County, FL, is 97.6, lower than the statewide average of 102.8 and the national average of 100. Groceries in this county are more expensive (with an affordability score of 104.7) compared to the entire state of Florida (102.8) and the entire country (100). Affordability scores for health and housing are 95 and 95.9, respectively, lower than the statewide averages (102.8 and 98) and the national averages (100 and 100).
Residential properties in Indian River County have a median price of $270,800, making them affordable compared to the statewide and national median prices that stand at $294,900 and $291,700, respectively. You'll also spend less on transportation (92.9) and utilities (95.9) in the county than anywhere else in the sunshine state.
Besides the affordability of items, it's also essential to look at the job market in Indian River County. The current unemployment rate stands at 5.2 percent, making it lower than the US average of 6.0 percent. There's been a 1.8 percent increase in the job market over the last year and a projected 38.4 percent job growth in the next ten years.
The average income of residents in this county is $31,089 per year, which is higher than the national average of $28,555 per year. Households have a median income of $44,645 a year, making it less than the US average, which stands at $53,482 yearly. The income tax rate is 0.0 percent, while the sales tax rate is 7.0 percent compared to the US averages of 4.6 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively.
Best Places to Buy a Home in Indian River County, Florida
If you consider buying a home in Indian County, FL, you should know that home prices have appreciated at an 11.6 percent rate over the last decade. Cities and towns such as Indian River Shores, South Beach, Wabasso Beach, Florida Ridge, and Vero Beach are good places to buy a home. Here's how each one of them stands out:
Indian River Shores
As a resort town on Orchid Island, Indian River Shores is primarily surrounded by water. The Atlantic Ocean also borders it to the east and the Indian River to the west. The town's population is 4,206 as of 2020, and the median home value is $712,700 (compared to a national average of $217,500).
South Beach is a census-designated area on North Hutchinson Island with a population of 3,429. It's among the top ten Florida locations with a high income per capita.
The neighborhood offers a dense suburban feel that's perfect for both families and young professionals. However, the housing prices are relatively higher, with the median home value at $699,2000 compared to most parts of the country, where the median home value is $217,500.
With a population of 1,775, Wabasso Beach is a census-designated area part of the Sebastian-Vero Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area. Most residents in this town own their homes. The median home value ($485,900) in Wabasso Beach is relatively higher than the national average ($217,500).
As a census-designated place in Indian River County, FL, Florida Ridge has a population of 22,372. It is also part of the Sebastian-Vero Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area and boasts many parks. With a median home value of $141,200, homes are more affordable in Florida Ridge than in most parts of the country, whose median value is $217,500.
Vero Beach is a small city in Indian River County with a population of 16,857. It has beaches facing the Atlantic Ocean across the Indian River Lagoon. The city boasts many parks, wildlife refuge shelters, and natural sceneries. The current median home value in Vero Beach of $259,800 is slightly higher than the national average ($217,500)
Best Public and Private Schools in Indian River County, Florida
Indian River County, FL, had 29 public schools with a student enrollment of 17,792. These schools have a reading proficiency score of 55 percent, which is lower than the statewide average (56 percent). They also have an average score of 57 percent in math proficiency, slightly lower than the statewide average of 59 percent.
The top five public schools in Indian River county include the following:
- Liberty Magnet School (with a math proficiency of 81 percent and reading proficiency of 79 percent)
- Osceola Magnet School (with a math proficiency of 79 percent and reading proficiency of 78 percent)
- North County Charter School (with a math proficiency ranging from 75 to 79 percent and reading proficiency ranging from 75 to 79 percent)
- Rosewood Magnet School (with a math proficiency of 78 percent and reading proficiency of 75 percent)
- Sebastian Charter Junior High School (with a math proficiency of 82 percent and reading proficiency of 71 percent)
Best Private Schools in Indian River County, Florida
For the 2022 school year, Indian River County, FL, recorded 11 private schools with a student enrollment of 1,635. Eighty-two percent of these schools are religiously affiliated with Episcopal and Christian institutions. The average acceptance rate in these schools (80 percent) is lower than the statewide acceptance for private schools (86 percent).
The five best private schools in this county include:
- Saint Edward's School (Episcopal)
- St. Helen Catholic School (Catholic)
- The Willow School
- Crosstyle Academy (Church of the Nazarene)
- Glendale Christian School (Baptist)
Is Indian River County, Florida, Suitable for Young Professionals or Families?
Cities and towns in Indian River County, FL experience favorable weather conditions. The schools in these areas have a lower spending per student ($9,454) compared to other parts of the country, whose average spending is $12,382. There are also more physicians (234) per 100,000 population in the county than in other parts of the country (210 per 100,000 people).
Indian River County has a low crime rate (17.7) compared to other counties in the US (whose average is 22.7), making it ideal for families and young professionals. The area also has a lower property crime rate (34.5) than other counties (35.4).
Cities/Towns in Indian River County, Florida, that are Eligible for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program
Cities in Indian River County, FL, include Fellsmere, Sebastian, and Vero Beach, while the towns include Orchid and Indian River Shores. All of these cities and towns are covered by Hometown Heroes. The census-designated places in this that are also part of the program include:
- Florida Ridge
- South Beach
- Vero Beach South
- West Vero Corridor
- Winter Beach
- Windsor (formerly known as North Beach)
- Wabasso Beach
- Oslo (unincorporated community)
- Nevins (unincorporated community)
- Cummings (unincorporated community)
- Blue Cypress Village (unincorporated community)
Though it's at the initial stages, Hometown Heroes is undeniably a relief to frontline community workers looking for affordable homes. The lower first mortgage rate, down payment, and closing cost assistance are perks any first-time homebuyer would like to enjoy. It's exciting what the future holds for this loan program.