Top Firefighter Mortgage Programs in 2024

February 7, 2024 - 10 min read

Buy your own home with a firefighter mortgage program

Firefighter mortgage programs support those who serve in the firefighting profession by making it easier for them to become homeowners.

Check your firefighter home loan eligibility. Start here

Depending on your needs and where you want to buy, as a firefighter, you might be in line for extra-low mortgage rates, discounted fees, and even home buying grants.

These special mortgage programs make it more accessible for firefighters to achieve homeownership. So read on to discover the options available where you live.

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7 home loans for firefighters

Here are seven programs designed to help firefighters buy homes at a lower cost:

Check your firefighter home loan eligibility. Start here

  1. Good Neighbor Next Door
  2. Firefighter Next Door
  3. Homes for Heroes
  4. NeighborhoodLIFT®
  5. Firefighter credit unions’ mortgage programs
  6. Down payment assistance programs
  7. Local home loan programs for firefighters

While all seven are worth looking into, you should also consider ‘standard’ home mortgage options, as a home loan available to everyone may end up being your best bet.

1. Good Neighbor Next Door

Good Neighbor Next Door (GNND) has to lead any list of firefighter mortgage programs.

That’s because Good Neighbor Next Door offers you a home at half price.

Literally: borrowers are given “a discount of 50% from the list price of the home,” according to the website of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which runs the program.

GNND does have several requirements for eligibility, including:

  1. Be a paid firefighter (volunteers are not eligible)
  2. Buy in a designated revitalization area, which by definition is likely to be economically challenged
  3. Live in the house as your primary residence for at least three years
  4. Select your home from HUD’s own, limited listings, which comprise FHA foreclosures

Admittedly, some borrowers may find these rules too restrictive.

You might not want to commit to living in a revitalization neighborhood for three years. It may be a long way from work. There could be a shortage of suitable HUD homes when you’re looking — there’s a long list of possible objections.

But imagine where you’ll be in three years after buying your first home. You’ll likely have a 40% or 50% down payment on your next home in a more desirable neighborhood. And you’ll have climbed several rungs on the housing ladder in just 36 short months.

Check your firefighter home loan eligibility. Start here

2. Firefighter Next Door

Firefighter Next Door (FND) lacks GNND’s home-price discount. But this home-buying program instead offers a range of attractive benefits that are open to paid and volunteer firefighters alike — as well as EMT, EMS, and other fire department support staff.

Firefighter Next Door mortgage benefits include:

  • Home buying grants up to $8,000 in certain areas
  • Down payment assistance of up to $10,681
  • No application fee or broker fees
  • Free appraisal (cash grant of $545 on closing)
  • Discounted title fees
  • A streamlined refinance process

And, unlike with GNND, you can buy any mortgageable home you want, wherever you want. You do not have to purchase a home listed by HUD.

Firefighter Next Door also doesn’t impose any minimum residency requirements; though, some of the down payment assistance programs it works with might have their own guidelines.

Not all mortgage lenders offer the FND loan program. So find an underwriter who is experienced with firefighter home loans.

Check your firefighter home loan eligibility. Start here

Firefighter Next Door: Fresh Start Program

Fresh Start is an add-on to the main FND program. It helps those with low credit scores qualify for a mortgage. FND’s website explains:

“We will discover exactly what credit challenges are preventing your mortgage loan from being approved and help you overcome these issues as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“This service has proven to be extremely effective in helping buyers raise their credit scores and make home ownership a reality. Consultations are free.”

If you’re a firefighter looking to buy a home, but have a low credit score, we’d highly recommend looking into this program.

3. Homes for Heroes

Homes for Heroes (HFH) says its qualifying heroes include current and former firefighters, paramedics, EMS, and EMTs.

This home-buying program claims borrowers save on average $4,200 when they buy or sell a home through its program.

When you’re buying, those savings come from discounts from property professionals who are participants in the HFH program. So you can save on fees charged by:

  • Real estate agents
  • Mortgage providers
  • Home inspectors
  • Title specialists

Your savings will come in the form of a single check from HFH after closing. And the more of those participating specialists you use, the more you should save.

You can also save when you’re selling through a participating agent. You should get a 25% discount on gross commission.

Check your firefighter home loan eligibility. Start here

4. NeighborhoodLIFT

NeighborhoodLIFT isn’t exclusively for firefighters or even first responders. So this general home purchase program is one that might help volunteer firefighters. And Wells Fargo says:

“From firefighters and police officers to veterans, hundreds of first responders across the U.S. have become homeowners with help from Wells Fargo’s NeighborhoodLIFT® program.”

The bank claims, “Down payment assistance grants can total up to $17,500 for firefighters,” though the actual amount varies depending on the housing market where you live.

Its downpayment assistance program is intended to help those on modest or moderate incomes. So if you’re a volunteer firefighter whose primary occupation exceeds income limits, you probably won’t qualify for (or need) help.

Check your firefighter home loan eligibility. Start here

5. Firefighter mortgage programs from credit unions

The National Council of Firefighters Credit Unions has counted more than 100 firefighter credit unions with 800,000 members across North America.

Given that the National Fire Protection Association states that there are only 370,000 career firefighters in the US (and 745,000 volunteers), you might conclude that plenty of volunteer firefighters are served by these local lenders, too.

Pretty much all these credit unions offer their members mortgages, and many are likely to offer attractive deals, especially to first-time buyers.

Credit unions can be an excellent choice for low rates, or for the chance to work one-on-one with a local mortgage professional who can guide you through qualifying and applying for a mortgage.

There’s also a good chance you could tie your mortgage to a down payment assistance program.

Check your firefighter home loan eligibility. Start here

6. Down payment assistance programs

There are over 2,000 down payment assistance programs (DPAs) across the United States. And at least one (sometimes several) will be available in the place where you want to buy.

Each DPA sets its own eligibility criteria and offers assistance in different ways. Your loan officer should be able to highlight guidelines and benefits for the programs in your area.

Home buyers may receive a grant (non-repayable gift) of several thousand dollars, tax credits, or a loan — typically with a low interest rate — that you have to repay at the same time as your mortgage payments.

Other DPA programs provide interest-free loans that you repay only when you move or refinance — or that are forgiven after you’ve remained in the home as your primary residence for a pre-specified time.

Mortgage lenders are typically on board with all types of DPA. But you do need your loan officer’s cooperation to use the assistance toward your loan, so double check before submitting your loan application.

Check your firefighter home loan eligibility. Start here

7. Local firefighter mortgage programs

Many states, counties, and cities run special homeownership programs for firefighters, law enforcement officers, EMS, teachers, and other public employees.

These may offer preferential mortgage rates and assistance with down payment and closing costs. Some are limited to first-time homebuyers or career firefighters, but not all of them.

Simply do a web search for firefighter mortgage programs in your city, ZIP code, county, or state to see what’s available.

Mortgage programs that aren’t just for firefighters

If you want to know more about any of the above options, your first resource should be your colleagues in your fire station. See if you can get a first-hand account of the process and benefits from someone who’s actually used these types of home-buying programs.

Verify your home buying eligibility. Start here

Your state’s housing finance agency is also a resource of information. It should be able to point you toward available options, including local DPAs.

In many cases, traditional mortgage programs offer just as favorable loan terms and interest rates as firefighter home loans.

VA loans

If you’ve served in the military prior to becoming a firefighter, you’re likely to find a VA loan unbeatable. Through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, your service entitles you to:

  • Zero down payment
  • Some of the lowest rates around
  • No continuing mortgage insurance
  • Easier credit requirements than most

So your privileges as a veteran may trump those that come from being a firefighter.

You can read more about the qualification requirements for a VA mortgage here.

Verify your VA loan eligibility. Start here

USDA loans

Like VA loans, USDA loans do not require a down payment. And you’re typically in line for reduced mortgage insurance payments and very competitive mortgage rates.

These loans, backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are designed to stimulate growth in rural areas. So you can’t buy a downtown condo with one of them.

But “rural” is defined quite widely and includes some suburbs. Indeed, 97% of the US map comprises areas eligible for USDA loans.

Learn more about who qualifies for a USDA loan here.

Verify your USDA loan eligibility. Start here

FHA and low-down-payment conventional loans

If you qualify, a conventional loan may be favorable because you can make a down payment of just 3%. And you can drop private mortgage insurance (PMI) when you’ve built enough equity in the home. However, borrowers need reasonably good credit to qualify.

FHA loans (backed by the Federal Housing Agency) require a 3.5% down payment and are available to those with lower credit — starting at just 580.

Be aware that both these loans come with mortgage insurance requirements. And FHA loans come with more burdensome rules around mortgage insurance premiums (MIP).

Verify your FHA loan eligibility. Start here

Explore your firefighter home loan options

Firefighters have plenty of mortgage options — some tailored to the profession and some not.

Make sure you explore both types of programs (firefighter mortgages and standard mortgages) to make sure you’re getting the best deal overall. Compare rates, fees, and special savings.

Ready to see what you could afford?

Time to make a move? Let us find the right mortgage for you

Firefighter mortgage FAQ

What is a firefighter mortgage?

A firefighter mortgage refers to a home loan program specifically designed for firefighters and other first responders. These loans often offer unique benefits and considerations tailored to the needs and challenges faced by those in the firefighting profession.

What are the benefits of a firefighter mortgage?

Firefighter mortgages may come with benefits such as lower interest rates, reduced down payment requirements, waivers for certain fees, and specialized underwriting guidelines. These benefits aim to make homeownership more accessible for firefighters and their families.

How can I find firefighter mortgage programs?

To find firefighter mortgage programs, start by researching mortgage lenders who specialize in working with first responders. Additionally, reach out to local firefighter associations, unions, or government agencies for information on specific programs available in your area. Online research can also provide valuable insights.

Do firefighter mortgages have any specific eligibility requirements?

Each firefighter mortgage program may have unique eligibility requirements. Common criteria may include being an active firefighter or first responder, meeting certain income limits, and potentially serving a minimum number of years in the profession. It’s important to review specific program guidelines for eligibility details.

Can I use a firefighter mortgage for refinancing an existing home?

While firefighter mortgages are primarily designed for home purchases, some programs may offer refinancing options. It’s best to research specific programs or consult with mortgage lenders who specialize in firefighter mortgages to explore available options.

Can I combine a firefighter mortgage with other homebuyer assistance programs?

It’s possible to combine a firefighter mortgage with other homebuyer assistance programs. Consult with mortgage lenders and local housing agencies to explore available options, as there may be programs that complement each other and increase your overall benefits.

What documents will I need when applying for a firefighter mortgage?

When applying for a firefighter mortgage, you’ll typically need standard mortgage application documents, including proof of income, employment verification, tax returns, bank statements, identification, and potentially additional documents specific to the firefighter mortgage program you’re applying for. Your mortgage lender can provide you with a comprehensive list.

Peter Warden
Authored By: Peter Warden
The Mortgage Reports Editor
Peter Warden has been writing for a decade about mortgages, personal finance, credit cards, and insurance. His work has appeared across a wide range of media. He lives in a small town with his partner of 25 years.
Aleksandra Kadzielawski
Updated By: Aleksandra Kadzielawski
The Mortgage Reports Editor
Aleksandra is the Senior Editor at The Mortgage Reports, where she brings 10 years of experience in mortgage and real estate to help consumers discover the right path to homeownership. Aleksandra received a bachelor’s degree from DePaul University. She is also a licensed real estate agent and a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).