Virginia First-Time Home Buyer: 2024 Programs and Grants

By: Peter Warden Updated By: Ryan Tronier
June 17, 2024 - 12 min read

What to know about buying a house in Virginia

Real estate prices have been rising in the Old Dominion state, which can often put home buyers under pressure.

Luckily, if you’re a Virginia first-time home buyer, there’s plenty of help available. That ranges from advice and home buyer education courses to cash grants or loans to help you out with your down payment.

Here’s how to get started.

Verify your home buying eligibility in Virginia. Start here


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Virginia home buyer overview

The median home price in Virginia was $465,600 in May 2024. That increased 5.2% year-over-year, according to Redfin.

Verify your home buying eligibility in VA. Start here

Of course, rising real estate values will actually help you out once you become a homeowner because you’ll build equity more quickly. But home price inflation can make saving for a down payment challenging. So read on for ways to get help with your down payment (and potentially your closing costs, too).

Virginia home buyer stats

Average Home Sale Price in VA1$465,600
Minimum Down Payment in VA (3%)$13,968
20% Down Payment in VA$93,120
Average Credit Score in VA2721
Maximum VA Home Buyer Grant3$40,000+ (Virginia DHCD)

Down payment amounts are based on the state's most recently available average home sale price. “Minimum” down payment assumes 3% down on a conventional mortgage with a minimum credit score of 620.

If you're eligible for a VA loan (backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs) or a USDA loan (backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture), you may not need any down payment at all.

First-time home buyer loans in Virginia

If you’re a first-time home buyer in Virginia with a 20% down payment, you can get a conventional loan with a low interest rate. And you never have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Verify your home buying eligibility in VA. Start here

Find the best first-time home buyer loan for you. Start here

Of course, few first-time buyers have saved enough for 20% down. But the good news is that you don’t need that much. Not by a long shot.

Borrowers can often get into a new home with as little as 3% or even 0% down using one of these low-down-payment loan programs:

  • Conventional 97: From Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. 3% down payment and 620 minimum credit score. The mortgage must be within local conforming loan limits. You can usually stop paying mortgage insurance after a few years
  • FHA loan: Backed by the Federal Housing Administration. 3.5% down and a 580 minimum credit score. But you’re on the hook for mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) until you refinance to a different type of mortgage, move, or pay off your loan
  • VA loan: Only for veterans and service members. Zero down payment is required. Minimum credit score varies by lender but often 620. No ongoing mortgage insurance after closing. These are arguably the best mortgages available, so apply if you’re eligible
  • USDA loan: For those on low-to-moderate incomes buying in designated rural areas. Zero down payment required. Credit score requirements vary by lender but often 640. Low mortgage insurance rates
  • Virginia Housing: May include competitive interest rates and down payment assistance. More information below

Note that government loan programs (including FHA, VA, and USDA home loans) require you to buy a primary residence. That means you can’t use these loans for a vacation home or investment property.

In addition, most programs let you use gifted money or down payment assistance (DPA) to cover your down payment and closing costs. Depending on your mortgage loan, you could get into your new house with minimal cash out of pocket.

If you’re unsure which program to choose for your first mortgage, your lender or real estate agent can help you find the right match based on your finances and home-buying goals.

Virginia first-time home buyer programs

There’s no shortage of support programs for Virginia first-time home buyers. You might be able to get help with advice, education, mortgages, or down payment assistance (DPA). The latter are often delivered through a local provider run by your city, county, or a nonprofit in your area.

Verify your home buying eligibility in VA. Start here

Verify your home buying eligibility in VA. Start here

Two such organizations offer statewide support for would-be home buyers:

You’ll have to meet some eligibility requirements, whichever provider you choose. Each gets to set its own rules. But there are a few common guidelines you can expect to see:

  • Income limits: Your household income typically can’t be above 80% of your area median income (AMI)
  • Caps on your new home’s sales price
  • Mandatory home buyer education course
  • Requirement to use an approved lender for the program

Because each rule book is different, it’s important to explore each provider’s offering to see which suits you best.

Virginia Housing programs

Virginia Housing offers plenty of help first-time and repeat buyers, including counseling, special mortgage loans, down payment, and closing cost assistance. Here’s what you can expect.

Virginia Housing Conventional

Virginia Housing offers first-time buyers a conventional loan with as little as 3% down, which can be even lower when paired with one of its down payment grants. This is a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage that requires PMI with down payments of less than 20%. Furthermore, borrowers will need a minimum credit score of 640 to qualify.

Virginia Housing Conventional No Mortgage Insurance

This mortgage program is nearly identical to the Virginia Housing Conventional. First-time home buyers receive a 30-year fixed-rate loan with options for down payment and closing cost assistance. However, this program doesn’t require private mortgage insurance with less than 20% down. That can lead to huge savings on your monthly payment.

However, you’ll need a higher credit score for this loan — expect to need at least a 660 FICO score to qualify.

Virginia Housing Loan Combo

Through Virginia Housing, first-time buyers can obtain a mortgage loan, a down payment grant, a mortgage credit certificate, and a free home buyer education course, all in one tidy bundle. You’ll need a credit score between 620 and 680 to qualify, depending on the loan type.

Virginia first-time home buyer grants

First-time home buyers in Virginia can choose from a number of special mortgage loans and get help with their down payment and closing costs.

Let us help find the right mortgage for you. Start here

DHDC Down Payment Assistance

Virginia DHCD’s down payment assistance program doesn’t provide outright home buying grants. But it does offer conditional ones.

If you’re eligible, you may be in line for a grant that you never have to repay, provided you remain in the home for a certain number of years.

  • If you borrow up to $14,999, you must remain in residence for five years or pay back the whole amount if you move earlier
  • If your grant exceeds $40,000, you have to stay put for 15 years for it to be forgiven
  • For grant amounts between $15,000 and $40,000, the period of residency is 10 years

The highest grants are available only in places designated as “high-cost areas” or “chronically economically depressed.” You can find details through the link above.

Virginia Housing Down Payment Assistance

A Virginia Housing loan doesn’t let you borrow as much as Virginia DHCD. It usually offers 2% (sometimes 2.5%) of your next home’s purchase price. But this is a true grant. So there are no residency requirements. Once you have the money, it’s yours to keep.

Each of the programs below comes with its own eligibility requirements. So visit Virginia Housing’s underwriting guidelines page for more information.

Closing Cost Assistance Grant

The Closing Cost Assistance Grant helps buyers with a USDA or a VA loan pay less upfront for their loans. As stated above, the maximum grant is 2% of the purchase price. But funds can also be applied to the rural housing service guarantee or the VA funding fee.

Down Payment Assistance Grant

Qualified first-time home buyers in Virginia can receive a grant of up to 2.5% of the purchase price. You’ll need to use this grant with a Virginia Housing mortgage and not exceed income limits.

Virginia Housing Plus Second Mortgage

First-time buyers may be eligible for a forgivable second mortgage equal to 3%–5% of the purchase price. Not only does this loan cover your entire down payment, but qualified buyers with credit scores of 680 can also finance closing costs into the second mortgage.

Virginia Housing Granting Freedom program

Virginia veterans and servicemembers can receive up to $8,000 in grant money from Virginia Housing’s Granting Freedom program to make their homes more accessible. The grant is offered to military members who have suffered a disability as a result of an injury sustained in the line of duty. The funds can be used to pay for updates such as ramps or wider doorways, and they apply to both owner-occupied and rental properties.

Other Virginia home buyer assistance programs

Home buyer assistance grants in Virginia offer financial support to eligible first-time homebuyers, helping to cover the down payment and closing costs. These grants aim to make homeownership more affordable and accessible for first-time buyers in the state.

Sponsoring Partnerships & Revitalizing Communities (SPARC)

The Sponsoring Partnerships and Revitalizing Communities (SPARC) program from Virginia Housing cuts the interest rate on 30-year mortgages by 1%. This is done by working with local governments, non-profits, and housing industry groups to offer qualified first-time homebuyers mortgages at lower rates.

Only people buying their first home can use the SPARC Virginia first-time homebuyer program. Other borrower and property requirements depend on the partner sponsoring the lower rate, but they are usually the same as those for a 30-year mortgage.

Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC)

Virginia Housing may also give qualified home buyers a Mortgage Credit Certificate. It’s a dollar-for-dollar government tax credit that could lower your tax bill. And it’s good for the life of your loan, as long as the property is your primary residence.

Buying a home in Virginia’s major cities

Unlike many states, home prices in Virginia’s three biggest cities are actually below the statewide average. But prices in those cities are rising faster than elsewhere in the Old Dominion.

Verify your home buying eligibility in VA. Start here

Virginia Beach first-time home buyers

The median list price in Virginia Beach was $425,000 in May 2024. That rose 7.6% year-over-year, according to Realtor.com.

If you want to buy a home at that median price, your down payment options might fall between:

  • $12,750 for 3% down payment
  • $85,000 for 20% down payment

The City of Virginia Beach also has a down payment assistance program of its own. It says, “Individuals may... qualify for down payment assistance or, if a veteran seeking a VA loan, a closing cost assistance grant.” Aside from that, not much information is available. So call 757-385-5750 for details.

Norfolk first-time home buyers

The median list price of homes in Norfolk, VA, was $330,000 in May 2024. That increased 1.5% year-over-year, according to Realtor.com.

If you want to buy a home at that median price, your down payment options might fall between:

  • $9,900 for 3% down payment
  • $66,000 for 20% down payment

The City of Norfolk and Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA) have a down payment assistance program called the NRHA HOME program that provides up to $40,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance to first-time home buyers.

However, the NRHA website doesn’t mention whether this assistance is a grant or a forgivable second mortgage. Nor does it give details about program eligibility, aside from household income not exceeding 80% of the area median income.

If you’re interested in this NRHA program, reach out to them directly by calling (757) 623-1111.

Let us help find the right mortgage for your first home in Norfolk. Start here

Chesapeake first-time home buyers

The median list price of homes in Chesapeake, VA was $450,000 in May 2024. That jumped 12.8% year-over-year, according to Realtor.com.

If you want to buy a home at that median price, your down payment options might fall between:

  • $13,500 for 3% down payment
  • $90,000 for 20% down payment

The Chesapeake Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA) HomeOwnership Program (HOP) is a unique program, so we’ll quote directly from its brochure to be sure we get the information right:

“HOP will assist residents/clients transition from renting to homeownership and create a pool of residents adequately prepared to pursue the goal of buying their own home through local homeownership programs and resources.

“Current HCV voucher holders who participate in the HOP program and meet all program requirements may be able to use their housing assistance with a monthly mortgage payment, thereby increasing their borrowing capacity. The assistance may continue for 15 years for 20+ year funding, or 10 years if less than a 20-year mortgage. Assistance under this program may be either a monthly home-ownership assistance payment or a single, down payment assistance grant.”

Want more information? Call (757) 523-0401.

Where to find home buying help in Virginia

Virginia first-time home buyers can often find help by reaching out to any of these housing agencies.

Verify your home buying eligibility in VA. Start here

You should also check to see if a local solution might meet your needs better. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), plenty of regional organizations can help renters on the path to homeownership.

What are today’s mortgage rates in Virginia?

You can see today’s live mortgage rates in Virginia here. When you’re ready to start the home-buying process, experiment with a mortgage calculator to see how down payment and interest rates affect your monthly payment. Then, get personalized rate quotes from at least three to five mortgage lenders.

Don’t just look at advertised rates online. Apply for preapproval and compare the interest rates and fees that are offered to you. That’s the only way to ensure you get the best deal on your new home loan.

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


1 Source: Redfin Virginia Housing Market report

2 Source: Experian.com study of 2022 and 2021 data

3 Based on a review of the state's available DPA grants at the time this was written

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.
Ryan Tronier
Updated By: Ryan Tronier
The Mortgage Reports Editor
Ryan Tronier is a personal finance writer and editor. His work has been published on NBC, ABC, USATODAY, Yahoo Finance, MSN Money, and more. Ryan is the former managing editor of the finance website Sapling, as well as the former personal finance editor at Slickdeals.