Ohio First-Time Home Buyer: 2024 Programs and Grants

By: Peter Warden Updated By: Ryan Tronier Reviewed By: Paul Centopani
June 14, 2024 - 10 min read

What to know about buying a house in Ohio

If you’re an Ohio first-time home buyer, count yourself lucky. Because the Buckeye State provides some great support.

You could be in line for one-on-one counseling, free home buyer education, and even some generous down payment assistance. Indeed, some buyers are eligible for a grant of up to 5% of their home’s purchase price.

Here’s how to get started.

Verify your home buying eligibility in Ohio. Start here

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Ohio first-time home buyer programs

Ohio has a couple of great, statewide first-time buyer programs that could make your home purchase more affordable.

Verify your home buying eligibility in Ohio. Start here

My Ohio Home

OhioHome.org is part of the state government’s Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA).

My Ohio Home offers programs based on FHA, VA, USDA, and conventional mortgage loans. Keep in mind that you’ll need to meet slightly higher credit score requirements to take advantage of OHFA’s down payment assistance. The FHA loan requires a minimum credit score of 640. But you’ll need a 650 to qualify for its other loan programs.

As is usual with these state programs, you must:

  • Choose an OHFA participating lender
  • Complete a free home buyer education program with an approved counseling agency

There are also three basic eligibility criteria. You must be one or more of the following:

  • A first-time home buyer (meaning you must not have owned a primary residence in the last three years);
  • A veteran with an honorable discharge; or
  • Planning to buy a home in one of OHFA’s target areas

There are other eligibility requirements too, including income caps and purchase price limits. You can learn more on OHFA’s website.

OHFA Homebuyer Program

OHFA offers several “affordable loan options” that can be underwritten as FHA, VA, USDA-RD, and conventional mortgages. OHFA first-time buyer loans are 30-year fixed-rate mortgages designed with moderate and low-income borrowers in mind.

OHIO Heroes

Conventional and government-backed loans for eligible public servants including educators, law enforcement, medical professionals, and firefighters. This loan type can be paired with the OHFA DPA programs found below.

Next Home Program

Technically, this is not a first-time home buyer program. Next Home offers 30-year fixed-rate loans for all buyers that can be paired with select DPA programs. Homebuyers are able to couple Next Home with 2.5% YourChoice! Down Payment Assistance.

OHFA Mortgage Tax Credit

This tax credit comes in two varieties, Plus and Basic, which can provide a credit of up to 40% of the home mortgage interest.

Ohio first-time home buyer grants

OHFA’s down payment assistance is pretty good compared with many states. It has a number of programs, but the most popular is probably Your Choice! Down Payment Assistance.

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Your Choice! DPA

With this DPA program, Ohio first-time home buyers can borrow either 2.5% or 5% of their home’s purchase price. That takes the form of a loan which is forgiven after seven years. That means if you stay in the home for at least seven years, you won’t have to pay anything back.

What’s not to like? Well, you have to repay the OHFA loan in full if you move, sell the home, refinance, or transfer your main mortgage before the seven-year loan term ends.

Grants for Grads

The OHFA Grants for Grads program provides discounted mortgage interest rates to recent graduates. It also offers 2.5% or 5% down payment and closing cost assistance, which is forgiven after five years provided you do not refinance, move, or sell.

Eligible home buyers must have graduated within the past 48 months with an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, or another post-graduate degree from an accredited college or university. You’ll also need to complete a free home buyer education course from a HUD-approved counseling agency.

Communities First DPA

Communities First Ohio is run by the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and appears to offer mortgages to all Ohio first-time home buyers. You can apply for a grant of 3%, 4%, or 5% of your next home’s purchase price. Because it’s a grant, you never have to repay the funds.

You can expect similar rules and eligibility criteria to those as with OHFA programs. But eligible buyers will also need:

  • A debt-to-income ratio no greater than 45%
  • FICO score of 640 or more
  • Not exceed maximum income limits (varies by county)
  • Use an approved lender
  • Property must be your primary residence

You may also qualify for one of these grants more easily than an OHFA loan. Because only the borrower's income is counted, not the whole household’s. You can find more details in the program brochure in the resource section.

Ohio home buyer key stats

The average home sales price in Ohio was $259,500 in May 2024. That rose 7.6% from the year prior, according to Redfin.

Rising home prices can make it challenging to save for a down payment and closing costs. So be sure to read on for information about home buyer assistance programs that could help you bridge the gap between your savings and those requirements.

Verify your home buying eligibility in Ohio. Start here

Ohio home buyer stats

Average Home Sale Price in Ohio1$259,500
Minimum Down Payment in Ohio (3%)$7,785
20% Down Payment in Ohio$51,900
Average Credit Score in Ohio2715
Maximum Ohio Home Buyer Grant35% grant from Communities First Ohio

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 Ohio

First-time home buyers with a 20% down payment in the state of Ohio can get a conventional loan with a low interest rate. And you never have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI).

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 mortgage programs:

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

  • Conventional 97: From Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. 3% down payment and 620 minimum credit score. 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 typically on the hook for mortgage insurance until you refinance to a different type of mortgage, move, or pay off your loan
  • VA loan: Only for veterans, active-duty military members, reservists, and National Guard. 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
  • OHFA: May include competitive mortgage interest rates and can be used with 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, you could potentially get into a 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.

Buying a home in Ohio’s major cities

Ohio is one of those states where it is, on average, less expensive to buy a home in a big city than statewide. And if you wish to buy in Cleveland, you’re doubly lucky. Because home prices are roughly half those in Columbus and Cincinnati.

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Columbus first-time home buyers

The median home price in Columbus was $309,900 in May 2024. That increased 8.7% 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:

  • $9,297 for 3% down payment
  • $61,980 for 20% down payment

The City of Columbus offers a down payment assistance program called the American Dream Down Payment Initiative (ADDI). The program offers five-year deferred, forgivable loans. So you don’t have to repay the money you receive, provided you don’t move out of the home, refinance, or pay off your mortgage during that period.

First-time buyers can qualify for up to $7,500 for down payment and closing costs. Eligibility criteria are shown at that link. You can also call (614) 645-7896 for more information.

Cleveland first-time home buyers

The median list price in Cleveland was $135,000 in May 2024. That increased 17.4% 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:

  • $4,050 for 3% down payment
  • $27,000 for 20% down payment

Cleveland’s down payment assistance is administered by Cuyahoga County. It offers a deferred loan of up to a staggering 10% of the purchase price. This can be used for homes with a value up to $149,000. So the loan amount is capped at $14,900. Still, that home price cap is higher than the median list price for the city.

Since assistance is provided in the form of a deferred second mortgage, it is never forgiven. But it is repayable only when you move, sell the home, refinance, transfer, or pay down your mortgage.

Check out the resource section below for a downloadable PDF program guide from the Cuyahoga County website. It provides more details, including income limits and other eligibility criteria.

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

Cincinnati first-time home buyers

The median list price in Cincinnati was $295,000 in May 2024. That rose 1.8% 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:

  • $8,850 for 3% down payment
  • $59,000 for 20% down payment

The City of Cincinnati operates an American Dream Downpayment Initiative Program for first-time homebuyers with modest incomes. You can borrow up to $5,000 as an interest-free deferred loan that is forgiven after five years.

However, the city’s website says, “All or a portion of the funds will be recaptured in the event a homeowner moves from the residence, sells or transfers ownership during the five-year residency period.”

Where to find home buying help in Ohio

All the organizations we’ve listed above should provide advice freely to any first-time home buyer in Ohio or their local area.

In addition to our selection, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides lists for statewide, regional, and local resources.

Verify your home buying eligibility in OH. Start here

Statewide and regional first-time home buyer programs in Ohio

You can also find programs by county, city, and town on HUD’s Ohio first-time home buyer webpage.

What are today’s mortgage rates in Ohio?

You can see today’s live mortgage rates in Ohio here.

When you’re ready to start the home buying process, experiment with a mortgage calculator to see how down payment and interest rates will affect your mortgage 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 you’re offered. Because that’s the only way to know you’re getting the best deal possible on your new home loan.

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

1Source: Redfin Ohio Housing Market report

2Source: Experian.com study of 2021 and 2020 data

3Based 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.
Paul Centopani
Reviewed By: Paul Centopani
The Mortgage Reports Editor
Paul Centopani is a writer and editor who started covering the lending and housing markets in 2018. Previous to joining The Mortgage Reports, he was a reporter for National Mortgage News. Paul grew up in Connecticut, graduated from Binghamton University and now lives in Chicago after a decade in New York and the D.C. area.