What to know about buying a house in Utah
Buying your first house can feel like a challenge. But there’s plenty of help available. The Beehive State has a wealth of advice, counseling, and educational courses for first-time buyers.
Utah also offers special mortgage programs for new home buyers. And, best of all, you might be in line for a grant or loan to help with your down payment and closing costs. Ready to start your home buying process?
In this article (Skip to ...)
- Utah home buyer overview
- Home loan options
- Utah home buyer programs
- First-time buyer grants
- Buying in Utah’s cities
- Utah mortgage rates
Utah home buyer overview
The median home price in Utah was $520,000 in May 2022, according to the Utah Association of Realtors. That median jumped by 26.6% year over year. But first-time buyers may be in line for assistance, which can put homeownership within reach even at those higher prices.
Utah home buyer stats
|Average Home Sale Price in Utah1||$520,000|
|Minimum Down Payment in Utah (3%)||$15,600|
|20% Down Payment in Utah||$104,000|
|Average Credit Score in Utah2||727|
|Maximum Utah Home Buyer Grant3||UHC second mortgage: "borrow your entire minimum required down payment plus all or a portion of your closing costs"|
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 Utah
If you’re a first–time buyer in Utah 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). The same goes for buyers anywhere in the nation.
Of course, few first-time buyers have saved a 20% down payment. But the good news is, you don’t need one.
Utah home buyers 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:
- 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 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 premiums 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
- Utah Housing Corp. mortgage: You might be able to combine one of these with a second mortgage that covers all your down payment needs (3% or 3.5% of the sale price), plus some of your closing costs. More information below
Note that government loan programs (including the FHA, VA, and USDA home loans) require you to buy a primary residence, which can be a single-family home or a 2-4-unit property. That means you can’t use these loans for a vacation home or investment property.
Most programs let you use gifted money or down payment assistance to cover the down payment and closing costs. So depending on the loan type you choose, you could potentially get into a home with very little cash out of pocket.
If you’re not sure which loan program to choose for your first mortgage, your loan officer can help you find the right match based on your finances and home buying goals.
Utah first-time home buyer programs
As a Utah home buyer, your first port of call will likely be the state’s housing authority, Utah Housing Corporation (UHC). It has several mortgage programs that can help Utah homeowners.
In order to get help from the UHC, you’ll have to qualify for an FHA, VA, or conventional mortgage. And there are a few eligibility rules. You’ll need to:
- Have a credit score of 620 or better
- Choose a participating lender from UHC’s approved list
- Have a monthly household income at or below $8,900 in most of the state or $12,500 in Summit county
Qualified home buyers can combine one of these loans with the UHC’s down payment assistance program to cover their upfront costs.
Utah first-time home buyer grants
The Utah Housing Corporation offers three separate down payment assistance loans. These are available to home buyers who are also getting their primary mortgage through UHC.
- FirstHome Loan: Up to 6% of your loan amount toward down payment and/or closing costs. Minimum credit score 660
- HomeAgain Loan: Up to 6% of your loan amount toward down payment and/or closing costs. Minimum credit score 660
- Score Loan: Up to 4% of your loan amount toward down payment and/or closing costs. Minimum credit score 620
With these loan programs, UHC says “You may be able to borrow your entire minimum required down payment plus all or a portion of your closing costs.”
All three down payment assistance programs are offered as a 30-year second mortgage, which means they’ll require a second loan payment on top of your main mortgage payment. The interest rate will be 2% above your first mortgage rate.
The FirstHome down payment assistance program is for first-time home buyers only, while the HomeAgain and Score programs can be used by repeat home buyers as well.
You should also explore down payment assistance programs in your local or city or county. One of these may offer a better deal. Your loan officer or real estate agent can help you find the best mortgage and assistance program for your situation. We’ve also provided helpful links below.
Buying a home in Utah’s major cities
While home price inflation in Salt Lake City is slightly slower than the statewide average, inflation in the suburbs of West Valley and West Jordan is among the highest in the Beehive State.
Buying in one of Utah’s biggest cities can present a challenge because of higher home prices. But there are additional assistance programs available in these locations. Here’s what to expect.
Salt Lake City first-time home buyers
The median home listing price in Salt Lake City was $549,000 in April 2022, according to Realtor.com. That was up 20.6% year over year.
At those home prices, making a down payment in Salt Lake City, UT might cost:
- $16,470: Minimum down payment of 3%
- $109,800: Maximum down payment of 20%
The Community Development Corporation of Utah (CDCU) offers assistance to buyers with low-to-moderate income in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, and Taylorsville.
Assistance comes in the form of a deferred loan with no monthly payments and no interest. The CDCU website explains that this loan is forgivable after a period of time, but does not specify the loan term.
Qualifying borrowers must:
- Be a first-time home buyer (or have not owned a home in the past three years)
- Not exceed income limits, which are set at 80% of the area median income (AMI)
- Purchase a primary residence
- Complete a home buyer education course
For more information, you can call (801) 994-7222 or email at email@example.com.
West Valley City first-time home buyers
The median home listing price in West Valley City was $450,000 in April 2022, according to Realtor.com. That was up 25% year over year.
At those home purchase prices, making a down payment in West Valley City, UT might cost:
- $13,500: Minimum down payment of 3%
- $90,000: Maximum down payment of 20%
As for down payment assistance, the West Valley City Housing Authority offers forgivable loans of up to $14,999 that don’t have to be repaid.
However, you need to have a low or moderate income (no more than 80% of the area median income) to get this help. You’ll also need a credit score of 550 or better. And you must contribute at least $4,000 of your own money to the transaction, though half that can be gifted by someone who loves you.
If you can meet all those conditions, you may qualify for a home purchase price of up to $387,000.
Download the application and information booklet for all the terms and conditions, including income caps. And note carefully that you must retain ownership and remain in residence for five years. Only after that time is the loan forgiven in full. And if you move, sell, or refinance before then, you’ll have to repay the entire sum you borrowed.
West Jordan first-time home buyers
The median home listing price in West Jordan was $520,000 in April 2022, according to Realtor.com. That was up 31.3% year over year.
At those home purchase prices, making a down payment in West Jordan, UT might cost:
- $15,600: Minimum down payment of 3%
- $104,000: Maximum down payment of 20%
The City of West Jordan’s down payment assistance program “provides loans for half the required down payment and one-time closing costs for a combined total of $7,500. Homebuyers are required to meet income requirements and to live in the home for a period of 5 years. After the initial 5-year period, the loan is forgiven and no repayment is due.” So that’s similar to West Valley’s offering, though the loan amount available is roughly half.
Download the Program Information/Requirements flier for more information and conditions, including caps on income.
Where to find home buying help in Utah
All the organizations we’ve listed above should provide advice freely to any first-time home buyer in the state of Utah or the area they serve.
In addition to our selection, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides a list of city– and county-specific programs across Utah. These are as follows:
Statewide first-time home buyer programs in Utah
- AAA Fair Credit Foundation: Utah Individual Development Account Network — (877) 787-0727
- Community Development Corporation of Utah (CDCU): (801) 994-7222
- Federal Home Loan Bank: Home$tart and other programs offering help for homebuyers
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing: Housing programs for people living in rural communities
- Utah Housing Corporation: (801) 902-8200
You can find homeowner resources at the city and county level on HUD’s webpage for Utah first-time home buyers, including:
What are today’s mortgage rates in Utah?
You can check today’s average mortgage rates in Utah here. Or, you can use the link below to get a custom rate quote for your new loan.
Remember, interest rates vary by borrower. Your own mortgage interest rate depends on factors like your credit score, loan program, down payment, and more. Compare mortgage loan quotes from at least three different lenders to make sure you’re getting the lowest rate and upfront fees possible.
And don’t forget to ask your lender about down payment and closing cost assistance. These programs could seriously lower the barrier to buying your first house.
1Source: Utah Association of REALTORS Local Market Update
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