Idaho First-Time Home Buyer: 2024 Programs and Grants

By: Peter Warden Updated By: Ryan Tronier
May 25, 2023 - 10 min read

What to know about buying a house in Idaho

Average home prices in the Gem state are higher than the national average. But that shouldn’t put you off as an Idaho first-time home buyer. There are plenty of resources available to help you toward your goal of homeownership—from special mortgages with low rates to home buyer education courses and down payment assistance.

Verify your home buying eligibility in Idaho. Start here

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Idaho home buyer overview

The median listing price in Idaho was $446,800 in April 2023, according to Redfin. That was an 11.1% decrease year-over-year.

The Idaho housing market is still competitive despite the decline in the median listing price, with many homes receiving multiple offers and selling for more than asking price. This is especially true in areas with a high demand for housing, like Boise and Coeur d’Alene.

Verify your home buying eligibility in Idaho. Start here

Unlike most states, the Gem State does not provide government-sponsored home buyer assistance programs. The private sector does provide some assistance. Additionally, there are a lot of flexible mortgage programs that can lower the cost of purchasing your first home in Idaho. Here’s what you need to know.

Idaho home buyer stats

Average Home Sale Price in ID1$446,800
Minimum Down Payment in ID (3%)$13,404
20% Down Payment in ID$89,360
Average Credit Score in ID2727
Maximum ID Home Buyer Grant3Idaho Housing forgivable loan of up to 7% of the sale price

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 Idaho

If you’re a first-time home buyer in Idaho with a 20% down payment, you can get a conventional loan with a low interest rate and no private mortgage insurance (PMI).

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 mortgage programs:

  • Conventional 97: From Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. 3% down payment and 620 minimum FICO score. You can usually stop paying mortgage insurance after a few years once you reach 20% home equity
  • 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 until you refinance to a different type of mortgage, move, or pay off your loan
  • VA loan: Only for veterans and service members. This loan has no down payment requirement, but still offers low rates and no ongoing mortgage insurance after closing. Minimum credit score varies by lender but is often 620. 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 start at 640. Low mortgage insurance rates
  • Idaho Housing loans: 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 can help you find the right match based on your finances and home-buying goals.

Idaho first-time home buyer programs

The Idaho Housing and Finance Association (IHFA), also referred to as “Idaho Housing,” provides a variety of programs and resources to support affordable homeownership in Idaho. For those buying a single-family home, condominium, townhome, or manufactured home, IHFA provides tax credits, competitive home loans, assistance with down payments, and home buyer education.

Verify your home buying eligibility in Idaho. Start here

Idaho Housing offers a range of mortgage types, including conventional loans, FHA, USDA, and VA loans. Additionally, the IHFA partners with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to offer HFA Advantage and HFA Preferred loans, designed to help low-to-moderate-income first-time home buyers with low down payment requirements, reduced mortgage insurance premiums, and flexible credit qualifications.

HFA Advantage and HFA Preferred loans

HFA Advantage and HFA Preferred loans are mortgage loan products offered by the Idaho Housing and Finance Association (IHFA) in partnership with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These loans are designed to assist first-time home buyers and others with low-to-moderate income levels in securing affordable home financing. Here is what you can expect.

HFA Advantage (Fannie Mae)

The HFA Advantage loan is offered in partnership with Fannie Mae. It is designed for borrowers with low-to-moderate income who have limited funds for the down payment and closing costs. Some key features of HFA Advantage loans include:

  • Low down payment requirements: Borrowers can put down as little as 3% of the home’s purchase price.
  • Reduced mortgage insurance requirements: HFA Advantage loans often come with lower mortgage insurance premiums than traditional loans.
  • Flexible credit requirements: Borrowers with less-than-perfect credit may still qualify for an HFA Advantage loan.

HFA Preferred (Freddie Mac)

The HFA Preferred loan is offered in partnership with Freddie Mac. Like the HFA Advantage loan, it is designed to assist borrowers with low-to-moderate income levels. Some key features of HFA Preferred loans include:

  • Low down payment requirements: Borrowers can make a down payment as low as 3% of the house’s cost.
  • Reduced mortgage insurance requirements: HFA mortgage insurance premiums for preferred loans are frequently lower than for conventional loans.
  • Flexible credit requirements: Borrowers with less-than-perfect credit may still qualify for an HFA Preferred loan.

Both HFA Advantage and HFA Preferred loans can be combined with IHFA down payment and closing cost assistance programs, making homeownership more accessible to qualified borrowers. What’s more, you don’t need to be a first-time homeowner to qualify.

Idaho Housing First Loan

For those looking to buy their first home in Idaho, the Idaho Housing First Loan may be a great option to consider. With competitive rates and low mortgage insurance, this loan can help make homeownership more affordable. Plus, the option for the down payment and closing cost assistance can make it easier to get started on the path to owning a home. It’s important to note that this loan program can only be accessed through a participating lender, but it is compatible with other popular loan types like USDA and FHA loans.

Idaho Housing Idaho Heroes Loan

This IHFA loan program works for first-time buyers as well as repeat buyers. It can provide closing cost and down payment assistance of up to 7% of your home’s purchase price. This loan is offered to essential workers, including:

  • law enforcement officers
  • paramedics
  • firefighters
  • nurses
  • doctors
  • retail employees
  • teachers
  • veterans
  • active-duty service members

Additionally, the Idaho Heroes Loan program offers flexible credit requirements and competitive interest rates to help make homeownership more accessible to those who serve our communities and country. With the option for up to 30-year fixed-rate mortgages and the ability to finance up to 97% of the home’s value, this loan program provides a variety of options to fit different financial situations. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or looking to upgrade to a new home, the Idaho Heroes LoanWorks program is worth considering for its benefits and support for our local heroes.

Idaho Housing loan requirements

The specific requirements to obtain a loan with Idaho Housing can vary depending on the particular loan program you are interested in. However, there are some general requirements that typically apply across most IHFA programs:

  • Idaho residency: The borrower must be a resident of Idaho, and the property being financed must be located within the state.
  • First-time home buyer status: Some IHFA programs target first-time homebuyers, typically meaning the borrower has not owned a primary residence in the past three years. However, some programs may be available to repeat homebuyers as well.
  • Income limits: IHFA loan programs usually have income limits based on the area median income (AMI) and household size. The limits can vary by county and the specific loan program.
  • Homebuyer education: Many IHFA programs require borrowers to complete a homebuyer education course, which helps them better understand the home buying process, budgeting, credit, and mortgage options.
  • Property price limits: IHFA programs may have limits on the purchase price of the property to ensure they are targeted toward affordable housing.

To determine the specific requirements for a particular IHFA loan program, it’s essential to visit their website or contact them directly for the most up-to-date information. Its website offers an eligibility calculator that you can use to see whether you qualify.

Idaho first-time home buyer grants

Rather than grants, Idaho Housing offers two closing cost and down payment assistance programs. Both take the form of forgivable second mortgages.

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Idaho Housing Second Mortgage

The first option is a fixed-rate loan that can be large enough to cover almost all of your down payment and closing cost requirements. It comes with a 7% interest rate and is repayable in equal monthly installments over 15 years.

Unless you’re eligible for a Heroes mortgage, you’ll need to be a first-time home buyer to qualify for this assistance. You’ll also have to contribute at least 0.5% of the sales price from your own resources. There’s an income cap of $125,000.

Idaho Housing Forgivable Loan

The second option is a forgivable loan. In most ways, this is better because it has a 0% interest rate and no monthly payments. But you can only borrow up to 3% of the home purchase price.

Each year, 10% of the loan is forgiven. So by the end of year 10, you’ll owe nothing. But if you move, sell, or refinance during those 10 years, you’ll have to immediately repay the portion that hasn’t been forgiven.

In addition, the forgivable loan doesn’t come for free. The website says, “For each 0.5% of forgivable loan used, 0.125% will be added to the interest rate of the first mortgage.”

Other Idaho first-time home buyer assistance programs

You should also research your county or city’s programs to help with down payments. Perhaps one of them will offer you a better deal.

Additionally, specialized loans may help some borrowers afford homeownership. These include the Native American Direct Loan (NADL) or an energy-efficient mortgage (EEM). Many of these programs also have competitive interest rates.

Idaho Housing Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC)

IHFA also offers MCCs, which allow eligible first-time homebuyers to claim a federal tax credit equal to a percentage of their annual mortgage interest. This can result in significant savings over the life of the loan.

As long as you keep the house as your primary residence, you can use the credit for the duration of your mortgage and roll it over up to three times.

Buying a home in Idaho’s major cities

Buying your first home in one of Idaho’s biggest cities generally costs more than buying in the state as a whole. Home prices in Boise and Meridian are significantly higher than the statewide average.

Verify your home buying eligibility in Idaho. Start here

Many cities across America help out first-time home buyers with down payment assistance programs. But, unusually, none of the three biggest cities in Idaho had such a homeownership program when we checked.

Still, you can always fall back on Idaho Housing if you’re eligible and need help. You can also ask your real estate agent or loan officer about alternative down payment assistance programs run by local nonprofits and other groups.

Boise City first-time home buyers

The median list price of homes in Boise was $550,000 in April 2023. That was a decrease of 10.2% 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:

  • $16,500 for 3% down payment
  • $110,000 for 20% down payment

When we checked, the City of Boise website said, “The City of Boise is not currently accepting applications for down payment assistance.” You could check back to see if that policy has changed by the time you read this. In the meantime, it refers you to “partner organizations,” NeighborWorks Boise and Autumn Gold. The site also directs readers to Idaho Housing, above.

Meridian first-time home buyers

The median list price of homes in Meridian was $575,000 in April 2023. That was a decrease of 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:

  • $17,250 for 3% down payment
  • $115,000 for 20% down payment

Neither the City of Meridian nor Ada county appears to have down payment assistance programs. Private company Supreme Lending’s Meridian team does suggest a program that includes a forgivable loan, though it works only with FHA mortgages.

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

Nampa first-time home buyers

The median list price of homes in Nampa was $459,900 in April 2023. That was a decrease of 7.8% 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:

  • $13,800 for 3% down payment
  • $91,980 for 20% down payment

We could find no trace of a down payment assistance program on the City of Nampa’s website or that of Canyon County. However, you should ask your agent or loan officer about DPA from local nonprofits and other organizations if you’re looking for assistance,

Where to find home buying help in Idaho

All the organizations we’ve listed above should provide free advice to any first-time home buyer in the state of Idaho or within their areas.

Verify your home buying eligibility in Idaho. Start here

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

Idaho first-time home buyer programs by area:

What are today’s mortgage rates in Idaho?

You can see today’s live mortgage rates in Idaho here. When you’re ready to start the home-buying process, get personalized rate quotes from at least three mortgage lenders.

Don’t just look at advertised rates online; apply for preapproval and compare the interest rates and fees offered. That’s the only way to get the best deal possible on your new home loan.

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


1Source: Redfin.com Idaho Housing Market Report

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