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Illinois First Time Home Buyer Loans

Get a Mortgage Loan to Buy Your First Home in Illinois
Down Payment Assistance - Best Program Options - Low Rates

Illinois First Time Home Buyer – 2019 Loan Programs

Are you looking to purchase your first home? Our first time home buyer programs might be the perfect solution to help you obtain the financing you need to purchase the home you desire. We provide excellent home financing options, and encourage you to compare our offered loan terms to other mortgage lenders.

Illinois First Time Home Buyer Loans

There are 5 types of first time home buyer loans.  You may select different loan terms, such as a fixed rate or adjustable rate mortgage, and the number of years to repay the loan (such as a 30 year fixed rate mortgage).

Types of Mortgages:

  • Conventional Loans – Conventional loans offer the best loan terms to borrowers with good or excellent credit, as well as those who can afford to place a larger down payment.  If you are able to put 20% or more down, you will be able to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI).  However, conventional loans also offer low down payment options, such as programs that only require 3% down.
  • FHA Loans – FHA loans are a good option for borrowers who may not be able to qualify for a conventional loan.  The qualification requirements for FHA loans are much more lenient than conventional loans.  This includes options for home buyers with credit scores as low as 500 (in order to qualify for a 3.5% down payment, you must have a credit score of at least 580).
  • USDA Loans – USDA loans provide home buyers the opportunity to purchase a home without any down payment.  These loans are intended for borrowers with low-to-moderate income.  In addition to not requiring any money down, you can also finance the closing costs into the loan.  This means you can essentially buy a home with no money out of pocket!
  • VA Loans – Active duty military members and veterans can apply for a VA loan which allows you to buy your first home without any down payment.  These loans are not available to the general public, but exclusively to military/veterans.
  • Jumbo Loans – Any loan that does not meet the conforming or FHA loan limits is a jumbo loan.  Most counties in Illinois are limited to $484,350 for conforming loan limits, and $314,827 for FHA loans (some counties, such as Cook, Dekalb, Dupage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will have higher FHA loan limits of $368,000).  For those who qualify, and want a little more than what conforming and FHA loan limits allow, we offer jumbo loans up to $2,000,000.

The above 5 types of loans are the main first time home buyer options that exist.  We can help you determine which loan is the right fit for you based on your particular needs and eligibility.

Illinois Down Payment Assistance Programs and Grants

Illinois homebuyers have access to some of the very best down payment assistance programs available in the entire nation.  This includes statewide, and locally offered programs.  The most popular down payment assistance (DPA) programs are featured below. 

Illinois Statewide Programs:

Illinois Local Programs:


IHDA Illinois 1st Home

The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) offers a special down payment assistance program, which includes up to $7,500 in down payment assistance money.  It is only available to first time home buyers in the following counties: Cook, Marion, St. Clair, and Winnebago.  In order to qualify, the following requirements must be met:

  • To be considered a first time home buyer you either have to be buying a home for the very first time, or not owned real estate in 3 years or more.
  • You must occupy the home that you intend to purchase through this program.  You may not purchase an investment property or buy for someone else.
  • Contribute at least $1,000 towards your down payment or closing costs.
  • Attend a homebuyer counseling course either in person or online.
  • Must purchase an existing property.  It is not available for new construction.
  • You must have a credit score of 640 or higher to be eligible.  We have other programs permitting lower credit scores, but the IHDA will only approve of applicants with a 640 mid score or higher.
  • The maximum purchase price is limited to $336,706 for 1 unit, and $431,033 for 2 units.
  • This program is intended for low and moderate income families, and therefore has strict income limits in place.  A household can make no more than $101,520 (regardless of how many people live in the home).

You can also view the purchase limits and income limits here.

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Illinois Smart Move

Offered only through the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), the SmartMove Mortgage products bring down payment assistance and low interest rates to Illinois residents that only bring in low- to medium-income, allowing first-time buyers to realize their dreams of finally owning a home.

In a nutshell, the SmartMove program is a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage that comes with built-in closing cost assistance and affordable interest. This loan can be either conventional, USDA, FHA or VA insured, however the type of mortgage awarded is what determines the loan-to-value ratio (LTV), the ratio of the cost of the loan compared to the cost of the property. For the conventional, it is 97. For the USDA and VA, the LTV is 100. The lowest is the FHA with 96.5. Borrowers are required to be first-time homebuyers, unless they are exempt under special circumstances, with a credit score of 620 or higher. The debt ratio can be no more than 45% and all borrowers are expect to pay 1% ($1,000) of their own funds, whichever is the greater number. Finally, a homeownership counseling session is required to promote responsibility.

The above is in regards to just the SmartMove mortgage by itself. Opt in for down payment assistance and a few more things are added on to the contract. The biggest addition is that the mortgage now comes with a down payment assistance loan. This covers up to 3% of the purchase price with a maximum value of $6,000. It is recorded as a second mortgage, comes with no extra interest and is entirely forgiven after a period of 10 years. This, of course, only happens if the house is not sold or refinanced within said time period. If one of these two things occur, the loan is due in full immediately. If combined with the SmartMove mortgage, the first mortgage’s interest rate will be slightly higher.

How to Qualify for Illinois Smart Move
There are three major rules that determine the applicants that can qualify for the assistance.

First-Time Homebuyer
The first is that the buyer has to either be a first-time homebuyer or exempt from this rule. To count as a first-time buyer, the person must not have had any ownership interest for a primary residence in three years prior to the creation of the mortgage. That being said, all veterans are opted out of this requirement as well as those purchasing homes within a target area.

These target areas in Illinois are those places where 70% or more of the families have an income totaling 80% or less of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s determined median income for that area. This translates to benefits such as higher purchase prices and income, good selling points and the loss of the regulation that a buyer has to be a first-time homebuyer.

Household Income
The second qualification revolves around the total household income. This includes both the borrower and all other legal adults over the age of 18 that will be inhabiting the home. It also covers spouses that choose to waive their homestead rights. So long as this number does not exceed the local income limits as determined by HUD, the applicant qualifies for SmartMove.

A quick way to determine total household income is to determine everyone’s individual gross incomes and add them together. For one person’s paycheck, take what they earn in one month and multiply that by 12. Any overtime should also be added in. Other things that are considered a part of the gross monthly income are:

  • Bonuses
  • Commissions
  • Child Support
  • Alimony
  • Investment Income
  • Social Security
  • Unemployment

Qualified Dwelling
Finally, the property the assistance will be for has to count as a qualified dwelling with an acquisition price that falls within a certain limit. This is to prevent the buying of extremely expensive homes well beyond the means of low- to median-income families. Currently, a qualified home is one where the borrower obtains a simple interest fee in its real estate. Within 60 days of closing the loan, it has to become the borrower’s primary residence. The home must also be located within Illinois and be allocated for residential purposes. This means that units can be detached homes, condos, townhomes or two-unit homes. Co-op apartments do not count.

Federal Recapture Tax
The way the IHDA can provide down payment assistance to first-time buyers is through what is known as a federal recapture tax. By accessing tax-exempt bond proceeds, the SmartMove program is able to offer financial assistance for its eligible applicants. Should the home be sold or refinanced within nine years, the amount offered for down payment assistance will be recaptured.

However, the recapture can only happen if three conditions all apply.

  • Within nine years of the home being purchased, it is sold.
  • The sold home turns a profit.
  • The income in the household the year the home was sold exceeds the federally dictated recapture tax limits.

Beyond this, the IHDA will reimburse households for the recapture tax so long as proper documentation is provided to prove that the tax was paid. This will be found in IRS tax transcripts. Reimbursement does not apply for those with a Mortgage Credit Certificate.

The Process of Illinois Smart Move
To begin the application process for the SmartMove program, applicants must make a reservation with the IHDA through their website. A manual will be provided and a user ID and password must be created. The login is obtained by contacting a system administrator. Your administrator will belong to the place where you attained your mortgage. Following the successful creation of a reservation, the mortgage must close within 60 days. If this does not happen, there will be fines that are subject to change without notice.

Next, your mortgage lender will send the IHDA a file of compliance documents to state that you are eligible for down payment assistance. To make this easier, the IHDA has created mandatory checklists that must be turned in with every file used for compliance. This can be uploaded through Mitas. The first review will take 48-72 hours and a decision is sent out through email.

The documents that make up a complete compliance file include:

  • SmartMove Buyer and Seller Affidavits
  • SmartMove Certificate of Income
  • Recapture Notice
  • Tax returns of the past three years

Each of these documents are found at the IHDA website and come with instructions for completion.

Next, credit underwriting happens based on the loan you have, be it FHA, USDA, VA or conventional. This is when the lender assesses your credit to determine the overall risk that you could default on the property. Beyond the underwriting rules established by your mortgage, IHDA has two other rules. These are that the borrower has a FICO score of at least 620 and that the backend ratio can be no higher than 45%. This ratio shows how much of the monthly income pays off debts.

Loaning and Closing
After achieving IHDA approval and credit approval, the home purchase can be closed. Should it be necessary, the IHDA does offer a pre-closing review available within 24 hours of closing.

All SmartMove loans are sold to US Bank. US Bank then becomes the financial entity that you pay your monthly mortgage to. Purchase files are sent to both the IHDA and US Bank. These purchase files, though similar to both entities, are slightly different for the IHDA. These forms include:

  • SmartMove Buyer and Seller Affidavits
  • IHDA Mortgage Rider
  • IHDA Second Note and welcome letter
  • IHDA Second Mortgage

The forms are mandatory and must be submitted.

The lender of the mortgage then has 10 days to send the IHDA all post-closing documents from the closing date of the loan. Finally, the loan has to have approval from both the IHDA and US Bank before it can be purchased.

Closing a down payment assistance loan comes with some differentiation. Instead of falling to the US Bank, it closes under “Illinois Housing Development Authority”. There is also no Truth in Lending required. This statement is often used to provide you with information about the costs of your credit, however, it does not apply with the down payment assistance offered through the IHDA. Finally, this second mortgage can either be listed as subordinate financing on the HUD-1 paperwork or have its own HUD-1.

The Fees of Illinois Smart Move
Like all loans, there are fees that apply to cover various costs associated with successfully creating a mortgage. The origination fee is the fee charged by the lender for loan processing. In this case, it can be 0.5% of the mortgage. For any miscellaneous fees, the lender can charge up to $1,200 so long as those charges are legally fair and reasonable. Finally, the service release fee covers costs to release certain aspects of the loan. Currently, for all loan types, this amount is 2.25% of the first mortgage’s amount.

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Welcome Home Illinois

This state initiative is a special DPA program offered exclusively to residents (or soon to be residents) of Illinois.  You may be able to qualify for up to $7,500 in assistance that can be used for any costs associated with your loan, including down payments and closing costs. A wonderful feature of this program is that it can be used with almost any type of loan, including conventional, FHA, USDA, and VA loans.  The requirements are you must be a first time home buyer, have a 640 credit score, and $1,000 must be contributed towards loan costs (or 1% of the purchase price, whichever is greater).  If you have owned a home before, you may qualify for $5,000 in assistance.

Some Advantages of Welcome Home Illinois:

  • Funds can be used for closing costs, in addition to the down payment.
  • It can be used with a FHA, VA, USDA, or conventional loan.  This includes all types of loans, with the only exception being jumbo mortgages.
  • The program includes a 30 year fixed rate mortgage.  This means your mortgage payment stays the same and does not fluctuate.

To learn more about the IHDA program, you can speak with us or visit the website for the IHDA .

Updated:  Welcome Home Illinois is currently not available.  Please review other programs on this page, or speak with a home loan representative to find out what other program are available that you may be eligible for.

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Illinois Mortgage Revenue Bond

Receive up to $6,000 in assistance to use for your down payment.  This state bond program requires that you be a first time home buyer (or to have not owned a home in the last 3 years).  Similar to Welcome Home Illinois, you must contribute the greater of $1,000 or 1% of the purchase price.

There is not a lot of information about this program online. If you are interested in finding out more or seeing if you qualify, we can help answer any of your questions.

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Illinois Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC)

In general, homeownership doesn’t net enough of a tax break to make it financially feasible for those with lower end income. Luckily, for first-time homebuyers, a Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) provides more than just a standard cut.

A few years ago, the IRS implemented an $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers as a way to spur on home buying during the economic slump. While this specific one has been retired, there still remains a way to get a larger tax credit for a home through an MCC. While federally created, these certificates are issued through both the states and cities themselves and only award them to borrowers holding mortgages from participating institutions.

The MCC gives eligible mortgage owners a dollar-for-dollar tax credit that subsequently reduces the amount of taxes they have to pay to the IRS every year and can remain active year after year so long as the loan is maintained and the home the mortgage belongs to remains the primary residence. This mortgage can be FHA, conventional, VA or USDA.

Determining how much this credit amounts to is based on a percentage of mortgage interest paid on the first mortgage loan. This exact percentage varies from state to state and city to city. For Illinois, this percentage is typically 25%, though this number can vary. Once the percentage is determined, the final total is how much less a homeowner would be required to pay in taxes come the end of the year. For instance, if the 25% totaled out to $3,500, that would be $3,500 less owed to the government, provided that much was even owed in the first place. Should you not owe that much, the remainder can be carried over to the next year’s taxes for a period of three years. Keep in mind, however, for the full tax credit, the mortgage will need to have been paid in full for an entire year. Therefore if you only pay for six months of the mortgage, you’ll only receive a credit equal to the determined percentage of six months of interest.

The MCC program does come with a list of qualifications that all have to be met in order to qualify and claim one.

First-Time or Target Location
For the past three years prior to closing a mortgage that is available for this assistance, the borrower cannot have owned any primary residence. In addition, non-first-time homebuyers are also allowed to apply should their property be located in a designated area. To determine if an area is designated or not, look up the residence’s address on the US Department of Housing and Development’s (HUD) QCT Map.

Income limits are split into two groups based on if the area is a targeted area or not. Typically, household income limits are lower in non-target areas than in target areas. These limits also vary widely from city to city as they are all based on HUD’s calculations an area’s median income and are subject to change at any time.

Purchase Price
Simply put, the home cannot cost more than what is federally and locally mandated. Like the income, the price is lower for non-target areas. In addition, for many areas in Illinois, new construction is entirely ineligible, though Chicago does allow for single unit new construction buildings.

Use and Size
Following the closing date, the home must be occupied as the principal residence within 60 days. It can also be used only as the primary residence, meaning it cannot serve as an investment property or a recreational property and no more than 15% of it can be used as a business. As for size, the property can only have one to four units. Single residences can be detached homes, townhomes, condos or a single unit of a duplex. A property made up of multiple units requires that one of them be the primary residence. On top of this, the entire building must have been used as a residential place for at least five years prior to the closing of the loan.

The mortgage the MCC is applied to must be a first mortgage. This mortgage cannot be entered into as a way to replace another mortgage. That being said, there are a few pockets in Illinois that allow for the MCC to be reissued following a refinance. On top of this, the MCC for this mortgage has to be correctly clamed on the borrower’s federal tax return every year.

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Chicago Down Payment Assistance Programs
With as large as Chicago is, it’s no wonder there are so many financial assistance programs for down payment fees. While many of these institutions service both Chicago and its surrounding neighborhoods, there are a few that aid city residents directly. This includes three primary programs which are each featured below. These are the Neighborhood Lending Services of Chicago – Home Purchase DPA program, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust – Market Rate Homebuyer Assistance Program, and finally the Chicago Downpayment Plus Programs by Federal Home Loan Bank.

Neighborhood Lending Services of Chicago – Home Purchase
The Neighborhood Lending Services of Chicago, Inc. (NLS) is a nonprofit Illinois Residential Mortgage lender that provides affordable, fixed-rate mortgages for families of low- to moderate-income levels in Chicago. They are also HUD-certified and are members of NeightborWorks America. Because they have an array of loans to offer for home buying help, each qualifying family is presented with the most affordable mortgage for their situation on top of additional help with down payment and closing costs.

No matter what mortgage you end up being fitted to, there remain a set of rules put in place by the NHS for all that apply.

  • The mortgaged property must be used as the principal residence. It cannot be a vacation home and no more than 25% of it can be used as a business space.
  • Every single loan option requires at least a 3% down payment of your own money for a property with one unit and 5% for a property with two units. The NLS will check to make sure this money has been within your possession for at least three months since it cannot be money received as a gift.
  • Should there be two units, the borrower is required to take a landlord training course.
  • Each loan comes with its own income and eligibility rules.
  • All applicants must attend a homeownership education course before the mortgage can be obtained.

Because each loan given out depends on the situation of the family, the NLS asks that at the initial meeting, the family bring in specific documents to help fill out the loan application completely. These include verification of income sources, copies of current mortgages and government identification.

Chicago Infrastructure Trust – Market Rate Homebuyer Assistance Program
Created in 2012 under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust came about as a way to assist Chicago by offering alternative financing options for those in need. A part of this also includes funding for beneficial infrastructure projects, such as Wi-Fi for the train system and better, more sco-friendly street lighting. To make this work, the Trust attracts funds from a variety of investors. Since its launch, it has allocated over $200 million in support for over 6,178 homes.

For homebuyers in Chicago, Emanuel set up the Home Buyer Assistance Program to offer grants to those that want to purchase a home but need financial help. Open to both families and individuals, it can be used on a new home purchase or to refinance an existing one. In order to provide this help, the Trust works with other authorized institutions to accept and process applications on a first come, first served basis.


  • Applicants do not need to be first-time homebuyers. All families or individuals interested in either purchasing a home or refinancing are welcome to apply. Should the borrower be a first-time homebuyer, they are expected to take an education course. The awarded can only go toward refinancing so long as no cash back is given to the borrower.
  • Properties covered include condos, single-family homes, townhomes and owner-occupied properties with up to four units.
  • Eligible applicants can receive up to 7% of the total mortgage amount based on income.
  • All borrowers that are approved must be able to contribute either $1,000 or 1% of the purchase price using their own money. The amount that is the lowest will be the total that is due.

Income Eligibility
There are both income and credit score requirements that must be met, however these are based on the type of mortgage obtained.

If the mortgage is an FHA, VA or USDA, the annual income of the borrower can be no more than $87,400 regardless of the family’s size. In addition, the credit score must be at least 580 or higher, however there can be exceptions.

If the mortgage is a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the yearly income cannot exceed $133,000, regardless of family size. The credit score typically must be 640 or higher. Again, there can be exceptions.

Chicago Downpayment Plus Programs by Federal Home Loan Bank
Also known as the DPP and DPP Advantage, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago’s (FHLBC) Downpayment Plus Program and Downpayment Plus Advantage programs combine down payment assistance and closing cost assistance into one package for qualified applicants that fall in the low- to moderate-income bracket. Funds are available through FHLBC member institutions. The money itself is offered in the form of a forgivable grant that is used to pay down payment and closing fees at the time of closing.

The Downpayment Plus Advantage is very similar in nature except instead of going toward applicants that pull mortgages from regular institutions, it helps non-profit organizations that provide mortgage financing to buyers. Like the other places, these non-profit organizations must also be partnered with FHLBC.

To obtain down payment assistance, there are certain requirements that have to be met:

  • Before anything else, a mortgage must be applied for through a lender partnered with FHLBC.
  • Applicants must be able to provide a purchase contract that has been executed.
  • The annual household income must be below 80% of the area’s median average as determined by HUD.
  • All income sources and potential changes must be disclosed along with verifying documents.
  • At least $1,000 must be paid to the down payment total by the applicant.
  • A homebuyer counseling program must be attended prior to receiving the DPP.
  • All required documents must be signed and turned in, including the Certificate of Borrower Eligibility and a retention agreement to legally bind the DPP grant to the property.
  • Should the home be sold or refinanced within a five year period, the grant will be due back to FHLBC in part or in full.

The required homebuyer counseling program must be one that has been created by a recognized, experienced organization in homeownership counseling. Following this, the borrower or borrowers will need to complete and submit their Certificate of Homebuyer Education.

More specifically, the class is required to take a comprehensive approach to financial literacy education and red flags pointing toward predatory lending. As for the level of counseling, this is entirely dependent on the borrower’s credit score. Should there be more than one borrower, everyone must take the same class together based on the lowest credit score presented. For those with limited mobility options, there are online options available, however this cannot be the sole source of counseling.

In addition, the DPP grant can cover counseling costs so long as these following four requirements are met.

  • The counseling costs are acquired for counseling from an organization that is not a member of an institution that is able to provide DPP grants to homebuyers.
  • The cost is not covered by another funding source or member company.
  • The cost is no more than $700 per household.
  • The cost is written out on the Closing Disclosure form.

Should a FHLBC member provide said counseling, it becomes illegal to charge a fee. Should the member charge a fee, the borrower will be reimbursed.

As stated earlier, the homebuyer must be able to pay $1,000 of their own money toward the down payment costs of their property. This can be in the form of earnest money, cash given at closing or as an item identified on the Closing Disclosure form. That being said, those that qualify for the DPP Advantage grant are not required to pay this amount. Homebuyers may receive up to $250 cash back during closing, however this is required to go straight to the $1,000 owed.

As with every DPP program, the property in question must be used as the primary residence. One or two-unit homes are eligible so long as they are within Illinois. This can be an attached property, detached property or condo. Real estate-title manufactured homes are also up for support. Should the property be under construction, said construction must be complete prior to actual closing. If rehab work is necessary, this must be done before any grant money is received.

In the case the buyer is related to the seller, the property must be independently appraised by a state licensed or certified appraiser at least six months prior to the closing date. Following this, the appraised value cannot be lower than the sales price. Related to the FHLBC means a parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, uncle, aunt or other household member.

Once the grant is obtained, they can only be used for certain things, including:

  • Down payment and closing cost assistance.
  • Escrow reserves given to the lender for insurance, purposes, monthly assessments or taxes. This means the funds are put into a special account that can only be accessed once certain conditions are met.
  • Excrow funds for potential rehabilitation work on the property.
  • Counseling costs for homeownership.

The illegal uses of these funds include:

  • Escrow funds for new construction.
  • More than $250 back at closing.
  • Reimbursement of the $1,000 paid at closing.
  • The write-down of interest rates on the mortgage.
  • Using the money to pay for non-housing costs, including debts and bills.
  • Paying for utilities or property taxes unrelated to the current property.
  • Buying pre-paid life insurance.
  • Counseling fees for homebuyers charged by a member institution.

First Mortgage

  • Finally, there are requirement the first mortgage must adhere to in order for the DPP to be awarded.
  • The first mortgage must be for a period of at least five years. Should the interest rate not be fixed, the initial locked interest rate period has to be for five years.
  • Mortgages that are interest-only are not eligible. This means mortgages where certain periods only bill the borrowers for interest alone.
  • A mortgage cannot have a debt-to-income ratio of higher than 45%, meaning no more than 45% of the borrower’s income can go toward debts. If such a mortgage is approved, the lender must provide FHLBC a written explanation regarding this decision.
  • Mortgages may come from a wide variety of programs, including conventional or FHA. However, it is up to the borrower to determine the mortgage’s rules on applying a DPP grant.

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Cook County Down Payment Assistance

Though almost entirely made up of Chicago, there are two programs dedicated specifically to helping low- to medium-income homebuyers with down payment assistance outside of the city’s limits but still within the county’s limits.

Housing Authority of Cook County – Homeownership Program
Serving over 15,000 families and currently the second largest provider of affordable housing in Illinois, the Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC) works tirelessly to help their clients achieve self-sufficiency. Their main goal is to promote affordable housing, healthy living conditions and economic independence to those in need in suburban Cook County.

Their first-time homebuyer Homeownership Program is specifically for those that prove to be eligible through the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Following successful application to that program, the Homeownership Program becomes available.

As mentioned, the applicants must first be approved for the Housing Choice Voucher Program. To obtain this, qualifications include:

  • Qualifying as a family unit following the definition put forth by the HUD and HACC.
  • Income must be at or below the determined levels, including very low- to moderate-incomes.
  • Family members must be legal residents of the United States.
  • Social security numbers must be provided.
  • Consent must be given to HACC to allow them to collect and use information on the family.

In suburban Cook County, the rules are a bit different than other down payment assistance programs.

  • The buyer must be a first-time homebuyer.
  • Excluding disabled and elderly families, the gross annual income must be at least $17,160 without counting any welfare assistance.
  • The buyer must be continually employed for two years, again excluding the disabled and elderly.
  • No money can be owed to the HACC or other housing authority.
  • An HACC homeownership briefing must be attended as well as an HUD approved homeownership counseling. This counts only if the session discusses both credit counseling and budgeting.
  • The buyer must have at least 1% of the down payment cost to pay with their own money.

West Cook Homeownership Center – Down Payment Funds
Located in Forest Park, the West Cook Homeownership Center is certified by HUD as a counseling agency. While anyone is eligible to apply for services, their main areas of service include Austin, Elmwood Park, Melrose Park, North Riverside, Westchester and others.

Currently, the organization runs a down payment assistance program comprised of grants and forgivable loans. These are made possible through their lending partners and come in two main forms. The first, the West Cook Advantage Program, is specifically for buyers looking to purchase rehabbed homes. The second, the Cook County HOME Funds, are for first-time buyers with lower household income limitations. Should these two not work, the center does still have more assistance through other grants, loans and incentives available upon further request for aid.

West Cook Advantage Program

  • Home purchased must be a rehabbed property.
  • Financial assistance can go up to but not exceed $10,000 in forgivable grants and loans.
  • Household income can be no more than 120% of the average median income of the area as determined by HUD. Even so, some properties require that the income be no more than 80% of the median.

Cook County HOME Funds

  • Borrower must be a first-time homebuyer.
  • The household income cannot exceed 80% of the local average income median.
  • Financial assistance awarded will be no more than $15,000 for new homes purchased in Cook County. If this home is bought using the Western Cook Advantage Program, an additional $5,000 may be provided.

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DuPage County Down Payment Assistance – Homestead Program

The DuPage Homeownership Center, known as the DHOC, initiated the DuPage Homestead Program.  This offers a down payment assistance program for first time home buyers.  It is only available for homes located within DuPage County, excluding Aurora and Bolingbrook.

and there are specific requirements that must be met in order to qualify.


  • Attend a homebuyer education course.  The DHOC is a HUD approved housing counseling agency.  This class costs $40.  There is also a $400 administration fee (paid to DHOC), but that is only due if you receive the assistance and close on your home purchase.  So the $400 fee is dismal in comparison to the down payment assistance and opportunity to be a homeowner.
  • Have a minimum of a 660 credit score.  If you do not have this score, the counseling may assist you in improving it.
  • Have at least one mortgage payment in reserves.  This means that you have in savings enough to cover an extra mortgage payment.  This helps ensure that you have a little bit of breathing room in the case of a job or income loss.  To provide an example, if your mortgage payment were to be $900, you would need to show you have $900 in savings.
  • You must contribute at least $1,000 towards the down payment or closing costs.
  • The maximum sales price of a home that is allowed is $247,000.
  • Only single family residences are allowed.  This can be your typical detached home, a condo, townhouse, or one side of a duplex.
  • If you have previously had a bankruptcy, you must be at least 2 years out of it.  Also, the DHOC requires 24 months of established credit since declaring bankruptcy.  This could mean new tradelines, such as auto loans, credit cards, or other types of reported credit.

A wonderful aspect of the DuPage Homestead Program is that the DHOC will start working with you even if you do not qualify at this time.  They created the Gateway to Homeownership Orientation, which will start helping you take care of issues that could prevent you from owning your own home or receiving assistance.  For instance, if ear credit score is too low, you do not have the minimum $1,000 (or 1% of the sales price) to contribute, or some other disqualifying factor.  You can enroll in the homeownership counseling and start moving towards your future goal of homeownership.

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Joliet Down Payment Assistance Program

If you are interested in buying a home within the city limits of Joliet, you may be able to obtain a significant amount of down payment assistance. The minimum amount is $1,000, but it can go all the way up to 17% of the sales price! This comes in the form of an interest free loan. It acts as a second mortgage, but the payments are deferred on. Then, after 5 years, if you have not sold the home or refinanced the mortgage, the money does not have to be paid back. This means that the money you received was essentially free and therefore acting more as a grant.

Below are more details and requirements:

  • Owner occupied only. This means no second homes, vacation homes, or investment properties. You must live in the home and it can be your only home.
  • The home must be a single unit home (single family residence), townhouse, or condo. Manufactured homes that are on a fixed foundation are also allowed.
  • Contribute $2,500 towards the down payment and/or loan closing costs. Your assistance can far surpass this amount, but at a minimum you need to put down $2,500 out of pocket towards the purchase.

The initiative is in collaboration with the Will County Center for Community Concerns. To apply for this assistance, you must gather various documentation shown here along with the filled out application, and submit everything together. We can assist you with this if you would like help. Additionally, if you need help finding a real estate agent in Joliet to help you find a home eligible for this assistance, we can help you with this as well. If you would like to contact the Will County Center for Community Concerns, you may call Patricia Venziano at (815) 722-0722 x 217, or otherwise email here at: contactus@wcccc.net.  You may also visit the city of Joliet website to read more about this program.

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Elgin / Kane County Down Payment Assistance

The city of Elgin, in partnership with Kane County, offer down payment assistance to first time home buyers.  This includes up to $10,000 that you can use towards the down payment.  This money is received in the form of an interest free and deferred loan.  What this means is that you do not make any payments on the money, and does not have to be paid back until you sell or rent out the home.  As long as you live in the home and it is your primary residence, you do not have to pay anything back towards the loan.

In order to be eligible, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Be a first time home buyer.
  • Currently live or work in Kane County.  Also, you must have to have lived in the Kane-Elgin consortium area for at least one year prior.
  • Complete a homebuyer eduction course.
  • Home inspection – a home must be certified that it meets safety regulations, such as no lead based paint, and other quality standards.
  • The funds may be used towards a purchase of a newly constructed home, or existing property, as well as rehabilitated ones.  Manufactured homes are not allowed.
  • Maximum purchase price for an existing home is $214,000.
  • Maximum purchase price for new homes is $249,000.
  • All of Kane County, except for Algonquin, Aurora, Hampshire, Huntley and Montgomery.
  • Areas outside of Elgin in Cook County are also eligible.

This home buying incentive is for lower and middle income families.  You must meet strict income requirements to qualify, which are based upon how many people live in your household.  The income limits are as follows:

  • 1 person: $47,400
  • 2 people: $54,200
  • 3 people: $60,950
  • 4 people: $67,700
  • 5 people: $73,150
  • 6 people: $78,550
  • 7 people: $83,950
  • 8 people: $89,400

A common question is about whose income is counted towards the income requirements.  Anyone bringing home income, aside from government assistance, will count towards the income amounts.

In order to apply for this assistance, they require that you are pre-approved with a mortgage lender first.  We can assist you with a pre-approval letter if you qualify for one of our home loans.  After you are approved, we will also instruct you of what income documentation and other application requirements Kane County has for you to officially apply for the down payment assistance.  If you have questions, you can contact Norma Hommrich at the Neighborhood Housing Services at: nhommrich@nhschicago.org.  To get pre-approved for a mortgage to start the process, click the button below:

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Lake County AHC Homebuyer Grant Program

The Affordable Housing Corporation (AHC) of Lake County, Illinois offers an excellent down payment assistance program.  This includes up to 5% of the purchase price in the form of a 5 year loan.  A great aspect of this is that the amount you owe is reduced each month and after 5 years, you do not have to pay anything back!  Therefore, it initially acts as an interest free repayable loan, but after 5 years it disappears an acts more as a grant.

The program details and requirements are as follows:

  • You must be a first time home buyer. The only exception to this rule is a single parent who has custody of one or more children and has not owned a home in the last 3 years.
  • You may purchase a one unit (single family residence) property in Lake County, with a max purchase price of $214,000.
  • A maximum of 5% of the purchase price can be received in assistance.  Based on the maximum price of $214,000, this would equal as much as $10,700 in assistance.
  • The home that you buy can only be used as a primary residence.  You can not buy a home that you do not occupy or rent out.
  • As a minimum investment, you are required to pay either $1,000 or 1% of the sales price, whichever is
  • A home inspection is required to make sure that there are no hazardous materials or structural damages.
  • You must attend a home buyer education class.  This can be through a HUD approved agency, or through the AHC who offers courses.  Online classes are not accepted, they must be attended and completed in person.
  • The funds are only available for low and average income individuals or households.  The amount that you can make depends on the current median income average in Lake County.  For one person, this can be as low as $42,600 and for 8 persons in a household, this can be as high as $100,320.  The amounts are adjusted annually.

What we can offer you is to determine your eligibility and assist with the application process through Lake County Affordable Housing Corporation.  One of their requirements is that you are approved through a lender.  We can pre-approve for a home loan if you qualify, and then proceed to assist you with the down payment assistance application  When you apply for the AHC DPA program, a 30 day pay stub for employment compensation, and an award letter for social security benefits (if applicable) must be provided.  Also, one year federal tax return, a credit report authorization (to have your credit pulled), and a $18 credit check free are required.

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Schaumburg Down Payment Assistance

Schaumburg exits in a gray area. Close enough to Chicago to be considered one of its many suburbs yet far enough away to legally be its own town, its available down payment assistance programs merge this identity with one available from Schaumburg and one available from Chicago.

Village of Schaumburg First Time Homebuyer’s Program
The Village of Schaumburg is able to provide its residents with financial support with aid from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). These funds originate with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and are allocated on a yearly basis. Because of this, funding faces regular depletion, often running dry until the next round of funding every May. That being said, the loan itself is forgivable, meaning that if all conditions are met, all or part of the loan doesn’t have to be paid back. With an awarded amount of up to $10,000 to cover closing costs, down payments costs and other fees, it’s a very popular choice for the low- to medium-income residents of Schaumburg.

The loan itself is based on the Village of Schaumburg paying both a reasonable chunk of closing cost fees in addition to up to 50% of down payment costs, meaning not everyone receives a full $10,000. Eligible applicants are expected to be able to pay at least $1,000 toward the down payment with their own money that is not obtained through gifts. Once a property is settled on, the maximum down payment amount can be no more than 20% of the price it was purchased at. As for forgiveness, it is done so at a rate of 1/60th per month for a period of five years. So long as the home is neither refinanced nor sold, the loan will not be due back.

How to Qualify for this DPA Program:
Before even applying for assistance, there are stipulations that have to be met:

  • Applicants cannot have owned a house in three years, meaning their names cannot have appeared on a mortgage in the last 36 months.
  • All assets of the household cannot total more than $60,000.
  • Before being awarded assistance, homebuyers have to have already qualified for a first mortgage.
  • The property’s location must be within the legal limits of the Village of Schaumburg.
  • If the home was built before 1978, it must undergo a home and lead-based paint inspection.
  • The property must have a title that is clear and free, meaning there should be nothing that would call into question the ownership of the property.
  • Eligible applicants are required to attend housing counseling.

Apart from these, there is the discussion of income qualifications. Because this money is given to help lower income families afford a home, it makes sense that there would then be restrictions on how much a home can bring in annually. Like most loans, this amount includes the net income from every single member of the household that is 18 years or older. Currently, the income limits are as follows:

  • 1 Person – $42,600
  • 2 People – $48,650
  • 3 People – $54,750
  • 4 People – $60,800
  • 5 People – $65,700
  • 6 People – $70,550
  • 7 People – $75,400

They are based off of HUD’s income eligibility for the area where the total income is less than 80% of the area’s median. These numbers are subject to change.

The Process and How to Get Started:
To start, an application must be obtained, however they’re not as freely available as downloading a packet. Instead, they must be gotten either in person or by mail following providing proof that you meet the preliminary qualifications.  After filling out all of the necessary paperwork, the application is returned and processed by the Village of Schaumburg. Once applicants are notified of their success, the property can be closed.

While this process may seem confusing, we are here to help you.  We can work with you to prepare your application, and to get pre-approved for a first time home buyer mortgage loan.

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In addition to these state and county programs, all HUD down payment assistance programs are available in Illinois. There are also various local incentives offered at the county and municipal level.  The best way to find out what you personally can qualify for is to speak with a mortgage specialist who can look into your eligibility or you.  You can also get pre-approved and know how much you can borrow, what your payment will be, and all other pertinent information.  To learn about what down payment assistance is available to you, and to get pre-approved for a home loan, request a free consultation today.

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