California Down Payment Assistance Programs

Buying a home usually requires a big upfront investment. That’s right: We’re talking about down payments.

Even though monthly mortgage rates are comparable to the cost of rent in 2024, down payment requirements are a huge barrier to homeownership for many California buyers.

Fortunately, down payment assistance programs make it easier for families to buy their dream homes. These programs are designed to provide financial assistance for closing costs, down payments, and other upfront fees associated with buying a house.

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Benefits of Down Payment Assistance Programs
in California

When people buy and own homes, the economy wins. That’s why the State of California incentivizes home purchasing with homebuyer assistance programs.

Depending on the lender or program you choose, you can reap some (or all) of these financial benefits in your home-buying journey:

Lower Monthly Payments

The more you pay upfront, the lower your monthly payment will be. Down payment assistance reduces the loan total for buyers who can’t otherwise afford a large down payment, thus reducing the monthly financial burden.

Tax Incentives

Some California residents may qualify for first-time homebuyer programs that offer tax breaks or credits when purchasing a home. This would reduce your tax burden in the first year of homeownership, making it easier to afford your mortgage payments.

Lower Closing Costs

Closing costs include things like attorney fees, realtor fees, title searches, upfront property taxes, and other expenses. With closing cost assistance, many or all of these costs are covered, significantly lowering your financial burden when you close on a new home.

No Mortgage Insurance Premiums

A conventional mortgage lender typically requires a 20% down payment for a loan. If you cannot reach that number, you will need to pay for mortgage insurance. However, first-time homebuyer programs provide the funds needed for a down payment, allowing you to avoid insurance premiums.

Why Apply for a California Down Payment Assistance Program with F5 Mortgage?

Working with the right mortgage broker is key to finding the right loan and assistance program for your needs.

F5 Mortgage has extensive experience helping California homebuyers obtain home loans and down payment assistance. 

Our team will build a personalized mortgage solution tailored to your situation, and our streamlined application process ensures you won’t have to wait for your loan. Plus, our experts can answer any questions you might have about your loan application or assistance program.

When applying for a loan with F5 Mortgage, you get access to more favorable loan terms and reduced upfront fees through our extensive network of lenders. This helps you save even more in the long run when buying your home.  

California Down Payment Assistance Programs

Down Payment Assistance Programs in California

California offers a range of assistance programs for buyers seeking primary residences in the state.

Below are a few of the most popular options.

CalHFA Conventional Loans

The California Housing Finance Agency provides a federally-backed mortgage option known as an FHA loan. In California, this FHA-insured loan is a 30-year fixed-interest-rate mortgage that borrowers must take a homebuyer education course to qualify for. FHA loans can function as both primary and secondary mortgages.

CalHFA Government Loans (FHA)

The California Housing Finance Agency also provides conventional loans for borrowers who fall above the income limit for an FHA loan. This mortgage type functions as a 30-year loan with a fixed interest rate, and it’s backed by private mortgage insurance through the conventional market. 

California Dream For All Shared Appreciation Loan

The California Dream For All Shared Appreciation Loan functions as a second mortgage, covering up to 20% of the home’s purchase price for a down payment. The second loan is then paid back along with the primary loan, plus 20% of the appraised value of the home’s appreciation. The appreciation percentage depends on the owner’s household income.

CalPLUS Conventional Loan Program

The CalPLUS Conventional Loan Program also provides conventional home loans, but these loans include built-in down payment assistance in the form of a zero-interest loan to cover closing costs. This means you can borrow for the purchase price of your home plus closing costs without any added interest on the down payment. To qualify, CalHFA borrowers must undergo homebuyer education training through a qualified homebuyer counseling organization.

Down Payment Assistance Programs by Location

Los Angeles County

If they meet the income requirements, first-time homebuyers in Los Angeles County can apply for the Low Income Purchase Assistance Program (LIPA) to receive a second mortgage for down payment assistance and other acquisition costs.

Another LA County program, the Mortgage Credit Certificate, provides a dollar-for-dollar reduction of the buyer’s federal income tax liability.

Bay Area

California Down Payment Assistance Program

Two types of down payment assistance are available for Bay Area buyers who earn less than 80% of the area median income. 

The Golden State Finance Authority’s Open Doors program provides up to 7% of the primary loan amount toward closing costs, while the Golden State Finance Authority covers up to 5% of the primary loan amount through its Platinum Program.

If you live in other areas of the state, agencies like F5 Mortgage can guide you through the process of finding relevant down payment assistance programs near you.

Who Qualifies for Down Payment Assistance in California?

Most down payment and closing cost assistance programs are available to buyers with low-to-moderate income. However, specific income limits may vary by county.

First-time homebuyers tend to benefit most from down payment assistance programs, but this isn’t always the case. 

For example, if you or your spouse have not held ownership interest in a house for at least three years, you may still be considered a first-time buyer when you begin searching for a new home. Veterans, first responders, and educators may also qualify for specialized assistance programs regardless of whether they’ve owned homes in the past. 

Other program requirements deal with the property a buyer seeks to purchase with their loan. In most cases, a home must be purchased and used as a primary residence and single-family unit to qualify for down payment coverage. 

The location of the property also impacts which program the buyer can qualify for, as some programs only offer assistance for homes in rural or low-population areas.

How to Apply for Down Payment Assistance in California?

Applying for California’s assistance initiatives is most often done through a mortgage broker. F5 Mortgage makes the application process easy and transparent by providing a quote upfront. 

To find out what type of mortgage assistance you could qualify for in California and begin your application with F5 Mortgage, fill out our quote questionnaire. Our team will then get in touch with you to discuss your financing options. 

When you speak to a loan officer for the first time, it’s wise to have the proper documentation on hand to help you answer any questions they might have. Bank statements, pay stubs, recent tax returns, and employment history information will all help your F5 Mortgage representative narrow down the search for your best down payment and closing cost assistance option.

Down Payment Assistance Programs

 You may also consider taking a certified homebuyer education course before you begin your search to improve your chances of being approved for a loan. This will also speed up the process, as many programs require the borrower to complete one of these courses before approval.

Prepare for Your Mortgage Application

  • Research Available Programs

Identify suitable programs like CalHFA, CHDAP, and local city or county assistance. Check the eligibility criteria for each program.

  • Gather Financial Documents

Prepare recent pay stubs, tax returns (last two years), and bank statements (last three months). Collect proof of any additional income or assets.

  • Complete Homebuyer Education

Enroll in and complete a homebuyer education course approved by the program. Obtain the completion certificate.

  • Pre-Approval from a Lender

Secure a mortgage pre-approval from a participating lender. Ensure the lender is approved to work with the down payment assistance program.

  • Prepare Personal Identification

Have copies of government-issued IDs, Social Security cards, and proof of residency. Ensure all identification documents are valid.

  • Fill Out the Application Form

Complete the application form with accurate information. Double-check for completeness and accuracy before submission.

  • Submit Supporting Documents

Attach all required financial documents, educational certificates, and pre-approval letters. Follow the specific submission guidelines provided by the assistance program.

  • Meet Deadlines

Be aware of application deadlines and submission windows. Submit the application and all supporting documents on time.

  • Follow Up

After submission, follow up with the program administrators to confirm receipt. Stay responsive to any requests for additional information or clarification.

FAQs About California Down Payment Assistance

Does California have a down payment assistance program?

Yes, there are many options for down payment assistance in the Golden State. CalHFA offers several programs for competitive mortgages, and other organizations provide loans specifically to cover down payments and closing costs.

Is California giving up to $150,000 to help first-time homebuyers?

Yes! The California Dream For All Shared Appreciation Loan can cover up to 20% of a home’s purchase price, up to a maximum of $150,000.

Who is eligible for the California Dream for All program?

To qualify for this program, one of the borrowers must be a first-generation homebuyer. All borrowers must also be first-time homebuyers. Finally, the borrowers must not exceed the income limits for the county where they plan to live.

What credit score do you need for down payment assistance in California?

Required credit scores vary from lender to lender and program to program. In most cases, though, you must have a credit score of at least 640 to qualify for down payment assistance.

What is the debt-to-income ratio for CalHFA?

The maximum allowed debt-to-income ratio (DTI) for CalHFA is 50% if you have a credit score of 700 or greater. If your score is below 700, the maximum DTI could be 45% or even 43% depending on how much lower your credit score is than the minimum.

What is the income limit for first-time home buyers in California?

Income limits vary across the state and from program to program. Many assistance initiatives are designed to help low- to moderate-income borrowers, with limits ranging from 80% to 120% of the local median income. Your F5 Mortgage loan officer can answer questions about which programs have income limits and what those limits are.

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Down Payment Assistance Programs
in Other States We Serve


Florida offers several down payment assistance programs for residents and homebuyers.

FL Assist offers up to $10,000 as a deferred second mortgage for VA, FHA, USDA, and conventional loans.

The Florida Homeownership Loan Program also offers up to $10,000 toward down payment or closing costs as a deferred second mortgage.


In Michigan, first-time homebuyers who have not owned homes in the past three years can apply for the MI Home Loan program. This program offers $10,000 loans, with approval depending on income and credit score qualifications. The amount of the loan does not need to be repaid until the borrower sells the house or pays off the primary mortgage.


The Lone Star State also offers down payment and closing cost assistance initiatives.

My First Texas Home is a program that helps first-time buyers and veterans get approved for 30-year low-rate mortgages with up to 5% assistance. These loans can be combined with mortgage credit certificates to help borrowers save more on taxes.

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