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Attorney Members, Real Estate Professionals, Consumers

Florida ARECs is dedicated to providing the most up-to-date and relevant resources for its Attorney Members, as well as helping fellow Real Estate professionals and guiding consumers.



Homeownership: How to Move from Dream to Reality

By Rene’ Rutan, REC Relations Manager, The Fund & Florida ARECS

"Homeownership promotes stability and healthy outcomes, builds intergenerational wealth, and ultimately is fundamental to America's promise of opportunity,” said Assistant Secretary for Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner Julia Gordon in HUD’s press release celebrating this year’s National Homeownership Month.

So, it seems an appropriate time to talk about obstacles that may be preventing you from achieving the American Dream and pathways for you to overcome them.

The Obstacles

The American Dream of homeownership has felt more like an unattainable fantasy for many in Florida over the last five years.  As the pandemic spread, and resulting remote work opportunities evolved, hundreds of thousands of people from across the country rushed into Florida.  It’s easy to understand why so many people moved here.  Who wouldn’t want to live in an affordable low tax paradise?  The downside to Florida winning the real estate popularity contest is an increasing number of buyers competing for a shrinking pool of available homes.  As a result, prices in Florida have increased a whopping 58% since 2020!

Waiting may not be an option.  Industry experts estimate the U.S. housing supply has 5.5 million fewer homes than needed to meet demand.  According to U.S. Housing Starts Data [2024 ]: Historical Charts & Statistics (ipropertymanagement.com), only 1.42 million new housing units were constructed in 2023, and that was an 8.55% DECLINE over the previous year. So, limited supply will continue to challenge buyers for years to come.

Mortgage Rates aren’t helping either.  To fight inflation, The Federal Reserve has increased its Federal Funds Rate leading to mortgage rates hovering around 7%.  Many financial experts predict that extremely low rates of the past decade, which were used to help the economy recover from the great recession and COVID, are unlikely to return Will mortgage rates ever fall to 3% again? - CBS News.  So, here are some potential options to help you become a homeowner.

Pathways to Homeownership

No and Low Downpayment MortgagesYou do not need to have a 20% downpayment to buy a home.  Several very popular, mainstream programs offer low or no-downpayment options:

  • FHA Loans (3.5% down): Ideal for first-time homebuyers and those with lower credit scores.
  • VA Loans (0% down): Designed for service members and their families.
  • USDA Loans (0% down): Available for rural and suburban homebuyers.
  • Conventional Loans: Some lenders offer low-down-payment options.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages.  Interest in ARMs decreased when fixed-rate mortgage rates fell to historic lows, however, they are gaining in popularity again.

Benefits of ARMs:

  • Lower Initial Rates: ARMs typically start with a lower fixed rate for an initial period of 3,5,7 or 10 years, before adjusting, which provides lower initial monthly mortgage payments.
  • Short-term Savings: If you plan to move or refinance before the initial fixed-rate period ends, an ARM can save you money over a fixed-rate option.
Risks of ARMs:
  • Rate Fluctuations: After an initial period, the rate can go up or down based on economic factors. If rates rise significantly, your monthly payment could increase.
  • Uncertainty: ARMs are a bet on future rates.  If you are risk adverse or plan to stay in your home for a long time, a fixed-rate mortgage might be a safer choice.
Downpayment Assistance Programs.  Florida has several downpayment assistance programs aimed at making homeownership more accessible. 
  • Florida Housing Homebuyer Loan Program
    • Offers 30-year fixed rate first mortgage loans to first-time homebuyers through participating lenders.
    • Eligible borrowers can also participate in second mortgage programs for downpayment assistance and closing costs.
    • Requirements include a minimum credit score of 640, approved homebuyer education, and income and purchase price limits.
  • Florida Assist (FL Assist)
    • Provides up to $10,000 on FHA, VA, USDA and conventional loans
    • It’s a non-amortizing, deferred second mortgage that becomes due and payable under specific circumstances
  • Florida Homeownership Loan Program (FL HLP) Second Mortgage
    • Offers $10,000 with a 15-year term.
    • Carries a monthly payment, and the remaining unpaid principal balance is deferred until specific events occur.
  • HFA Preferred and HFA Advantage PLUS Second Mortgage
    • Borrowers receive 3%, 4% or 5% of the total loan amount in a forgivable second mortgage.
    • Forgiveness occurs over a 5-year term when used with Florida Housing’s conventional first mortgage products.
  • Hometown Heroes Housing Program
    • Designed to make homeownership affordable for eligible community workforce.  This program provides downpayment and closing cost assistance to first-time, income-qualified homebuyers so they can purchase a primary residence in the community where they work and serve.
      • Eligibility
        • Full-time workforce employed by a Florida-based employer
        • First responders, military personnel, teachers, and other community heroes
      • Benefits
        • Lower-than-market interest rates on FHA, VA, RD, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac first mortgages
        • Reduced upfront fees, no origination points or discount points.
        • Up to 5% of the first mortgage loan amount (maximum of $35,000) in downpayment and closing cost assistance
      • Form of Assistance
        • A 0%, non-amortizing, 30-year deferred second mortgage.
        • Becomes due and payable upon property sale, refinancing, or change of primary residence status.

To learn more about these programs and find a participating lender, visit Homebuyer (floridahousing.org).

More Resources

Today’s Florida real estate market is undoubtedly challenging for buyers, especially first-time homebuyers who don’t have the benefit of selling a home to raise the downpayment.  However, as you can see, there are resources to help you overcome them.  Don’t be intimidated by the process, which can seem complicated.  Learn more by talking to professionals like real estate attorneys, real estate agents, mortgage lenders and friends who’ve been through it, and you too can attain the American Dream of homeownership.
Rene’ Rutan is the Real Estate Council Relations Manager with Florida Attorneys Real Estate Councils (“Florida ARECS”) and has over thirty-five years’ experience in the real estate industry.

The opinions of any particular author are not necessarily the opinions of Attorneys' Real Estate Councils of Florida any of the local Real Estate Councils or Attorneys’ Title Fund Services, LLC.