Last Updated on October 7, 2022 by Luke Feldbrugge
First responder home buying programs are designed to help first responders find and afford a home. They give so much to a community that often the community wants to give back to first responders. Providing good and affordable housing is just one way to say thank you.
There are two national home buying programs for first responders (and maybe more coming) who are looking to buy a house. For police officers, fire fighters, or EMS professionals looking to buy a home, these programs are designed for you. Knowing how they work can help you make a decision about which one is right for you.
The two programs are:
- Homes for Heroes
- Good Neighbor Next Door
Homes for Heroes First Responder Home Buying Program
In terms of programs specific to first responders, Homes for Heroes can help you. We have been working for 20 years to create the first responders home buying program that removes obstacles and helps our heroes save the most money.
“The entire selling and buying process went wonderful with the Homes for Heroes program. We work in the medical field and it feels great to be appreciated. This extra help has been amazing, especially with all the moving expenses. Thank you so much for helping our family.” – Sandra and Justin in Washington, EMS First Responders
Homes for Heroes can smooth out the first responder home buying process in at least three ways.
- We have local real estate professionals nationwide that can help you find a home.
- We have mortgage lenders who can help you with the mortgage loan.
- We give you Hero Rewards® savings at the end of the journey, when you close on your house with our real estate and mortgage specialists, and the average is $3,000.
Hero Rewards® savings are important because it can provide you with actual cash right after you close on your house. Our heroes use it for appliances, repairs, renovations, or any number of projects that emerge after they buy their first house. It seems there are always more house projects on the to-do list.
“We were honored to qualify for the Homes for Heroes program and delighted with our return after purchase. It’s nice to be recognized and rewarded for doing a job I love. Our agent was great. She was friendly, knowledgeable and kept working hard until we found our home. She was patient with us as we searched for homes in 5 different counties, often showing us homes in multiple counties in one day. She always arrived with a smile, understood our concerns and helped us through the whole process.” – Anthony in Iowa, Firefighter
We make the process easier. There are no fees and no extra paperwork. You will take the steps of a typical real estate transaction, but your experience will be entirely different when you work with our local professionals who have made it a priority to serve and give back to heroes like you. Moreover, your hero status doesn’t end when you retire from your first responder career. We work with both current and former first responders.
Our local teams can help you find a great home for you and your family. We can put you in touch with a real estate specialist right away, so sign up today to speak with us and we can get you started.
Good Neighbor Next Door First Responder Home Buying Program
Another first responder house program is from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and one of its goals is to make the family home more affordable for:
- Law Enforcement Officers
- EMS medical technicians
The houses available to eligible Good Neighbor program participants are half off. That’s right – 50 percent off the list price of the house.
The homes in the GNND program are in revitalization areas as identified by HUD. Revitalization regions are defined by:
- Areas where household income is lower than average.
- Areas where homeownership rate is low.
- Areas where mortgage foreclosure activity is high.
These neighborhoods need economic and community development, and HUD thinks one way to do that is make foreclosed properties available to local heroes at a deep discount. If you get one of these homes, you will need to agree to live there as your primary residence for at least three years.
With the Good Neighbor Next Door program, the properties that are going up for sale are offered first to eligible Good Neighbor candidates for 7 days before they go on the general market. Getting a jump on these deals can make a real difference in a competitive housing market, if you are prepared.
How to Get Prepared
There are two things you should do right away if you want to participate in the Good Neighbor Next Door program.
- Work with a Homes for Heroes real estate agent who can make offers on your behalf for any new home you are interested in. Bids and offers come fast and furious in this market. Once you see something, you want to be able to act on it quickly.
- Get familiar with the HUD Home Store and its search engine. It’s the best way to find HUD properties, both generally and those in the Good Neighbors program.
At the Home Store, you can search for houses under the Good Neighbors program in the “buyer type” drop down menu. We tested that and the results weren’t great. The days of huge inventories of foreclosed properties are over. If you broaden your search to include all properties, you will get more results but those are not necessarily part of the Good Neighbor program (but you might still see something affordable).
How to Set Up an Automated Search for Good Neighbors Properties
On the one hand, you can go back to the HUD Home Store frequently and search for properties to see what comes up. On the other hand, if you would rather set up a search function that delivers information right to your email, that might be easier. Getting that information automatically delivered to you is a process that takes at least 10 steps.
- Register in the Home Store (upper right corner, click on public)
- Give your new login and password and email information
- Go back to home, log in and conduct a search
- You can save individual properties or save “recent searches”. Even if you don’t get any results, “recent searches” is what you want. Click on that blue box.
- It will show what you’ve searched for. We tried Good Neighbor as the buyer type and Texas as the site. We clicked on the “recent searches” box and that search is identified in the popup screen.
- Click on the save button. A popup will appear listing your saved searches.
- Now go back up to the right corner of the home screen and click on “public functions.” That will take you to a screen that says you have no saved searches. Don’t believe it.
- Above the banner that says “saved property list” is a series of tabs. Locate the one that says saved searches and click it.
- Congratulations, there are your saved searches. Now go to the column that says “Alert Frequency” and click on the link that says “edit frequency”.
- Now you can set up the email alerts that will come to your inbox.
While that takes a little bit of work, it may be the key to being able to jump on a property sale. This up-front work might pay off if you find a first home through the Good Neighbor Next Door program.
The Good Neighbor homes are foreclosures, so some of them may require renovations and fixing up. Good news: there is financing for those repairs for eligible borrowers. HUD offers a thing called 203(k) Rehab Mortgage Insurance and it helps you to finance the purchase of a home plus any rehab costs. Then you can fold those costs into the purchase price and bundle them into one mortgage. There is the Limited 203(k) for homes that require less renovation and the full 203(k) for more substantial renovation projects.
HELPER Act: VA Loan Program for First Responders?
One piece of legislation to keep an eye on is not yet in place. It’s called the HELPER Act, and it is a new loan program introduced in the House of Representatives. It is currently still a bill being debated. The title means: Homes for Every Local Protector, Educator and Responder. Some people are comparing it to VA loans because it provides zero-down-payment first responder home loans for qualified borrowers.
Large down payment requirements can keep you out of the housing market, so being able to bypass these upfront costs is a huge step forward for first responder loan programs. Under this act, first responders wouldn’t have to pay monthly mortgage insurance premiums (though there would be one up front 3.6% mortgage insurance premium).
The bill has bi-partisan support, and President Biden also supports it. If you are a first responder, keep your eye on this bright spot in an otherwise tough real estate market.
First responders do amazing things for our communities, and you deserve our thanks. That is why programs like Homes for Heroes and Good Neighbor Next Door exist. As you go from emergency to emergency, it’s important to have a home to go to at the end of the day.
So if you’re looking for a first responder home buying program, Home for Heroes is good option if we do say so ourselves. Our quality local real estate and lending professionals who have prioritized working with their local first responders to help them buy or sell their and save great money in the process are worth talking to. We can put momentum into your home search and provide you with the service and savings you deserve.
Sign up today to speak with one of our specialists to start the process. We look forward to working with you, and thank you for your service.