If you're thinking of buying a home, you've probably worried about scrounging up a down payment. But even if you don't have as much money as you would like for a down payment, there’s still hope!

First, down payment percentages can vary. You might have heard 20 percent is needed for a down payment but this amount can be a big challenge for many first-time homebuyers. Luckily, there are different percentages that you can put as down payment and you may be eligible for first time home buyer grants!

There are a number of programs and grants that can give you money to be used toward the purchase of your home that you don’t have to pay back! These programs and grants can help with your down payment or home closing costs. “Not only are there programs available to help reduce the down payment — perhaps to as low as 3 percent — but many buyers don't realize they could also be eligible for grants to help offset the home closing cost,” says Manny Jimenez, Vice President and Community Reinvestment Act Officer at Marquette Bank in Chicago, IL. Each program is different and eligibility varies based on geography (where you are buying) and your household income. Other requirements depend on whether you are a first-time homebuyer.

Learn more about these programs and grants below:

1st Home Illinois program – up to $7500
The IHDA (Illinois Housing Development Authority) has created the 1ST Home Illinois program for first-time home buyers in Boone, Cook, DeKalb, Fulton, Kane, Marion, McHenry, St. Clair, Will or Winnebago counties. Buyers must contribute $1,000 or 1 percent, whichever is greater, of the home's purchase price toward the down payment and must meet income and purchase price requirements that vary depending on household size, property type and county.

The program loan is for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage with a $7,500 down payment assistance grant. This means that you can lock in today’s low interest rates and never worry about having to pay more. Buyers must also live in the home as a primary residence and complete homeownership counseling and the home must be an existing residential dwelling. This program is a great idea for anyone considering their first home purchase.

Downpayment Plus® program – up to $6,000

The FHLBC (Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago) has created the Downpayment Plus® program which is a set-aside program established by the Bank. To get into this program, try to apply early in the year. “Funds are appropriated annually, and often run out later in the year,” warns Jack McMahon, Vice President of mortgage lending at Marquette Bank. The minimum required to contribute is $1000 and the FHLBC matches the contribution 3:1 with a maximum of $6000 matched.

You don't have to be a first-time homebuyer for this program, but household income restrictions apply. The program is now available online, and enrollment fees and other expenses have been eliminated. The FHLBC serves as administrator.

Affordable Housing Foundation Grants - up to $5,000

The Marquette Bank Affordable Housing Foundation Grant is offered by Marquette Bank and provides grants of $1,500, $3,000 or $5,000, depending on the census tract you live in currently in City of Chicago, Will, Dupage, Kendall, southern portion of Cook and southeast portion of Kane. You must be a first-time homebuyer and your total household income must be less than 80% of the area’s median income for your county.  

Additional Options Available

If it turns out that none of the above programs and grants are appropriate for you, ask your Mortgage Specialist if there are any additional options available to you. For example, you can visit a HUD-approved housing counseling agency near you to learn the ins and outs of credit and buying a home. There are alos many suburbs or Chicago neighborhoods have their own incentive programs to help homebuyers and special programs for military families. Don’t miss out on any of these incentives; use a local Mortgage Specialist that knows the market.

Stackable Options

Here’s even better news, you don't have to limit yourself to just one of these programs or grants. "You can stack them," Jimenez says. He has worked with customers who have qualified for multiple programs and grants. In some cases, adding the grants to your down payment can bring you up to the 20 percent level, which lets you skip PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) which is an additional cost within your mortgage payment.

These options can help with your down payment and closing costs which can ease the anxiety of applying for a loan and finding money to help purchase your home. "Be sure to give yourself time for a game plan," advises Steve Baranowski, Vice President of Residential Lending at Marquette Bank.

Neighborhood banks like Marquette have information about all programs and grants that are available to you. They will help you evaluate which ones are suited to your situation and then explain things clearly. Marquette can help you review your credit report, fix problems, get your financial documents in order and help you get preapproved to start on your way to home ownership. Call us today to speak with one of our Mortgage Specialists at 708-364-2525 or email us at mortgagecenter@emarquettebank.com.