Idaho First-Time Home Buyer: 2023 Programs and Grants

October 6, 2022 - 8 min read

What to know about buying a house in Idaho

Average home prices in Idaho are high and climbing faster than the national average. But that shouldn’t put you off as a first-time home buyer. There are plenty of resources available to help you toward your goals — from special mortgages with low rates to home buyer education courses and down payment assistance.

Ready to get started? Here’s what to do.


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Idaho home buyer overview

The median listing price in Idaho was $484,900 in August 2022, according to Redfin. That was a 5.2% increase year-over-year. Idaho home prices are outpacing the national average, which was $389,500 in August 2022.

Unfortunately, the Gem State doesn’t offer government home buyer assistance programs, unlike most other states. But the private sector does offer some help. There are also plenty of accommodating mortgage programs that can make your home purchase more affordable.

Idaho home buyer stats

Average Home Sale Price in ID1$484,900
Minimum Down Payment in ID (3%)$14,550
20% Down Payment in ID$97,000
Average Credit Score in ID2725
Maximum ID Home Buyer Grant3Idaho Housing forgivable loan of up to 7% of the sale price

Down payment amounts are based on the state's most recently available average home sale price. “Minimum” down payment assumes 3% down on a conventional mortgage with a minimum credit score of 620.

If you're eligible for a VA loan (backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs) or a USDA loan (backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture), you may not need any down payment at all.

First-time home buyer loans in Idaho

If you’re a first–time home buyer in Idaho with a 20% down payment, you can get a conventional loan with a low interest rate. And, you never have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Of course, few first-time buyers have saved enough for 20% down. But the good news is that you don’t need that much. Not by a long shot.

Borrowers can often get into a new home with as little as 3% or even 0% down using one of these low–down–payment mortgage programs:

  • Conventional 97: From Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. 3% down payment and 620 minimum FICO score. You can usually stop paying mortgage insurance after a few years once you reach 20% home equity
  • FHA loan: Backed by the Federal Housing Administration. 3.5% down and a 580 minimum credit score. But you’re on the hook for mortgage insurance until you refinance to a different type of mortgage, move, or pay off your loan
  • VA loan: Only for veterans and service members. This loan has no down payment requirement, but still offers low rates and no ongoing mortgage insurance after closing. Minimum credit score varies by lender but often 620. These are arguably the best mortgages available, so apply if you’re eligible
  • USDA loan: For those on low–to–moderate incomes buying in designated rural areas. Zero down payment required. Credit score requirements vary by lender but often start at 640. Low mortgage insurance rates
  • Idaho Housing loans: May include competitive interest rates and down payment assistance. More information below

Note that government loan programs (including FHA, VA, and USDA home loans) require you to buy a primary residence. That means you can’t use these loans for a vacation home or investment property.

In addition, most programs let you use gifted money or down payment assistance (DPA) to cover your down payment and closing costs. Depending on the mortgage loan you choose, you could potentially get into your new house with minimal cash out of pocket.

If you’re unsure which program to choose for your first mortgage, your lender can help you find the right match based on your finances and home buying goals.

Idaho first-time home buyer programs

Unusually, Idaho’s state government doesn’t offer or facilitate mortgage loans itself. The closest alternative is the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, also referred to as “Idaho Housing” or “IHFA.” Idaho Housing is “a self-supporting organization that sustains its business operations through earned fees and revenues similar to any private financial institution.”

Idaho Housing offers a range of mortgage types, including conventional loans, FHA, USDA, and VA loans. Additionally, it says it offers the “lowest financing rates in Idaho.”

  • IHFA First Loan: Fixed-rate loan with competitive rates, low mortgage insurance, and options for down payment and closing cost assistance. This loan program must be accessed through a participating lender and is compatible with USDA and FHA loans
  • Idaho Heroes: Works for first-time buyers as well as repeat buyers. Can offer closing cost and down payment assistance of up to 7% of your home’s purchase price. This loan is offered to law enforcement officers, paramedics, firefighters, nurses, doctors, retail employees, teachers, veterans, and active-duty service members

Other Idaho Housing loan advantages include:

  • Only 3% down payment on conventional loans
  • A down payment assistance program
  • Mortgage credit certificates (tax credits that allow you to deduct up to $2,000 in mortgage interest each year from your federal taxes)
  • Home buyer education courses backed with continuing support for the duration of your loan

You must meet income limits to be eligible for the Idaho Housing program. These were capped at $125,000 in January 2022. But the website doesn’t say whether that’s total household income or only the borrower’s income.

These sorts of programs usually come with other qualifying criteria, such as minimum credit scores and maximum home prices. There is an eligibility calculator that you can use to see whether you qualify.

Idaho first-time home buyer grants

Rather than grants, Idaho Housing offers two closing cost and down payment assistance programs. Both take the form of forgivable second mortgages.

IHFA Second Mortgage

The first option is a fixed-rate loan that can be big enough to cover almost all your down payment and closing cost requirements. It comes with a 7% interest rate and is repayable in equal monthly installments over 15 years.

Unless you’re eligible for a Heroes mortgage, you’ll need to be a first-time home buyer to qualify for this assistance. You’ll also have to contribute at least 0.5% of the sales price from your own resources. There’s an income cap of $125,000.

IHFA Forgivable Loan

The second option is a forgivable loan. In most ways, this is better. Because it has a 0% interest rate and no monthly payments. But you can only borrow up to 3% of the home purchase price.

Each year, 10% of the loan is forgiven. So by the end of year 10, you’ll owe nothing. But if you move, sell, or refinance during those 10 years, you’ll have to immediately repay the portion that hasn’t been forgiven.

In addition, the forgivable loan doesn’t come for free. The website says, “For each 0.5% of forgivable loan used, 0.125% will be added to the interest rate of the first mortgage.”

If you want to know more about either of these down payment assistance programs, visit this Idaho Housing webpage.

Buying a home in Idaho’s major cities

Buying your first home in one of Idaho’s biggest cities generally costs more than buying in the state as a whole. Home prices in Boise and Meridian are significantly higher than the statewide average.

Many cities across America help out first-time home buyers with down payment assistance programs. But, unusually, none of the three biggest cities in Idaho had such a homeownership program when we checked.

Still, you can always fall back on Idaho Housing (above), if you’re eligible and need help. You can also ask your real estate agent or loan officer about alternative down payment assistance programs run by local nonprofits and other groups.

Boise City first-time home buyers

The median list price of homes in Boise was $550,000 in September 2022. That was an increase of 4.8% year–over–year according to Realtor.com.

If you want to buy a home at that median price, your down payment options might fall between:

  • $16,500 for 3% down payment
  • $110,000 for 20% down payment

When we checked, the City of Boise website said “The City of Boise is not currently accepting applications for down payment assistance.” You could check back to see if that policy has changed by the time you read this. In the meantime, it refers you to “partner organizations,” NeighborWorks Boise and Autumn Gold. The site also directs readers to Idaho Housing, above.

Meridian first-time home buyers

The median list price of homes in Meridian was $565,000 in September 2022. That was a decrease of 3.3% year–over–year according to Realtor.com.

If you want to buy a home at that median price, your down payment options might fall between:

  • $16,950 for 3% down payment
  • $113,000 for 20% down payment

Neither the City of Meridian nor Ada county appears to have down payment assistance programs. Private company Supreme Lending’s Meridian team does suggest a program that includes a forgivable loan, though it works only with FHA mortgages.

Nampa first-time home buyers

The median list price of homes in Nampa was $458,000 in September 2022. That was an increase of 2.9% year–over–year according to Realtor.com.

If you want to buy a home at that median price, your down payment options might fall between:

  • $13,750 for 3% down payment
  • $91,600 for 20% down payment

We could find no trace of a down payment assistance program on the City of Nampa’s website, nor that of Canyon County. However, you should ask your agent or loan officer about DPA from local nonprofits and other organizations if you’re looking for assistance,

Where to find home buying help in Idaho

All the organizations we’ve listed above should provide advice freely to any first–time home buyer in the state of Idaho or within their areas.

In addition to our selection, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides a few lists of statewide, regional, and local resources:

Idaho first-time home buyer programs by area:

What are today’s mortgage rates in Idaho?

You can see today’s live mortgage rates in Idaho here. When you’re ready to start the home buying process, make sure you get personalized rate quotes from at least three mortgage lenders.

Don’t just look at advertised rates online; actually apply for preapproval and compare the interest rates and fees you’re offered. That’s the only way to know you’re getting the best deal possible on your new home loan.


1Source: Redfin.com Idaho Housing Market Report

2Source: Experian.com study of 2021 and 2020 data

3Based on a review of the state's available DPA grants at the time this was written

Peter Warden
Authored By: Peter Warden

The Mortgage Reports editor

Peter Warden has been writing for a decade about mortgages, personal finance, credit cards, and insurance. His work has appeared across a wide range of media. He lives in a small town with his partner of 25 years.