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There are a bevy of low and no-down payment mortgage options for today’s home buyer so, whether you’re a first-time buyer or experienced one, there’s bound to be program to help you purchase a home.

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FHA Loan

FHA loans allow for a 3.5 percent down payment. Insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), these loans are among the flexible and forgiving for today’s home buyers.

FHA loans are typically best-suited for low-down payment buyers with average or below-average credit scores; and buyers looking at multi-unit homes as a primary residence. FHA loans require mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) but, in January, those FHA MIP costs were reduced to help keep FHA loans affordable for buyers using the program.

The HomeReady™ Mortgage

The HomeReady™ mortgage is a low-downpayment loan available via Fannie Mae. The program allows for 3% down, grants access to below-market mortgage rates, and offer discounted rates for private mortgage insurance.

HomeReady™ also gives mortgage applicants the ability to use income from all people living in the home toward the actual mortgage approval. This can include parents earning pension or social security income, as examples; or children earning wage income or income of some other type.

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Conventional 97

The Conventional 97 is a special program which was recently reinstated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which is the parent of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Conventional 97 requires a down payment of just 3 percent and, among other benefits of the program, the Conventional 97 allows a buyer’s down payment to be gifted by a third-party.

The only requirement is that the gifter has a blood or marriage relation to the buyer of the home; or is a legal guardian, domestic partner, or finance/fiancee.

The Conventional 97 mortgage is limited to $484,350, regardless of your local mortgage loan limit; and multi-unit homes are not allowed.

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Good Neighbor Next Door

The Good Neighbor Next Door (GNND) program is a special HUD mortgage program which allows home buyers to purchase homes with just $100 down. The program is available to members of law enforcement; firefighters or emergency medical technicians; and, teachers of pre-K through 12th grade.

Buyers in the program also receive a home purchase discount of 50% — yes, 50 percent! — in exchange for agreeing to make the home your sole residence for 36 months, at minimum. Via Good Neighbor Next Door, then, a $100,000 home can be bought for $50,000.

The Good Neighbor Next Door program allows buyers to use FHA, VA, or conventional mortgage financing which helps to ensure low interest rates.

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Home Construction Loan

Of all the low- and no-down payment mortgage programs available to today’s home buyers, only one can be used for home construction — the FHA 203k loan.The 203k loan comes in two flavors. The first is the Streamlined 203k, which is used for less-extensive projects and which is limited to $35,000 in total repair costs.

The more common 203k loan is the “standard” 203k, which is used for projects which involve moving walls or replacing plumbing; or doing anything else which would prohibit you from living in the property while the work is being performed.

The standard 203k can also be used for landscaping or converting a home.

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Piggy-Back Mortgage

The “Piggy-Back” Mortgage is a not really a mortgage at all — it’s two mortgages, one mortgage “piggy-backed” on top of another in order to borrow 90% of a home’s purchase price. Sometimes called an “80/10/10 mortgage“, the Piggy-Back has the buyer bring a 10% down payment to the closing table and, to avoid having to pay mortgage insurance, two mortgages are issued instead of one. The first mortgage is typically a conventional loan, issued for 80% of the home’s purchase price.

The second mortgage is typically a home equity line of credit (HELOC), issued for 10%. Piggy-Back Mortgages are often used by home buyers who plan to pay down or reduce the balance on their second mortgage within the first 24 months of homeownership.

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The USDA loan is guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and allows for 100% financing. Formally known as a “Section 502” loan, lenders sometimes call the USDA loan a “Rural Housing Loan”, which is a bit of a misnomer.

USDA loans are available in non-rural areas as well, including within many U.S. suburbs. The big draw of the USDA loan is that its mortgage rates are often the lowest of all the low- and no- down payment mortgage programs; and its mortgage insurance requirements are quite low, too.

As compared to FHA loans, for example, USDA mortgage insurance costs are half which is why many of today’s buyers will opt for a USDA over an FHA one.

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VA Loan

VA loans are loans which are guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Generally speaking, VA loans are available to active-duty members of the U.S. military; honorably-discharged service members; and many surviving spouses.

VA loans are unique among low- and no-down payment mortgage programs because they require no down payment whatsoever and never require the buyer to make a mortgage insurance payment.

VA loans can be used for homes of any type — single-family, condo, multi-unit, and more — and are assumable by future VA home buyers. Furthermore, the VA loan can be used to finance energy-efficiency improvements to a home.

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