South Carolina First Time Home Buyer

South Carolina Offers Many Different First-Time Home Buyer Programs & Grants

Are you a first time home buyer in South Carolina? 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the essential steps, loan programs, grants, and insider tips that can make your dream of owning a home in South Carolina a reality. Whether you’re eyeing a historic Charleston residence, a family-friendly suburban haven, or a cozy retreat in the Upstate, we’ve got you covered.

Join us as we unravel the key components of first-time homebuying in South Carolina, helping you make informed decisions and embark on this thrilling journey with confidence. Let’s dive in!


South Carolina First Time Home Buyer Programs


  1. FHA Loans


  • Flexible Financing: FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loans are well-suited for first-time homebuyers due to their flexibility. They require a down payment as low as 3.5% of the home’s purchase price, which is advantageous for those with limited savings.
  • Credit Requirements: FHA loans are accommodating when it comes to credit scores. A credit score of at least 580 is generally required to qualify for the minimum down payment. Borrowers with scores between 500 and 579 may still be eligible but may need to make a down payment of at least 10%.
  • Loan Limits: FHA loan limits in South Carolina vary by county, with a baseline limit and higher limits in areas with higher home prices. As of 2021, the baseline limit for a single-family home is $356,362, while higher-cost areas have limits of up to $822,375.


  1. VA Loans


  • Exclusive to Eligible Veterans: VA (Veterans Affairs) loans are exclusively available to eligible veterans, active-duty service members, and members of the National Guard or Reserves. The most significant advantage of VA loans is that they typically require no down payment, making homeownership accessible to those who have served.
  • Credit Requirements: VA loans often have more lenient credit score requirements compared to conventional loans. While lenders may have their preferences, veterans with varying credit profiles can still qualify for VA financing.
  • Funding Fee: It’s important to note that VA loans may include a funding fee, which helps support the program’s benefits. However, this fee can often be rolled into the loan amount.


  1. USDA Loans


  • Rural and Suburban Homes: USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) loans aim to promote homeownership in rural and eligible suburban areas. One of their standout features is the potential for a zero down payment, making them appealing for buyers in qualifying areas.
  • Credit Requirements: Credit score requirements for USDA loans are generally more flexible than those for conventional mortgages. Borrowers with various credit profiles can be considered for USDA financing.
  • Income Limits: To qualify for a USDA loan, your household income must fall within certain limits based on your location and family size. These limits are set to ensure the program assists those with modest incomes.


  1. Conventional Loans


  • Conventional Financing: Conventional loans are not government-backed and are typically offered by private lenders. While they often require a higher down payment compared to FHA or USDA loans, some conventional loan programs provide down payment assistance options tailored to first-time buyers.
  • Credit Requirements: Conventional loans generally prefer borrowers to have a credit score of around 620 or higher. However, some lenders may have more flexible credit score requirements.
  • Loan Limits: Conventional loans have conforming loan limits set by government-sponsored entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In South Carolina, these limits vary by county. As of 2021, the baseline limit for a single-family home is $548,250, with higher limits in more expensive areas.


Understanding the specifics of each loan program is essential for first-time homebuyers in South Carolina. By evaluating your financial situation, goals, and eligibility criteria, you can choose the program that best suits your needs and helps you achieve your dream of homeownership in the Palmetto State.


South Carolina First Time Home Buyer Grants


  1. SC Housing Palmetto Home Advantage:
  • Program Overview: SC Housing offers the Palmetto Home Advantage program, aimed at assisting first-time homebuyers in South Carolina. This program provides down payment assistance, making it easier for eligible buyers to purchase their first homes.
  • Assistance Details: Palmetto Home Advantage offers down payment assistance in the form of a forgivable loan, which means that as long as you meet certain requirements, you won’t need to repay the assistance amount. The assistance can be up to 5% of the loan value statewide.
  • Eligibility: Eligibility criteria may include income limits, credit score requirements, and residency qualifications. Prospective homebuyers should consult with SC Housing or an approved lender to determine their eligibility.


2. SC Housing First Initiative


  • Program Overview: The SC Housing First Initiative is another program offered by SC Housing to support first-time homebuyers in the state.


  • Assistance Details: This program provides resources and assistance to make homeownership more accessible. The specifics of the assistance may include down payment grants or low-interest rate mortgages.


  • Eligibility: Eligibility criteria may vary, and applicants should inquire with SC Housing or participating lenders to understand the program’s requirements.


3. SC Housing Palmetto Heroes


  • Program Overview: The SC Housing Palmetto Heroes program is designed to assist heroes in our communities, including teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and healthcare professionals, in achieving homeownership.


  • Assistance Details: Palmetto Heroes provides down payment assistance and a low-interest rate mortgage option to eligible participants. This program aims to recognize and reward the contributions of those who serve our communities.


  • Eligibility: Eligibility for the Palmetto Heroes program is typically tied to specific professions and may have income and credit score requirements. Teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and healthcare professionals should explore this program to learn more about their eligibility and benefits.


These grant programs offered by SC Housing play a vital role in helping first-time homebuyers overcome financial barriers and make homeownership more achievable. 


Prospective homebuyers are encouraged to research these programs, consult with approved lenders, and carefully review eligibility criteria to determine which program aligns best with their homeownership goals.

By taking advantage of these grant opportunities, individuals and families in South Carolina can fulfill their dream of owning a home.


Upfront Costs for First-Time Home Buyers in South Carolina


Understanding the upfront costs associated with buying a home is crucial for first-time buyers in South Carolina.

These costs can vary widely depending on factors such as the property’s price, location, and the type of loan you choose. Here’s an overview of the key upfront expenses you should be aware of:

  1. Down Payment


The down payment is a significant upfront cost. South Carolina offers various loan programs with different down payment requirements, making it essential to research and understand the specific down payment amount needed for your chosen program.

  1. Closing Costs


Closing costs encompass various fees associated with finalizing the purchase of your home. These costs typically range from 2% to 5% of the home’s purchase price. They include items like loan origination fees, appraisal fees, title search and insurance, attorney fees, and more.

  1. Home Inspection


It’s advisable to invest in a professional home inspection to assess the property’s condition thoroughly. The cost of a home inspection can vary but is a worthwhile expense to ensure you’re making an informed decision.

  1. Appraisal Fee


Lenders often require an appraisal to determine the property’s fair market value. The appraisal fee may vary depending on the property’s location and complexity.

  1. Prepaid Expenses


Prepaid expenses include items like property taxes and homeowners insurance. The specific prepaid expenses can vary, so it’s important to understand and budget for them.

  1. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)


If your down payment is less than 20%, you may be required to pay PMI. The cost of PMI can vary based on factors such as your down payment amount and credit score.

  1. Homeowners Insurance


Homeowners insurance is necessary to protect your investment. The cost can vary depending on factors like the property’s location, size, and your chosen coverage.

  1. Property Taxes


Property tax amounts in South Carolina vary widely by county and municipality, making it essential to research the property tax rates in your specific area.

  1. Homeowners Association (HOA) Fees

If you’re buying a property in a community with an HOA, you’ll likely have ongoing HOA fees. These fees can vary based on the community and services provided.

  1. Miscellaneous Costs

Budget for miscellaneous expenses such as moving costs and any immediate repairs or renovations you plan to make to the home.


Understanding these upfront costs and budgeting accordingly is essential for a successful homebuying experience in South Carolina. 


Working closely with a trusted real estate agent and lender will help you get a more accurate estimate based on your unique circumstances and the type of loan you choose.


Homebuying Steps for South Carolina First Time Home Buyers 


  1. Assess Your Financial Readiness


Before you start looking for a home, assess your financial situation. Determine how much you can afford, considering factors like your income, expenses, and existing debts. Be aware of your credit score, as it can affect your ability to secure a mortgage loan.


  1. Establish a Budget


Create a budget that includes not only the purchase price of the home but also ongoing costs like property taxes, homeowners insurance, utilities, and maintenance. Having a clear budget will help you narrow down your home search.


  1. Get Preapproved for a Mortgage


Contact lenders and get preapproved for a mortgage. Preapproval not only helps you understand how much you can borrow but also makes your offer more appealing to sellers.


  1. Find a Real Estate Agent


Partner with a local real estate agent who has knowledge of the South Carolina housing market. They can assist you in finding suitable properties, negotiating offers, and navigating the entire homebuying process.


  1. Search for Your Ideal Home


Begin your home search, taking into account your budget and desired location. South Carolina offers a wide range of housing options, from coastal condos to suburban single-family homes. Attend open houses, explore neighborhoods, and prioritize your must-haves.


  1. Make an Offer


Once you’ve found the right home, work with your real estate agent to make an offer. Your agent will help you negotiate the price, terms, and contingencies, ensuring that your interests are protected.


  1. Home Inspection


Schedule a professional home inspection to assess the property’s condition. This step is crucial in identifying any potential issues or needed repairs.


  1. Secure Financing


Finalize your mortgage financing by providing all necessary documentation to your lender. Be prepared for the underwriting process, which involves a thorough review of your financial history.


  1. Appraisal


Your lender will order an appraisal to determine the fair market value of the property. If the appraisal matches or exceeds the purchase price, you can proceed with the purchase.


  1. Closing Process


During the closing process, you’ll review and sign various documents, including the final loan agreement, title documents, and insurance policies. Closing costs, which include fees for services rendered, are paid at this time.


  1. Move In


Once the transaction is complete, you’ll receive the keys to your new South Carolina home. Plan your move and start settling into your new residence.


  1. Ongoing Homeownership


After moving in, budget for ongoing homeownership expenses, including property taxes, homeowners insurance, utilities, and maintenance. 


Remember that the homebuying process can vary depending on individual circumstances and the type of loan you choose. 


Working with professionals, such as a real estate agent and a lender, is key to a successful home purchase in South Carolina.


First Time Home Buyer FAQ's in South Carolina

What are the benefits of buying a home in South Carolina?

    • Buying a home in South Carolina offers potential benefits such as building equity, tax advantages, and the opportunity to customize your living space.

How do I know if I'm ready to buy a home in South Carolina?

Assess your financial readiness by reviewing your credit score, budget, and savings. Getting preapproved for a mortgage can also help you determine your readiness.

What types of mortgage loans are available in South Carolina for first-time homebuyers?

South Carolina offers various loan programs, including FHA loans, VA loans, USDA loans, and conventional loans, each with its own eligibility criteria and benefits.

What's the minimum credit score required to buy a home in South Carolina?

Credit score requirements vary depending on the type of loan and lender. For example, FHA loans may accept scores as low as 580, while conventional loans often require scores of around 620 or higher.

Are there down payment assistance programs for first-time homebuyers in South Carolina?

Yes, South Carolina offers down payment assistance programs like the Palmetto Home Advantage program, which can help eligible buyers with their down payment and closing costs.

What are closing costs, and how much should I budget for them?

Closing costs include fees for services like appraisals, title searches, and attorney fees. They typically range from 2% to 5% of the home’s purchase price, but can vary.

How long does it take to buy a home in South Carolina?

The timeline varies, but on average, it takes 30 to 45 days to close on a home in South Carolina once you’ve found a property and have an accepted offer.

What should I consider when choosing a South Carolina neighborhood?

Factors to consider include proximity to work, schools, amenities, safety, and the overall community vibe. Visit neighborhoods during different times of day to get a feel for them.

Do I need a real estate agent when buying a home in South Carolina?

While it’s not required, having a real estate agent can be highly beneficial. They can help you find suitable properties, negotiate offers, and guide you through the process.

South Carolina Loan Programs

Find The Right Mortgage Option For You

When it comes to securing a conventional mortgage, trust our team to provide you with expert guidance and competitive rates. Whether you’re a seasoned homeowner or a first-time buyer, we’ll tailor a conventional loan solution to meet your unique financial needs and homeownership goals.

FHA loans offer a fantastic opportunity for individuals looking to purchase a home with more flexible credit requirements and a lower down payment. With an FHA loan, your path to homeownership becomes more accessible, making it an excellent choice for first-time buyers and those with credit challenges.

USDA loans, backed by the United States Department of Agriculture, are an excellent option for those seeking to buy a home in rural or suburban areas. These loans come with attractive features, such as no down payment and competitive interest rates. We specialize in USDA loans and are here to assist you in securing your dream home in eligible areas

When it comes to securing a conventional mortgage, trust our team to provide you with expert guidance and competitive rates. Whether you’re a seasoned homeowner or a first-time buyer, we’ll tailor a conventional loan solution to meet your unique financial needs and homeownership goals.

Jumbo loans offer a unique financing opportunity for individuals seeking to purchase homes that exceed the limits of conventional mortgages. These specialized loans are designed to accommodate high-value properties, giving you the flexibility and financial support needed for your luxury home purchase.

Whether you’re looking to lower your monthly payments, secure a better interest rate, or tap into your home’s equity for major expenses, our experienced team is here to assist you. We’ll work closely with you to understand your unique goals and financial circumstances, tailoring a mortgage refinance solution that aligns with your needs.

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