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Tennessee First-Time Home Buyer | 2021 Programs and Grants


What to know about buying a house in Tennessee

As a Tennessee first–time home buyer, you may be in line for a whole heap of help from your state, county, or city.

If you’re eligible, that could include home buyer education, special mortgage programs, and even down payment assistance.

Ready to take your first step toward becoming a homeowner? Here’s what to do.

Verify your home buying eligibility in Tennessee. Start here (Dec 15th, 2021)

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Tennessee home buyer overview

The median sales price in Tennessee in October 2021 was $329,900 according to Redfin. That reflected a rise of 16% year over year, which is fairly close to the national average.

Tennessee Home Buyer Overview
Average Home Sale Price in TN $329,900
Minimum Down Payment in TN (3%) $9,900
20% Down Payment in TN $65,980
Average Credit Score in TN1 697
Maximum TN Home Buyer Grant2 6% of sale price statewide (THDA repayable loan)

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 US Department of Agriculture), you may not need any down payment at all.

Verify your home buying eligibility in Tennessee. Start here (Dec 15th, 2021)

First–time home buyer loans in Tennessee

If you’re a first–time home buyer in Tennessee 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 percent down. But the good news is, 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 home, or pay off your loan
  • VA loan – Only for veterans and service members. Zero down payment is required. Minimum credit score varies by lender but often 620. No ongoing mortgage insurance after closing. 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 640. Low mortgage insurance rates
  • Tennessee Housing Development Agency loans – May include competitive interest rates and down payment assistance. More information below

Note that government loan programs (including the 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.

Depending on the mortgage loan you choose, you could potentially get into your new house with minimal cash out of pocket.

These programs even let you use gifted money or down payment assistance (DPA) to cover the down payment and closing costs.

If you’re not sure which program to choose for your first mortgage loan, your lender can help you find the right match based on your finances and home buying goals.

Find the best first-time home buyer loan for you (Dec 15th, 2021)

Tennessee first–time home buyer programs

The Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) offers a range of support to Tennessee first–time home buyers. That includes home buyer education, a range of mortgage loans, and down payment assistance.

These mortgages are called ‘Great Choice Home Loan’ programs. And they’re mostly based on FHA or USDA loans.

However, there’s also a special program called ‘Homeownership for the Brave,’ which can be used with a VA loan and requires zero down payment. Naturally, these are reserved exclusively for veterans and service members or their surviving spouses.

Great Choice home loan programs are intended for buyers with low or moderate incomes who are purchasing sensibly priced homes. As such, there are household income limits as well as purchase price caps. You can discover the caps that apply in the county where you wish to buy on this page on the THDA website.

To qualify, you’ll need to:

If you’re interested in one of these loans, your next step is to download The THDA’s Handbook for Homebuyers.

Next, contact an approved lender from that THDA list (link above). Tell the agent that you’re interested in a Great Choice home loan and they should quickly establish whether you’re eligible. If you are, your lender will walk you through the entire process.

Tennessee first–time home buyer grants

The THDA offers a choice of two down payment assistance (DPA) programs to eligible Tennessee first–time home buyers. Both of these must be used with a Great Choice home loan:

  1. Deferred DPA option – Borrow up to $6,000. This loan requires no monthly payments and charges 0% interest. At the end of 30 years, your loan is forgiven in full. However, if you sell your home or refinance your mortgage before the 30 years are up, you’ll have to repay the whole amount
  2. Amortizing DPA option – With this, you can borrow more: up to 6% of the sale price. But you have to pay down the loan each month over 15 years. And you’ll pay the same interest rate that your first (main) mortgage charges

The DPA you choose will likely depend on how much you need to borrow to cover your down payment and closing costs. It may also depend on how long you plan to remain in your next home.

Or you may choose neither. Before you decide, check out other down payment assistance programs that might cover your city or county. And pick the one that meets your needs best.

Verify your home buying eligibility in Tennessee. Start here (Dec 15th, 2021)

Buying a home in Tennessee’s major cities

In the year ending in September 2021, home prices in the Volunteer state’s three biggest cities didn’t rise as quickly as they did statewide. But they still increased significantly.

Nashville first–time home buyers

In September 2021, the median list price of homes in Nashville was $400,000, which was an increase of 11.1% year–over–year according to

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

  • $12,000 for 3% down payment
  • $80,000 for 20% down payment

Nashville’s Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency seems to offer down payment assistance, but few details are available on its website. So contact the agency for more information.

Affordable Housing Resources (AHR) offers down payment assistance of up to $15,000 to eligible borrowers in Nashville. That’s part of the NeighborhoodLift nationwide program and there are caps on the household income allowed. However, it says, “Income limits are higher for military service members, veterans, law enforcement officers, Pre–K–12th grade teachers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians.”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t specify whether funds take the form of a loan or grant. But you can call (615) 251–0025 to find out.

Memphis first–time home buyers

In September 2021, the median list price of homes in Memphis was $175,000, which was an increase of 9.4% year–over–year according to

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

  • $5,250 for 3% down payment
  • $35,000 for 20% down payment

The City of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development (HCD) can provide down payment assistance of up to $10,000 to eligible borrowers. There are various conditions – including income and home price caps – which you can discover by downloading its fact sheet. There are no income caps for teachers and those working in the police or fire departments.

Unfortunately, the HCD doesn’t reveal whether the assistance takes the form of a grant or loan. So contact the department for clarification at or call (901) 636–7474.

Knoxville first–time home buyers

In September 2021, the median list price of homes in Knoxville was $295,000, which was an increase of 13.5% year–over–year according to

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

  • $8,850 for 3% down payment
  • $59,000 for 20% down payment

Unfortunately, the City of Knoxville’s website says, “APPLICATIONS ARE CLOSED FOR THIS PROGRAM,” except for those wishing to purchase a home that’s developed by Home Source East Tennessee, Neighborhood Housing, Inc. and East Tennessee Housing Development Corporation.

The site does give some information about income limits. But it doesn’t reveal any other useful details, such as how much help you might get nor whether that would be a loan or grant, assuming you’re interested in a home from one of those developers. If you wish to know more, call (865) 215–2865.

Where to find home buying help in Tennessee

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

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

Statewide first-time home buyer resources in Tennessee

You can also find a list of resources by county and city on HUD’s webpage for Tennessee first–time home buyers.

What are today’s mortgage rates in Tennessee?

You can see today’s live mortgage rates in Tennessee here.

When you’re ready to start the home buying process, make sure you get personalized rate quotes from at least 3 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.

Show me today’s rates (Dec 15th, 2021)

1 Source: 2021 study of 2020 data

2Based on a review of the state’s available DPA grants at the time this was written

The information contained on The Mortgage Reports website is for informational purposes only and is not an advertisement for products offered by Full Beaker. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the policy or position of Full Beaker, its officers, parent, or affiliates.

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