Homes for Heroes: What It Is and How it Works

Written by Samantha CatheyUpdated: 19th Apr 2022
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Thriving communities need empathetic, punctual, and service-oriented first responders, educators, and healthcare providers. These workers plus their families benefit society in unimaginable ways, and in a career that demands so much mentally and physically, they deserve to be taken care of.

What Is Homes for Heroes?

Established in 2002, the Homes for Heroes program provides discounts throughout the homebuying, selling, or refinancing process for community “heroes” like those listed above. Title fees, broker commissions, and the cost of home inspections are common rebates.

Who Qualifies for the Home for Heroes?

Those who qualify are first responders, including paramedics, EMTs, firefighters, law enforcement, veterans, and active-duty military members. Individuals who teach pre-K up through post-secondary school like college and trade school also qualify, and so do school administrative staff. Health care professionals like doctors, nurses, and specialized providers meet the requirements, too. Current and former professionals are both welcome to apply.

This is not an exhaustive list, so if you work in a related field, check directly with a program representative to see if you qualify. Bonus: if you have credit issues and don’t think you’ll be accepted, a local Homes for Heroes mortgage specialist will still meet with you to offer guidance and information.

>> More: Best Online Mortgage Lenders

How Much Does Home for Heroes Cost?

It does not cost to participate in the program, and discounts are realized in the form of rebates after the closing process.

Home for Heroes Savings on Closing Costs: Explained and Analyzed

Closing costs typically range from 2% to 5% on the purchase or refinance of a home. On average, you can receive rebates ranging from $50 to $500 if you use home inspection, mortgage, and title services from a Homes for Heroes provider.

Keep in mind you’re not obligated to use program providers strictly. For example, you can match with an affiliated real estate agent but pick an outside title company if you wish. Of course, you won’t receive savings on title services if so. When using all the program services, home buyers save an average of $2,400.

Other “Homes for Heroes” to Know

Building Homes For Heroes®

In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Building Homes for Heroes was born to build or modify homes for injured veterans and their families. The nonprofit gifts homes completely mortgage-free every 11 days on average. By the end of 2020, more than 255 homes had been given to America’s wounded soldiers, and the organization aims to present its 500th home by 2025.

Homes For Heroes, Inc.

There are two sides to the Homes for Heroes program, one nonprofit and one for-profit. The latter is called Homes for Heroes, Inc., and it is comprised of a network of real estate agents and other mortgage professionals who work with sellers and buyers. It’s what we traditionally think of when we ponder the program. When a home is purchased or sold using Homes for Heroes, the for-profit wing of the organization donates a portion of its earnings to its charitable nonprofit foundation.

This cycle is called the “Circle of Giving,” and it starts with connecting heroes to real estate professionals who serve their applicants by rewarding them with suitable discounts and then granting awards to other heroes in need, thus strengthening communities.

Understanding Home for Heroes

Homes for Heroes Foundation

The nonprofit aspect of the two-part program is the Homes for Heroes Foundation, a private organization that distributes the grants created by its for-profit sister program. The foundation donates to local charities serving heroes as it pertains to housing and emergency financial assistance, especially in the event of natural disasters.

So, if you’re a hero taking advantage of the program to purchase a home, know that you’re also helping your fellow public servants when they need it.

Other Government Programs for Public Service Workers

The U.S. government also has similar programs designed to assist first responders, medical staff, and veterans buy a home. Though this is not a full list, here are some popular options.

VA Loans

Backed by the Department of Veteran Affairs but made through private mortgage lenders, a VA loan helps eligible service members, veterans, and their surviving spouses qualify for an affordable mortgage. There are certain eligibility requirements, but they are generally more lenient than other programs, especially regarding applicant credit history.

>> More: Best VA Loan Lenders

First-time Home Buyer Programs

First-time home buyers have many resources to help with costs and provide themselves with education. After all, purchasing your first home can be overwhelming for your brain and wallet.

If you haven’t owned a home within the last three years, most state and federal programs consider you a first-time home buyer, even if you’ve bought a house in the past. Owning rental or investment properties disqualifies you from assistance.

Examples of first-time home buyer programs include down payment assistance loans and grants, Habitat for Humanity, and closing assistance plans.

Government-backed loans like those from the FHA and USDA are also included. Don’t forget that you can usually benefit from a handful of tax deductions.

Federal, State, and Local Assistance Programs for Heroes

Visit the HUD website to find resources for your state or locality regarding home buying programs. Here are a few popular federal programs to consider.

Good Neighbor Next Door

Started by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Good Neighbor Next Door program offers a generous 50% off any single-family HUD home for teachers, firefighters, EMTs, and police officers who agree to live in the home for at least three years. That’s a sizeable discount to consider if you’re in the market for a home, just know you can only purchase homes in certain areas.

Teacher Next Door®

Another “Next Door” program is one created with teachers in mind. The Teacher Next Door plan helps streamline the home buying process without any application or upfront fees for educators and other public servants. They also offer down payment assistance and grants, plus they handle all the finance and closing paperwork.

Make Sure to Avoid Scams

Unfortunately, people try to take advantage of the good Homes for Heroes name by pretending to be affiliated with the program only to scam well-intentioned public servants. Check with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) or other consumer protection websites to verify you’re working with a legitimate program specialist.

How Does the Home for Heroes Program Work When Selling a Home?

When partnering with Homes for Heroes to sell your home, you’ll receive a 25% discount on the agent’s gross commission.

How Much Money Can I Save with the Homes for Heroes Program?

According to Homes for Heroes, users save an average of $2,400 when they work with a full suite of affiliated specialists. When individuals work with only a real estate agent, they save an average of $1,700, or 0.7% of the home purchase price. Heroes can save $500 on lender fees, $150 on title service, and $50 on an inspection.

Homes for Heroes also offers savings through ADT, Discount School Supply, Upack, and even Target.

Bottom Line: Home for Heroes

By 2022 over $100 million was given back to community members through the Homes for Heroes organization. They even have an animal assistance program dedicated to rehoming retired search dogs. Save more with Homes for Heroes than you can with any other national loan assistance program. Truly, it’s a worthy affair to utilize if you’re eligible or just support if you’re not.

Samantha Cathey
Samantha Cathey

Samantha Cathey is a Senior Personal Finance Writer & Product Analyst with years of financial training and industry knowledge. She is a former banker, loan officer and investment advisor before dedicating her energy to helping individuals more creatively, through her writing. Samantha studied at the University of Idaho where she majored in Journalism and Writing. Her areas of expertise are mortgages, credit cards, loans, and investing.