criteria

We offer a hand up toward affordable homeownership. 

We want to make sure our homeowners are prepared for the responsibilities of homeownership, from paying a mortgage to maintaining their house. Our homeownership requirements, listed below, help to ensure this.

Because the need for affordable housing is so great in our community, we are usually inundated when we open the application process. We provide trained volunteer mentors to work with potential homeowners who are close, but do not yet quality for a loan due to their income, credit, or both. They develop an action plan together to prepare potential homeowners to reapply when the program opens.

Habitat for Humanity is an equal opportunity program. Applicants are selected based on their need for housing, willingness to partner with us, and their ability to pay the mortgage. Individuals from all races, sexes, and creeds are encouraged to apply.

The following orientation content is important information for interested applicants to our homeownership program. Applicants are asked to read and acknowledge understanding of the information prior to applying for our program.

Or, watch our Director of Program Services, Liz Alicea-Madera, describe the process in our virtual first-time homebuyer orientation. 

Homeowner Requirements

  • Have a minimum credit score of 640.  Alternative lines of credit may be considered if an applicant does not have credit scores.
  • Presently reside in housing that is substandard in some way or inadequate due to any of the following – housing not maintained by the landlord, cost-burdened, overcrowded housing, temporary housing, etc.  Living in subsidized housing does not preclude a family from consideration.
  • Be willing to contribute 75-150 hours of ‘sweat equity’ on the construction sites and complete classes to prepare for becoming a homeowner.
  • The total household income must fall within a predetermined range according to the number of people in the family. This is to ensure that the new homeowners will be able to pay the low monthly mortgage payment, which includes escrows such as taxes, insurance and possible HOA.
  • The projected housing payment cannot exceed 30% of your gross income. You will need to qualify for the mortgage loan and meet our income criteria.

Service Areas

We serve the Greater Orlando & Osceola County areas, primarily within the City of Orlando, Osceola County and parts of Orange County  (with the exception of Winter Park, Maitland, Apopka, Winter Garden, and Oakland which are covered by other Habitat affiliates). We serve a select set of zip codes – and build communities

How the Program Works

The “American Dream” of homeownership becomes a reality for families in need through the work of Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County. We pride ourselves on being a hand up for our families and not a handout. In addition to monthly mortgage payments, homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor, also known as “sweat equity” – into building their home and the homes of others. They also attend Habitat U – homebuyer education classes that include financial literacy, home maintenance, safety issues, homeowner association involvement, and credit counseling if needed. 

Our housing program is underwritten by philanthropic donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations as well as grants. This allows us to provide an affordable mortgage, ensuring mortgage and escrow payments do not exceed 30% of a homeowner’s monthly income. 

meet the guidelines

You may be eligible for a Habitat home if you are a resident of Orange County or Osceola County and you meet the 3 guidelines: need, ability to pay, and willingness to partner.

 

Need

  • Is your present housing one of the following:
    • Inadequate – Lack of adequate housing may include problems with the present structure such as: water; electrical or sewage service systems; heating system; hazardous; poorly maintained (substandard); or failure to meet city property maintenance standards.
    • Overcrowded – Also taken into consideration are the make-up and size of your family compared to the number of bedrooms in your home.
    • Transitional — You are currently living with family members or a friend and you do not have your own place to live.
    • Government Subsidized – Housing programs such as: Section 8, Low Rent Program.
    • Unaffordable – A percentage of your monthly income that you currently spend on housing is considered to determine need (“more than 30% of my monthly income goes towards rent”).

Ability to Pay

You and your family will be considered if your total income is between the income range.  This income is based on family size and is represented in the chart below:

Family Size Minimum Gross Monthly Income Maximum Gross Monthly Income
One $2,800 $5,090
Two $2,800 $5,820
Three $2,800 $6,550
Four $2,800 $7,270
Five $2,800 $7,860
Six $2,800 $8,440
Seven $2,900 $9,020
Eight $2,900 $9,600

*Please note that our minimum and maximum income limits are subject to change at any time.

The projected housing payment cannot exceed 30% of your gross income. You will need to qualify for the mortgage loan as well as meet our income criteria. In addition, you must:

  • Not have any unpaid non-medical charge-offs on your credit report.
  • Meet the debt to income ratios
    • The estimated mortgage payment must not be more than 30% of your gross income.
    • The total of your monthly debt payments (including the estimated mortgage payment) cannot exceed 43% of your gross income (based on credit history, some borrowers may have a maximum debt ratio of 36%)
  • Pay your rent on time.
  • Had stable income for the last year.
  • Have not declared bankruptcy in the last 24 months.

Click here to view HUD Approved Housing Counseling Agencies.

Willingness to Partner

To fulfill the requirements for demonstrating a willingness to partner,

  • You must be willing to partner with Habitat Orlando & Osceola and work 75 hours of “sweat equity” for a single applicant or 150 hours of “sweat equity” for a two-person applicant.
  • You must attend the required homeowner classes as scheduled.
  • You will encourage other families to participate in the Habitat program.
  • You will be responsible for maintenance of your house from the time you move into your home.
  • You will be responsible for repaying the purchase cost of your home in a timely manner so that other families can benefit from the Habitat program.

Homeownership program FAQ

How does Habitat Orlando & Osceola's homeownership program work?

Through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials, Habitat Orlando & Osceola builds comfortable, affordable homes with the help of future homeowners. The houses are sold to future homeowners and financed with affordable loans.

Does Habitat Orlando & Osceola give houses away?

No, we are not a giveaway program. In addition to monthly mortgage payments, homeowners invest hours of their own labor — sweat equity – into building their Habitat home and the homes of others. A single head of a household invests 75 hours, while dual heads of a household invest 150 hours before closing on their home.

What is Sweat Equity?

Sweat Equity is volunteer work with Habitat Orlando & Osceola. It is your investment in Habitat’s work and mission; it is also an expression of your partnership with Habitat Orlando & Osceola. Your sweat equity is as important to the process of becoming a Habitat homeowner as are your closing costs. Sweat equity hours will be tracked once you are approved as a future homeowner.

What kind of work might sweat equity include?

Sweat Equity hours can be earned in several ways. This is a short list of possible ways to earn sweat equity:

  • Construction work (Build Site)
  • Participating in fundraising activities and public speaking
  • Attending education programs and training sessions approved by Habitat
What if I am physically unable to work on the construction of my home?

We will work with individuals on a case-by-case basis and make accommodations on our build site and in our office when possible so you can complete your hours. The required sweat equity hours can be performed in a number of ways. Future homeowners can receive credits toward their hours by attending the required homebuyer classes, and even get credit for the good grades of their children.

Do you have to be employed to be eligible for the homeownership program?

Habitat Orlando & Osceola works in good faith with applicant families who qualify as low or moderate income by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development standards. While some homeowners can qualify for a home with only unearned income, the vast majority of our homeowners are employed.

How much does a Habitat Orlando & Osceola home cost?

Homes are sold at the appraised market value. The actual dollar amount varies depending on the specific home. Homeowners’ payments consist of the mortgage loan amount (principal), real estate taxes, homeowner’s insurance and possible HOA dues (escrow).

How long does the homeownership process take?

There are several variables that contribute to how quickly a person can move into their home. Typically, an approved applicant can move into their Habitat home 8 months to a year after approval.

Do I/we need a good credit score to qualify for a house?

Habitat Orlando & Osceola will pull a credit report to review any accumulated debt and how you have handled payments in the past. If it is determined that your debt load will impede your ability to take on more debt (e.g., a mortgage), we will refer you to a credit counselor who can work with you on ways to repair your credit. We require a minimum credit score of 640. Alternative lines of credit may be considered if an applicant does not have any credit scores.

Do you only accept families?

Habitat Orlando & Osceola accepts applications from single adults and families of any size or makeup during an open enrollment period. Habitat will review the products that we have available (if any) for your family size and income before approving you for the program.

Can Habitat Orlando & Osceola homeowners choose the home they want to live in?

Future homeowners can select from different sites or units we are currently building that are appropriate for your family size and income. If you decline, you are withdrawing the application submitted. You are welcome to re-apply later.

Can Habitat Orlando & Osceola build on land owned by homeowners?

Due to the legal complexity and significant risk to both the Homeowner Applicant and Habitat Orlando & Osceola, it is Habitat’s policy that we will not build on property that is owned or has been previously owned by approved Homeowner Applicants.

Can the design of the house be changed?

Habitat Orlando & Osceola will choose the design of the house in accordance with the size of the lot and available funding. No change in design will be considered unless a partner family requires structural modification for a family member with a disability. Homeowners may choose the outside colors of the home, cabinets, countertops, and flooring from the options that we have available.

Are Habitat Orlando & Osceola homeowners allowed to sell their home?

Yes. However, homeowners will be responsible for complying with all rules for any assistance program in which they benefited from in purchasing their home.

Can Habitat Orlando & Osceola homeowners sell their homes at a profit?

Yes, but there are mechanisms in place to limit the amount of profit you can realize. The amount of profit you can realize goes up the longer you have owned the home.

Does Habitat for Humanity build homes on an equal opportunity basis?

Habitat for Humanity builds homes for people in need without regard to race, color, religion, gender, national origin, familial status, disability, marital status, age, ancestry, sexual orientation, source of income, or other characteristics protected by law. Three criteria drive the homeowner selection process: Need, willingness to partner with Habitat, and the ability to make the required mortgage payments.

Is Habitat for Humanity affiliated with the government or a specific faith?

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit, Christian housing organization. We are not affiliated with the government, nor with any church or denomination. You can find our non-proselytizing policy on our website in the “about us” section.