One of the biggest barriers to home ownership can be getting together a down-payment and finding a loan you can qualify for - especially if you fall into the category of "first-time home buyer". Who is a first-time home buyer? Surprisingly, the term applies to more people than only those who have never owned a home before. People who haven't owned a home for at least three years (whether solo or jointly with a still-current spouse) and divorced buyers who have only owned a home jointly with a former spouse can also qualify for first-time home buyer programs. Here are a few of the popular options to help you find a home of your own.

FHA Loans
The Federal Housing Administration offers loans with as little as 3.5% down-payment required, with some state programs adding extra incentive for buyers willing to purchase a HUD home. The trade-off on this type of loan is that while your down-payment is lower, you do have to carry mortgage insurance for the entire duration of the loan. Conventional loans often let the borrower drop mortgage insurance after they've surpassed 20% equity.

VA Loans
Home loans through the Veteran's Administration are open to veterans and also active duty military members, including most reservists, National Guard, and spouses of military members killed while on active duty. Many buyers who choose a VA loan can qualify for up to 100% financing - meaning no down-payment required and VA loans also don't require private mortgage insurance coverage.

National Homebuyer's Fund
The National Homebuyer's Fund is a down-payment assistance program available in many states that provides grants of up to 5% of the loan amount. Often paired with FHA and VA loans, the funds provided are a grant and don't have to be repaid. Not all states participate in this program so it's best to check with a mortgage specialist to explore if this grant is available in your state or if your state offers other down-payment programs. In South Carolina, the state down-payment assistance program can help some borrowers with up to $6,000 toward down-payment or closing costs, based on income.

Mortgage Tax Credits
Depending on your state, you may also qualify for tax credits on your federal income taxes, In South Carolina, homebuyers can take advantage of a tax credit for up to 30% of the mortgage interest paid each year, up to $2,000.

Home ownership can seem to be out of reach for many people. Programs like special loans for first-time buyers, down-payment assistance programs, and even tax credits lower the barrier to make owning a home more accessible for more people. Programs and limits can and do change so always explore your options with a reputable mortgage broker. You may have far more options than you realize!