First Time Home Buyers in Orlando: Loans, Taxes, Neighborhoods and More

Posted on Mar 15, 2021


Approximately 37% of households in Orlando own their home, and more people are joining their ranks every year. First time home buyers, though, may find the home buying process confusing and complicated - especially when compared to renting. Here’s what you need to know. 

Choose an Orlando Real Estate Agent Wisely 

The right Realtor can make a huge difference in your home buying experience - so don't just pick the first person you find on Zillow. An agent is your best asset in not only finding the home of your dreams, but negotiating on your behalf to get the best deal. 

Look for an agent who:

  • Has experience in your preferred neighborhood(s)
  • Is communicative, and responsive to your concerns
  • Has positive reviews from past clients 
  • Specializes in the buy side of the transaction
  • Works full time (so you won’t be competing against their other jobs for their attention)

Get in contact with Houwzer’s qualified team of Orlando home buying Realtors.

The Expenses of Owning a Home

If you’ve never owned a home before, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the expenses before jumping in. This will help you plan better - and give you a better idea of which homes are truly in your budget. 

  • County Tax: The city of Orlando resides in Orange County, and Orange County’s average property tax rate rate is .96%, or an average of $2,400 in property taxes per year (based on an assessed home value of $250,000). 
  • Home Insurance: According to Insurify, the average cost of home insurance in Orlando, FL is $2,312 (with an average home cost of $269,743). 
  • Trash: The standard monthly residential fee for solid waste pick up is $19.28.
  • Sewer: The standard monthly cost for sewage billing is $21.06 capacity charge, and $5.09 per 1,000 gallons.

And just as with a rental property, you’ll also need to pay for utilities (internet, electricity, natural gas).

If your home has a Homeowner’s Association, or HOA, you will need to pay an additional fee (although in most cases, an HOA will take care of things like trash, mowing your lawn, etc). HOAs typically cost $100-$300 per month.

On top of that, don’t forget to set money aside for regular maintenance issues - such as roof repair, fixing the kitchen sink, or repairing the washing machine. According to The Balance, a basic rule-of-thumb is to put aside 1% of your home’s purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. In other words, for a $300,000 home, you’d set aside $3,000. 

This is just a rough estimate of what you’d need - and the true amount will fluctuate each year. Replacing an aging roof may cost you $10,000 one year - but the next year might only see $1,000 in maintenance costs. 

Look for Common Issues Before the Home Inspection

The Florida Disclosure statement, along with your home inspection, are two powerful tools for first time home buyers. Realistically, though, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for common problems before you bid on the home and pay for an inspection. 

Here are some of the most common issues that appear in Florida home inspections:

  • Water damage - look for flaking drywall, wet spots, and musty smells - especially in the basement
  • Faulty/outdated wiring - look out for dimmed lights, warm outlets, too many power strips
  • Insufficient grade sloping and drainage - look for signs of erosion or water having pooled next to the home
  • Roof problems - look for signs of leaks indoors, and missing shingles or tiles 
  • Foundation flaws - look for sloping floors and doors that won’t shut

Best Neighborhoods in Orlando for First Time Homeowners

First time homeowners have unique needs, especially since the majority of first time homeowners are millennial buyers - these are frequently young professionals and young families looking for their starter home.

For this reason, affordability, accessibility to the city, and family-friendly areas are key components of what makes a good “first time home buyer” neighborhood. 

Audubon Park: 

Audubon Park is a quiet neighborhood with easy access to the city - it's just a 10 minute drive to downtown Orlando. A strong sense of community will help families feel at home here, and this area is home to the East End Market, which features a wide variety of artisanal vendors all in one place. Audubon Park is also notoriously dog friendly! There’s plenty of single-family, typically single-story homes here to choose from, in a wide variety of architectural styles.

  • Distance to Downtown Orlando: 10 min drive 
  • Average home selling price: $349,368

The Milk District: 

The Milk District is undeniably an up-and-coming Orlando neighborhood - not only can this be a fun atmosphere to take part in, but you also have the chance to be in at the beginning of an area’s renaissance moment. Take part in the family-friendly Taste Tuesdays food truck gathering, and enjoy the unique shops that sell everything from vintage clothing to organic candles. This is a great neighborhood for first time home buyers who want to participate in the local nightlife.

  • Distance to Downtown Orlando: 7 minutes by car
  • Average home selling price: $330,000 (note: this is for the larger East Orlando region - neighborhood-specific data was not available)

Thornton Park:

Trendy and colorful, Thornton Park is the perfect Orlando neighborhood for young couples and first time homeowners. Called the “downtown for grownups” by some, this area is packed with chic bars and top-rated restaurants. You’ll find 1920s bungalows here, along with condos and larger family homes. 

  • Distance to Downtown Orlando: 6 minutes by car
  • Average home selling price: $353,698

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First Time Home Buyer Florida - Loan Eligibility 

If you’re a first time home buyer, you’re potentially eligible for special loans - at the national, state and local level. 

FHA Loans

FHA Loans, or Federal Housing Administration Loans, are available nationwide to first time home buyers and they can allow you to put down a down payment of as low as 3.5%. The FHA loan also allows people with lower credit scores to own a home.

Florida Assist Mortgage Program

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing) offers several down payment and closing cost assistance programs to help people buy their first home.

According to Bankrate: “Through Florida Housing, eligible borrowers receive up to $7,500 at 0% interest on a deferred second mortgage to use toward a down payment. Repayment is deferred until the home is sold or ownership is transferred, or when the loan is paid off or refinanced.”

Orlando Down Payment Assistance Program

The City of Orlando has a Down Payment Assistance Program that provides financial assistance to first time home buyers. Applicants are eligible for up to $35,000 depending on income and need, and their homes must be owner-occupied and located within Orlando’s city limits. 

Although the assistance program is a loan, the loan will be forgiven so long as the homeowners do not rent, sell or convey ownership of the home during the lien period. 

For people buying homes that are slightly outside of Orlando’s city limits, Orange County also has a Down Payment Assistance Program that can provide financial assistance for closing costs and the down payment. Applicants can be eligible for up to $35,000 depending on their income and other factors.

VA Loans and More

There are additional loan options available to veterans, active military duty, and more - visit NerdWallet’s page to read on about what Florida first time home buyers can qualify for. 

First time home buyers in Florida have plenty to consider when it comes time to make the switch from renting to owning a home. While the process can sometimes be complicated and confusing, it’s a better time than ever to invest - over the past five years, homes in Florida have appreciated in price by nearly 38%

Further Guidance on Living in Orlando

First time home buyers in Florida have plenty to consider when it comes time to make the switch from renting to owning a home. While the process can sometimes be complicated and confusing, it’s a better time than ever to invest - over the past five years, homes in Florida have appreciated in price by nearly 38%

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