Empowerd DPA Program Eligibility

Empowered DPA Program: 3.5% Down Payment Assistance Grant

If you’ve ever looked into down payment assistance (DPA) programs, you may have been frustrated about the stringent requirements to qualify.

Some require very low income, while others require you to buy in very specific geographic locations.

The new EPM Empowered DPA program, though, is available to most home buyers nationwide, thanks to their wide acceptance criteria.

Better yet, it offers up to 3.5% down payment assistance, enough to cover the entire down payment on an FHA loan.

Check your Empowered DPA Program eligibility.

What does the EPM Empowered DPA Program do?

Empowered DPA gives you up to 3.5% of the home’s price toward the down payment on a house.

Because FHA loans require just 3.5% down, the program would cover your entire down payment. 

For instance, a $300,000 home would require a down payment of $10,500. The Empowered DPA issues $10,500 to the closing agent at time of closing on your behalf. The lender counts that as your down payment.

The assistance comes in the form of a grant that is forgiven as long as you have the loan for six months.

The assistance is not a loan or lien placed on the house that eventually has to be repaid, as is common with many DPAs.

Here’s who qualifies for Empowered DPA

The difference-maker about this program is how widely available it is.

Geographically, it’s available to home buyers nationwide, except for Washington State. That’s very rare for a DPA program.

Next, you only have to meet one of the following criteria:

You’re a first-time homebuyer: You haven’t owned a home in the past three years and will reside in the home as your primary residence


You are currently or formerly one of the following (employee or volunteer): military, first responder, educator, medical professional, local or federal government worker


Income: You make 140% or less of the median income where the property is located


Underserved area: You are buying a home in an underserved census tract.

If you meet just one of the above, you are eligible.

Sign up for Empowered DPA.

Requirements for the program

To qualify for the DPA and loan, you must meet the following guidelines.

Credit: 620 credit score minimum. If your score is lower, the lender may be able to advise you on how to raise your score.

Loan purpose: Purchase of a primary residence only

Debt-to-income ratio: Maximum 48.99%, meaning less than 49% of your gross income may go toward the future housing payment plus all other debts such as credit cards, auto loans, and student loans.

Property type: single-family home, duplex, single- and multi-wide manufactured homes, FHA-approved condos, PUDs

Homeownership education: Borrowers must take an approved homeownership course offered by Framework Homeownership or from a HUD-approved counselor.

Empowered DPA lenders and how to get access

Empowered DPA is offered by mortgage brokers who are approved to originate loans for EPM. EPM is a wholesale lender that doesn’t directly offer loans to the public. Rather, mortgage brokers operate for them.

Mortgage brokers don’t issue money themselves. Instead, they work with many banks and lenders to offer a variety of programs.

To get access to Empowered DPA, find a mortgage broker that works with EPM. That broker can then take the application and work through the approval process with you.

Connect with an Empowered DPA Program lender.

Wondering if you’re eligible? Here’s more about who can qualify

As mentioned, this DPA offers one of the widest eligibility criteria of any DPA program. Many buyers are eligible even if they can’t meet requirements for other down payment assistance.

And, buyers only have to meet ONE of the following criteria, not all four or even two. Just one.

First-time home buyers are eligible

Anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the past three years is eligible. But this DPA program takes it one step further: a single parent who owned a home with a former spouse in the past three years is also eligible. 

Only one first-time buyer on the application is required, so the co-applicant may have had ownership in a home recently. For instance, a buyer recently got a divorce and owned a home with her ex-spouse two years ago. She is marrying again and buying a home with her new spouse, who is a homeowner. They are eligible even if they are both on the loan application.

First Responders are eligible

Some examples of eligible professions are police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics. Even if you’re a volunteer firefighter, you are eligible.

Current and former military

Those who are serving or have served in the U.S. military are eligible, as are those who are in the Reserves.

Teachers are eligible

Volunteers and those employed in education can get the Empowered DPA. This includes teachers, day care workers, music teachers, tutors, and educators of all kinds.

Medical personnel

Doctors, nurses, and others employed or volunteering at a hospital or other medical facility are eligible.

Government workers

Civil servants working at any city, state, county, federal, tribal, or other government agency are eligible for the program.

Low, medium, and medium-high earners

This program is not just for low-income individuals as most DPA programs are, although it works well for lower-income homebuyers. Those making up to 140% of their area’s median income are eligible. To check eligibility, enter the property address into Fannie Mae’s median income lookup tool and multiply your area’s median income by 1.4 (140%).

Empowered DPA Median Income Lookup Tool

Homebuyers in an Underserved Area

Anyone buying in an Underserved Area as defined by the Federal Housing Finance Agency is eligible for the program. There are many counties across the U.S. that are eligible.

FHFA Underserved Areas for Empowered DPA Program

Is there a catch?

When a program this good comes along, homebuyers naturally wonder if there’s a catch. 

The program is legitimate and its primary purpose is to get people into homes who can afford it, but don’t have down payment funds.

However, here are two things to be aware of:

  1. Higher rate: The program will likely come with a higher rate than standard FHA loans due to the greater risk when the borrower does not put their own funds into the transaction. But the buyer can refinance with a lower rate using the FHA streamline program after 6 months. An FHA streamline requires no appraisal and no income documentation.
  2. Larger fees: Fees will be larger due to less profit being produced in the loan transaction due to the DPA funds. The lender will work with you and your real estate agent and home seller to get some of these costs paid for by the seller.

In all, the program is a great way to get into the home. You can then refinance into a loan with better terms later on.


Can I get a house with zero out-of-pocket with Empowered DPA?

Even though there’s no down payment, you still must pay closing costs, which typically equal 3-5% of the home’s price. However, you can work with your lender and real estate agent to request seller concessions up to 6% of the home’s price to help pay for closing costs like title, escrow, prepaid property taxes, and more.

Do I have to make less than 140% of the area median income if I’m in another eligible group?

No. You are exempted from income limits if you are employed or volunteering as a first responder, teacher, medical professional, civil servant, or another eligible group.

Do I have to pay back the down payment assistance?

The DPA is a grant that is forgivable after six months. As long as you hold the loan and home for six months, nothing is owed.

Where do the down payment grant funds come from?

Grant funds are generated from the loan proceeds profit. Typically, all profit that comes from generating a loan goes to the lender involved. In this case, the lender takes a lower profit in order to help first-time buyers and other eligible groups into homeownership.

Can I get a house with zero out-of-pocket with Empowered DPA?

How do I apply?

If you’ve considered buying a home but don’t know where to get the down payment, this program is for you.

The program was created for those who make enough money to make the mortgage payment but don’t have the upfront costs saved.

You can apply with an approved mortgage broker. If you don’t know one, we can connect you with one now.

Connect with an Empowered DPA lender now.


  • Tim Lucas

    Tim Lucas will refrain from putting super cool stuff here to impress you. Ok maybe he won't refrain. He spent 11 years in the mortgage industry helping mortgage clients IRL, from first-time buyers to experienced investors. He purchased his first home at 26 with just $1,100 out-of-pocket and now owns real estate worth $2.4 million. Tim was the managing editor at national websites TheMortgageReports.com, MyMortgageInsider.com, and Home.com. Tim has been featured in publications such as Time, U.S. News, MSN, and more. Connect with Tim on LinkedIn and Twitter.