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How do I buy a home?

The homeownership journey can look different for every household. Generally, the process follows six steps—prepare, search, offer, go under contract, go to settlement, and securing your home after you purchase. Regardless of whether you’re buying a house, condo, co-op, or apartment, the DC Government has resources to help you along the way. Each step involves different requirements: 


The Prepare phase: This phase helps you stabilize your finances so you are ready to buy a home. You could be working on managing your personal budget, saving for a down payment, or keeping an eye on your credit score. If you need help getting started, you can check out DC Government resources to help you get ready to buy a home.

The Search phase: This is when you'll figure out what you are interested in buying and what you can afford. You might begin to attend open houses, talk with a realtor, find a lender, or scroll through sale listings on your phone. If you need help, there are DC Government resources to help you buy a home


The Offer phase: You think you’ve found the perfect home! Make sure you review the homeowner association (HOA) bylaws (if you are buying a condo or coop) to make sure you know about any monthly fees you will need to pay in addition to your mortgage. Then, if all looks well, you make a formal offer to the current homeowner! Typically a realtor helps you prepare the offer paperwork. And then you wait for their decision… hopefully not very long!


The Under Contract phase: They said yes! The current homeowner has accepted your offer. During this period of roughly 30-90 days, you do things like have the home inspected, review condo rules, and move forward with securing your financing to buy the home.


The Settlement phase: You've made it! You go to a title company who walks you through the paperwork process with the bank and city to officially make the home yours. You’ve tied the knot and leave with the keys.

The After You Purchase phase: The home is yours! But the homeownership journey is only really getting started. You'll have to stay on top of mortgage payments and HOA fees (if applicable), as well as property taxes, save for home maintenance, address repairs as they come up, and complete estate planning. Luckily, the DC Government has resources to help you maintain your home, both physically and financially.


The full process is a little more involved than listed above. So, let’s get into the details. Keep in mind that we’re outlining the common steps of the home buying process, but your experience may be different. 

  • How do I apply?
    Email Capital Area Asset Builders (or CAAB), a nonprofit organization that partners with DC Government to run this program, at with the subject line “DC Opportunity Account”. If it’s easier, you can call CAAB at (202) 419-1440. CAAB will send you an application form. Send the form back to CAAB by email. You’ll also need to provide documentation, including your two most recent pay stubs and the most recent tax return for anyone in the household with income from working. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until the program has reached capacity. If there are no available slots, CAAB will put you on the waitlist. Applicants on the waitlist will be contacted when more funding becomes available.
  • What happens after I apply?
    Within 5 business days, CAAB will notify you by email to let you know if your application is accepted or not. If you’re approved, CAAB will schedule a time for you to meet or talk on the phone with a financial counselor. The financial counselor will provide advice tailored to you and work with you to name a goal for your savings. You will also need to sign an agreement for your participation in the program and complete a survey about your financial situation. CAAB will create a savings account with Citibank, owned by both you and us—DC Government. You will contribute at least $25 a month to your new savings account for 6-18 months. You can contribute in person at the bank or by setting up an automatic deposit from your paycheck. When you’re ready to withdraw the funds, we will match your savings with $4 for every $1 you deposit. You can save up to $1,500 over 6-18 months to receive up to $6,000 in matched savings, for a total savings of up to $7,500. You will use your matched savings towards the goal that you chose earlier in the process!
  • Are there any additional requirements I should know about?
    You must make a minimum deposit of $25 each month. You must contribute monthly to the savings account for at least six months within 18 months of opening it. You must receive financial coaching before withdrawing from your matched funds. You can take the money out of your account after you’ve reached your savings goal or if you are approved for an emergency withdrawal. Your savings must go toward: Purchasing a home in DC as your primary residence Launching a small business in DC for yourself or for your spouse, domestic partner, father, mother, child, or dependent Post-secondary educational costs, such as college, trade school, or other classes at an institution of higher education for yourself or for your spouse, domestic partner, father, mother, child, or dependent Job training costs with an accredited or licensed program for yourself or for your spouse, domestic partner, father, mother, child, or dependent Major repairs or improvements to the home you live in Costs associated with a medical emergency that aren’t covered by insurance Saving for retirement Paying for costs and expenses that come up during retirement
  • Who should I contact if I have questions?
    First, take a look at the frequently asked questions at the bottom of the page. If you still have questions, please reach out to Capital Area Asset Builders by phone at (202) 419-1440 or via email at with the subject line “DC Opportunity Account”.
  • I'm not eligible, but I need help with my finances. What should I do?"
    You can find information about other resources that might help on our [issue] resources page.
  • Frequently Asked Questions
    Is this a program run by the DC government? Yes. We—DC Government—partner with Capital Area Asset Builders, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create opportunities for individuals with low and moderate incomes in DC to build financial security. Can I make an emergency withdrawal from my account? Yes. You can make one emergency withdrawal while you’re saving in the account. If you need to pay for medical emergency costs not covered by insurance or for health insurance premiums in the event of a sudden, unexpected loss of income, you can make an emergency withdrawal that includes your own funds, as well as DC matching funds. These withdrawals do not need to be repaid, but you must resume regular deposits within 90 days. If you need to make an emergency withdrawal for another reason, including to prevent an eviction and to help with living expenses following loss of employment, you may withdraw your own funds only and must repay your account within 12 months. Is it possible to build credit using this account? No, unfortunately, because this is an account co-owned by you and us, depositing in this account won’t improve your credit score. I want to use my savings toward buying a home. Do I need to notify the program? Yes. You will need to live in the home, and it must be located in DC. Can I save more than $1,500 in the savings account? Yes. You can save more than $1,500, but the program will only provide a match of up to $6,000. Any funds that you contribute after the amount of $1,500 will not be matched. We still encourage you to save as much as you can! In addition to the match, will the money I put in the savings account earn interest? A typical savings account lets you store cash securely with a bank and earns interest on the money you save. This special savings account does not earn interest, but the match from us is much larger than the typical interest rate would offer. If I have participated in the program before and received a match, can I participate again? There is more interest in the program than spots available, so we are only able to accept applicants participating for the first time.
Homebuying Explainer Translations

Keywords: home buying, homebuyers, settle on a home, close on a home, put an offer on a home, find a home, homeownership, getting a home appraised, getting a home inspection, choosing homeowner's insurance

This page was last updated January 2023.

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