THE DREAM AMERICA PROGRAM

HOW IT WORKS

Apply and get pre-qualified in 5 minutes. It’s free to apply and won’t impact your credit score. Provide income and savings documents to the Dream Team to get fully approved

Pick any home listed for sale in available cities. Dream America will purchase that home and lease it to you for 12 months

You can cancel the lease penalty-free and buy your home at any time! There is no minimum rental period when you buy

If you still aren't ready to buy at the end of the lease, don't worry! As long as you have been paying your rent on time each month, you can renew for another year




REQUIREMENTS

  • 500+

    500 MINIMUM
    CREDIT SCORE

  • $4,000

    $4,000 MINIMUM
    MONTHLY INCOME

  • 50%

    50% MAXIMUM
    DEBT-TO-INCOME

  • 12+

    12+ MONTHS OF
    ON-TIME RENT
    PAYMENTS

  • $5,000+
    CASH

    Savings, 401(k)
    or gift


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the Dream America Program?

The Dream America Program offers aspiring homeowners the opportunity to pick any home available for sale in their community within an approved budget.  Dream America then buys the home you select and leases it to you until you qualify for a mortgage. 

Dream is not involved in selecting your home.  The process of selecting a home is virtually identical to the traditional process that you would go through if you had already qualified for a mortgage.  The difference is that once you find your home, Dream America will buy it and lease it back to you for 12 months.

During your lease, you will follow a personalized plan to mortgage-readiness.  As soon as you qualify for a mortgage, you can cancel the lease penalty-free and buy your home! 

WHAT ARE THE STEPS INVOLVED?

1) Joining the Dream America Program is a personal decision. Please read the Program guidelines to decide if it’s right for you

2) Apply and get pre-qualified in 5 minutes!

3) Provide supporting income and savings documents to the Dream Team

4) Once approved, pick any home for sale in your community that fits your budget.  We buy new construction and re-sale houses and townhouses

5) Dream America will put an offer on the home you select.  If our offer is accepted, we will order a professional home inspection. The inspection report will be shared with you

6) Make required payments to Dream America and sign Program agreements

7) Closing and Move-in!

8) Buy your home from Dream America as soon as you are ready.  We are not a lender, but will help you with the mortgage process

What are the minimum requirements?

+ FICO score of 500

+ Household pre-tax income of $4,000/month (applicant + co-applicant, if any)

+ $5,000 cash available from savings, 401k or gift

+ Debt to income ratio including Dream rent up to 50%

+ 12-month track record of paying rent on-time

+ U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident Alien

Please note, meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee approval.  Our underwriters will review verified income against your payment obligations (car, credit card, etc.) to see what you have available for a housing payment.  Underwriting will also review your credit history to see if any problems are behind you or you are having trouble meeting current obligations.  

DOES A PRIOR BANKRUPTCY OR FORECLOSURE DISQUALIFY ME?

No!  We have seen it all. For a bankruptcy, you must wait 12 months after the discharge date before joining the Dream America Program.  For a foreclosure or deed in lieu, you must wait 24 months.  

Does a prior eviction disqualify me?

No.  As long as your eviction is more than 12 months ago, you are still eligible for the Dream America Program.

I haven’t filed tax returns that are due / I owe taxes. Does that disqualify me?

Not automatically, but it will weigh heavily on our underwriting decision.  In order to be considered, you will need compensating factors such as higher income and savings to qualify.

Is there a criminal background check?

No.  When you apply for a mortgage, there is no criminal background check.  And we are trying to get you ready for homeownership. 

How much cash do I need to join the Dream America Program?

For houses up to $250,000, a minimum of $5,000 from savings, 401k plan or gift from a family member is required in order to be considered for the Dream America Program.  If cash to join is coming from a gift or 401k, you must also have an average bank account balance of $2,000 over the prior 2 months.  Higher home prices require at least 2% cash available (i.e. $6,000 on a $300,000 home).

Please use this calculator to see how much cash is needed for the house you want.

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Please remember, you will also need to pay the 1st month’s rent when you move-in (see calculator above to estimate your rent payment). So add that on to your funds available checklist.
When do I need to have this cash available?

Payment is immediately due once Dream America has an accepted offer on the home you select (or prior to signing a contract for new construction).  You cannot start the Dream America home search process unless you have funds available.  If you are obtaining funds from a 401k or a gift from a family member, please discuss that with someone on the Dream Team during the application review process.

I want to get into my Dream home, but I don’t have the required cash. Do you make exceptions?

No.  The first step in reviewing your application is verifying you have the cash available needed to join the Program.  If you don’t have the minimum required cash to join today, please establish a savings plan and apply in the future.

How do I Apply?

Click here to start the application process:

http://www.dreamamerica.com/apply

After I Apply, how long does it take to get approved?

After you apply, the Dream Team will review your application and ask you to submit supporting documentation showing income and cash available.  Once all requested documents are submitted, you should receive an answer within 2 business days.  Please note, If your application is declined, you must wait 90 days before re-applying.

What Neighborhoods and Houses Are Available with the Program?

Dream America is available in select major metro areas in FL, GA and TX. 

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Dallas, TX
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Orlando, FL
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Sarasota, FL
  • Tampa, FL

Once you qualify, you can go out with your agent and pick any home for sale near you in available cities. 

Which homes are eligible?

+ Asking price of $150,000 up to $400,000

+ Single family home or townhouse (no condo or manufactured homes)

+ New construction or resale

+ Homes built or renovated in the last 15 years.  You are responsible for maintaining the home and the last thing we want you to have is big repair bills!

We order an inspection on all homes before we purchase them and share the report with you.  We then ask the seller to make any necessary repairs. 

How Does Renting from Dream America Work?

Rent is determined by house price, property tax, HOA fees and insurance costs, not by neighborhood.  Dream America charges the same rent on a $200,000 house anywhere in Atlanta, Jacksonville, etc. adjusted for property tax and HOA.

To state the obvious, rent is more expensive than your cost of ownership once you obtain a mortgage!  That is why we offer a penalty-free early lease termination when you buy your Dream home. 

Use this calculator to estimate your rent:

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Does any of the monthly rent go towards my purchase?

Yes!  10% of rent paid will be applied as a closing credit towards your purchase of your Dream home if all rent payments are made on time.  We make this easy for you by collecting rent automatically from your bank account on the 1st of each month.

Can I afford the rent on the house I want?

Great question!  We want to see all of our clients become homeowners.  But first you need to be able to afford the rent, pay your other bills on-time and build some savings.

Please use this calculator to see what rent budget you may be approved for:

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Do I have to pay first and last month’s rent before I move-in?

No.  You will only pay the first month's rent before you move-in.  

What fees are involved in The Dream America Program?

You will pay an onboarding fee equal to 1% of your home price as soon as we are under contract to buy the home you selected. 

Who maintains the home?

You are responsible for maintaining the home during the life of the lease and thereafter once you purchase it.  Please remember, we order an inspection before we purchase the home and share it with you.  If you aren’t happy with the condition of the home, we won’t purchase it.

As an additional benefit, we insure your home comes with a home warranty, covering appliances, electric, HVAC and plumbing repairs. 

Can I make cosmetic improvements to the home?

Absolutely! You are free to upgrade the landscaping, paint the walls, install new carpet, etc. in your Dream home.  Major construction involving structural changes is not permitted.  You need to buy your Dream home first.

Are pets allowed?

Yes, pets are allowed but they must be listed in the lease.  A non-refundable $250 pet fee will also apply.  Certain pets may be excluded due to insurance restrictions or community standards.

Can I renew my lease and purchase contract?

Yes.  While we want to see all of our clients purchase their home in the next 12 months, you may renew your lease and purchase contract if needed.  At the time of the renewal, the rent and future Purchase Price will both increase by 5%.

Please note, if you pay your rent late two or more times during the initial lease (or Dream files for an eviction even once), the renewal option is void.

Buying My Home. And What if I Don’t Buy?

How does the contract to buy my Dream home work?

The contract to buy your Dream home requires an upfront earnest money payment of at least 1%.  This payment is credited back to you when you purchase your Dream home. 

I need to increase my credit score. Will Dream America help me?

All Dream clients will be given a roadmap to help them build their credit during the life of their lease.  In addition, clients must sign the Dream America Pledge which includes steps to increase mortgage-readiness.

What if I decide I am not going to buy my Dream house at the end of the lease?

Dream America is not a try before you buy program.  We are focused on helping people that are serious about homeownership. If you are not 100% committed to becoming a homeowner, please look for another alternative.  However, if after renting for 12 months your plans change and you decide not to buy the home you can ask Dream America to sell it.  If we are able to recoup our costs, your earnest money will be returned after the house is sold.

I’m a vet eligible for a VA mortgage. Does this reduce my upfront payment?

No.  A VA mortgage has no down payment, but you still have closing costs including a VA fee.

How is the future Purchase Price determined?

The longer you continue to rent from Dream America, the more you will pay when you buy your Dream home.  If you buy your home in the first 6 months, you will pay 6% more than Dream America’s Acquisition Price (the price today including Dream America’s closing costs).  Thereafter through expiration in month 12, you will pay 10% more.

Is Dream America a good deal?

That depends on many factors.  The best alternative for you may be to continue to rent and wait to buy in the future once you qualify for a mortgage.  But if housing prices continue to rise, you will pay more in a year than you will today.  Maybe your lease is ending and you need to move now.  And you want to move into your Dream home that you select.  Not just another rental.  Moving to another rental also means that you will have to move twice in the next year – now and when you qualify for a mortgage.  Dream America eliminates the cost and hassle of that extra move.

Also, you should know that Dream can probably get a better deal today than you can on the home you select.  We buy houses with no financing contingency and close in 2 weeks.  This makes us more attractive to sellers and generally allows us to get a better deal.  The less we pay today, the less you pay in the future. 

What if I still can’t qualify for a mortgage in 12 months?

Dream America is not a mortgage lender and acceptance into the Program does not guarantee future mortgage-approval.  However, as part of the approval process, your application is reviewed to see if there is a path to mortgage-readiness over the next 12 months.  If there isn’t one, we won’t accept you.  However, we understand circumstances change.  Things happen.   That is why your lease contains a renewal option so that you can rent for a 2nd or even 3rd year if needed.

What if the house doesn’t appraise for the Purchase Price when I want to buy?

As described above, your Purchase Price is set when your lease begins.  We don’t have a crystal ball and don’t know what the appraisal will be in the future.  In order to bridge any gap, you can first use the 10% rent closing credit (see above for details).  We will also ask the mortgage lender to contribute towards closing.  If that doesn’t close the gap and you need to contribute additional funds due to a low appraisal, Dream America will match your contribution.  For example, if the appraisal is $5,000 below your Purchase Price, your rent closing credit is $1,500 and the lender contributes $1,000, you will still have a $2,500 shortfall ($5,000 - $1,500 - $1,000).  In this example, Dream America would contribute $1,250 to the shortfall and you would contribute $1,250.

Are there any closing costs?

Dream America pays all upfront closing costs which are then included in the Acquisition Price.  You will pay all closing costs when you qualify for a mortgage and purchase your Dream home.  You can get an estimate of closing costs from a mortgage lender. Please note, your down payment requirement plus closing costs will exceed your upfront earnest money payment to Dream America.  It is very important that you save additional funds during the life of your lease.

I Don’t See My Question!

Dream America strives to be 100% transparent with our clients and partners.  If you don’t see your question here, please call us at (800) 433-6565 or send us an email at dream@dreamamerica.com.