Can you get special assistance or qualify for a low-cost mortgage based on the type of job you have? Does working as a teacher, nurse, police officer, firefighter or other career in public service let you qualify for special mortgage programs not available to other borrowers?

Well yes - and no. In reality, there are almost no mortgage programs specifically targeted at certain professions that aren't available to the general public. But that's not to say there aren't any - or that there aren't certain advantages that teachers, cops and other have when shopping for a mortgage.

A search on the Internet will easily turn up tons of special mortgage offers targeted at these professions. Searching for "mortgages for teachers" or "mortgages for nurses" will turn up page after page of mortgage promotions directed at these professions.

Stable employment = good loan risk

However, almost none of these are actually special mortgage programs designed for those professions. Instead, teachers, nurses, firefighter, police, professors, state employees and others in institutional careers share certain characteristics that make them attractive customers for mortgage companies - so many of them design special appeals aimed at people in those jobs.

What those careers share are stable employment prospects and income. Unlike salespeople, factory workers, managers or others in the private sector, people in institutional jobs tend to be at very low risk of being laid off or fired - and often stay with the same employer for many years. Their incomes tend to be stable as well, unlike, for example, a salesperson or small business owner.

All this makes them very safe candidates for a mortgage loan. And that's what can enable you to get attractive terms on a mortgage, rather than a special program aimed at your profession.

HUD Good Neighbor Program

One major exception to this rule is HUD's (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) Good Neighbor Next Door Program. This program does offer huge discounts for K-12 teachers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and emergency medical technicians who purchase HUD properties in specific areas.

The incentives are considerable. The program allows you to purchase a home at 50 percent off the appraised value with only a $100 down payment. The catch is that the property has to be a foreclosed home reclaimed by HUD and located in a "designated revitalization area." These areas tend to be less desirable than other areas, with elevated rates of vacant properties and crime, but are considered potentially attractive to young people looking for areas that may rebound.

Purchases can be with an FHA, VA or conventional mortgage. You can also qualify for additional funds for repairs or improvements through the FHA's 203(b) or 203(k) loan programs.

Job-specific credit unions

Another, indirect way you can get a special mortgage deal based on your profession is to join a credit union. If you're a teacher, state worker, police officer, medical worker or in any of a wide range of other careers, there's very likely a credit union in your area serving your profession. And these may provide more attractive mortgage terms than you can get going through the commercial market.

Some teacher credit unions, for example, still allow mortgages with only 5 percent down or loan-to-value refinances at up to 95 percent. However, credit unions tend to be state-specific and vary widely in the terms they offer.

The one career for which you can find many specific mortgage and mortgage-assistance programs is if you're a military veteran. The VA, of course, has its own mortgage program and many states offer down payment assistance and other mortgage programs that are either open to just veterans or give veterans special consideration. But a detailed look at those would merit a whole separate article of its own.

Published on January 5, 2016