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With home prices and mortgage rates as low as they are, a lot of people are considering becoming first-time homebuyers. Unfortunately, many of them are discouraged by a perceived need to come up with a hefty down payment.

While the free-money days of the housing boom -- when virtually anyone could get a mortgage with little or no money down -- are long gone, there are still ways for qualified borrowers to get a mortgage with a small down payment. And qualifying may not be as difficult as you think. In fact, if you know where to look, it's still quite possible to get a mortgage with no money down.

Here's a look at the major options. Note that these options are not affected by the new mortgage rules issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Jan. 10. Those rules set certain standards for borrowers' financial qualifications for getting a mortgage, but the size of the down payment was not among them.

FHA mortgage

The Federal Housing Administration is the first place most new homebuyers should look when contemplating a low-down-payment mortgage. The FHA requires a down payment of as little as 3.5% -- with attractive mortgage rates and credit requirements that are fairly generous as well.

The downside of an FHA mortgage is that the fees -- actually FHA mortgage insurance -- can add up. Currently, borrowers pay a one-time fee of 1.75% of the amount borrowed as an upfront mortgage insurance premium at the time they take out the loan. In addition, there's an annual insurance premium of 1.20% to 1.25% on 30-year mortgages.

So in the first year, you can end up paying nearly as much in mortgage insurance as you paid for a down payment. However, you can roll the cost of insurance into the loan, so you're paying it on a monthly basis over time, rather than having to come up with it all at once, as you would with a down payment.

Interest rates on FHA mortgages also tend to run a bit lower than those on conventional 30-year home loans, which helps balance out some of the cost of the insurance premiums. If you had a conventional mortgage with a down payment of 5% to 10%, you'd still have to pay private mortgage insurance annual premiums of 0.78% to 0.90% of your loan amount, so the difference isn't as great as it might first appear.

VA loans

For veterans and others who qualify, a mortgage backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs is the best deal around. Not only is it one of the few ways you can still get a mortgage with no money down, there's also no requirement for mortgage insurance, since that cost is picked up by the U.S. government. The interest rates also tend to run lower than on conventional mortgages, because the government is taking on part of the risk.

Generally, VA loans are available to all active-duty and honorably discharged members of the armed forces, including the Coast Guard and members of the National Guard or Reserve who served at least six years. Surviving spouses of service members killed in the line of duty are also eligible.

You do have to pay a funding fee of 2.15% of the loan amount if you take out a VA mortgage with no money down. However, that fee can be rolled into the loan amount, so you don't have to pay it upfront. You can avoid the funding fee entirely by making a down payment of at least 3.5%.

VA mortgages officially have no minimum credit score requirements, but in practice, the private lenders who handle VA loans will require a FICO score of 620 or higher.

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