The answer to this question may seem obvious. Of course a first-time homebuyer is just anyone who is buying a home for the first time, right? Well, not exactly. What the phrase is actually referring to is someone who is eligible for a given first-time homebuyer program, usually a lender’s loan program. The lender doesn’t care whether it’s your first time buying or not, only whether or not you are eligible for the loan.
It’s not entirely misleading, though. At least for the criterion related to homeownership, those buying for the first time would qualify. But even that criterion is slightly different; it commonly only requires that you not have owned a home within the prior three years. Moreover, there are multiple other qualification criteria for first-time homebuyer loans. They usually include requirements for down payment, credit score, proof of income, employment history, and a maximum debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Typically, the down payment requirement is between 3% and 20%, the minimum credit score is 500 for FHA loans or 620 for conventional loans, two or more years of employment are required, and the DTI ratio must be no more than 43%. These numbers, as well as the specific criteria, could vary, both by region and by lender.
For more information as well as information about specific first-time homebuyer programs, see: https://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/who-qualifies-first-time-homebuyer