First time home buyer assistance

home for sale

Are you a first time home buyer worried, overwhelmed, or intimidated by the process? You’re not alone.  First time home buyers have had the most difficulty getting back into the real estate market after the Great Recession.  Many would-be first time home buyers lack the financial resources, while others worry about the long term value.  However, there is probably no better time than now to buy your first home.

This is a first time home buyer market

first time home buyer
First time home buyer assistance (infographic from mgic.com)

You may be one of the many would-be first time home buyers who opted to continue to rent or live with their parents until the timing was right.  Many would-be home buyers did the same, as a 2106 Pew Research Center report pointed out the millennial housing trend that may be associated with the decline in the homeownership rate since the Great Recession (For First Time in Modern Era, Living With Parents Edges Out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds; pewsocialtrends.org; May 24, 2016).  However, economic factors have significantly improved, and the housing market has stabilized.  So what’s holding you back?

Are you overwhelmed or intimidated by the home buying process?

First time home buyer
First time home buyer (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

Buying a home can seem intimidating, and overwhelming.  But it doesn’t have to be. On the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale (Holmes & Rahe 1967), having a mortgage over $10,000 rates 31 (just above being foreclosed upon) and moving is rated as 20. This commonly used stress scale is cumulative, so the rating for buying a home is at least 51. However, being prepared can help you anticipate and deal with most circumstances that may arise.

Finding a professional and competent Realtor who will “be” with you throughout the process is highly important.  Of course, finding an agent whom you trust can be a process too.  It’s important to know your agent will be there for you, not only to answer questions and resolve your concerns, but to also represent your best interests.

What are your expectations?  Your home buying expectations are influenced by your experiences.  However you are also influenced by a combination of the media, relatives, friends, and co-workers.  Having very high and unrealistic expectations can not only increase your stress, but can but a wrench in the transaction before it starts. Discussing your expectations with your Realtor will determine if they are realistic or not.

Choosing your Realtor

Before deciding on the realtor you want to work with, informally talk to several about how they help first time home buyers.  Unfortunately, home buyer surveys (such as the annual National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (nar.realtor)) suggest that the majority of home buyers and sellers typically hire the agent they first encountered.

Besides assisting in home searching and negotiating sales contracts, your agent should be by your side throughout the transaction.  Your agent should be available to you to help you maneuver the bumps and surprises that can derail your home purchase.

Even though you may not place an agent’s experience high in your list of agent characteristics,  a research study by Bennie Waller and Ali Jubran (“The Impact of Agent Experience on the Real Estate Transaction.” Journal of Housing Research 21, no. 1 (2012): 67-82) suggests otherwise.  They concluded that an experienced real estate agent can yield a better result than an agent with little or no experience.

Check your agent’s license.  Make sure your agent is a full time agent (meaning that the only job they have is selling real estate).  Don’t be shy about asking and calling your agent’s references.

First time home buyer down payment and closing cost assistance

If affordability, down payment and closing costs are a concern, apply for a first time home buyer assistance and/or grant program.  There are many programs available offered through local and state organizations. Your lender can help you find and apply to the programs for which you qualify.  Regular communication with your loan officer is important because the funding is limited annually and can quickly run out.

Locally, one of the mainstays for first time home buyer assistance is the Maryland Mortgage Program (mmp.maryland.gov).  The MMP is provided through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, and funded by the Community Development Administration.  It is described as “…providing home loans and down payment assistance to Maryland’s working families to encourage responsible homeownership and build strong communities, working through a network of Maryland Mortgage Program lender organizations.”

MMP loans are just like other mortgages, except that they offer competitive rates and offer additional assistance in the form of Down Payment Assistance and Partner Match Programs (up to $8,500 from the Department and possibly more from partner organizations).  Some Partner Match programs offer homebuyer grants.  However, other Assistance programs are generally in the form of deferred, no-interest loans.

Combining Down Payment Assistance with a Partner Match program can significantly reduce the amount you need to buy your first home!  The Down Payment Assistance program is a loan of up to $5,000.  The loan is a zero-percent deferred loan, which is repaid when you pay off the main Maryland Mortgage Program mortgage when you refinance, or sell the home.

Department of Housing and Community Development has partnered with many organizations and employers that can provide you with additional assistance.  Your current employer may be a participant with the Partner Match program (check the Partner list at mmp.maryland.gov).  Local organizations also offer home buyer assistance (including the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit Program) as well, such as the Housing Opportunities Commission (hocmc.org) and The City of Gaithersburg (gaithersburgmd.gov).

Copyright© Dan Krell
Google+

If you like this post, do not copy; instead please:
link to the article,
like it at facebook
or re-tweet.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Affordable housing redux

Affordable HousingStatistics and indices have indicated that buying a home has become more affordable in recent years. In fact, the October 2014 Trulia Rent vs. Buy Index indicated that buying a home was 38% cheaper than renting (trulia.com). Additionally, the S&P/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index released December 30th indicated that average home prices for the 10-City and 20-City Composites are at “autumn 2004 levels” (housingviews.com). However, while interest rates continue to be favorable along with an expanding inventory that offers more choices, obstacles remain to home ownership.

Unlike the high home prices that drove affordable housing concerns in the past, many would-be home buyers today face income and savings challenges. Statistics suggest that many do not earn enough to qualify for a home purchase and/or have not saved enough for a down payment and closing costs. The latest report (Q2 2014) of the Maryland Association of Realtors® First-time Homebuyer Affordability Index revealed a decrease in home affordability from 84.1% to 75.7%; which indicates that Maryland first time home buyers had 75% of the income required “to purchase a typical starter home” (mdrealtor.org).

More importantly, a survey conducted by the Consumer Federation of America (7th Annual Savings Survey Reveals Persistence of Financial Challenges Facing Most Americans; February 24, 2014, consumerfed.org), revealed that “most Americans are meeting their immediate financial needs but are worse off than several years ago.” And, “… that, despite the economic recovery, most Americans continue to face significant personal savings challenges….” Stephen Brobeck, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of America and a founder of America Saves, was quoted to say: “Only about one-third of Americans are living within their means and think they are prepared for the longterm financial future. One-third are living within their means but are often not prepared for this longterm future. And one-third are struggling to live within their means.

With an eye to address housing affordability, the President reduced the FHA annual mortgage insurance premium (MIP). Increases in FHA’s MIP in recent years have helped offset losses from the foreclosure crisis; and inadvertently made mortgages more expensive. And although the recent MIP reduction helps more home buyers qualify, critics claim it increases FHA’s risk and exposure to future foreclosure losses. According to Zillow (How Much Can You Save with Lower FHA Annual Mortgage Insurance Premiums?; January 7,2015, zillow.com), a home buyer who has a 3.5% down payment on a 30 year mortgage of $175,000 can save about $818 per year (about $68 per month).

For those who have not saved enough for a down payment and closing costs, State and local initiatives offer down payment assistance and low interest rate mortgage programs. The Maryland Mortgage Program (mmp.maryland.gov) offers down payment assistance in the form of loans, an employer match program, or financial grants. Locally, the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County (hocmc.org) offers several down payment assistance options, including the House Keys 4 Employees program for many Montgomery County Employees. These programs have restrictions; you should check with each program for qualification and eligibility requirements.

The Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (montgomerycountymd.gov/DHCA) offers additional affordable housing options: The Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) Program offers affordably priced homes to first-time homebuyers who meet the program’s eligibility; and the Work Force Housing Program promotes “the construction of housing that will be affordable to households with incomes at or below 120% of the area-wide median.”

© Dan Krell
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Buying a home when you’re short on cash

by Dan Krell ©2012
DanKrell.com

Buying a homeGiven how the lending industry has changed, it’s easy to understand that you might think you need perfect credit and a 20% down payment to buy a home. Although credit requirements have been tightened, buying a home with little or no money is still possible.

Yes, it’s true that the financial and housing crisis forced banks and mortgage lenders to re-think the idea of easy money. Sure minimum credit scores have been raised to qualify for a mortgage, and you better believe that increased underwriting scrutiny and due diligence is the rule (rather than the exception). But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a mortgage if you don’t have a lot of cash. Depending on your situation, you may find yourself comparing conventional loans to FHA and VA.

Conventional mortgages have been traditionally thought of as requiring a 20% down payment; however, you may obtain a conventional loan with as little as a 5% down payment. The misconception that a conventional mortgage requires such a high down payment may have stemmed from the fact that you need a 20% down payment to circumvent private mortgage insurance. Additional confusion about conventional mortgages arises from the distinct programs that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offer for specific home buyers. For example, Fannie Mae offers a mortgage for as little as a 3% down payment through their “HomePath” financing– but this is only available to purchase Fannie Mae owned foreclosures.

Conventional financing typically allows you to receive financial assistance in the form of a gift and/or seller closing cost assistance. The documented gift must be from a relative. Although gift guidelines for some conventional programs have recently become more lenient; generally, you may be required to have a “minimum borrower contribution” (from your own funds) as your down payment decreases. However, a minimum borrower contribution may not be required if your down payment is 20% or more. Seller closing cost assistance may be limited depending on your down payment.

Buy a homeAs conventional mortgage credit requirements became increasingly strict, more home buyers found that the FHA mortgage remained somewhat flexible. Certainly, buyers with credit dings found that FHA underwriting is more forgiving (provided borrowers provide substantiating documentation) than conventional; but another attraction to FHA financing is the low down payment. Although FHA increased the required minimum down payment- you may find that the current 3.5% down payment is still relatively low. Not having the 3.5% down payment does not have to deter you either; your down payment can be from a documented gift of funds. If you’re still short of funds, FHA allows the seller to assist with your closing costs (not to 6% of the sale price).

If you’re an eligible veteran or active duty service personnel, you may find that the VA offers a very good mortgage. As a benefit to your service, you could buy a home with no down payment (provided the purchase price does not exceed the VA appraisal of reasonable value and loan limits). Additionally, the VA allows the seller to pay your lender’s fees. Eligibility and other information can be checked on the VA website (www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/veteran.asp).

Even though mortgage options exist, program guidelines change frequently- so check with your lender about qualifying. One final word: be prepared to document everything and follow your lender’s instructions.

More news and articles on “the Blog”
This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of March 5, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector

Home buyer incentives in post tax credit era

Did you miss the first time home buyer tax credit?

by Dan Krell © 2010

So, you want to buy a home but you’re disappointed that you missed out on the first time home buyer tax credit. Don’t worry, what I’m about to tell you about available down payment and closing cost assistance programs may be enlightening. In some cases, the total down payment and/or closing cost assistance you obtain from all sources may exceed the $8,000 offered as the first time home buyer tax credit.

Although some of these programs sound too good to be true, they’re not meant to be kept secret. In fact, they are meant to assist as many first time home buyers as possible. Sources that offer first time home buyer assistance programs include mortgage lenders, local home ownership programs; and governmental sources.

Did you know that some mortgage lenders are offering first time home buyer assistance programs? Of course, lenders want your business; but as an incentive, they are offering first time home buyer downpayment and closing cost programs. One such program is extended through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta (fhlbatl.com). Local affiliated lenders offer FHLB’s first time home buyer program by providing matching funds up to $7,500 for down-payment and closing-cost assistance to low- and moderate-income homebuyers. FHLB should be contacted for availability, guidelines, as well as local affiliates participating in their program.

Locally, the Housing Opportunities Commission (hocmc.org) administers Montgomery County’s home ownership program. Besides making available special rates for an FHA mortgage, the HOC offers the “5 for 5” program; which extends down payment and closing cost assistance as a ten year second mortgage. The program provides the home buyer up to 5% of the purchase price (up to $10,000) at a 5% interest rate.

Maryland’s home buyer program, the Maryland Mortgage Program (mmprogram.net), is administered through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. The MMP is actually comprised of three programs. Besides making available the widely used CDA mortgage program, which offers low interest rate mortgages, the MMP also provides a down payment and closing cost program as well as partner matching contribution programs.

In addition to the Downpayment and Settlement Expense Loan Program (DSELP), which is a 0% interest loan up to $3,500, the MMP also includes partner match programs (The “Builder/developer Incentive,” the “House Keys 4 Employees” and the “Community Partner Incentive Program ”) that will match contributions up to $5,000. The matching contribution is a deferred loan to be repaid at 0% interest and is provided in addition to any DSELP funds.

Although the home buyer tax credit is now history, other opportunities exist for down payment and closing cost assistance. In addition to the programs mentioned above, you should remember to have your real estate agent negotiate a seller closing cost contribution ; most mortgages allow for up to a 3% seller contribution. However, you should check with your lender to see if such a contribution is allowed or if there are other limitations.

As you would imagine, taking part in lender and governmental programs require you to meet specific guidelines that typically include (but not limited to) the use of participating lenders, attending home ownership counseling, and meeting income requirements. For more information about these programs and qualifying requirements, you should contact their corresponding offices as program funding can be limited as well as subject to change without notice.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of May 17, 2010. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell.