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

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;; 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

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 ( 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 (  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  Local organizations also offer home buyer assistance (including the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit Program) as well, such as the Housing Opportunities Commission ( and The City of Gaithersburg (

Copyright© Dan Krell

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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.

When will move-up homebuyers return to the housing market

by Dan Krell
© 2013

Move-up home buyers missing from housing recovery; when will move-up home buyers return to the housing market?

home for saleI recently came across an interesting article about “move-up” home buyers online titled, “Move-up Buyer Provides The Base For A Recovering Housing Market.” The piece, published by the Chicago Tribune, is not unlike the many articles you might find today about the missing move-up buyer in the housing recovery. However, this article is different – it was published August 17, 1985 (article can be found here:

The striking similarities between the current housing recovery and a real estate market that was recovering from one of the deepest modern recessions up to that time (during the early 1980’s), includes home buyer behavior and economic concerns. And of course, the affected move-up buyer sector and the dearth of inventory appear to be familiar.

Home buyer behavior doesn’t have seemed to have changed much as many would-be home buyers are trying to time their purchase with the market bottom. At that time, like today, interest rate pressures are helped home buyers decide to jump into the market; additionally, then like today a significant number of buyers were first time home buyers. Downward pressure on mortgage interest rates, combined with the fear of rising rates affected home buyers to get off of the fence. However, peek mortgage interest rates averaged about 15% in the early 1980’s.

Another similarity between both periods is the missing move-up market. The typical move-up home buyer is sometimes described as a home owner who decides they need more space, which results in the sale of their smaller home and the purchase of a larger home. Then like today, the move- up home buyer was the missing piece to the housing recovery; the move-up home buyer provides much of the housing inventory that first time home buyers seek. However, it seems as if a “psychological barrier” (as described by the Chicago Tribune piece) holds back many move-up buyers today as it did in 1985. During the current housing recovery, many potential move-up buyers have remained in their homes.

Like other housing recoveries, one of the main issues holding back the move-up buyer is housing appreciation. During an early recovery, home owners may have a difficult time rationalizing buying a larger more expensive home when the new home could depreciate the first year of ownership, let alone the thought of a perceived loss of equity in their current home.

As home prices stabilize it would be reasonable to think that there will be an increased presence of the move-up home buyer. A good example of this was in the housing recovery that took place during 2003-2004. At that time, low mortgage interest rates helped first time home buyers back to the marketplace, and the move-up buyer sector took off relatively quickly when rapid home appreciation was realized. Of course rapid home appreciation was a function of “easy money” that generated real estate speculation that produced the “go-go market” of 2005-2006, the housing bubble, and the subsequent financial/housing crises.

The similarities of a post recession housing recovery might indicate there is currently progress. However, the move-up home buyer sector may be one of the final pieces to the recovery puzzle; and until the move-up home buyer presence is felt in the marketplace, we may yet to endure a few more years of “recovery.”

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published the week of April 1, 2013. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2013 Dan Krell.