Programs to Help Home Buyers

by Dan Krell (c) 2009.

Tempted by terrific deals but frustrated by lack of financing, many home buyers are holding back from jumping into the real estate market. However, home buyers who qualify for a mortgage find themselves held back because they do not have the funds for their down payment or closing costs. If you are considering a home purchase this spring but find that financing and personal funds are limited, a few options you may want to consider include the FHA mortgage, the Maryland Mortgage Program, and the American Dream Downpayment Initiative.

While conventional financing has been reduced by increasingly restrictive underwriting guidelines, the FHA mortgage has re-emerged and re-established itself as the mortgage of choice for many home buyers ( The FHA mortgage’s low down payment, flexible underwriting, and provisions for gift funds make it clear why it is a poplar way to finance home purchases:

First, even though the down payment requirement for the FHA mortgage increased to 3.5% last fall, it is still lower than most conventional mortgages. Compared to a 5% or 10% down payment conventional mortgage, a home buyer needs thousands less to purchase a home.

Second, if you experienced past credit problems you may find it increasingly difficult to qualify for a mortgage. However, FHA’s flexible underwriting allows home buyers to have had past credit issues with documented mitigating circumstances and sufficient re-established credit.

Lastly, if you are short on funds, the FHA mortgage will not only allow the seller to contribute up to 6% of the sales price towards your closing costs, a family member may gift you the amount you need for your down payment as well! Of course, the source of funds needs to be carefully documented, but the combination of seller assistance and family gift could allow you to purchase a home with very little money down.

Another home buyer program is the Maryland Mortgage Program (, offered through the State of Maryland’s Community Development Administration. The Maryland Mortgage Program includes several programs, when combined, can also allow you to purchase a home with little money down. First, the program offers mortgages through Community Development Administration (CDA) financing, which feature fixed, low interest rates. Second, the program offers the House Keys 4 Employees program, which matches contributions from participating employers (up to $5,000). And third, the program offers grant assistance through CDA for down payment and closing costs (either 2% or 3% repayable grant).

A final home buyer resource is the American Dream Downpayment Initiative (ADDI) offered through the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs. The program is a government subsidized down payment and closing cost program for first time homebuyers. Since funding is limited throughout the country, Montgomery County has specific eligibility guidelines.
Since each program may have specific eligibility requirements and funding limitations, you should check with the each program provider to see if you qualify; and although FHA guidelines are well established, you should check with your FHA lender for specific credit and underwriting requirements as you may find that many FHA lenders impose additional credit requirements and other limitations on top of the flexible FHA underwriting guidelines. Finally, because interest rates and fees vary from lender to lender, HUD recommends that you compare rates and lender fees.

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 February 23, 2009. Copyright © 2009 Dan Krell