Assistance Programs for First Time Homebuyers

by Alden Smith

Although many people can afford a mortgage payment and associated costs to owning their own home, the thought of coming up with a substantial down payment often stops them from taking the plunge. Charity organizations and federal institutions are available to these buyers to assist with this problem. We will discuss what can be done to assist the home buyer in need of financial assistance in this article.

What Are Assistance Programs?

Down payment assistance programs, both non- profit and federally run, help interested home buyers with procuring down payment on a home. The seller of the home assists the buyer by contributing a portion of sale proceeds to the home buyer at the time of closing. Because federal and state laws dictate that the seller cannot give the funds directly to the buyer, the assistance programs provide a work around so that the sale stays within federal guidelines. The gift amount is determined by the type of loan that is being applied for.

How Does This Work?

This is what happens - the seller enrolls the home in a down payment assistance program. They will contribute the amount the buyer needs for closing. A fee applies here. When buyer and seller go to the closing table, the assistance program that the seller has enrolled in then wires the needed funds to the selling agent. By law, the seller can have no part in the transfer of any funds.

What Agencies Can Help?

The best source of funding comes through the Federal Housing Authority (FHA). The FHA is a branch of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which was created in 1965. The prime responsibility of the FHA is to administer government home loan programs. Because the loan is insured by the FHA, the lender is protected in case of default.

The FHA also looks at debt to income ratios differently. The standard in the lending industry is a debt to income ratio of 28/36%, but the FHA has a standard of 29/41%. This offers the buyer with less than perfect credit an advantage.

The FHA also works with people on however many loans they wish to pursue. This is not just a one shot deal for consumers. A real disadvantage of an FHA loan is that there are limitations on the size of loan they will administer. This is not a disadvantage to people who are pursuing an FHA loan. People that require this type of assistance are not looking to buy a home costing $250,000.00. FHA guidelines are readily available by doing a search on the internet.

What Are Charitable Down Payment Assistance Programs?

There are other organizations that administer down payment assistance programs that are not run by the federal government. The most popular today are AmeriDream, Inc, The Nehemiah Program, and Partners in Charity. Whenever dealing with any charity organization that handles assistance programs, insure that they are members of the Home Gift Providers Association (HGPA). This watchdog organization has a list of ethics and best practice guidelines for down payment assistance programs.

If you are dealing with these charitable organizations, always ask questions as to their involvement in the community. Do they partnership with local businesses and organizations? Will they provide you with a current financial stability report? Ask them if they allow borrowers to use their contribution for paying off such things as bad debt or to settle judgments against the borrower. This is frowned upon by the HGPA. Try to find out if the organization gives kickbacks to local realtors or mortgage lenders. If you find that they do, then know that these institutions are less than trustworthy, and you probably shouldn't deal with them.

Be aware that HUD doesn't approve gift programs, but leaves it up to the mortgage lender to insure that the organization you are dealing with follows HUD guidelines as listed in HUD Handbook 4155.1 REV-4, CHG-1 Paragraph 2-10(C).

Other Issues

Be aware that the seller may inflate the selling price of the home you are interested in to recoup their fees that may be required to enroll their home with an organization. Check the prices of homes comparable to the home you wish to buy in the locale to see if there is a significant difference in the price of the home.

Although many people are discouraged by the requirements for buying a home, there are organizations that are available to help them through the process. Doing your own due diligence will go a long way to help you determine not only whether you are capable of paying a mortgage, but what costs and fees are necessary. Take advantage of the resources listed here to help you in buying your home.

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