Today’s homebuyers are doing significant online research before beginning their home buying search, yet there are still many misconceptions about home financing and down payment assistance programs. Home prices, along with down payments, are increasing, and assistance programs can help make buying a home as affordable as possible.
Are these common myths keeping you from investigating homebuyer assistance options?
Myth #1: Down payment assistance programs are only for first-time homebuyers.
First-time homebuyers are defined as someone who has not owned a home in three years. And, not all programs specify that you must be a first-time homebuyer. It’s important to know that assistance programs are for homebuyers, not investors. Most housing agencies will require that the home is occupied as a primary residence in order to qualify.
In addition, homebuyers purchasing a home in a designated target area (typically for revitalization efforts) may receive special benefits such as higher assistance amounts, more lenient income requirements and the first-time homebuyer requirement may be waived. Veterans are often eligible for a first-time homebuyer waiver, too!
Myth #2: Assistance programs are no longer funded.
There are many public and private-funded programs available. In fact, there are hundreds of millions of dollars in down payment assistance, tax credits, affordable fixed-rate mortgages and rehab loans available throughout the country.
Each program has a different funding schedule. Some programs are government-funded and are provided through municipal or quasi-government agencies or non-profits. Others are privately funded, and some are even sponsored by employers. Every state has a collection of programs at the state-level, and hundreds of markets around the country offer local assistance as well.
Watch this four-minute video to learn about the three most common types of homebuyer programs.
Myth #3: It’s difficult to qualify for homebuyer programs.
There are many options and opportunities. The key is doing research early in the home buying process as well as reviewing the application criteria.
To qualify for an assistance program, the homebuyer and the property will have to meet certain criteria, which vary by program. Standard criteria include property location, type of home, sales price limits, household income thresholds, and homebuyer education certifications. There are often additional benefits, or even entirely separate programs, for educators, protectors, health care workers, veterans of the armed forces, and households with disabled members.
Down Payment Resource gives homebuyers the opportunity to answer a few simple questions to determine if they may meet the basic qualifications for a program.
Homebuyers must also demonstrate that they are financially responsible. Assistance programs have credit score thresholds and cash reserve requirements. Most programs will require a little money down from the homebuyer, as well as homebuyer education, especially for first-time homebuyers, to ensure the long-term homeownership success of each new buyer.
Myth #4: Using a down payment assistance program makes home financing more difficult.
Homebuyer program administrators often train “participating lenders.” These are lenders who are qualified to write the loans associated with the programs and understand how to incorporate this special financing into the home loan without complicating or prolonging the real estate transaction. This is why it’s important for homebuyers to seek information about available programs prior to touring homes or even getting prequalified. A little homework upfront ensures a smooth, successful transaction down the road.
You can begin by visiting your state’s Housing Finance Agency website to discover available programs. You can also use Down Payment Resource to access the participating lenders for specific programs.
Down payment assistance can help boost homebuyers’ purchasing power, help buyers retain a solid cash reserve for home improvements and other moving costs, and revitalize our communities with more homeowners.