AUGUSTA – The home mortgage market continues to undergo significant changes, but affordable programs are available to help Maine families make the dream of homeownership a reality.
And now might be a good time to act on that dream, according to MaineHousing Director Dale McCormick.
“We have all witnessed the impact of the recession on the housing market, but responsible homeownership continues to be a great opportunity,” McCormick said. “A number of independent studies show the substantial social, family, and community benefits of homeownership. A home is where a family feels safe and comfortable, where they develop friendships with their neighbors and take pride in their homes and neighborhood, and where they create memories for a lifetime.
“There is a plentiful supply of housing for sale, prices are reasonable, interest rates have remained low, and we are entering peak home buying season in June ― National Homeownership Month,” McCormick said.
One program that makes homeownership feasible is MaineHousing’s First Home program. In addition to offering low fixed rates, little or no down payment is required for mortgages that are insured by through the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), USDA Rural Development (RD), and the Veterans Administration (VA).
More than 12,000 Maine families currently live in a MaineHousing-financed home, including more than 900 Maine families who purchased homes through the program last year.
The First Home program is good for Maine. Local financial institutions do the loans. MaineHousing purchases the loans and holds them in Maine. “The servicing is local, too,” said McCormick. “MaineHousing recently moved 6,000 loans to an in-state servicer. And we created 7 new jobs in Maine.”
MaineHousing mortgages also come with the Gift of Green -- an option that provides borrowers with a grant of $2,000 to help pay down payment and closing costs, and a $500 gift coupon for a two-part home energy audit.
“A home energy audit can identify opportunities for significant cost savings through home energy improvements. As those improvements are made, the result is a more affordable and more comfortable home,” McCormick said.
MaineHousing loans also come with four months of mortgage payment protection for eligible borrowers who lose their jobs.
“This program extends a helping hand by buying time for people to get back on their feet without risk of defaulting on their house payments,” McCormick said.
Many national lenders have increased fees and raised credit score requirements for borrowers, making it more difficult for many people to obtain a loan. MaineHousing’s focus is different. An added benefit is that most MaineHousing loans are serviced in state by established financial institutions staffed by Maine people.
MaineHousing’s First Home program is available to first-time homebuyers (defined as people who have not owned their principal residence in the past three years), and is available to active or retired military personnel whether or not they have owned a home before. Income and home price limits apply, but most Maine households and homes are eligible.
McCormick noted that MaineHousing’s program also includes other options that can make home buying easier, such as the Purchase Plus Improvement (PPI) option that allows homebuyers to borrow money for the home and up to $35,000 for repairs and improvements (including energy efficiency improvements) in a single loan.
Purchase Plus Improvement has proven to be an attractive choice for buyers of bank owned properties that may have been vacant for an extended period and have not received routine maintenance or need repairs.
Susan of Brunswick used the Purchase Plus Improvement option to make homeownership possible for her.
“I was very excited about your program,” Susan said. “The (homebuyer education) classes I took … were very informative and helped me understand the whole process better. The Purchase Plus Improvement option helped me buy the necessary appliances and repairs needed for the roof. I am retired, and without this program I could not have afforded to buy a home.”
MaineHousing mortgages are offered through a statewide network of nearly 40 participating lenders. For a list of lenders and for more information, visit MaineHousing’s website at http://www.mainehousing.org/homeloan, or call MaineHousing at 1-866-223-8881 (1-800-452-4603 TTY).