May 27, 2010
Down Payment Assistance Programs (DPA’s) for First Time Home Buyers
By: Michael A. Foote, CMB
There is money available for first time homebuyers today. In a much needed addition to financing products available today, down payment assistance programs are available once again. Down Payment Assistance Programs are generally a local, state or federal grant or bond program designed to assist certain persons with certain income levels in certain areas, with money that can be used for down payment and closing costs on many purchase loans.
These tax free grants or loans are generally forgivable provided the buyer stays in the home for a designated amount of time. And these dollars can dramatically change the amount of money required for closing when these first time homebuyers buy a home. For example, a typically FHA borrower may have to come up with over 4-7% total of the sales price whereas a borrower with a WISH down payment assistance program may only need to bring in 2-3% total. That’s a huge amount of money on a several hundred thousand dollar transaction. If you amortize out that difference the savings are literally tens of thousands of dollars since most closing costs are financed in the new mortgage.
So what does the process with “DPA” look like when compared to the regular loan process. Quite frankly, it’s seem less to the user insofar that the lender will generally have to deal with the additional hoops during the process. For the borrower/buyer they probably wouldn’t know the difference. The only real difference is a potential for a slightly longer loan processing time.
So is DPA a good idea? Well, lately it has been a challenge for Realtors to get clients using FHA let alone FHA WITH Down Payment Assistance so an argument could be made that using DPA on an Offer to Purchase could be a determining factor for the seller’s side when these choose the offer to open escrow with.
The only cure for this pitfall will need to be more product on the market for properties up to the $400,000 range as DPA generally have no purpose and no qualifying borrowers as the sales price rises and/or in areas of high per capita income.
Undoubtedly, DPA has a place in today’s financing landscape and those of in the industry are happy to have it, it is one more additional tool to increase homeownership for low to mid income families. And this product will help sell the forecasted shadow inventory rumored to be lurking around the corner. Only time will tell if that come to fruition or not.
These programs are not free from abuse, there have been in the past scams related to DPA and officials, lenders, and large institutions have really scaled back what is allowable as DPA. Also economics play into the availability of these from all the time. There are many DPA’s completely drained of funds. One bank, Pacific Mercantile, where I work, has two great programs and there are more out there. When consulting your mortgage banker, make sure you inquire into available DPA programs by city, county, state, and federal levels.