Getting a mortgage loan isn't always easy: Some borrowers with enough income might not have high enough credit scores to qualify for a loan. Others might be able to handle that monthly payment but might not have enough savings for the down payment that lenders require.
Fortunately, several states and cities offer programs designed to help potential buyers come up with the funds they need for a down payment. Others offer programs that allow buyers to qualify for a mortgage even if their credit scores are less than spectacular, as long as they have a steady job and enough income to afford their monthly payments.
Here are some examples of the home-buyer assistance programs now available throughout the United States.
Detroit Neighborhood Initiative
In April, Detroit and Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America unveiled the Detroit Neighborhood Initiative. This program provides homebuying assistance to people who don't have high credit scores but who have a steady income and have been current for the last 12 months on their bills.
"We know the desire to renovate these houses and rebuild our neighborhoods is there" said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan when announcing the program. "What we haven't had is enough lenders willing to take a chance on our city to show what's possible. That changes now in a big way."The program offers 15-year and 30-year fixed-rate loans at below-market interest rates to people buying homes in which they plan to live. Buyers do not have to provide a down payment, and are not charged closing costs or fees. Lenders don't consider credit scores when deciding who gets and doesn't get a loan through this program.
The program also provides buyers with extra funds to cover the costs of rehabilitating the homes that they buy.
Homebuyers Assistance Program, Sioux Falls
Home buyers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, can take advantage of that city's Homebuyers Assistance Program, which helps low- and moderate-income households cover down payments and closing costs. This program, since its debut in 1998, has provided loans to more than 750 first-time buyers.
To qualify for assistance, applicants must not have owned a home in the last three years and must have a gross household income that does not exceed 80 percent of the city's median family income. Applicants must also be current with their bills.
Those who qualify can receive a maximum of $5,000 as a no-interest deferred payment loan. Homebuyers only have to pay back the loan when they sell their home.
Down Payment Assistance, Michigan
The Michigan State Housing Development Authority offers down payment assistance that comes in the form of a second mortgage and must be taken out as part of the authority's existing MI First Home or MI Next Home first-mortgage program.
The program, available to low- to moderate-income homebuyers, provides down payment assistance of up to $7,500. To qualify for the program, buyers must have a FICO credit score of 640 or above and must take a homebuyer education class.
Neighborhood Stabilization Program, Chicago
The Chicago Neighborhood Stabilization Program provides financial assistance of up to $35,000 for those buyers whose annual gross household income is at or below 80 percent of the city's Area Median Income. The program provides up to $25,000 in assistance for those households with an annual gross income from 81 percent to 120 percent of the Area Median Income.
HOME Homebuyer Assistance Program, Illinois
The HOME Investment Partnerships Program of the Illinois Housing Development Authority provides buyers up to $10,000 for down payment and up to $2,000 in closing cost help.
These funds come in the form of a deferred forgivable loan with an interest rate of 0 percent.
The program also allows buyers to request a combination of purchase and rehabilitation assistance. Those who do can receive up to $40,000 in financial assistance, with buyers required to use some of these funds to cover major improvements to the homes they are buying.
Homebuyer Assistance, Arlington, Texas
The City of Arlington, Texas, offers its own Homebuyer Assistance Program that provides $7,500 in down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers.
To qualify, buyers must have gross annual household incomes that don't exceed 80 percent of the Area Median Income.
The program also provides up to $10,000 in assistance for buyers with a disabled person living in their household or who are buying homes in areas targeted for revitalization.
In Your Area
This is just a sampling of the programs available to potential buyers. Buyers should always call their city or state to check on whether these programs still have the funds they need. Many run out of assistance dollars before the end of the year.
Make sure you're ready for a loan
These homebuyer assistance programs are great resource. But buyers should be careful: You don't want to stretch to qualify for a mortgage loan only to discover that you really can't afford those monthly mortgage payments. It's why financial professionals say that buyers study their finances carefully before seeking assistance through one of these state or city programs.
And those new homeowners who do find themselves struggling to pay their mortgages? They should seek help as soon as possible.
"We always tell people, if that mortgage payment is becoming too much of a burden, if you're struggling to pay it, call us as soon as possible," said Kevin Murphy, senior financial services consultant with McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union in East Windsor, N.J. "Don't stick your head in the sand. The problem will not go away by itself."