An analysis of homebuyer assistance programs available through state and local housing finance agencies (HFAs) and nonprofit groups around the nation found that 90 percent are funded, and that 70 percent of homes for sale could be eligible for one or more programs.

The analysis of 1,654 homebuyer assistance programs, by Down Payment Resource, found that Southern states had the greatest number of programs (598). But the 228 programs offered in the Northeast were the most likely to be funded — 96.5 percent had money to provide help to eligible buyers such as down payment and closing cost assistance, grants, tax credits, and affordable first mortgages with competitive or below-market interest rates.

A state-by-state breakdown shows California had the most programs — 283 — but that only 81.6 percent were funded. Hawaii had 13 programs, but only six were funded.

Funding for homebuyer assistance programs comes from sources that include mortgage revenue bonds and mortgage-backed securities. During the depths of the housing downturn, the lack of liquidity in bond markets made it difficult or impossible for HFAs to issue bonds, and many scaled back their programs and raised rates. The federal government helped revive the programs by buying securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac backed by new mortgage revenue bonds issued by the HFAs.

Down Payment Resource is a tool developed by Atlanta-based Workforce Resource that helps homebuyers and real estate agents providing services to them determine whether they, and homes they are interested in buying, qualify for down payment assistance and other homebuyer assistance programs.

The tool is available through the Down Payment Resource website, downpaymentresource.com, and about two dozen partner organizations, including 19 multiple listings services.

When MLSs integrate the Down Payment Resource tool with listings data, consumers shopping for homes on websites operated by the MLS and its member brokers and agents see a special icon next to for-sale listings that may qualify for assistance programs. Buyers are prompted to answer a few questions to see if they, themselves, are eligible for the available programs.

Three MLSs are launching Down Payment Resource tool this month, and all have a high percentage of listings that could be eligible for one more more assistance programs:

  • Corpus Christi, Texas-based Coastal Bend MLS (83 percent of listings eligible for one or more programs).
  • South Dakota-based Realtor Association of the Sioux Empire (75 percent of listings eligible).
  • Intermountain MLS (Eastern Oregon and Southern Idaho, with 87 percent of listings eligible).

Rob Chrane, president and CEO of Down Payment Resource, said buyers taking advantage of down payment assistance and other programs are able to apply savings to moving expenses, emergencies and retirement. Most assistance programs also require homeownership counseling, which has been shown to decrease the risk of default and foreclosure.

Although many programs are reserved for first-time homebuyers, anyone who has not owned a home in the last three years will typically qualify as a first-time homebuyer.

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