Most people know that a buyer raking in $250,000 a year and shopping homes priced around $900,000 probably can’t qualify for down payment assistance. But what they may not know is that buyers earning a household income of $115,000 looking for homes listed around $500,000 just might, at least in some markets.

A recent survey commissioned by NeighborWorks America found that 70 percent of U.S. adults are unaware of down payment assistance programs available for middle-income homebuyers in their community.

That suggests that there are many people out there who either aren’t buying at all when they could, are paying larger monthly mortgage payments than they needed to, or are settling for smaller homes than they could have afforded.

There are two common misconceptions about down payment assistance: that only poor people can qualify for it, and that it isn’t available to first-time homebuyers, said Douglas Robinson, a spokesman for the nonprofit, which promotes affordable housing and community development.

“That is not the case,” he said, and why it’s a no-brainer for real estate agents to familiarize themselves with local options.

“The value is they can strengthen their client’s ability to make a good offer,” Robinson said.

State and local housing finance agencies and nonprofit groups are popular sources for down payment assistance.

NeighborWorks said its network of nonprofits alone provided 6,000 people with more than $100 million in down payment assistance last year, and that they expect to distribute even more this year.

Other common sources of down payment assistance include lenders and even employers, Robinson said.

One tool for digging up information on down payment assistance programs is Down Payment Resource, which maintains a database of more than 2,100 programs that it makes available to buyers and sellers through its own public-facing website,, and to partners including Realtor associations, multiple listing services and lenders.

MLSs that partner with Down Payment Resource can integrate their listing data so that member brokers and agents can see which for-sale listings may qualify for assistance programs. A special icon identifying potentially eligible properties can also be displayed to consumers searching for homes on public-facing MLS and MLS member websites.

Twenty multiple listing services representing more than 335,000 professionals have partnered with Down Payment Resource allowing their member brokers and agents to search for and share eligible properties and programs with their clients by email, and invite buyers to enter their household information to help match them to programs and homes.

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