Nearly 9 out of 10 U.S. homes could qualify for down payment assistance programs when homebuyers also fall within maximum income limits, according to a study by data aggregator RealtyTrac and Down Payment Resource.
The analysis compared estimated home values with maximum price limits for 2,290 down payment assistance programs tracked by Down Payment Resource, and concluded that more than 68 million homes would qualify for down payment assistance if buyers were also eligible.
Income limits vary by market, and the study did not address the total funding capacity of down payment assistance programs. But Down Payment Resource said 91 percent of the programs it tracks have funds available to help eligible buyers, providing $11,565 in assistance on average.
According to the analysis, at least one down payment assistance program is available in every U.S. county, and more than 2,000 counties have more than 10 down payment programs within reach of prospective buyers.
More than half of down payment programs (54 percent) take the form of low- or zero-interest second mortgages issued either by an HFA (housing finance agency) or nonprofit organization. Payments on second mortgages may be deferred or forgiven incrementally for each year the buyer remains in a home. In a typical scenario, that could reduce the amount of cash needed to close from $20,000 to $200.
Other major types of down payment assistance include first mortgage loans with below-market interest rates or 100 percent financing; mortgage credit certificates (MCCs) that provide up to $2,000 in annual tax credits for the life of a loan; and Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) loans and grants earmarked for communities hard hit by the housing bust.
Many would-be homebuyers mistakenly believe that they don’t have the dough to buy their dream home because they’re unaware of down payment assistance programs. That’s particularly true for middle-income U.S. adults, 70 percent of whom are clueless about local down payment assistance that might be available to them, according to a recent survey commissioned by NeighborWorks America.
Down Payment Resource makes the information about assistance programs it tracks available to buyers and sellers through its own public-facing website, DownPaymentResource.com, 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.
As of last fall, 20 multiple listing services representing more than 335,000 professionals had 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.