By Veronica Sandate Craker
The first-time homebuyers tax credit may have expired, but there are still a number of options for house hunters entering the market for the first time.
Nationally first-time home purchases are down, but locally, Windermere Tri-Cities realtor Wayne Langford says numbers are steady.
“With the strength of the Tri-City economy and job market, most first-time buyers today in our marketplace have the assets and income necessary to buy a home without the need of government assistance,” Langford said.
Numerica Credit Union Sales Manager Adrian Smasne said one of the biggest hindrances for first-time homebuyers is being uneducated about the process.
“When they come to me I do a lot of training,” he said. “Education is the biggest thing because you hear on the news, ‘Oh you can’t buy a house without 20 percent down.’ It’s not impossible. You can get a house. It’s just getting the client to the right person and helping them get to the next level.”
According to the National Realtors Association, the number of first-time home buyers rose in 2012 when compared to 2011. Interest rates reached record lows and prices were affordable, making home ownership an attractive option.
“What I can say is that with interest rates being as low as they are, people who are currently renting see that their house payment can be cheaper than rent…not counting the benefits of tax deductions, appreciation, etc., and they’re making the move to home ownership,” said Langford, who is also settling into his new position as the 2013 president of the Tri-Cities Realtor Association.
First-time buyers can still take advantage of the Federal Housing Authority’s 3.5 percent down payment program.
In addition, each of the Tri-Cities has a down payment assistance program available through the city, Smasne said. First-time homebuyers must meet certain qualifications, including being U.S. citizens, having steady employment and the need for financial assistance.
“First-time home buyers struggles aren’t too much different from repeat buyers,” Langford said. “Some have been saving for some time and are prepared for their purchase. Others may find it difficult to come up with down payment money. The establishment of credit, not having a long history of credit, is a more likely hindrance.”
Smasne suggests buyers enroll in first-time homebuyers classes to learn about the home buying process before shopping around.
“It is a scary thing for first-time homebuyers,” Smasne said. “We try to take that out of it by educating them.”
He suggests that first-time buyers seek out a good loan officer from a reputable company and ask any questions they might have.
“Some of these programs can be cumbersome, adding delays to closing, payback penalties or restrictions on residence and sale,” Langford said. “But for those that can use the help, there are some really great programs available.”