With the sales price of homes in the area on the rise, many first-time homebuyers may struggle to come up with money for things like down payment which are based on a percentage of the home price. However, there are programs that provide assistance for qualified buyers who need a little help with closing costs.

Mortgage Sales Manager for First United Tonya Hudgins said the Southeast Texas Housing program provides assistance with closing costs or down payment in the range of 3 to 6 percent of the loan amount. Funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Hudgins explained some of the grants have income limits and are geared toward lower-income buyers. This means that borrowers who make too much may not qualify. Certainty Home Loans Branch Manager Vanya Griffith-Mayes said those who make upward of around $80,000 per year may still qualify for other programs.

“It’s really best if they contact a lender,” Griffith-Mayes said. “If they go online and see that they don’t qualify for one program they may give up. We are able to look at all of the programs available and find one that works for them.”

Hudgins added assistance programs are not only for first-time buyers.

“There’s currently a program for those that haven’t purchased a home within the last three years,” Hudgins said. “They really need to call a mortgage company and ask what programs are currently being offered. They are constantly changing.”

The Texas State Affordable Housing Corp. is another organization that provides down payment assistance grants. TSAHC specializes in assistance for teachers, police officers, corrections officers, firefighters, EMS personnel, veterans and low- and moderate-income households.

My First Texas Home is a program provided by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for Mortgage loans, down payment assistance and closing cost assistance.

Griffith-Mayes explained the programs vary in terms and availability.

“Some of the programs have the grant and it’s a gift that you don’t have to repay,” Griffith-Mayes said. “Some have it as a second lien and you pay back the lien when you sell the house. We have a ton of borrowers that use these programs to buy a house with very little money out of pocket.”

Hudgins went on to say many homebuyers are surprised to find buying a home to be less expensive than renting.

“It’s a big decision and a big investment,” Hudgins said. “They think they can’t afford a house but a lot of times you can. You can also get a gift or loan from a family member for the down payment. It’s easier than people think. If you can find the down payment, the Federal Housing Administration mortgage loans are a pretty easy program to use.”

Many grant programs go hand-in-hand with FHA loans.

Griffith-Mayes explained the market has slowed down and is currently seeing more motivated sellers.

“The market has cooled off a little bit so now is a really good time for buyers to come in,” Griffith-Mayes said. “It’s a great time for these buyers to come in and make offers on these houses. It’s hard in the spring and summer to negotiate. Right now is the perfect time for first time homebuyers and buyers that need assistance to go in and negotiate.”