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Time running out on homebuyer incentive

Matthew Lane • Apr 15, 2018 at 8:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Thinking of buying a home? Don’t believe you have enough money saved up to cover the down payment and closing costs?

You might not know it, but there’s financial assistance available from the state that could help you with these expenses and bring you that much closer to owning your own home.

About a year ago, the U.S. Treasury Department had some additional money from Congress that was eventually divvied up among the states. Tennessee’s portion was about $60 million. Ralph Perrey, the executive director of the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, said his agency worked with the Treasury Department on how best to spend those funds.

What ultimately happened was the THDA was allowed to offer financial assistance at the zip code level. Basically, if you lived within a certain zip code — one likely hit hard from the Great Recession — then you could be eligible for assistance.

HARDEST HIT FUND

This financial assistance comes in the form of the THDA’s Hardest Hit Fund Down Payment Assistance program. It’s a long title with a great benefit.

Perrey said folks who qualify can apply for $15,000 toward a down payment and closing costs on the purchase of an existing home within the 37660 zip code. There are 62 designated zip codes located in 33 Tennessee counties that can apply for this program.

In Sullivan County, a one- or two-person family making $58,615 a year can qualify. If there are three or more people in the family, the threshold is $67,407.

“The down payment and closing costs ... that’s often the biggest hurdle for homeownership, especially for younger families,” Perrey said. “They’re making a mortgage, their credit is in reasonably good shape, but they’ve not saved up enough for closing costs. We can help you with that.”

And the money doesn’t come in the form of a grant, but rather a forgivable loan. It’s a second mortgage with a zero percent interest rate and no monthly payments for the 10-year term. The loan is forgiven at 20 percent per year in years six through 10.

BY THE NUMBERS

Since the program started last year, Perrey said the THDA has approved more than 2,100 applications. or about half the money available. In 2017, the THDA did four times as many loans as it did in 2016, an investment of more than $7 million.

By September, Perrey said, all of the money will likely be gone, which means if you’re still interested in buying a home, you might want to consider contacting the THDA.

“I think you build strength in communities not just with a financial investment, but with a daily presence of an invested homeowner. That’s what makes the difference,” Perrey said.

For more information about the program, visit www.thda.org and search for “hardest hit fund.”

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