RALF helps homebuyers with down payment

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— Routt County residents can buy a home without saving for a down payment.

Down payments on mortgages typically range from 10 percent to 20 percent, which typically means the homebuyer has to save for months or years and then shell out all those savings at once. To help those who have difficulty saving to buy a home -- or even believing they can -- the Regional Affordable Living Foundation has a new program that makes the down payment for them using a low-interest loan.

"The good news is, if you can get out of your debts, you don't have to save money for a down payment -- this is your down payment," RALF Board member and Treasurer Kathi Meyer said.

With a fixed 5 percent interest rate, monthly payments on the maximum down-payment assistance loan of $10,000 can be as low as $65 if spread over the maximum term of 20 years.

The program is possible because of a federal grant awarded to Routt County and RALF. RALF received the $90,000 federal grant, which is administered by the Colorado Division of Housing, to help low- to middle-income Routt County residents make down payments.

In the application for the grant, RALF Director Ellen Hoj said she requested $250,000 the program, but staff at the Colorado Division of Housing recommended that RALF try to administer a smaller amount first.

"This program is 'use it or lose it,'" Meyer said. "It's important we allocate all the money, so we can get more to help more people. Our goal is to get this money spent in the community."

Monthly payments made to RALF for the down-payment assistance program will go back into the fund to help more people, Hoj said.

Prospective homebuyers must meet several criteria to qualify for a down-payment assistance loan:

n The home being purchased must be in Routt County and cannot be a mobile home on a leased lot.

n The buyer must not have owned a home in the past three years.

n The home must be used as a primary residence, not a rental.

n The borrower's net worth must not exceed $250,000, and the borrower must have a minimum of one year of job history and good credit.

Another stipulation is that a borrower must attend a homebuyer class before obtaining the loan. RALF sponsors such a class to help prospective homeowners adjust to the change from renting to owning and to realize the responsibilities that come with ownership, Meyer said.

"This is a great program," Hoj said. "But the problem historically in Steamboat is that there is nothing to buy. This is mostly for people wanting to buy townhomes or condominiums, or houses outside of town in Hayden, Oak Creek and Stagecoach."

For more information on RALF's down-payment assistance program, call Meyer at 870-8976.

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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