December 13th, 2011 9:42 AM by Sherry Lee
Sherry Lee is a mother, business owner and real estate investor and has lived and worked in Palm Beach County since 1979.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent those of BIZPAC Review, its management, staff or advertisers.
The phrase “help for homeowners” has different meanings for different people. If you bought your home between 2003 and 2008, you likely need help with a loan modification or short sale. If you are a home buyer in this market, you need help getting a loan. And if you are a fully vested homesteader, you just want your value to stop going down.
Well, I know of some programs that just may provide the help we all need right now. One plan is called “Relocation Assistance” and is being offered by several large banks. It gives eligible Florida homeowners between $5,000 and $50,000 cash at closing and waives any deficiency. Although not perfect -- credit scores will still take a hit – it removes the major barriers of sellers dragging their feet, not being able to afford the cost of moving and the fear of a deficiency judgment following them for decades. The program seems to target loans acquired during the bank mergers following the 2008 market collapse. Bank of America is trying to purge Countrywide loans. Wells Fargo is purging World Savings and Wachovia loans, and Chase is closing out Washington Mutual loans. If you have been trying to decide what to do and want more information on this program, contact me or any Realtor who specializes in short sales to discuss your options.
Another very exciting program comes from the Palm Beach County Department of Housing and Community Development in the form of $14 million in grant money for home buyers who need help obtaining financing. Credit scores can be a little lower, 600 minimum, and there is second mortgage money of up to $50,000 for closing costs or down payment assistance, or if the property needs rehabilitation. Successful applicants cannot currently own a home, must have household income of up to 120 percent of area median income*, and reside in the home as their primary residence.
First mortgage interest rates are fixed for 30 years at 4 percent (4.9 percent APR), and second mortgage interest rates are at zero percent and run concurrently to the first mortgage loan for 30 years. The second mortgage loan does not have a monthly repayment requirement, but the home must remain the principal residence of the applicant for the life of the loan. Eligible dwellings must be foreclosed, abandoned or vacant residential properties located within one of the county’s Urban Redevelopment Areas or the Glades Regional Target Area.
The eastern URA boundaries are generally described as Community Drive to the north, the Lake Worth Drainage District L-14 Canal to the south, I-95 to the east, extending to various points west as far as Jog Road.
The western URA encompasses the municipalities of South Bay, Belle Glade and Pahokee and the unincorporated area of Canal Point. And the GRTA added nine census tracts: 80.01, 80.02, 81.01, 81.02, 82.01, 82.02, 82.03, 83.01 and 83.02.
Of course, as with any government program, certain conditions must be met. But this one is worth the effort because it goes to the root of the problem. Agents have buyers, and we have an abundance of well-priced homes, but in the absence of traditional financing, the market is left to investors and cash buyers. In order to stabilize neighborhoods and home values, we need homeowners who not only own the homes, but live in them and actually care about what happens there.
I am not an advocate for government interference in markets, and I am usually critical of government handouts, i.e. grants. However, since government helped Wall Street confiscate our homes and our wealth with its faulty legislation, and since government benefitted from the higher property taxes, and since it will be the recipient of billions in fines if/when the big banks settle, government appropriately must return “our” money back to the communities it helped destroy. As a homeowner, as a Realtor and as a small-government conservative, I say $14 million is a good start.
Realtors, home buyers and sellers are encouraged to contact Sherry Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about these two programs.
*FY 2011 Area Median Income (AMI) $63,300