Real Help for First-Time Homeowners

Real Help for First-Time Homeowners

With housing prices continuing to climb higher throughout the country, first-time home buyers are finding it more difficult to afford a home. And the price increases are expected to continue at least through 2020.

The latest Reuters poll of nearly 45 analysts taken May 16-June 5 showed the S&P/Case Shiller composite index of home prices in 20 cities is expected to gain a further 5.7 percent this year. In addition, the analysts forecast prices will rise 4.3 percent next year and 3.6 percent in 2020. With rents rising, too, many individuals and couples seeking to buy their first home have fewer options working in their favor.

But all is not lost. There are plenty of resources available to help you qualify for homeownership. Here are a few recommendations on how to get started:

Contact a Nonprofit Housing Counseling Agency. Many of these organizations offer personalized pre-purchase counseling and education workshops that teach prospective homebuyers everything they need to know to qualify for a mortgage loan. Topics include how to shop for a house, qualify for financing, select a REALTOR®, post-purchase maintenance obligations, how the closing process works and how to save for a down payment.

People completing a counseling session or an all-day, eight-hour workshop will usually receive a certificate that qualifies them for down payment assistance programs in many states. Make sure to work with an organization approved by the US Housing and Urban Development. To explore which agencies offer these workshops, visit

Down Payment Assistance Programs Available from Local & State Governments. These programs provide funds for low- and moderate-income people to purchase their first home. In Georgia, first-time borrowers may qualify for $5,000 in down payment assistance. Applicants for the Georgia Dream Homeownership program must have a minimum middle credit score of 640, must meet income and purchase price limits and must have limited liquid assets. To learn more, go to

One way to find programs like this near you is Down Payment Resources
( By entering just a few pieces of information, it will show you programs in your area that you may be eligible to receive.

Low Down Payment Mortgages through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Both of these government-sponsored enterprises offer a conventional mortgage loan with a down payment as low as three percent for first-time buyers or lower-income home buyers. Payments can come from a variety of sources, including family, employer-assistance programs and secondary financing. And there are no income limits in underserved areas. To find out more, visit

In the meantime, what can a person do to improve their chances of qualifying for a mortgage loan?

Check out HLP.Guru. This new app, created by nonprofit organization HLP, is a practical way for people to address their credit and debt issues to qualify for a mortgage loan. Using analytics, HLP.Guru can help people understand how to build their credit score and how much money is needed for a down payment.

In addition, a "guru" – a housing counselor with a nonprofit counseling organization, is available to help a person build a financial plan that will lead to qualifying for a mortgage loan. Visit the app at

Here’s a good example of how it works. Finance of America Mortgage is providing HLP.Guru free for six months to people who applied for a mortgage loan, but were declined for a variety of reasons. Finance of America helps these people by staying in contact and encouraging them to make improvements that will lead to a new mortgage loan. Once a person has attained a credit score that qualifies them for a loan, the company contacts the customer and lets them know they will begin to process their mortgage application.

Mark Cole is Chief Executive Officer of HLP, a nonprofit mortgage technology company based in Baltimore. HLP’s web portal is a one-stop technology solution to help homeowners nationwide ensure that critical documents from distressed homeowners reach mortgage companies. To find out more about HLP’s services, visit