You’ve saved, you’ve planned, you’ve dreamed, and now you’re finally ready – it’s time to buy your own home! Buying your first home is incredibly exciting, but the process can also be daunting and expensive. You have to pay moving costs and closing costs, not to mention somehow scraping together a massive down payment.
If you’re buying a house in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, you may be eligible for some first time homebuyer assistance. Read on to learn more about the Montgomery County First-Time Homebuyer Program and how you can qualify for these grants.
What Is the Montgomery County First-Time Homebuyers Program?
Buying a home for the first time can be expensive, especially if you’re trying to save a 20 percent down payment and afford closing costs. When you buy later homes, you can use some of the equity you’ve built in those homes to cover those expenses. But when you buy your first home, you’ll have to pay those costs out of pocket or roll them into your mortgage.
The Montgomery County First-Time Homebuyers Program (MCFTHP) aims to help households with low to median incomes afford these expenses. The program is administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development and provides grant funds to first-time homebuyers. You have to purchase a home in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in order to qualify.
The amount of money you get through the MCFTHP depends on how much money your household makes per year. In addition to your basic income (which we’ll discuss later), the application also looks at any household assets you may have. And the assistance amount is based in part on the cost of the house you plan to buy.
First-time homebuyers can get up to 10 percent of the purchase price of their new home from the grant, with the grant maxing out at $10,000. There is zero interest on this grant; the money is not a loan and only has to be repaid under certain conditions. The grant is aimed at bringing new residents into Montgomery County and revitalizing the area.
In order to qualify for a MCFTHP grant, you have to meet a few eligibility requirements. First and foremost, you must, of course, be a first-time homebuyer. As we’ll discuss more later, this doesn’t necessarily mean you must never have owned a home before in your adult life.
Because the grant is aimed at low- to median-income residents, your household must have an income lower than the area median income (more details about that later). You must intend to use the property as your primary residence, and you must be able to qualify for a mortgage. Applicants must have at least $3,000 in liquid assets at the time of the application.
You do have to be a full-time Montgomery County resident at the time of your application. You can also be employed in Montgomery County, and you have to go through a counseling program before you close on your home.
Your household income limits will depend on how many people you have in your household, especially if you’re supporting dependents. If you live by yourself, your income must equal or be less than $52,950 a year, gross. If you have two people in your household, your combined income cannot be more than $60,500 per year.
Households of three people can have a total combined income of no more than $68,050. Households of four or more people have to have a combined gross income of $75,600 or less. It’s important to note that this income includes money earned by minors age 15 or older.
Terms of the Grant
We already mentioned that grants through the MCFTHP can’t exceed $10,000 and are given on an interest-free basis. And while this money is not a loan, it does come with certain stipulations. If you fail to meet these terms, you may have to pay this money back to the grant program.
You have to stay in the home you buy through this program for at least fifteen years if you want to avoid repaying that money to the grant. You can’t sell, convey, grant, or otherwise transfer the house to another person, and you can’t move to another primary residence. You also can’t use the property as an investment or income-producing property and avoid repayment.
If you meet the eligibility requirements for the Montgomery County First-Time Homebuyers Program, you’ll need to submit an application through the Department of Housing and Community Development. You can visit their office on the third floor of 1430 DeKalb St in Norristown, PA. You can also call them at (601) 278-3540 to get an application.
You have to submit your application and meet all the listed requirements before you put an offer in on a home. You can’t apply after you’ve already put a deposit down or entered an agreement of sale. You’ll also have to pay a non-refundable $25 fee at the time you submit your application to the Department of Housing and Community Development.
Are You a First-Time Homebuyer?
We mentioned that you can qualify for the MCFTHP even if you’ve owned a home before in your life. As it turns out, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a pretty broad definition of a first-time homebuyer. Of course, anyone who has never bought a home in their adult life will fall into this category.
A first-time homebuyer can also be someone who hasn’t owned a home for three years prior to their new purchase. Single parents and people who worked in the home and are now living on their own can also qualify, even if they previously owned a home with their spouse. And people who have previously lived in a non-permanent home such as an RV or a van can also qualify as first time homebuyers.
Other First-Time Homebuyer Assistance
If you meet any of these qualifications to be a first-time homebuyer, your available assistance doesn’t stop with the MCFTHP. Owning a home is a central part of the American dream, and there are a lot of government programs that incentivize and support first-time homebuyers. You can qualify for low-down-payment loans and other programs that ease the burden of down payments and closing costs.
The HUD administers the American Dream Downpayment Initiative, which covers part of your first down payment. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency can also help you to cover your down payment and closing costs through other state-wide programs. You’ll need to work with the PHFA to determine which programs in your area you qualify for.
First-Time Homebuyer Tax Breaks
One of the biggest financial advantages of being a first-time homebuyer is that you can get some serious tax breaks. For instance, you may decide to pull money from an IRA to cover your down payment and closing costs. The IRS may waive the tax penalties that usually come with early withdrawal if you meet certain requirements.
You may also be able to get a first time homebuyer credit on your taxes, both federally and in Pennsylvania, for the year in which you buy your house. You may need to file your homestead within a certain time period after closing in order to qualify for these benefits. Be sure to talk to your broker or lender about how to take advantage of these programs.
How to Start Looking for a House
When you get ready to buy your first home, the first thing you’ll need to do is to start learning the market in your area. Of course, you should be looking for a home that will suit you and your family. But you should also pay attention to how long houses spend on the market, how much they sell for, and how often new inventory becomes available.
Sit down and make a list of your needs, your wants, and your ideals for your new home. Your needs should include things like the number of bedrooms, any extra spaces you need, location requirements, and so on. Your wants list can include things that are important, but not deal-breakers, and your ideals list can include your best-case-scenario dreams for your home.
Once you find the perfect house that fits your needs and your budget, it will be time to put in an offer. Remember, you must submit your MCFTHP application before you reach this stage. Your application will not be accepted if you already have an accepted offer on a home.
Most buyers prefer to put in an initial offer somewhat lower than the asking price for the house. The seller will likely counter back with a middle-ground number, which you can accept or negotiate more on. Once you and the seller agree on a purchase price, the house will be under contract, and you’ll be ready to move forward with the home-buying process.
After you get the house under contract, you’ll have to get it inspected. This is incredibly important, not least of all because, depending on your mortgage type, your lender may require you to get one done. An inspection can also let you know about any major problems that may be lurking before you commit to buying the house.
If possible, go to the house with the inspector and accompany them through this process. Look for any major problems, such as structural issues, mold, roof problems, flooding, and so on. It’s also a good idea to make note of the smaller repairs that will need to happen in order to make the house safe and bring it up to code.
Once you have the inspection report back, you and the seller will likely go through another round of negotiations. It’s common for buyers to request that sellers make some of the repairs noted on the inspection report. Some sellers may choose to make these, while others may decide to offer a discount on the purchase price in lieu of repairs.
During this negotiation process, it’s a good idea to have a prioritized list of the repairs that are most important to you. Small problems like gaps in crawl space coverings or nonfunctional outlets may be easy to repair down the road. Instead, focus your efforts on getting larger problems addressed, either with repairs or with a lower purchase price.
How to Manage the Mortgage Process
Getting a mortgage may be the most intimidating part of buying a house for the first time. It’s important to work with a broker or a lender you trust and who can advise you as to the best type of loan for you. You may also want to do your own homework so you know ahead of time what sort of loan will give you the best terms.
It’s a good idea to apply for mortgage preapproval before you begin looking seriously at houses. This will give you an idea of how much you’re really looking at in terms of your budget. It will also help to simplify your mortgage process, which can be helpful when you’re trying to nail down a closing date.
Get First Time Homebuyer Assistance
Buying your first home is an exciting process, but it can also be incredibly expensive. The Montgomery County First-Time Homebuyers Program can help you to cover some of your down payment and closing costs. Check if you meet the eligibility requirements and contact the Department of Housing and Community Development to start your application today.
If you’d like to learn more about getting first time homebuyer assistance, check out the rest of our site at Nomadic Real Estate. We provide leasing, management, sales, and, most of all, peace of mind. Learn more about our real estate sales services today and discover a streamlined, stress-free buying experience.