Alisha Hill never thought she’d be able to buy a house.

With Western Washington home prices surging, the idea of being able to save enough money for a down payment was daunting.

Today, though, Hill and her family have a home of their own thanks to a down payment assistance program through WaFd Bank called Smart Start Boost, one of several new down payment assistance programs available to potential homebuyers – who, like Hill, didn’t think they would qualify.

“I’m very grateful to have this [Smart Start loan] program to help me get into my home,” she said. “The loans I got approved for – and the amount I’ll be paying – is $50 less per month than my rent. There is always hope to be able to get your own home, even if you feel like you may not have the right job or the amount of money – there is always a way.”

Many potential homebuyers are simply not aware they exist or that they even qualify for special loan programs. For instance, WaFd Bank as well as many government programs offer unique programs specific to your household income and the location of where you are buying.

One of the key things to know, however, is that many of these programs, like WaFd’s Smart Start, are available to households that may even earn more than the area median income calculated by the federal government.  For instance, a household living in South King County that makes up to $175,799 may qualify for WaFd’s Smart Start program depending on the actual location and demographic data of the property they are purchasing.1

In fact, as Hill said, you never know if you will qualify unless you check into the programs. That’s why it is important for would-be homebuyers to research programs, talk to their real estate agents and visit their local bank to talk to a mortgage officer.

“Down payment assistance programs play a valuable role in helping people achieve homeownership, reducing financial barriers and fostering economic stability in communities,” said Mark Hatate, WaFd Bank vice president and community lending officer. “This is about more than just helping people who struggle to save enough money for a down payment. It is about helping people get a roof over their heads and start building equity and long-term financial stability.  Building wealth is not about renting, it’s about owning.”

There are plenty of perceived obstacles out there for people hoping to buy a house, but not all of those assumptions are true. And lenders like WaFd Banks are building specialized loan programs to help people who may not realize how close they are to home ownership.  

Common misconceptions include: Do you need an 800-credit score? Is renting cheaper? Do you really need a 10-20% down payment? Do I have to pay back the down payment assistance?

The answer to all of those questions is: not necessarily. 

Although credit score is important when it comes to buying a house, it isn’t everything. Banks like WaFd look at multiple factors, including where you’re looking to buy. 

And while renting might be cheaper in the short term, there is more structure in a fixed-rate mortgage payment. Rent can be dramatically raised, while mortgage payments tend to stay relatively stable with only property taxes and home insurance potentially going up.

And, most importantly, as far as down payments are concerned, generally the bigger your contribution the lower your interest rate will be. 

However, that shouldn’t stop you from trying to buy even if you don’t have a lot of cash on hand, as programs like Smart Start can get qualified income households into a house with as low as 1% down with no mortgage insurance.

Plus, while interest rates are relatively high at the moment, WaFd offers both low cost and no cost options to refinance if interest rates go down in the future.

Owning a home is more than just hype; an affordable home is the gateway to long- and short-term financial success. Long-term, you will build equity you can use in the future for just about anything (including, but not limited to, home improvement projects), while short-term you might be able to enjoy tax deductions2 and build wealth for yourself and your family. 

So when you see the cost of your favorite house on Zillow, don’t assume you can’t afford it without talking to your local WaFd branch first. They are here to help folks make buying a home a reality.

For more info, click here

(1Smart Start loan and Boost down payment assistance are available to middle income borrowers based on household income up to 120% of FFIEC area median income if they are purchasing a qualified owner occupied residence in a majority / minority or low to moderate income census tract.  All loans subject to credit approval, additional terms and conditions may apply.  Restrictions apply.  Ask your loan officer for additional details and qualifications.)

(2Always consult your tax advisor to determine if you qualify for tax deductions.) 

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