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Ask the Lender

Each quarter we feature a mortgage lender answering some of the most commonly asked questions about purchasing and refinancing a home. If you’d like to submit a question for this column, email

Mary Ann George

Mary Ann George

VP Loan Originator
MLO #554356

"What are my options as a first time home buyer?"

If you are a first time home buyer the process can seem downright overwhelming. You may have a lot of questions such as "How much can I afford?" and "Are there any programs that can assist me with the purchase of my home?"

The first thing you should do is schedule an appointment with a loan officer. The loan officer will review your financial situation and advise how much you can afford to spend on a home and what mortgage loan programs you may qualify for. Usually you want to keep your housing ratio around 28% of your gross income and 41% of your total debt. By going to the bank first you can get pre-approved for a loan which will help in making an offer on a home. This way the seller knows you are a serious buyer and will be more likely to consider an offer you make on the property.

There is a special program available once a year to aid home buyers called Welcome Home. These funds will be available beginning March 3, 2014. This is a $5,000 grant that can be used toward the down payment of a new home. There are income requirements that must be met to qualify for this grant. This grant does not need to be repaid. There is a 5 year stipulation that you must live in the property for 5 years for it to be 100% forgiven. The funds are limited so it is on a first come first serve basis. You do need to a have a purchase agreement for a new home in order to get registered for the funds. The process of this loan may take a little longer, but usually will be done in 45 days.

Some other sources of down payment may also come from your local government. Check the phone directory for your local office of housing and community development. If you don't find any information there contact the mayor's office or your county executive's office to see what options may be available.