County Housing and Special Project Manager Andrew Harnden
It just kicked off last month but already the Homebuyer Assistance Program has garnered a lot of interest.
The Homebuyer Assistance Program is funded by the County and the Los Alamos Housing Project (LAHP) administers the program. Funds for the program became available Nov. 15 and so far, there has been 17 people who have met with LAHP Program Manager Steve Brugger.
Housing and Special Project Manager Andrew Harnden said the program has enough money to assist eight to 10 households for the first year.
Although there has been a lot of inquiries, Harnden said one application has been submitted. However, “We expect that before long there will be more households contacting Steve (Brugger) to meet with them,” he said.
“We feel good about the program. It’s definitely off to a good start,” Harnden said.
Brugger agreed; “The response has been really good.”
If an application is approved, then the program will provide $8,000 to $25,000 in a deferred payment, non-amortizing for the homebuyer to use towards a down payment on a home, Harnden said. He explained the homeowner does not need to make any payments unless they move out of the house or sell the home. At that point a lump sum would be due back to the County.
“Depending on the applicant’s income, there may be interest on the loan but it’s very low interest,” Harnden said, adding there could also be zero interest.
To apply for the program, applications can either be accessed at losalamoshousingpartnership.org or by going to the LAHP office at 1475 Central Park Ave. Suite 220. In addition to the application, there is a checklist applicants should refer to.
Harnden emphasized anyone interested in applying to the program should meet with Brugger early in the process. Brugger said he can help interested homebuyers go through the application. He added he will work with homebuyers’ budget to make sure when they make their house payments there is still money left over.
Brugger said the whole goal is for the homebuyer to be successful. “Their success will be our success,” he said.
Besides a completed application, homebuyers need to have a letter from a mortgage lender that shows they are pre-qualified for a mortgage loan. Completed applications are evaluated by a loan review committee which is made of community members with a background in housing or construction. Harnden said the committee reviews loan applications and they will recommend approval of the loan to the County Manager.
When looking for a home, Harnden said the program will assist with any form of housing: apartment, condo, townhouse, a detached house or manufactured home as long as it has a permanent foundation and can pass a home inspection.
In this program, timing is everything. Harnden said, “One of the most important things about this program is we approve loans fast enough so that the homebuyer can close with a Realtor on a home sale.”
In fact, being timely with approving applications in one of the main factors that will determine the program’s success, Harnden said. The other is having enough affordable and suitable homes on the market.
Both Brugger and Harnden said the program offers a valuable service to the community.
Harnden pointed out that “there are a lot of people with steady incomes, but they can’t save enough money for a down payment and mortgage companies want the down payment to give a loan.”
He added, “That was the rationale for creating this program.”
Brugger said the Homebuyer Assistance Program “is extremely valuable.” The majority of interested applicants who Brugger has spoken to are first-time homebuyers. He added he has talked with single parents and young families. Brugger said more than half live in Los Alamos and one-third live outside of Los Alamos but work here.
He offered a few tips to potential applicants on how to be successful in the program. First, Brugger recommended applicants check their credit score. This will allow those who need to, to improve their score, which will help with their application. He added applicants who have credit card payments, car payments and other loans under control tend to have more success in the program.
Brugger also urged people to give the process a try. A lot of people think homeownership is unattainable, so they don’t pursue it. “I would encourage them to at least go over with me (the application) … if you don’t try it can’t happen.”