This topic in all its variations: purchasing, keeping, repairing, affording home improvements, sorting out various mortgages and mortgage-related programs and more — is one that is constantly on our top three list.
Home prices are on the way up and rents are increasing alarmingly in many areas. There seems to be an epidemic of desperately needed home repairs in the U.S. Aging baby boomers on small fixed incomes are living in aging homes. Others are simply affected by the economy and jobless rates and home maintenance falls by the wayside in favor of basic food and shelter.
Though about $300 billion is spent on home repairs and remodels very year (per a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard), much more is needed. The National Center for Healthy Housing estimates that about 40% of homes in the U.S. have health or safety hazards.
Whether you are looking for a home, need a better place to live, want to buy a house, need help paying for rent, or need to do repairs or home improvements there is help out there for you:
Discover your program today!
Do you need help to come up with a down payment on a new home? Some grants are available but if you don’t qualify, what can you do? One newer development is the possibility of crowdfunding the cash you need. HomeFundMe is a crowdfunding platform that started in 2017. It lets you create a profile, tell your story and solicit funds from family and friends who are willing to lend a hand. There’s also a business called Loftium that twill pitch in up to $50,000 if you agree to rent out a room on Airbnb and share the income you receive. Discover more possibilities in Down Payment Assistance.
What About Land Grants?
Did you know that there are still several states which offer free property to people who apply who are willing to move to a particular town and build a new home. Applying is usually pretty easy and it could mean that you could actually have your own home on property that didn't cost you anything. Except, of course, you have to come up with the money or a loan to be able to build a home. But the home can be pretty simple and modular homes are generally acceptable as well. Discover more in Land Grants.
Update April 2018
There’s a new move being reported that could be good news for those needing low-income apartments to rent. A housing-finance business in New York has gotten together with government agencies to try and save and reinvigorate some low income apartments in the state of Georgia. The homes were built around 40 years ago with help from the U.S. Agriculture Department. The monthly rents are around $400 to $500 monthly. The homes are in disrepair but this program is injecting about $37,000 in repairs and upgrades for each unit. While similar activity is currently happening primarily in the southeast portion of the country the move could spread to help deal with the lower income housing crisis happening in many parts of the U.S.
You want the best for yourself and your family but it can be tough to find and afford. Some options turn out to be dead ends; others have long wait lists and look hopeless. Grants are in fact a rare commodity, though the good news is they do exist! And financial assistance are not rare.
If you hear about the government providing grants for housing you may wonder who gets those grants. These are called “HOME funds” or the HOME Investment Partnerships Program. For the most part they go to states and some local jurisdictions. Typically those groups then work with local nonprofits at the community level to help people with housing. The amount of money received is based on the federal assessment of the housing situation in a given locale, the level of poverty and the availability of the affordable housing supply.
Efforts are being made to increase the levels of funding for many programs related to housing grants. However, it’s rarely clear whether or when congress will settle on a final number or if that number will increase. In the meantime, knowing what programs are out there and how to find them - whether they relate to public housing, real government grants, or private nonprofit organizations - will put you way ahead of the game. Use this review to plan your “attack”, minimize your frustration, and maximize your results!
October 30 2017 Are you a Native American and a Veteran — or not Native American but are married to a non-veteran Native American — and looking for help to buy a home, or to repair or improve your existing home? Then you could be in luck. There is a program designed specifically for you called the Native American Direct Loan program. Your Native American group must be a participating part of the program and have signed a MOU (Memo of Understanding) with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs which documents the conditions under which the program operates on its trust lands. And the home (or desired home) must be on Native American trust property. There are some other eligibility requirements documented on benefits.gov. You should also talk with your local housing authority for more information about whether you may be eligible for these favorable loans.
June 2017 Update
An innovative partnership of private business (Google), local county government and non-profit foundations is working to help families who are threatened by homelessness due to continually rising rents in an already expensive area to live. Their collective grant of $3.5 million will be used to provide financial aid and other services such as mediation with landlords, counseling regarding finances, help with utility and security deposits and more. They project helping 200+ households with aid up to $5000 over a two year pilot program. They will also follow up periodically to see if they did in fact succeed in helping these families avoid becoming homeless. If the program is successful it could provide a model for helping families elsewhere.
News reports continue to come out about the strain being caused by increasing home rental rates, especially rents paid by those receiving federal or state assistance. Competition for vouchers and other subsidies is increasing even as funding dwindles. This situation makes it more important than every for you to be informed about assistance programs available for renting and what it takes to qualify. Check out Assistance for Rent to see a summary of each program and see what might work for you.
Fight Discrimination Do you feel you have been discriminated against while looking for housing? It is against US law to discriminate based on national origin, sex, race or color, religion, disability, or family status (i.e. having children). If you believe you have been a victim of discrimination you should get in touch with your local HUD office and/or file Housing Discrimination Complaint Form. You can find the form at HUD.gov.
A federally insured loan with just 3% down? Yes! The Feds’ Home Possible Advantage Program makes that possible. Counseling you can trust about buying a home and what you can really afford? Yes! Counseling is available free across the country. Homes for police, teachers and firefighters for 50% of the listed price? Yes! And the counselors know where. Help available from states that encourage home ownership? Yes — sometimes. Discover more in Government Grants to Purchase a Home.
Interested in buying a home that needs some repairs (often known as a “fixer upper”)? There’s a program that can help you with that! It’s known as 203(k) Rehab Mortgage Insurance. It allows you to get a mortgage that will finance your home purchase and the cost of the rehabilitation work you will have to do. Thus you won’t get charged the typically higher interest rates normally applied to fixer-upper type repairs.
Have you been anxious to buy but just haven’t been able to swing it? This could be a good time to pause and consider the possible benefits of renting a house. In an ironic twist, some of those who years ago made some big bets against the housing market are now raising funds to buy up houses to rent. Though home home ownership rates have gone down, the rental market is hot in many areas. And these new investment groups are targeting areas with strong demographics and optimistic economic trends. If that sounds like your area, you might want to keep an eye out for an increase in the supply of houses to rent at rates you can afford.
Manufactured Homes: Previously known as “mobile homes”, manufactured homes can be an economical option for those looking to own a home. And the government can help you here. HUD, the department of Housing and Urban Development, does provide loans for this type of home. The financing covers both paying for the home and putting that home on a permanent foundation. They have specific standards that must be met but they are definitely worth looking into. To learn more about what options are available near you contact your local housing agency or do a search for Title I and Title II loans in your area.
News January 2016: There is also an organization called the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) that aims to make housing more affordable and increase jobs for low income folks. They have a particular emphasis on “manufactured homes” as a possible solution to affordable housing. In late 2015 the FHA released a reviision of the “Duty to Serve” rule that would make it possible for affordable mortgages to be made available to those wanting to purchase manufactured homes. So, according to the CFED, affordable housing for more Americans could actually become a reality. Stay tuned for more news on this promising new development!
If you are buying a home for the first time there are even more resources available to you. As this article shows, it doesn’t have to be a never-to-be attained dream. Like anything worthwhile it takes some effort — and the better informed you are the more likely you will be to make it happen. Help is available from the Federal Government, State Housing Finance Agencies, and from private non-profits and foundations. It can be easy to find the latter since they typically work with state housing agencies and their associated lenders. So don’t be reluctant to go and talk to your local housing agencies and counselors! This is that rare advice that is free and valuable - just like this article!
This our most frequently visited, in demand review of resources! You must check it out (and spread the word) if you have repairs you need to make for your home but simply can’t afford them. This is such a critical area in the U.S. today (billions of dollars are spent on repairs each year — and billions more need to be done!). While strictly defined grants are not the most common solution, they do exist for a specific group of home owners. Other help comes from federal, state and local governments as well as from less familiar sources like public utilities, churches, private foundations and non-profit agencies. We list them all in this article! We do our best to keep you current with what’s available — and to share unexpected tactics you might try in order to find help - even a grant. An elderly, ill woman in Texas was lucky enough to do just that. We can show you how you might be able to get lucky too!
There is so much to share about what we have learned (and are learning) about Home Repair that we had to add a second article about it. When Amazon and Home Depot are both getting into the same business, you know something’s going on! Their services might be expensive but with some good detective work — and tips to point you in the right direction — you can get lots of work done without paying a lot.
Home owners (as opposed to renters) have some extra options, including a special government loan that you can get for home repairs (up to $35,000). Those who are eligible may also be able to use a Reverse Mortgage to increase their cash flow and fix what needs fixing. But beware — read more about Reverse Mortgages below. Also check our article on the topic before you decide whether such a mortgage is right — or dangerous — for you!
In addition to those options Home Repair Help introduces some special “diversion” programs you might not be aware of. These are most often offered by the government to help people stay in their homes rather than being forced into costly (for you and the government) nursing facilities. Take a look and see if you might qualify for these as well as other programs.
These might sound the same as repairs and some of them are. However they are typically much larger projects than repairs. While they tend to be major in terms of scope and cost, they are desirable because they also increase the value of your home. That’s something banks like too! The HARP program described below is one approach to paying for these improvements but there are others as well. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers a special loan as part of the Title 1 Property Improvement Program, and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers both loans and grants to those eligible. States, cities and private agencies also have some cool programs to help folks pay for home improvements because they’re so good for the community! Discover more here!
The HARP program has been getting ton of publicity lately. A big part of that is because it’s a program that offers lots of benefits to homeowners — especially those who owe more on their mortgage than their home is currently worth. And it’s also because this very valuable program goes away at the end of 2015.
HARP helps people who have little or no equity in their homes qualify for refinancing their mortgage. Amazingly, they can owe more than their home is worth and in most cases no home appraisal is even necessary. And, rates are good. HARP can help you keep your home AND — it can help you pay for home improvements you’ve been wanting to do! You don’t have to be “under water” to take advantage of HARP — anyone who wants to increase their cash flow (through lower payments) or get a chunk of cash to use however they wish (by taking cash out of your refinance.
If you’re a homeowner and haven’t checked into HARP you should not delay to do so — even if you’ve been turned down before. We‘re not associated with any banks, we just want you to get this great deal if you can. Requirements and necessary paperwork are both lower than before — and the deal ends soon. Take a look at this article to learn more.
First an important note: sometimes this program is referred to as the “Federally Insured HECM Program.” You might see this term in a promotional letter in the mail. They make it sound like an incredible benefit that will solve all your problems: pay off your mortgage, get rid of all your debts, and just keep sending you cash. They list a few “restrictions” but there are also many they leave out.
The Reverse Mortgage is one of the most poorly understood mortgage programs out there. Sadly, some lenders use it to take advantage of elderly homeowners who are not well informed. This is a mortgage that actually does pay you rather than the other way around. You need to have paid off your home or have substantial equity in it to qualify, and you must be 62 years old or older. It sounds like a great cash generating machine to many. But there are is a lot you need to know for it to work out well for you — and so you don’t unexpectedly lose you house. Having a trusted advisor (not the lender!) is a good idea, as is taking a look at our easy to read article on the topic. Be aware of all important aspects of this loan before you make a decision — read this article now if you are considering a Reverse Mortgage (or the HECM Program)!