By Tracy Rexford, Housing Specialist, USDA Rural Development
The most reliable signs of Spring throughout the North Country of New Hampshire usually sprout from the ground – tulips, daffodils, fiddleheads, and….for sale signs. Working class families across rural New Hampshire often ignore these signs of Spring, thinking they need a large down payment, or that renting is the most affordable option. But while the United States Department of Agriculture is best known for helping crops grow, did you know the USDA can also help you grow into homeownership?
This winter I was lucky enough to help Coleman and Theresa Cawley and their two children purchase their first home in Thornton. Coleman and Theresa were able to purchase a home with no out of pocket costs. In the end, their mortgage payment (including taxes and utilities) was $120 less a month than their expenses while renting. Those savings do not include the potential tax benefits to homeownership. Purchasing a home can be a daunting experience, but Coleman and Theresa did it the easy way. They worked with a housing counseling agency, AHEAD (Affordable Housing, Education and Development), and found a great mortgage with the USDA.
USDA Rural Development mortgages have several benefits aside from being one of the only ways to buy a home without a down payment. We have one of the lowest interest rates in the industry. Currently a 33 year mortgage carries a fixed rate of just 3 percent. Depending on an applicant’s income, the rate can be subsidized down to as low as 1 percent. Applicants for one of these loans must have an income under 80 percent of the area’s median income. For a family of four in Northern New Hampshire, this runs about $56,300. USDA also has the capability to evaluate every family’s repayment ability and credit situation on a case-by-case basis. If your credit needs work before we can make a loan to you, we want to help fix it.
For those that already own a home, this time of year is often filled with surprises. Perhaps that old roof finally failed under record breaking snow. Maybe this winter’s high fuel costs or electricity charges have you thinking of energy efficiency measures or renewable energy installations. USDA Rural Development can help low income families make those improvements too.
Rural Development offers 1 percent home repair loans for up to 20 years to help very-low-income homeowners make needed home repairs up to $20,000. A customer needing $5000 for a new roof or burner would have a monthly payment of just $23.00. Perhaps you are considering a new solar array? A $15,000 solar installation would only be $69 a month – easily offsetting a large portion of your current electric bill.
Should an applicant show no ability to repay the loan, Rural Development can also offer grants up to $7500 for elderly residents 62 years of age or older. In all cases, the agency must first consider a loan before approving a grant.
This spring, don’t let your dreams of homeownership or needed home repairs melt away with the snow. Keep an eye open for the signs of Spring, and call a USDA housing specialist to make this the year you start building equity. For more information on RD’s homeownership and home repair programs, please call the Coos, Grafton and Carroll Area Office at 603-447-3318 x5 to speak with a specialist. Tracy Rexford covers Carroll & Grafton Counties (firstname.lastname@example.org)and Janice Daniels covers Coos County (email@example.com).