Security in Homeownership: CalHFA opens the door for more people to buy their first home
Updated: Sep 12, 2019
By Howard Hardee, CalHFA.ca.gov
Maybe you’ve never owned a house before, or maybe you have, but lost it during the Great Recession. Either way, a series of financial hurdles await potential homebuyers looking to jump into California’s housing market and that’s where the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) comes in.
“There are a lot of expenses involved with buying a house that people don’t realize,” said Eric Johnson, a CalHFA employee of 15 years.
“There’s a down payment, there are closing costs that could be 3, 4 or 5 percent of the purchase price. We have programs that help out with that.”
Every day, Johnson works to inform real estate agents, loan officers and first-time homebuyers about the agency’s programs. In short, CalHFA offers financial assistance to people who are buying their first home. The agency serves low- and moderate-income people who are making a steady living and have decent credit. Many potential recipients might already pay about as much in rent as a monthly mortgage bill but don’t have enough money saved up to cover the down payment and closing costs.
“We’ve found that there are lots of people out there who have steady jobs and can afford the monthly payment,” Johnson said, “but it just gets harder and harder to save up that big chunk of money up front.”
The MyHome Assistance Program is the agency’s flagship service, which offers up to 3.5 percent of the purchase price of the home as a deferred payment. In other words, homebuyers don’t have to pay back the loan until they sell or refinance the house. To qualify for the program, applicants need at least a 640 credit score and must be a first-time homebuyer, defined as not having owned a home in the past three years. (CalHFA has an Eligibility Calculator on its website, as well as a list of Preferred Loan Officers who can offer financial guidance to those seeking information about buying their first home).
More than half of CalHFA’s clients are Hispanic. David Acosta, who is president of the board of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, views the agency’s programs as a means of enacting social and economic equality, because he knows that homeownership is often the first of many positive steps for individuals and families hoping to build better lives.
“We feel very passionately that homeownership is the gateway to wealth in America,” he said. “It’s one of the largest investments that most people are going to make in their lives.
Building equity helps people afford college, start businesses and have a sense of belonging, security and participation in the economy.”
CalHFA serves an essential role in giving families that chance to build equity by helping them finance a home of their own.