Saturday, December 29, 2007

How AmeriDream Works - Or, What Subprime Borrowers Can Use NOW

skeleton-crouched-in-doorway.jpgDon't Get Old Trying to Save a Down Payment!

AmeriDream is a fantastic resource for first time buyers who are having trouble saving the downpayment on house. With price appreciation like we've seen in the past few years, even 3% of a home purchase price can be extraordinarily difficult for first timers to save.

(For those who like my writing style, read on. If you just want to cut to the chase, scroll down to below the smiley face.)

Three percent of the median home price in the metro Phoenix area is about $8,000. Plus buyers need another $2,000 to $4,000 for closing costs. It's super important to have some savings leftover after the housewarming party for unforseen home emergencies, which pop up like those Whack A Mole games at the arcade. Then, it'd be nice to have some money to cover a few cosmetic upgrades once you're in the house - like maybe switching out the lighting fixtures from 1973 - 'cause the median metro Phoenix price of $263,000 doesn't buy granite counters and stainless steel appliances in this town. All in all, you're gonna need about $10,000 or $15,000 grand to do it right. Sure, you could skate by with the bare minimum savings, but being house poor leads to lots of dinners based on ramen noodles.

How in the heck are first  timer homebuyers supposed to save up all this money?! You could do what my cousin in Pennsylvania did. He lived with his mother in law for 3 years while he (an architect) and his wife (a loan processor) saved pennies. They accumulated $40,000 at  the end of the three years. Bought a house and six months later my cousin saved his marriage by refinancing to pull out a little equity. He used it to "help" send his mother in law to far away Florida. :-)

Or, you could rely on AmeriDream. Here's how it works. Federal housing law allow 5 types of people/organizations to gift down payment money to a home buyer. Sellers are expressly banned from gifting down payment money to buyers. Group 1 is parents. Parents are allowed to gift money to kids. (There's 4 other categories: government entity, religious organization, 1 I can never remember, and the 1 below).

There's a lovely little loophole in federal law which allows a non profit agency to gift down payment money to buyers. Somewhere back in the 1990's a couple of nonprofits appeared and did just that. Nehemiah Corp is the other one I'm aware of.

These nonprofits set up a neat little triangle, so to speak, between the seller, the buyer, and themselves. The seller agrees to make a "donation" to the nonprofit org in the amount of the buyer's needed down payment, plus a small administrative fee that's usually about $300. The nonprofit turns aroun and "gifts" the down payment (minus their admin fee) to the buyer. The title/escrow company coordinates it all after the Realtors write it all up in nice legalese. And it's all totally legal, tested by dozens of lawsuits. Most recently, last October HUD sued AmeriDream and got their shirts handed to them in federal district court.

AmeriDream claims to have given out over $400 million in down payment assistance grants which translates into over $14 billion in housing. Nehemiah says they've given out over $999 million in grants. I love this country!

If you're a buyer who wants to use a down payment assistance program, ask around until you find a Realtor and a lender who done these types of deals before. There's only a little extra paperwork involved, but the deal goes a whole lot smoother if "your people" know how to explain it to the seller properly. Hmmm.... I'm a Realtor who's done AmeriDream deals. Nehemiah Corp too. Hmmm....