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Mrs. Mathews says some programs are available for closing-cost assistance from individual counties, although these often are restricted by the income and assets of the homebuyers. Many of these programs also require a homebuyer education seminar, so potential buyers should allow themselves extra time to attend classes before they begin house hunting.

“The best way to find out about these programs is to go to the county government website where the home to be purchased is located,” Mrs. Mathews says. “Otherwise, I think it makes sense to ask a lender when you interview them if they can help you find out about potential sources of funding for a home purchase.”

The Maryland Mortgage Program offers low-interest loans to buyers who qualify by income level and by the cost of the home they are buying. Participants can apply for down-payment and closing-cost assistance, some of which may be matched by some employers.

The Virginia Housing Development Authority also has down-payment and closing-cost assistance programs along with low-interest loans. Participation in these programs requires homebuyer education courses and is limited by income and the sales price of the property.

Mr. Upham discusses financial options with potential buyers during the initial consultation to find out whether they have the savings and income needed to buy the type of home they want.

“At the very first consultation, I generate a spreadsheet with estimates for closing costs and a down payment, along with a budget, including the monthly condo or homeowner association fee and the principal, interest, taxes and insurance,” Mr. Upham says. “Buyers sometimes think they know their price range because they have seen a house they like at a certain price, but they are not always necessarily realistic. Going over their savings and the budget spreadsheet develops a more realistic picture.”

If there is a savings gap or a low credit score that prevents the borrowers from qualifying for the lowest possible rates, Realtors and lenders can make suggestions for increasing the availability of cash and improving the credit score.

“I can work with clients to develop a time frame for their savings and also give them suggestions for finding places or people who can help them with closing costs or a down payment,” Mr. Upham says. “The important thing is to be realistic from the start.”

Mrs. Mathews says buyers should work with a recommended lender who is familiar with all the available state and local programs.

“In addition to government programs, another option can be a family gift of cash for the down payment,” Mrs. Mathews says. “Sometimes several family members will be willing to contribute, which is fine as long as each person signs a gift letter stating that they do not require the money to be paid back.”

Mrs. Mathews also recommends a secured loan from a bank as a possibility to use for the down payment, as long as the borrowers have sufficient income for both the loan and their mortgage payments.

“A short-term loan secured against a car that they already own free and clear can be an option for someone who does not have enough cash on hand but has plenty of income, good credit and wants to take advantage of low interest rates,” Mrs. Mathews says.