Our youngest recently purchased her first home. Below are her reflections on first-time homebuyer programs offered in Maine.

My Mom started her real estate career in June of 2006, just around the time the housing market was about to crash. Since then, much of my family has joined her in the business. Having grown-up in real estate and having worked in the real estate industry since I was 20, I anticipated that buying my first home would be a walk in the park. I purchased my first home this past June and, while I was blessed to have both my parents representing me, I found myself on the same roller coaster ride as every other buyer.

For some, the idea of buying a home can be overwhelming, especially if it’s their first home. Maine offers a many great programs to assist first-time homebuyers. 

Maine State Housing Authority, or MaineHousing, is the vehicle for these programs. MaineHousing defines itself as “an independent state agency that bridges public and private housing finance, combining them to benefit Maine’s low and moderate-income people.”

Perhaps one of the most powerful tools offered by MaineHousing is down-payment and closing-cost assistance called The Advantage. Individuals can get $3,500 toward their closing costs. Applicants must take an approved homebuyer education class prior to closing and must make a minimum borrower contribution of 1 percent of the loan. The cost of the homebuyer education class counts towards the contribution.

MaineHousing also offers options with little or no down payment required. For example, when a MaineHousing mortgage is combined with a FHA or a MaineHousing-approved private mortgage insurance company, little or no down payment is required. In addition, MaineHousing offers low interest rates which can save the average homebuyer thousands of dollars over the full term of the loan.

The Purchase Plus Improvement option finances the purchase and needed repairs of a home with one loan. If eligible, individuals may include between $500 and $35,000 for home improvements in their mortgage, as long as the cost of the home plus improvements does not exceed program purchase price limits.

MaineHousing also offers mortgages for single- and double-wide mobile homes built within the last 20 years and located on owned or leased land. There is, however, a purchase price limit of $150,000, and interest rates are a little higher. The term of the loan is based on the age of the mobile home.

In order to be eligible for a MaineHousing program, you must have an acceptable credit history and a minimum credit score of 640. However, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just first-time homebuyers that apply. If you have not held an ownership interest in your principal home within the past three years, you qualify as a first-time homebuyer. That means even if you have owned a home before you may still be eligible. For veterans, the first-time homebuyer requirement is waived and MaineHousing provides an interest rate reduction.

First Home Loan mortgages also come with payment protection for unemployment. If you are a MaineHousing borrower in good standing and become unemployed, Maine HOPE — HomeOwnership Protection for unEmployment — may be able to help by advancing up to four of your mortgage payments, including taxes and homeowners insurance. The amount paid becomes a junior mortgage lien, with no interest and no monthly payments, that is repaid when you sell or pay off your MaineHousing mortgage or stop using the home as your primary residence.

Although household income limits apply, most Maine households are income-eligible for the program. Limits vary depending on how many people live in your household and where in Maine you plan to buy your home.

There are many great programs available to homebuyers in Maine. Be sure to work with a trusted local lender. 

I was lucky enough to work with an experienced and knowledgeable lender who helped me take advantage of a number of MaineHousing’s programs and who, in hand with my parents, helped walk me through the purchase of my first home. Don’t try to do it on your own.” 

If you, or someone you know, is looking to buy, sell, or invest in real estate, be sure to contact your local lender and trusted, expert Realtor.

This column is produced by Rick Bisson and his family, who own Bisson Real Estate with Keller Williams Realty of Midcoast and Sugarloaf. They can be reached at: [email protected]