Joy and Jon Wicks have the same three problems that many Utahns sitting on the sidelines of the housing market have: They are current or previous homeowners, they don’t have much money for a down payment and they have a low credit score — all factors that kept them out of traditional mortgage loan programs.
As of Monday, their dream of becoming homeowners again seemed a lot more feasible.
The Utah Housing Corp. announced two new down payment assistance programs designed to help thousands of Utahns get back into homes or upgrade the ones they have, making the housing finance agency among the first in the country to offer help to previous homeowners.
“We realize there are a lot of people out there who are not first-time homebuyers who need that kind of help,” said Grant Whitaker, the agency’s president and CEO.
Over the past 30 years, Utah Housing Corp. has focused on helping first-time buyers with low or moderate incomes get into homes; the new programs, HomeAgain and Score Loan, expand that reach to some of those most roughed up in the Great Recession.
The HomeAgain program is aimed at Utahns who may own a home and would like to upgrade but haven’t been able to build much equity, as well as to those who ended up losing homes through short sales or foreclosures. It provides money for a down payment through a 30-year, fixed-interest second mortgage loan that is 2 percent more than the rate on the first mortgage; buyers may borrow up to 6 percent of the home’s purchase price, which is capped at $320,000.
The Score program is for would-be buyers whose credit scores fall below 660 but are no lower than 620; 660 is the minimum qualifying score for most traditional mortgage loan programs, Whitaker said. Approved buyers may borrow up to 4 percent of the first mortgage amount for a down payment on a home valued at up to $250,000.
“They might now be back on their feet with employment but their credit is not there yet,” he said.
About 40 mortgage lenders in Utah, with 300 branches around the state, are participating in the program and will screen would-be participants.
“The big issue is our economy in Utah is doing really very well, compared to other states, but our housing sales are still flat, and until the housing market recovers, our entire economy will be suffering a bit,” Whitaker said.
The state has had one of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates over the past two years, though that pressure is easing. Foreclosures dropped by 61 percent from February 2011 to this past February. But other problems have kept people such as the Wickses out of the market.
Joy Wicks sold a home after she divorced. After he and Joy got married, Jon Wicks sold his condo just before the housing market collapsed because they needed more space for her two children. But that sale didn’t provide much profit that could be used to get into another home. His credit got dinged because of a cellphone-bill problem.
Since then, they’ve rented a home in Cottonwood Heights; rent is close to what a monthly mortgage payment would be, Joy Wicks said.
“Coming up with a down payment has been a big struggle for us,” she said. “Every time we heard about a no-money-down program, it was only for first-time homebuyers.”
By the end of the year, they expect to have their credit shined up enough that they can participate in the new home loan program, Joy Wicks said.
Learn more about HomeAgain and Score Loan
O More information about the new programs is available at www.utahhousingcorp.org or by calling 801-988-5340.