Down Payment Help

The Nehemiah Program offers mortgage assistance for new home buyers

Last year, Tanya Power, a 26-year-old executive assistant with INVESCO Retirement Inc. in Atlanta, decided to take the plunge into home ownership. “I got tired of throwing away $800 a month on rent,” she says. After speaking with friends who recently purchased homes, Power discovered The Nehemiah Program (877-634-3642), which offers down payment assistance to home buyers of all income levels who meet FHA loan requirements.

The program, which is administered by the Sacramento-based Nehemiah Corp. of California, allows the seller or home builder to contribute from 1% to 6% of the contract sales price of the home to help facilitate the transaction. The result is a win-win situation: The seller gets the property’s full market value and the buyer pays little out-of-pocket expense for the mortgage.

To take advantage of the program, Power first applied and was pre-approved for a mortgage at her local bank. Then she applied to Nehemiah, found a realtor, and went searching for her dream home. She soon found it: a newly built, two-bedroom town house in an Atlanta suburb with the asking price of $121,000. With the help of the program, Power paid a total of $1,210 out-of-pocket — 1% of the home’s price — as a down payment.

Don Harris, a real estate attorney and Baptist minister, developed The Nehemiah Program in 1997 to give people of all backgrounds the opportunity to become home owners.

Scott Syphax, president and CEO of Nehemiah Corp., a nonprofit with 2001 revenues of $146 million, says, “Home ownership is the foundation [upon which] to build true wealth and prosperity in this country. It allows individuals to benefit from state and federal tax deductions, which lets them invest the money they save elsewhere.” And, he adds, “Home ownership is also the No. 1 resource fueling small businesses in this country.”

Antrone Dailey, branch manager of Bloomfield, New Jersey-based Commonwealth United Mortgage, has referred many clients to The Nehemiah Program. He explains that the program “is designed to help buyers who’ve been unable to save the assets needed to buy a home.” And once they purchase a home, they receive one of the safest assets you can have. “The value of a home rarely depreciates; it usually increases over time,” Dailey says. In fact, during the first half of 2002, the value of the town homes in Power’s development rose by $8,000. “I know I’ve made a smart investment,” she says.

Ironically, Power’s mortgage payment, including taxes, is the same as her previous rent payment. Although Power has lived in her home for only a few months, she’s already building equity. And for each successful person like Power, Nehemiah builds equity with the community. “Nehemiah levels the playing field so one can start the race of prosperity at the same time and place as their wealthier counterparts,” says Syphax.

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