Reaching the American Dream just got a little easier for low-to-middle income consumers, thanks to a home ownership program called LIFT. The goal of the program is to guide consumers through the home-buying process.
“The program has been very successful. It’s a public/private sector collaboration between Wells Fargo Bank, Wells Fargo Foundation, and NeighborWorks America. NeighborWorks America is our national nonprofit partner, and we work with them and their local affiliate to bring the LIFT program,” says Kimberly Smith-Moore, vice president, Neighborhood LIFT Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Servicing. “Many people have good jobs and decent credit, but they don’t have the down payment needed to purchase a home. The LIFT program really helps them,” says Moore.
Another component of the LIFT program is local home-buying events. Wells Fargo and NeighborWorks America visit local markets to launch the down-payment assistance initiative. “We have currently been to 24 different markets in the United States. To date, we have provided $190 million in those 24 markets,” says Smith-Moore.
During these events, consumers can find out if they qualify for the down-payment assistance grant (between $15,000 and $30,000 depending on the market) and they can reserve funds at the event if they qualify. Smith-Moore says in order to qualify for down-payment assistance, a home buyer must qualify for a first mortgage through an approved lender.
Says Smith-Moore, “The lender could be Wells Fargo, but the way the program has been designed is that other lenders can do that first mortgage, but it must a lender approved by the NeighborWorks Affiliate. They are not approved by Wells Fargo.”
Other requirements for eligibility:
- The home buyer must live in the home for at least five years. Five-year forgivable grants are available to those who qualify. However, the homeowner must stay in the home for five years. After this time, the grant is forgiven. Smith-Moore says this ensures the homeowner is making an investment in that community. “The property must be the home buyer’s primary residence, so it must be owner occupied, and the properties cannot be any of Wells Fargo’s Real Estate Owned foreclosed properties. We are not using this program to promote the sale of our REO inventory,” says Smith-Moore.
- Previous homeowners may apply. The LIFT program is not just for first-time home buyers.
- Home buyer education. Applicants seeking a grant must receive eight hours of home buyer education. Topics include home ownership and money management.
- Income restrictions apply. The household income of an applicant 18 years or older must be at or below 120% of the area median income. “Generally, other down-payment assistance programs require that the income is either at or below 80% of the area median income. The LIFT program is also open to moderate-income individuals,” says Smith-Moore.
For more information about this program, read more here.