Despite the city’s home buyer program being only two months old, early indications are the program is working as intended.
Five home buyers have participated so far in the program, which is meant to stimulate home sales in the older, historic district of Highland, said Lisa Peck, the city’s economic development and marketing coordinator.
“Closings have taken place on three homes with two homes in the final stages of closing,” she said.
The “historic” area of the city eligible for the program has borders of Hemlock on the west, Poplar Street on the east, Sixth Street on the north and 21st Street on the south.
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“The primary purpose of the program is to help to stabilize equalized assessed values by preserving the older housing stock in the community by encouraging home ownership in existing single-family homes in the eligible area,” Peck said.
Peck said the program will benefit potential home buyers in the community by providing assistance with the down payment and closing costs associated with the purchase of a home.
“Many people are well able to afford monthly house payments, but struggle to come up with the cash necessary to purchase a home,” she said. “This program would assist to alleviate those concerns.
“Equally important, the program has generated interest and excitement from realtors and lenders in Highland and throughout the area.”
Mallory Frey, a loan officer with FCB Bank in Highland, has already helped two young couples who were able to purchase their first homes using the program.
“It has helped each of these homeowners with their down payment and gave them some cushion to buy some furniture and other furnishings when you buy a house,” she said.
Frey said it’s “very easy” for a home buyer to qualify under the program. Under the program, the city will provide a home buyer a five-year, forgivable loan for a maximum of $3,000, if they purchase a home in the defined area.
Kristin Hunsche, a real estate agent with Re/Max Alliance, said the program is being met positively by sellers, who are now trying to take advantage of a “strong real estate market.”
“In the past, I have dealt with customers who have asked home sellers to help pay for a portion of their closing costs,” she said.
On July 6, the City Council unanimously approved starting the program to assist people with the purchase of a home in historic Highland. There are now a number of homes for sale in this area. Some of these homes are being rented, according to Peck.
The funding for this program would be a transfer from the General Administration fund to the Economic Development fund, mirroring the First Purchaser’s Building Permit Fee Rebate program previously funded by the city.
The program is being administered by the Community Development Department with the assistance of local participating lending institutions and realtors.
As of Tuesday, Highland had 125 homes listed for sale, according to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). MLS does not take into accounts homes being sold by homeowners.
For the second quarter ending June 30, the average day a house stayed on the market in Highland was 124 days, Hunsche said. That reflects an 8 percent decrease from last year’s total at this time.