Eagle Co. will help you buy a house | VailDaily.com

Eagle Co. will help you buy a house

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” Sara Corcoran, 24, had been waiting for a Miller Ranch home for almost a year.

Corcoran, who works at Land Title Guarantee in Vail, thought her chances of owning a home might get put on hold if she could not find affordable, deed-restricted, housing ” until she found out about a county program that would help her with a down payment.

The program provided her with 5 percent of the down payment at a low interest rate, allowing her to purchase a condo at Chapel Square in Avon.

A free-market home would have been out of the question if she did not have the help of the program, she said.

“I would not have been able to put down that much for a free-market home, and if I had gotten a conventional loan, the interest would have been double,” she said.

Many valley residents, like Corcoran, need help buying homes, said Leona Perkins of the Eagle County Housing Department, but what many people do not know is that there are plenty of resources out there for potential home buyers.

That includes down-payment-assistance programs (which pay up to 5 percent of the price of a home at an interest of 2 percent to 3 percent), credit counseling and free first-time home buyer classes.

“These programs are really under-utilized, mostly because people don’t know about them,” said Alex Potente, county housing director.

There are several home-buying programs, depending on income level and price of the home, and the funds are only available for homes up to a certain price.

The down-payment loans can be done through various participating banks in the county as long as the homebuyer has been approved for a first mortgage, Perkins said.

“The interest rate on the money is so low, and there’s quite a lot of money available,” she said.

Whitney Swenson bought a home with her boyfriend, Mark Koelker, in Eagle River Estates in Eagle this August with the help of the program.

They would not have been able to afford the down payment for a three-bedroom home without the loan, she said.

“It’s a great help, because coming up with 20 percent down is difficult,” she said. “People up here have creative ways of doing things and affording things, and this is how we made it work.”

To qualify for the mortgage or down-payment programs, or to purchase a Miller Ranch home, residents must take a free home buyer class. The three- to four-hour classes are held monthly.

Perkins teaches the class, going over the basic mortgage process, foreclosure prevention, repairing credit and homeowner’s insurance. Local lenders and realtors are also on hand to answer questions, she said.

“This class really acquaints them with the terminology, which most people don’t understand,” Perkins said.

Many people also find through the class that purchasing a home is more of a possibility than they first thought.

“A lot of people think they can’t buy a home because of their credit, but for most people it’s not as bad as they think,” Perkins said.

Taking the class made the home-buying process less stressful and daunting, Corcoran said.

“After the class you knew the right questions to ask, you knew the different options lenders have. And you learn the terms that most people have heard, but may not really understand,” she said.

The class provided a pressure-free environment to learn about the home-buying process, said Sophie Ozaneaux, who is looking for a home.

The class was great for someone who did not have much background in lending or home buying, she said.

“As a first-time home buyer, you can ask all the questions you’re afraid to ask,” she said.

There is also guidance for those looking to buy deed-restricted properties, or homes with a residential requirement and an appreciation cap, said Kim Williams, the county’s deed restriction manager.

Potential buyers need to provide documentation of residency and employment in Eagle County, including tax returns, affidavits from employers and landlords, rent checks and utility bills, Williams said.

Miller Ranch works on a points system, where residents who have lived and worked in the county longer get higher priority in buying the house. There have been up to 42 potential buyers in line for one house, Williams said.

Brigid Wall, 26, recently purchased a two-bedroom Miller Ranch condo. The process was time consuming, she said, but the home buyer class was a helpful refresher, even though she had a business background

Her best advice is to keep all your old documents, said Wall, a day-care worker and Beaver Creek ski instructor.

Old utility bills and tax forms, can be used as proof of residence, she said.

The 72 new affordable units that will be built at the West End development in Edwards will operate on a similar system.

Home-buyer classes are becoming more popular and the assistance programs are becoming more used, Perkins said, but the key is getting the word out.

“The better educated both lenders and buyers are, the more people will use these resources. We want an educated home buyer,” she said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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