GOVENOR’S PRESS OFFICE -MaineHousing’s “Gift of Green” Offers Cash Incentives of Up to $5,500 to Buy a Home

Combined with federal tax credits, total incentives for first time buyers can be as high as $15,000

PORTLAND, ME – June 18, 2009 – (RealEstateRama) — Governor John E. Baldacci announced today some good news for first-time homebuyers – and for Maine’s housing market. MaineHousing is starting a new “Gift of Green” homeownership initiative that provides eligible First Home program borrowers with up to $5,500 in financial incentives to purchase a home.

“When MaineHousing’s financial assistance is combined with existing federal incentives to buy a home and make it more energy efficient, the total financial incentives can be as much as $15,000,” Baldacci said. “This combination of state and federal assistance should encourage many more Maine families to take that step to become homeowners. The Gift of Green invests in Maine people and in Maine’s housing market.”

MaineHousing launched the Gift of Green, part of its First Home program, with support from the Maine Association of Realtors, the Maine Association of Community Banks and the Maine Credit Union League. MaineHousing’s First Home program offers low fixed-rate mortgages to eligible first-time homebuyers.

Gift of Green loans will be made on a first-come, first-served basis while funds last. MaineHousing expects to make about 500 mortgages using Gift of Green incentives.

The Gift of Green offers:

  • A grant of up to $5,000, not to exceed 4 percent of the loan amount, to help with the cash required for the down payment and other closing expenses.
  • A coupon of up to $500 for a pre-weatherization and post weatherization home energy audit.

MaineHousing designed the program to help homebuyers take advantage of the federal tax credits for first-time homebuyers and for home energy improvements.

“Our Gift of Green provides the initial cash needed to make buying a home possible,” said Dale McCormick, Director of MaineHousing. “Homebuyers benefit from the federal tax credit for first time homebuyers – which is worth up to $8,000 ? only if they have the resources to buy a home.”

“And if they make eligible home energy efficiency improvements before the end of 2010, they may leverage an additional energy efficiency federal tax credit of up to $1,500. Weatherization is the gift that keeps on giving through lower heating bills year after year,” McCormick said.

Borrowers using MaineHousing’s “Purchase Plus Improvement” option may include the cost of eligible home energy improvements in the First Home mortgage.

“It is an amazing opportunity for buyers,” said Cindy Butts of the Maine Association of Realtors. “Since Gift of Green funding is limited, I’d encourage people interested in becoming homeowners to act now and contact their local Realtor.”

To qualify for the Gift of Green, the homebuyer needs to pay at least 1 percent of the loan amount from personal resources.

The new Gift of Green is offered through 35 lenders who participate in MaineHousing’s First Home program. To be eligible, borrowers must be first-time homebuyers (have not owned a home in the past three years). Most homebuyers are income eligible and most homes are within the price limits of the program requirements. Income and home price limits are listed at www.mainehousing.org, along with participating lenders.

“This initiative helps make homeownership more affordable for first-time homebuyers. Maine credit unions are pleased to be a partner with MaineHousing to make this happen. In these challenging economic times, these opportunities are even more critical. Maine’s credit unions have a long history of helping people, so helping make the dream of owning a home a reality for more Maine people is consistent with that commitment,” stated John Murphy, President of the Maine Credit Union League.

MaineHousing’s First Home mortgages come with payment protection for unemployment. If an eligible borrower becomes unemployed, MaineHousing will cover up to four mortgage payments, including taxes and homeowners insurance.

“Buying a home is the most important investment many people ever make,” said Chris Pinkham, President of the Maine Association of Community Banks. “We are here to make homeownership a success for Maine people, and to finance home energy efficiency improvements that can make their home more affordable over time.”

Gift of Green participants must take an approved homebuyer education class prior to loan closing. The classes educate homebuyers about the home buying process and different types of mortgage products. Informed buyers have a better chance for successful homeownership.

McCormick noted that MaineHousing is not using state or federal tax money to provide the Gift of Green incentive. MaineHousing sells mortgage revenue bonds to private investors to fund its First Home mortgages, and funds generated within the bond resolution can only be used to help make mortgages affordable to first time homebuyers.

For more information on the Gift of Green and for a list of Maine lenders offering MaineHousing’s First Home mortgages, go to www.mainehousing.org/giftofgreen/

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