Home $tart Program
A little boost to live big now.
Do you want to own your own home? The Home $tart Savings Program can help.
Owning your own home is part of the American dream. But the difficulties many of us face in saving money for a down payment are part of today's American reality. In fact, the challenge of accumulating sufficient money for a down payment is the most common reason many families do not buy their own homes.
The Home $tart Savings Program (H$P) is a partnership between Whatcom Educational Credit Union and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle. The H$P is designed to help you accumulate funds for your down payment and closing costs by matching every $1 you save with $3, up to a maximum of $5,000 toward the purchase of your first home.
- What is the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle?
The Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle is a wholesale bank serving more than 295 local financial institutions in Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, American Samoa and Guam. The Seattle Bank provides banks, savings institutions and credit unions with funding, banking and community lending services to help them meet the credit needs in their communities. These services include special grant programs, such as the Home $tart Saving Program, that help local lenders finance affordable housing development and home purchases by families of modest means.
- How does the H$P work?
You must save money in a dedicated account at WECU. You may open a new account or transfer an existing savings account to WECU. You also must successfully complete a home buying education class to help you become a successful homeowner.
To be eligible for the H$P grant, you must be a first-time homebuyer, meet the savings requirements, complete the homebuyer education class and qualify for mortgage financing from WECU. You have as long as one year after you enroll in H$P to obtain your matching grant and purchase your home. Extensions may be granted beyond one year depending on the circumstance.
Every $1 you save, H$P matches with $3. For example, if you save $1,500, you will receive a matching grant of $4,500 and have a total of $6,000 for your down payment and closing costs (closing costs are the miscellaneous expenses associated with obtaining a mortgage and purchasing a home). The maximum matching grant you may receive is $5,000.
- Who qualifies for an H$P grant?
The H$P is open to households with annual incomes of 80 percent or less of the median income in our area. Median income data are tracked by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and are available from WECU. The income level is adjusted depending on the size of your household.
Two-parent families, single-parent families and individuals may qualify for the program, based on the income guidelines.
- Can I qualify if I have owned a home before?
You will qualify if you, or you and your spouse or partner, have not owned a home during the past three years. Even if you previously owned a home with a spouse or partner, you may still be eligible for a H$P grant.
- How do I enroll in the H$P?
A WECU® representative will help you sign up for H$P and explain the program in greater detail.
- What if my financial situation changes after I enroll?
Your eligibility for H$P is established when you enroll. At that time, WECU® will ensure that you qualify based on your income and other criteria. You will remain eligible for the program from that point, even if your income increases or your family size changes.
- How do I qualify for a mortgage?
While you are saving for your down payment and closing costs, you will work with WECU® to determine your eligibility for a mortgage. Important factors that will determine the size of the mortgage you can obtain (and therefore the price of home you can afford) will be your monthly household income, job history, credit record and the amount of consumer debt you carry (credit card balances, car loans, student loan, etc.).
- Can I buy any type of home I want?
H$P matching grants can be used to purchase single-family homes, manufactured homes, condominiums, duplexes and many other types of residences. There are no restrictions on the type or location of the neighborhood.
- Are there restrictions on how the grant can be used?
Yes. The Home$tart grant must be used for down payment and closing costs only. It cannot be used to cover construction, rehabilitation expenses or moving costs, or to pay off your bills. Note: if you are paying 20% down or more out of your own funds (or if your homebuyer's match exceeds $20,000), then you are not eligible to use the Home$tart funds.
- What happens if I sell my house?
Your H$P home-purchase is subject to a deed restriction. If you sell the house you purchased with H$P grant within five years, you may be required to return a portion of the grant to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle. This amount will be pro-rated on the length of time you own the home and the funds will be taken out of the proceeds from the sale of the house. However, if you sell your house to a homebuyer who also meets the H$P guidelines, no reimbursement will be necessary.