Mena Ganesan’s “dream come true” — her own house in the Paseo neighborhood — came with a new program appropriately called OHFA Dream.
OHFA is the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, and OHFA Dream has less-restrictive qualifications to help get people on a potentially quicker path to home ownership with down payment assistance — not restricted to first-time buyers.
Ganesan, a mental health therapist who works in Spencer, said she was prequalified to finance a house “in the $150,000 range.”
But the prospect of saving for a down payment left her discouraged. Even after she moved back into her parents’ house in Edmond to save money, “it would have taken me forever” without OHFA Dream, Ganesan said.
Instead, working with Cornerstone Home Lending, Ganesan was introduced to the OHFA Dream program, under which she obtained a 30-year financing package that included a grant for the down payment — 4.5 percent of the $155,000 purchase price.
All in, Ganesan said the loan closed and she was ready to move in for less than $5,000.
Qualification for the Dream program is usually a “seamless” process, with “hundreds of affiliated lenders” well-versed in completing the application and other paperwork, said Diana Rogers Jaeger, OHFA publications director.
OHFA Dream is “perfect for a moderate-income family,” said Holly Mangham, OHFA’s media relations director.
Mangham catalogued the features of the OHFA Dream:
• 4.5 percent downpayment assistance available.
The assistance, in the form of a grant, carries no repayment obligation whatsoever. Dennis Shockley, OHFA executive director, said that 4.5 percent figure will soon change, with financing based on 3.5-percent down-payment grants set to become a feature of OHFA Dream loans.
• Higher income limits.
In Oklahoma County, that stands at $73,680 for a family of one or two persons and rises to $85,960 for a family of three or more. Limits vary by county around the state.
• Higher qualifying home price.
Program participants can qualify for a Dream loan on houses contracted up to $271,050. Shockley said that figure accommodates buyers in the higher-priced Tulsa and Oklahoma City markets; the average price statewide of a house in the program is closer to $95,000.
• No geographical “target” areas.
Unlike loans restricted to certain development zones, the OHFA Dream program can be applied to any house, anywhere.
• No first-time buyer requirement.
Under the new program, families trading up from a starter house get the same incentives as those buying a first house.
In just such a case, Valerie and Mitch Trammell, of Stillwater, learned that OHFA Dream could provide a down payment toward what she called their “forever home.”
The Trammells, who have a 2-year-old daughter and careers in Oklahoma City, are planning to use the OHFA Dream program to upgrade from the Stillwater house they bought as newlyweds and resettle in Edmond.
“Down-payment assistance would help us reach our goals of building a home to fit our growing family while staying fiscally responsible,” Valerie Trammell said.
Also to qualify for OHFA Dream, buyers must show a credit rating of 640 or higher, a sign that underwriting standards remain more strict than before the tightening that began in 2008.
Ganesan’s house, built in 1920, is a renovated three-bedroom, two-bathroom bungalow with an updated kitchen. Its 1,800-square-foot plan feels spacious and inviting, with massive living space between a formal living room and den/family room, with a separate dining nook off the kitchen.
A front porch and rear deck complete the house, opening it up to neighbors and passersby in the famously walkable Paseo neighborhood.
“This is a dream that I’ve had for a long time,” Ganesan said on her front porch swing. “A lot of girls, I think, think about, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to get married.’ I always thought about buying a home.”
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