News Column

Three months left for USDA rural home loan program in west Chatham County

June 24, 2014

By Julia Ritchey, Savannah Morning News, Ga.



June 24--The U.S. Department of Agriculture's rural home loan program is winding down in Chatham County's smaller municipalities, giving potential homebuyers just three more months to snag a house on its generous terms.

The USDA's rural development loan was created to assist low to moderate income buyers in eligible rural areas to buy a home. One of the key perks of the program is that it offers 100 percent financing for those who don't have the funds for a down payment.

"This is the best loan out there for someone who's not in the military," said Trisha Cook, a Realtor with Keller Williams who specializes in the Pooler area.

She said she's helped hundreds of first-time buyers get a home through the USDA's program.

"I can tell you I bought my first home in 1999 using it, and it's the most popular loan program out there," she said.

The USDA identifies areas and towns that are rural using Census data. For more than a decade, this has included all municipalities west of Interstate 95, including Pooler, Port Wentworth, Bloomingdale as well as Bryan and Effingham counties.

Thanks to west Chatham's growth, however, Pooler, Port Wentworth and the rest of the county are ineligible beginning Sept. 30.

Eric Glick, a senior loan officer at Starkey Mortgage, said the advantages of this program include full financing, fixed interest rates and flexible credit guidelines.

"It's the best program out there without a doubt," said Glick. "A lot of people make too much money from a combined household."

There are income caps, however. For a family of four, according to Glick, the combined household income cannot exceed $74,000.

He said despite the deadline, he hasn't necessarily seen an uptick in people seeking these loans.

"You would think it would be a mad rush, but it's really been business as usual," said Glick. "This has been known since last year, so people interested in buying are already doing so."

He said USDA loans account for between 5 percent and 10 percent of his business, while the rest are a combination of VA loans, FHA and conventional mortgages.

Cook said they were due to pull funding for it last year, but extended it through this fall. She predicts now that Chatham is off limits, growth will continue westward into Bryan and Effingham counties.

"What I see happening is it will push home ownership more toward those counties," she said.

Still, time is of the essence as the USDA's processing time can take several weeks once an application is submitted. Cook said the slow lead time is due to the high demand for these loans.

"It take 60 days to get approved and get in a home, so if a buyer is interested, he or she needs to be looking really soon," she said.

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Source: Savannah Morning News (GA)