Special Programs for Persons with Disabilities
The program that is best for you will depend on your specific circumstances, such as your credit history and amount of cash savings, as well as your individual preferences. A PHFA approved homebuyer education provider or participating lender can help you decide.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) offers home loans with competitive interest rates and fees through the Keystone Home Loan, Keystone Government Loan, HFA Preferred Risk Sharing™(No MI) and HFA Preferred™(Lo MI) loans. All programs offer a fixed interest rate for 30 years. The Keystone Home Loan program has income and purchase price limits, as well as a first time homebuyer requirement specific to each county. The HFA Preferred Risk Sharing™(No MI) and HFA Preferred™(Lo MI) loans have income limits but do not have a first time homebuyer requirement, nor do they have purchase price limits. The Keystone Government Loan program does not have income or purchase price limits, as well as not having a first time homebuyer requirement. Buyers with a disability or a disabled household member, who are eligible for any of these home loan programs, may also be eligible to receive funds to make accessibility modifications to the home they buy. Closing cost and downpayment assistance loans are also available.
Buyers with a physical disability or a physically disabled household member who qualify for one of the Agency's home loan programs above may also be eligible for up to $15,000 in a no interest downpayment and closing cost assistance loan through the Access Downpayment and Closing Cost Assistance Program. The Access assistance loan is only available to buyers who are also using the Access Home Modification Program described below and whose gross, annual household income does not exceed 80 percent (80 %) of statewide family median income as determined by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. It may not be used in conjunction with any other PHFA downpayment and/or closing cost assistance program.
First time buyers may also be eligible for up to $10,000 in a no interest downpayment and closing cost assistance loan through the HOMEstead Program. This assistance may be used with or without the modification program, but the property must meet HUDs Housing Quality Standards, and there are maximum income and purchase price limits depending on the county in which the home is located. The HOMEstead Program is not available in all areas and may not be used in conjunction with any other PHFA downpayment and/or closing cost assistance program.
You may be able to find a home that suits your lifestyle and living needs just the way it is. Or, you may find a home that would suit your needs if certain modifications were made—this is when PHFA's Access Home Modification Program can help. It offers a zero-interest loan between $1,000 and $10,000 in conjunction with a PHFA Keystone Home Loan or Keystone Government Loan. Repayment is not required as long as you occupy the home as your principal residence. Before you sign a sales agreement with the seller, you should first determine if the house suits your present and future living needs, or if it could be made suitable with up to $10,000 in modifications. A professional home designer can help you decide what type of modifications should be made. Common modifications include the addition or repair of an entrance ramp, widening of doors and hallways, installation of grab bars and handrails, bathroom and/or kitchen modifications, and the installation of lifting devices.
If you will be making modifications to the home, you will need to provide the lender with a contract for the modifications. The contract must:
- Be signed by you and a licensed contractor (or insured contractor, if licensing is not required by your city);
- Be contingent upon approval of your home loan;
- State the specific work to be done and must be supported by specifications, blueprints, drawings, etc.;
- Include the actual maximum amount that can be charged (not estimated amount);
- Include a release of lien clause to maintain clear title;
- State that the contractor agrees to complete the work in compliance with all applicable building codes and zoning restrictions and to obtain the necessary permits and a certificate of completion within 90 days of your closing date.
The appraisal of the home will be based upon the as-is condition of the home. In other words, the homes value does not have to support the amount of the modifications. The funds for the modification(s) will be held in escrow when you close on your home. An initial payment in an amount up to 50 percent (50 %) of the total may be disbursed to the contractor at or after your closing date.
If you think you might be eligible for a PHFA home loan (with or without any additional assistance loans), contact a participating lender. PHFA does not handle the mortgage application process. Instead, there is a network of lenders and brokers throughout the state that will process and close the loans. PHFA then buys the loan from them immediately following the loan closing (also referred to as Settlement). So, you would be making your mortgage payment directly to PHFA for the life of your loan. The lender will be able to determine if you qualify for a home loan and, if so, how much of a home you can afford. You should not rely on the lender to determine if and what kind of access modifications would be right for you. That is up to you.
PHFA also offers homebuyers the opportunity to receive homebuyer counseling and education through one of its approved counseling agencies. Attending a pre-closing course is required for borrowers with a FICO credit score lower than 680. However, we strongly encourage you to seek the assistance of a counselor before you sign a sales agreement, especially if you are a first-time buyer. Becoming an informed buyer will help you learn what questions to ask and how to understand the home buying process. It will also help you identify and avoid unscrupulous lenders and contractors that do not have your best interests at heart.
Moving into your new home is just the start to the benefits and responsibilities of owning your own place to live. Sticking to a sound budget will help you keep up with your mortgage payments and save some funds for future replacement and maintenance items. Keeping your home attractive and in good repair will help it to maintain or even increase in value. Getting to know your neighbors will provide you with a sense of community and security. When you start off on the right foot, you can have peace of mind knowing that you made the best decision on what will probably be the largest purchase of your lifetime.