A new financing program is piquing the interest of real estate agents who frequently work with first-time home buyers. It has the potential to drive up homeownership rates, which could be a win-win situation.

Based in South Carolina and formed in 2008 amid the onset of the housing crisis, Movement Mortgage is offering an innovative down payment assistance program geared toward first-time buyers that allows them to put zero down on a home. According to a Housingwire report, the Movement Assistance Program (MAP) combines a non-repayable down payment grant provided by Movement Mortgage with a 30-year conventional loan. According to the company, the buyers don’t have to repay the grant. Movement Mortgage co-founder and CEO Casey Crawford pointed out that the program comes with no second loans, liens or promissory notes.

“MAP will help more families become homeowners by providing assistance with the upfront costs of home buying. This is a program our entire Movement community takes great pride in offering. It’s one more way we are leading a movement of change in our industry and communities.”

Low down payment assistance programs aren’t new in the industry. Agents have seen these sorts of programs over the years from companies such as Quicken Loans and Guaranteed Rate. Fifth Third Mortgage also offers a zero down payment mortgage program.

There are some qualifying steps for first time homebuyers to meet, including specific income and asset criteria based on need and median income in their geography. The program also features access to job-loss insurance coverage for non-self-employed borrowers for two years which covers up to six monthly mortgage payments due to involuntary unemployment, with a maximum monthly benefit of $1,500 ($9,000 total benefit over coverage period).

MAP comes at a time when first-time homebuyers are making a renewed push into the marketplace. About 854,000 new-owner households were formed during the first quarter of 2017, which is more than twice the 365,000 new-renter households formed during the same three months, according to Census Bureau data. Real estate data firm Trulia said this marked the first time in a decade there were more first-time buyers than first-time renters.

First-time home buyer trends will be key for agents to track over the coming months.  The number of first-time single-family homebuyers has hit a peak not seen since 2005 and is expected to spur the origination of more mortgages with higher loan-to-value ratios.

Momentive Mortgage’s program clears one of the hurdles that can hinder prospective first-time homebuyers from owning a home. Armed with this knowledge, agents can be poised to serve all needs of their budding clients as data shows that first-time homebuyers still made a big contribution to the housing market over the last three years, accounting for the vast majority of the market’s expansion. According to a report by Genworth Mortgage Insurance, 2016 was the strongest period for the first-time homebuyer market in 11 years. Genworth’s chief economist, Tian Liu, noted that 2016 saw 2 million first-time homebuyers – 15 percent more than 2015.

“Over the past three years, first-time homebuyers have accounted for 85 percent of the growth in home sales, and have become an important indicator for understanding market trends. Their impact has already been felt in falling inventory and rising home prices, and we expect them to increasingly drive growth to businesses most exposed to this market segment.”

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