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$15,000 down payment assistance for millennial homebuyers

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- First-time homebuyers have a limited opportunity to save thousands of dollars on a down payment if they are buying a house in one of five counties hit hardest by foreclosures in North Carolina.

The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency is helping allocate $15 million in loans to 1,000 people in Cabarrus, Cumberland, Guilford, Johnston and Mecklenburg counties.

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The $15,000 down payment assistance is available to first-time homebuyers (or those who haven't owned a home in three years) who are buying a house for less than $245,000 in those five specific counties. The buyer needs a credit score of at least 640 and must complete a buyer education course.

"People should be lined up at our doors," said Mortgage Banker Tammy McCrae-Coley with First Citizens Bank in Greensboro.

"I know about this program so as I am pre-qualifying families and see their profile, I’m able to match and tell them these are funds we can also offer you. They are often very surprised. Happy! But surprised," she said.

Twenty percent of the $15,000 is forgiven each year the buyer lives in the home, so if they stay for five years they don't have to pay it back. "Many people have a 640 credit score, many people have a job and the money to make the monthly down payment. What they’re lacking is the savings, that down payment. This closes that gap," McCrae-Coley said.

Kevin Cooke with Atlantic Bay Mortgage agreed the program can be perfect for millennials. "For the first time really since the downturn in the market, I think young folks are getting back out looking at home ownership again. This is really a great program to help them achieve that."

He says the money can be used toward a down payment, closing costs or a combination of both. Millennials can potentially stop renting and make an investment sooner than they might have thought. "It really gives them the capacity not to have to drain all their savings or dip into their retirement for that down payment," Cooke added.

Eight weeks into the program, there are about 700 loans left. It is a limited time offer. There are other down payment assistance programs in other cities and counties, and for all types of home buyers.

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