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Low-interest loans for first-time buyers

Ready to buy your first house? Not sure if you'll qualify for a mortgage with your income? First-time home buyers who meet certain income guidelines can apply for low-interest FHA or VA mortgages offered once or twice each year by county and state agencies.

The loans, financed by the sale of home ownership bonds, typically have interest rates slightly below current market rates on 30-year conventional mortgages. They are designed to help low-income and moderate-income families who might not otherwise be able to afford a house. Limits are placed on the price of the house, and the buyers' household income cannot exceed median income levels established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Participating lenders offer the loans on a first-come, first-served basis. Most of the loans available are from revenue bonds issued last fall, but officials at the housing finance agencies reported last week that money is still available.

Most programs also offer second mortgages of up to $1,500 for buyers who need help paying closing costs. The income limits for those programs are lower than for the first mortgage.

Here are the details on the specific programs.

Pinellas County

Housing Finance Authority of Pinellas County:

Interest rate: 7.77 percent.

Points: 3.

Application fee: $325.

Purchase price limits: $89,136 for a new house, $88,880 for an existing house.

Income limits for first mortgage: $40,320 for a one or two-person household, $47,040 for a household of three or more persons.

Income limits for second mortgage for closing costs: $18,950 for a one-person household, $21,650 for two, $24,350 for three, $27,050 for four.

For information and names of participating lenders: Call the Housing Finance Authority of Pinellas County at 462-4851.

Florida Housing Finance Agency:

Interest rate: 7.99 percent.

Points: 1.75.

Application fee: $300.

Purchase price limits: $99,000 for a new house, $77,670 for an existing house.

Income limits for first mortgage: $35,900 for a one-or two-person household, $41,285 for a household of three or more.

Income limit for second mortgage: $28,720.

For information and names of participating lenders: Call (904) 488-4197 or write to Florida Housing Finance Agency, 2574 Seagate Drive, Suite 101, Tallahassee, Fla. 32301-5026.

The Tampa Bay Community Development Corporation also offers loans with lower-than-market interest rates and streamlined closing costs on homes that have been remodeled in target areas of Pinellas County. Income limits for this program are the same as for the county's finance authority second mortgage program, listed above. For information, call 442-7075 in Clearwater.

Hillsborough County

Housing Finance Authority of Hillsborough County:

Interest rate: 7.84 percent.

Points: 3.5.

Application fee: $350.

Purchase price limits: $89,136 for a new house, $72,720 for an existing house.

Income limits for first mortgage: $33,800 for a one-or two-person household, $38,870 for a household of three or more.

Income limits for second mortgage: $18,950 for a one-person household, $21,650 for two, $24,350 for three, $27,050 for four.

For information and names of participating lenders: Call the housing finance authority at 272-5384 in Tampa.

Florida Housing Finance Agency:

Interest rate: 7.99 percent.

Points: 1.75.

Application fee: $300.

Purchase price limits: $99,000 for a new house, $77,670 for an existing house.

Income limits for first mortgage: $35,900 for a one-or two-person household, $41,285 for a household of three or more.

Income limit for second mortgage: $28,720.

For information and names of participating lenders: Call (904) 488-4197 or write to Florida Housing Finance Agency, 2574 Seagate Drive, Suite 101, Tallahassee, Fla. 32301-5026.

Pasco County

Florida Housing Finance Agency:

Interest rate: 7.99 percent.

Points: 1.75.

Application fee: $300.

Purchase price limits: $92,070 for a new house, $75,960 for an existing house.

Income limits for first mortgage: $35,900 for a one-or two-person household, $41,285 for a household of three or more.

Income limit for second mortgage: $28,720.

For information and names of participating lenders: Call (904) 488-4197 or write to Florida Housing Finance Agency, 2574 Seagate Drive, Suite 101, Tallahassee, Fla. 32301-5026.

Hernando County

Florida Housing Finance Agency:

Interest rate: 7.99 percent.

Points: 1.75.

Application fee: $300.

Purchase price limits: $92,070 for a new house, $75,960 for an existing house.

Income limits for first mortgage: $35,900 for a one-or two-person household, $41,285 for a household of three or more.

Income limit for second mortgage: $28,720.

For information and names of participating lenders: Call (904) 488-4197 or write to Florida Housing Finance Agency, 2574 Seagate Drive, Suite 101, Tallahassee, Fla. 32301-5026.

Housing Finance Authority of Pinellas County included Hernando in its mortgage bond program that started early last year; however, applicants must close on their houses by April 1 of this year.

Citrus County

Housing Finance Authority of Pinellas County included Citrus in its mortgage bond program that started early last year; however, applicants must close on their houses by April 1 of this year.

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