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Help for first-time buyers

First-time home buyers in Pasco County soon will be able to take advantage of a 30-year, 7.49 percent fixed mortgage rate, thanks to a cooperative effort organized by the Housing Finance Authority of Pinellas County.

"It's exciting," said Darlene Kalada, authority director. "This is the first time we have really had a true Tampa Bay market come together." More than 170 housing loans have been approved in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Polk counties so far, she said.

The best 30-year fixed mortgage rate in the Tampa Bay area, as of late last week, was 9 percent, based on a $100,000 loan with a 5 to 10 percent down payment.

The new, lower rate will become available for Pasco residents after Nov. 15. Kalada said Pasco housing authorities had to wait until funding from the state was secured before joining agreements with the other counties.

Kalada and representatives from various participating lenders and builders will conduct a free home buyers' seminar in New Port Richey. It is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in the board room at the Pasco County Government Center, 7350 Little Road.

"We try to go through the steps first," Kalada explained. "How to get from the real estate office to the closing table."

Starting in December, prospective buyers also can go to the Community Information Booth at Gulf View Square Mall, 9409 U.S. 19 in Port Richey, to learn more about the loans and applying.

Applicants must be first-time home buyers, which means three years or more must have passed since they last owned a home, jointly or individually.

Mobile homes claimed as real property are included in that designation. Gross household income should not exceed $37,800 for one or two people, or $43,470 for three or more.

Maximum sale prices for Pasco County buyers are, for existing homes, $82,453 (one-family), $92,842 (two-family), $112,383 (three-family) and $130,688 (four-family). Purchasers can buy a multifamily home and rent the other parts, Kalada said.

The maximum price for a new one-family home is $103,889; new-home loans are not permitted in the other categories.

Buyers must live in the house they purchase. The program includes Federal Housing Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and conventionally insured loans, so down payment requirements may vary.

For information, call the Housing Finance Authority of Pinellas County at (813) 464-4851.