Commissioners discuss county homebuyer program

A North Atherton Street-based mortgage firm is seeking to join the Centre County First Time Homebuyers Program as a participating lender.

Appearing Tuesday before the Board of Commissioners, representatives of Core Mortgage Services LLC expressed their interest in being part of the program and also discussed the benefits of the program itself.

There are currently 14 participating lenders in the program, housing coordinator Linda Marshall said. Lenders work as the county’s agent in processing potential homebuyers’ applications, and sign a joint agreement with the county to act as that agent.

The First Time Homebuyers Program offers down payment and closing cost assistance, according to the Centre County website, with a maximum of $10,000 or 10 percent of the purchase price, whichever is less. The loan is made payable when the house is “resold, refinanced for more than the original purchase price, ceases to be a full-time, permanent residence of borrower or when the mortgage has been paid in full.”

The program is funded through Act 137 of 1992, Marshall said, which enabled counties to establish a housing trust fund through the recording of deeds and mortgages. In 1993, commissioners adopted an ordinance that allowed $11.50 per transaction to go into the fund.

Three hundred and twenty-six buyers have been assisted since the fund was established, she said, totaling about $2.6 million. Last year, the program was able to assist 11 homebuyers.

“(Lenders) are the ones who promote the program when buyers come through the door and determine if they’re eligible,” she said.

Core President Johnny Mateo said his firm was interested in joining the program because the charters of local banks don’t allow lending to the people the program can help the most, including single mothers, those with medical histories and anyone whose credit rating may have taken a hit.

“The reality is local banks have a mandate,” he said. “They have to lend to very credit-worthy individuals because that’s yours and my checking account money.”

Being a broker allows Core to work with mortgage bankers that don’t rely on depository money to lend, Mateo said, so it isn’t beholden to the charters of local banks. Core is also allowed to offer different programs that banks may not have access to.

“We’re hoping to get approved so we can help other community members to get the kind of funding they need,” he said.

Commissioners unanimously approved adding the request to the consent agenda for their next meeting. The Board of Commissioners meeting slated for March 15 is canceled as the commissioners are meeting with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. The next board meeting is scheduled for March 22.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews