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Making home ownership affordable: Options available to buyers looking for a house across Tampa Bay

There are more creative financing options and government programs than ever before.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay-area housing market is still hot, but the days of big down payments and bidding wars are over. There are some creative financing options that can get you into your dream home. 

You automatically think you'll need 20% of the price of the home for a down payment, but a recent Realtor.com report shows the average down payment slipped to 13%. And sometimes, there are ways you can do even better than that. 

Banking experts will tell you there are more options than ever before. Especially if you're a first-time home buyer. If you're currently renting a home, sometimes you can make a deal with the owner to buy it under something called a lease option.

Scott Johnson is the Senior Vice President of Consumer lending at BayFirst Financial in St. Petersburg. He explains how a lease option works. 

"The consumer or home buyer goes under contract with the seller themselves," Johnson said. "This could be various options. For example, they have their monthly rent payment plus a little bit extra for their down payment built into that agreement so that after 12 months they qualify for purchasing that home."

Johnson says there are also a number of government programs that can help you with your down payment and closing costs, like a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan

"They offer financing up to 96.5%, meaning that the homebuyer only has to bring in 3.5% down plus their closing costs," he said. "We also have Veteran Affairs, VA, so if those eligible, retired, active military or surviving spouses, they have the option to purchase a home at 100% of the sales price." 

He says the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also has programs if you are looking for a home in a rural area.

Johnson says you would still need to qualify with a lender and have your income and assets verified, but it's worth looking into.  The easiest way to do that is to talk to a lender and consider a local bank since they know the area and some of the programs that are available here.

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