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Wells Fargo offers grants to Wake and Durham homebuyers

Wells Fargo is launching a new program that will enable eligible homebuyers in Wake and Durham counties to receive a matching grant of up to $7,500 for their down payment.

The bank plans to announce its $5 million commitment for a local NeighborhoodLIFT program that aims to boost home ownership at a Friday morning news conference that will include local elected and housing officials. Most of the money Wells Fargo has put up for the program – 80 percent, or $4 million – will go toward matching grants; another $500,000 will be allocated to local nonprofits for neighborhood stabilization programs.

NeighborhoodLIFT has the potential to affect well more than 400 homebuyers in Wake and Durham counties. The program will last as long as the money does.

“We’ve got that money in our market until we use it all,” said Jack Clayton, regional president for Wells Fargo.

Sharon McLendon, a Wells Fargo manager who focuses on the bank’s home ownership programs for minorities and low- and moderate-income households, said providing financial assistance on down payments helps prospective homebuyers who can afford a monthly mortgage but don’t have enough cash to cover their down payment and closing costs.

That helps people become homeowners sooner, which benefits the whole economy. “They buy a home and they furnish a home,” Clayton said.

To be eligible for down payment assistance ranging from $2,500 to $7,500, a homebuyer’s household income can’t exceed 80 percent of the local median income. That works out to a ceiling, for a family of four, of $56,500 in Durham County and $61,300 in Wake County. Income limits are higher for members of the military and veterans.

Prospective homebuyers interested in applying for the grant are encouraged to attend a free two-day NeighborhoodLIFT event scheduled for Feb. 3 and 4 at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown on Wake Forest Road. To guarantee being able to meet with a home mortgage counselor to determine their eligibility, homebuyers should pre-register at www.NeighborhoodLIFT.com.

“We will have home mortgage counselors from around the country that will come in to staff the event,” said Wells Fargo spokesman Josh Dunn.

To be eligible for a grant, recipients also must complete an 8-hour homebuyer education session offered by Raleigh nonprofit DHIC or another HUD-approved housing counseling agency.

“It’s a great time to buy a home,” said Gregg Warren, president of DHIC. “The market is improving. Interest rates, while creeping up, are still very low.”

Eligible homebuyers don’t have to obtain a mortgage from Wells Fargo.

“We certainly encourage people to consider a Wells Fargo mortgage, but it is not required,” Dunn said.

To date NeighborhoodLIFT programs sponsored by Wells Fargo and NeighborWorks America, a national nonprofit focused on affordable housing and community development, have provided financial assistance to more than 12,900 homeowners in 48 communities.

David Ranii: 919-829-4877, @dranii

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