RALEIGH, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Hundreds of people looking to buy a home in Wake and Durham counties could be eligible for thousands of dollars in free money for a down payment.
Wells Fargo is launching a new program that allows eligible home owners to receive a matching grant ranging from $2,500 up to $7,500.
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The company announced the $5 million dollar commitment to a local NeighborhoodLIFT program Friday morning that aims to boost homeownership.
John Maldonado has been researching homes in Raleigh for two years, but the chance to own one seemed out of reach, until now.
"We're kind of in a seller's market in Raleigh so that in itself is difficult. A program like this definitely helps," he said.
NeighborhoodLIFT targets low and middle-income families making 80 percent or below the local area's median income, which is $56,550 in Durham County and $61,300 in Wake County for a family of four, with income maximums varying depending on family size and type of loan. Eligibility for military service members and veterans may earn up to 100 percent of the area median income.
Approved homebuyers will have up to 60 days to finalize a contract to purchase a home. To reserve the full grant amount, participants buying homes with the program must commit to live in the home for three years.
To be eligible, down payment recipients must complete an eight-hour homebuyer education session with DHIC or another HUD-approved housing counseling agency.
NeighborhoodLIFT program grants can be combined with other down payment assistance programs to provide additional financial benefits, and homebuyers do not have to obtain mortgage financing from Wells Fargo.
"It's about revitalizing neighborhoods and stabilizing communities," said national program manager Kimberly Smith-Moore.
The program seeks to help about 500 homeowners in the Raleigh-Durham area.
"When you have an opportunity to have up to $15,000 as a down payment, that goes a long way in helping those persons who otherwise might not be in the market," said Durham Mayor Bill Bell.
Bell said Durham lacks affordable housing options at a time when the city is trying to revitalize many of its neighborhoods.
It's a similar story in Raleigh, one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
"We as a city have prioritized affordable housing. The city is growing by leaps and bounds which also means it's getting more expensive," said Mayor Nancy McFarlane.
McFarlane hopes the program has a "trickle-down" effect, boosting the local economy with each new homeowner.
"We really want people to have the homeownership they always dream about," she said.
Since February 2012, LIFT programs have helped create more than 12,900 homeowners in 48 communities, including more than 300 homeowners in Charlotte.
Interested homebuyers are encouraged to attend a free event on Feb. 3-4 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown, located at 3415 Wake Forest Rd, Raleigh. The event includes a Wells Fargo Virtual Affordable Home Tour viewing center where attendees can preview local homes available for purchase.
Participants are also encouraged to pre-register to reserve a matching down payment assistance grant. 84 people have already signed up.
For more details about the eligibility requirements visit https://www.wellsfargo.com/mortgage/lift or call (866) 858-2151.
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New program offers future Wake, Durham homebuyers down payment assistance