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Wells Fargo announces matching down payment grant program for homebuyers

Real Estate - Residential
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Since 2012, Wells Fargo’s NeighborhoodLIFT program has helped create more than 11,750 homeowners in 44 communities across the country.

Now, it’s Columbia’s turn.

Program and city officials joined forces at City Hall today to announce the launch of a $4.1 million program for prospective homebuyers in Richland and Lexington counties. The program will provide matching down payment assistance grants up to $7,500 for eligible homebuyers.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin (left to right), Holt Chetwood, Wells Fargo Midlands market president, and Kim Smith-Moore, national program manager for NeighborhoodLIFT, announcing homebuyer assistance progam. (Photo/Melinda Waldrop)“It’s important that they receive the tools that they need and address the barriers that keep people from achieving home ownership,” said Kim Smith-Moore, national program manager for NeighborhoodLIFT. “One of the big barriers has always been down payment assistance, and so this program helps to bridge that gap and to give people what they need to become home owners.”

An eligible homebuyer’s annual income must not exceed 80% (100% for active duty military and veterans) of the local area median income, which is about $51,300 in Richland and Lexington counties for a family of four. Income maximums vary depending on family size and loan type. To receive the full grant amount, approved buyers must commit to live in the home for three years. Applicants must also have been pre-approved for a first mortgage.

Would-be buyers can find out more at an event July 29-30 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Pre-registration is available at or by calling 866-858-2151.  

Kim Smith-Moore, national program manager for NeighborhoodLIFT, said 506 appointments are available. The event is free and takes place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Walk-ins will be accepted while funds are available, though pre-registration is strongly recommended.

Approved buyers will have up to 60 days to finalize a contract to purchase a home. The grants may be combined with other down payment assistance programs, and homebuyers can obtain mortgage financing from any qualified lender.

The goal, said Wells Fargo Midlands market president Holt Chetwood, is to put 365 people into new homes.

“A great city is really a collection of great neighborhoods, and neighborhoods are made much more stable, wealthier and happier when you have as many homeowners as possible,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said.

The program will also provide homebuyer education sessions, information about special financing and resources such as VA loans, and a preview of featured homes for sale in local neighborhoods. Prospective buyers must complete an eight-hour education session with a HUD-approved housing counseling agency.

“In order to receive a grant, you do have to take the homebuyer education training, and that’s critical,” Smith-Moore said. “Some people take the training and say, ‘I’m not ready for that.’ It’s important that people, before they enter into homeownership, are educated and have a good understanding.”

Chetwood said he hopes the matching down payment program will help the Midlands continue its recovery from October’s historic flood.

“It has been a testament to the character of our community as we have worked to rebuild over the last nine months, and it’s our hope at Wells Fargo that this $4.1 million commitment will work to lift our neighborhoods, to strengthen them, and to better our community as a whole,” Chetwood said. “We hope it has a measurable impact here in the Midlands.” 

Contact Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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