John Howell’s Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fire loss makes message timely

One of our employees at this newspaper lost her mobile home to fire this weekend. Fortunately, life and limb were spared though property and nerves were not.

We’re responding in the usual fashion, gathering extra household items and taking up a collection to help get the family back on its feet.

All of which has little to do with Bruce Bolen of Panola County’s Office of Rural Development. Except that Bolen is concerned with making home loans to people to allow them to buy conventional homes instead of mobile homes. They are more fire resistant and become more valuable with time instead of depreciating.

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Bolen reminds us each year that June is Homeowner’s Month because his office offers programs that can allow people on limited incomes to become homeowners.

There are the direct loan and guaranteed loan programs, he said.

“Our main selling point is that on these direct loans, we finance 100 percent,” Bolen continued. There is very little out-of-pocket expense for the home buyer.

“If you don’t have a down payment, you need to come see us,” Bolen said. The program has made loans totaling over $60 million nationwide in direct loans since last October.

Few people know of the Rural Development office’s guaranteed loan program which allows higher income families — up to $61,700 annually for a family of three — to find home financing, he continued.

The guaranteed loan program can loan up to 102 percent of the appraised value of a home and requires no premium mortgage interest. No premium mortgage interest can save the home buyer up to $120 monthly on the house note, Bolen added.

The applicant should have a credit record that is “reasonably good, but it doesn’t have to be perfect,” the Rural Development representative said. An applicant who has medical collections on his or her credit record could be approved, but an applicant with a record for not paying the cellular bill or the cable television bill would not, he said.

“We do have some certified credit counseling services,” Bolen said. Plus, after May 1, applicants are required to take a homeowner education class as part of the application process.

Bolen has invited area real estate sales people to at meeting at Regions Bank in Batesville Thursday to make sure they know about the Rural Development programs for financing homes.

“This is not your old Farmers Home Administration with cookie-cutter homes and limited floor plans,” he said. “We are the housing part of what used to be the old Farmers Home Administration.”

Bolen’s passion for letting people know about how they can get into a home of their own is shared by mortgage bankers we know. There must be extra satisfaction when that transition moves a family from a trailer to a conventionally-built home. When the home’s value appreciates, it adds to the value of our tax rolls as well.

And in a safer, conventional structure, the family is less likely to experience what our employee is going through after losing everything in a fire.