Buy Smart


buy smart family
Image: Daniel Root

Buyers: Patrick Stenger and Becky Lennon
Occupations: Becky, nanny; Patrick, restaurant manager
Location: Cully, Northeast Portland
The property: 1,370 square feet, three bedrooms, two baths
Date purchased: 2008 price $219,000

The neighborhood About twenty minutes north of downtown, Cully lies just south of Portland International Airport. The area has a mixture of aging 1950s and 1960s ranch and cottage styles near NE Killingsworth Street. The Lennons’ home is located in the Helensview development. Built in 2008, Helensview is a LEED-certified neighborhood built by HOST Development Inc, a local nonprofit home developer.

Market watch Cully’s median home price climbed by nearly 1 percent last year, and most homes took about two months to sell.

Buyer’s tip “We thought we’d have to put 20 percent down,” Becky Lennon says of the couple’s first-time-buying jitters. “But realizing we didn’t have to was huge.” With help from family, the couple put down 15 percent. And because together they earn less than $54,000—the state’s average median income for a family of two—they received an additional $5,000 in assistance from HOST Development, which helped lower their interest rate from 6.75 to 6 percent. The home’s ten-year warranty and energy-saving features also eased their decision to buy.

Expert eye Buyers can still put as little as 3.5 percent down on a mortgage, HOST Development broker Alyssa Isenstein Krueger says. “If you have a good credit score—think seven hundred—and steady income, there are ways around it.” She also points out that not all lenders are equal. Go to hostdevelopment.com or the Portland Housing Center at portlandhousingcenter.org to find those who specialize in serving first-time home buyers.

Expert eye Krueger says many people are confused about the $8,000 federal tax credit offered in February’s housing stimulus package to first-time home buyers. While the credit can be claimed retroactively on 2008 taxes, it can’t be used for a down payment, she says, noting that buyers can claim it only after they’ve closed on a purchase. If you’ve already filed your 2008 taxes, you would fill out Form 5405 to claim the credit and Form 1040 to amend your 2008 return.—Brian Barker

Expert Tip: All lenders are not equal. For a list of those that specialize in serving first-time home buyers, visit hostdevelopment.com or the Portland Housing Center at portlandhousingcenter.org