Mortgage program encourages rehabs

New enhancements to the University's guaranteed mortgage program encourage would-be West Philadelphia homeowners interested in buying a fixer-upper to get in and get their hands dirty sooner and with less expense.

Part of ongoing strategies to stimulate home ownership in West Philadelphia, the program-upgrades offer Penn faculty and staff the option to finance 120 percent of their mortgage for a property that needs rehabilitation (see related story).

The new program, available through Commerce Bank, allows participants to finance 5 percent toward closing costs, and the additional 15 percent is applied to home improvements.

These enhancements are only the first to be rolled out under newly appointed Managing Director for Community Housing Diane-Louise Wormley as part of increased efforts to get more University employees living in West Philadelphia. Wormley said though the impact of these features will not be widespread, the option is an attractive one.

"It's not going to be a huge number of people that take advantage of this," Wormley said. "But for those who do, it's a great opportunity to get themselves into a better house."

The total cost of improvements that can be financed adds up to 15 percent of the total purchase price of the house, Wormley said.

"We're not talking gut rehabs here," Wormley said, "but that little bit of extra work. It will allow people to get more house than they would've been able to afford."

Several interested buyers have already started to take advantage of the enhancements, Wormley said. The impetus for the improvements came from a survey conducted by the Office of the Treasurer during annual housing fairs, which asked respondents what kind of features would get them into houses sooner.

The feedback revealed buyers wanted several features to get them living in West Philadelphia sooner: Help with down payments (already part of the mortgage program), help with closing costs and help with buying a more affordable house that needs a little work.

Penn's guaranteed mortgage program offers other options, including a 105 percent guarantee, with 5 percent going toward closing costs for West Philadelphia purchases; and a 100 percent guarantee for properties east of the Schuylkill River (and west of 18th Street).

Originally published on February 26, 1998