Government shutdown hurting rural New England housing market

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October 9, 2013, 8:05 pm
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(NECN: Amy Sinclair) - The partial government shut down is having a chilling effect on the housing market, especially in rural New England.

Thousands of first-time home buyers who had planned to take advantage of the USDA's Rural Development Loans have discovered that the program is on hold along with many other federal programs.

Jess Smith and her boyfriend Chris Chapman were supposed to close on a brand new three-bedroom colonial in Buxton, Maine this week.

"It's time to create our own home and building was a great option for us," says Smith standing on a freshly-seeded lawn in front of the gray home with a red door.

Like many other other first-time home buyers who are willing to live in less populated areas, the couple is financing their dream with an "RD" loan. The USDA's loan program is an attractive option for low-to-moderate income buyers, because they can get 100 percent financing.
"The fees are low. The interest is great. It's a no brainer for a lot of clients I work with, " says Cari Turnbull, a realtor with the Maine Real Estate Network.

But when the government shut down, so did the loan program. And instead of moving in, the young couple is in a holding pattern.
"It's frustrating," says Smith. "We want to get in here and create the home we've dreamed of and we're stuck."

Not only can't they close on the house, they can't get answers to their questions. The USDA website is off line and all the USDA Field Offices in Maine until the government re-opens for business.

Mortgage Brokers say the shut down affects everyone who's anywhere in the process of buying or selling an RD financed property.

"This is uncharted territory," says Shawn Casey, President of Cumberland County Mortgage. "None of us have any idea when the government will open and when they do we don't know how backlogged the IRS or the regional RD offices will be."

Both the brokers and realtors say they worry about the chilling impact the shut down will have on rural economies.

"The painters, the builders and the movers all count on us," said Turnbull. "It's gonna hurt a lot of people."

Jess Smith's concerns are more immediate. They've told their landlord they'll be out at the end of the month, so she has an urgent message for the politicians in Washington.

"Stop being so selfish," she said.

She's hoping they get to get a move on, so they can move in.

Maine has one of the highest home-ownership rates in the country; roughly 400,000 Mainers own their own homes, and between 5-10 percent of those homes are financed with RD loans.

Tags: maine, New England, Amy Sinclair, Buxton, government shutdown, Maine housing market, New England housing market, USDA Rurual Development Loans, Jess Smith, Chris Chapman
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