Vail Board of Realtors boosts Eagle County down payment fund for attainable housing
Housing Solutions for our Local Workforce.
The Vail Board of REALTORS®️ and the Vail Multi-List Service are contributing back to the community by donating $50,000 and $25,000 respectively to the Eagle County Loan Fund (ECLF). ECLF is a Down Payment Assistance (DPA) program supporting our local workforce in purchasing homes in a challenging residential real estate market.
Tex Asanti of Title Company of the Rockies was faced with the classic workforce housing problem - the search for a new rental. She found a condo listed for sale and was going to ask the owner to consider renting. However, a few friends encouraged her to buy versus rent.
“It was near the start of ski season, a tough time to find a rental,” remembers Asanti. “And here I am, trying to figure out the funds for a down payment. Honestly, to put it into perspective, coming up with a down payment is very similar to coming up with first, last and deposit to rent."
Asanti’s original plan was to buy and then refinance as quickly as possible. Her lender presented a different option: With at least $7,500, she could qualify for a DPA program. She was guided to the ECLF program that alleviated some of the stress involved with gathering funds for a full down payment.
Asanti closed on her condo in November 2019. Never having to worry about losing her rental unit again.
Initiative and Resources
In support of its “Bold Housing Moves” initiative, the Eagle County Housing and Development Authority (ECHDA) contacted the VBR with funding needs for the ECLF program. The VBR had previously donated to the fund and gladly offered more support.
Sticker shock with the real estate market is real for residents, and the topic of affordable housing is a hot one.
“We should consider changing the effort from ‘affordable’ to ‘attainable’ housing,” says Alex Griffin, Vail Board of REALTORSâ Chair. “Our open market real estate pricing is a pretty far stretch to be called affordable. But, with the DPA and deed restriction programs in place, buying a home here is actually attainable.”
According to Meghan Scallen at the ECHDA, over $7M in down payment assistance loans has been issued since 1998, benefiting approximately 700 families and individuals. The ECLF is a loan to help with down payment and/or closing costs. The terms are unique in that there is no monthly repayment. The loan is repaid when the home is resold, refinanced, or at the end of a 15-year term with minimal interest based on the equity appreciation gain of the home. For those who repay the loan within 24 months, there is no interest, only principal due.
Data illustrates the ECLF’s impact: In 2019, there was $278,256 available in funding, and an average loan of $13,406 helped 46 families and individuals close on a home. In 2020, there was $344,490 in available funds. Because this is a revolving fund, the amount fluctuates. The average loan remained at $13,959 and helped 45 local residents. In 2021, there was $612,074 available that helped 42 local residents with an average of $16,998 in DPA.
All the while, an anomaly was happening. The COVID-19 pandemic spurred a migration to mountain communities straining home sales inventory and driving real estate prices to record highs. Real estate pricing in Eagle County increased approximately 30% during 2020 and 2021. A punishing increase to an already impacted community.
“Many local wages are lower than the actual cost of living in Eagle County,” according to Kimberly Williams, Executive Director of the ECHDA. “Most households earn less than the median income needed to live comfortably. And our real estate market is driven by forces beyond our local economy.”
This jump in home pricing spurred Eagle County Commissioners to approve loan fund benefit revisions. Qualified borrowers can receive a loan of up to 5% of the home’s purchase price. The maximum sale price increased to $750,000 allowing borrowers up to $37,500 when it was formerly a maximum of $15,000. Home buyers must contribute 1% of the purchase price or 50% of the loan amount, whichever is less. The commissioners also approved a $300,000 cash contribution to bolster the revolving loan program and provide additional loans to meet the demand.
“Loans like the ECLF allow buyers more options as real estate prices continue to increase,” says Scallen. “With a larger down payment, buyers can purchase homes at a higher price point. It will also help lower their monthly mortgage payment. For the most part, loans are paid off in full when the home is sold. It can also allow buyers to meet the 20% down payment requirement helping the borrower to avoid paying private mortgage insurance.”
Fulfilling the Mission
The $75,000 in donations fulfill the VBR mission to support its members and community through education, technology, philanthropy, and advocacy.
“I see these donations as both philanthropy and advocacy,” says Griffin. “Philanthropy in donations and advocacy as a duty to take care of our workforce. This problem has been here for decades, and we continue to answer the need for workforce housing. Prices have gone up 30% in less than three years. But there is still attainable housing. The VBR is a member community that wants to support and advocate for the local workforce.”
“Investing in our community through the ECLF supports the quality of people who, in turn, comprise a quality community,” reflects Griffin. “It’s similar to a business investing in its workforce to sustain the quality of the experience for its customers. If we want a quality experience for our resort guests, we need to invest in our quality of life for our workforce.”
Asanti is a shining example of this vision and promotes the fund every opportunity she gets. "The program is amazing and really well thought out,” she says. “It's for those who work and live here and want to continue to do so. It was created by locals, for locals.”
ECLF is one of several DPA programs available to Eagle County workforce residents and is part of a thoughtful plan to help locals surmount the challenges beyond our economic control. Eligible applicants can apply for DPA through their mortgage lender.
The ECHDA adds to the local housing inventory through deed-restricted property programs like the successful Miller Ranch neighborhood in Edwards. Deed-restricted homes are mixed into open market neighborhoods and are an important approach to planning.
“One of the most equitable aspects of the American dream is to own a home. No matter what your background is, you should have the right to own a home. Because of our resort-based community, it’s very hard to purchase a home in an equitable way. VBR members want to help locals find what they need. Supporting this fund provides our members with an important opportunity to invest back into this community.”
“So much of a Realtor’s foundational approach to our job is truly caring about the clients and the local market,” continues Griffin. “It’s our community too. Every family that we can help find a home, makes our community even better.”
Eagle County is establishing a new program to help the local homebuyer compete with cash buyers. According to Scallen, this cash buy program could be launched by Spring 2022.
“All DPA programs are intertwined together,” says Griffin. “Entities in each municipality are invested in making these programs work. The ECLF casts a wider net of financial support whereas other programs are town specific. This fund fits our organizational, county wide approach with non-commission-based Realtor support through The Valley Store.”
The Valley Home Store provides a central resource for local deed restricted properties – and provides ECLF guidance for home buyers. These licensed Realtors®️ work exclusively with residents to assist them in purchasing and reselling deed restricted homes, and consult with local municipalities on policy, compliance, and best practices.
“It doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived in this community,” remarks Griffin. “How you can contribute back is what makes a true impact. VBR members are dedicated to making Eagle County a thriving, diverse community.”
Visit www.valleyhomestore.org for more information on the ECLF and Workforce Home Buyer assistance programs. Visit the Vail Board of REALTORS®️ at VBR.net to find a Realtor®️.