Most of you know that I am trying to buy my first home this year. I have never been interested in being stuck in one place - I am a total vagabond at heart and would like to live many different places, including outside the country again. But since the economy crashed I just feel like it would be silly to walk away from a steady paycheck, and New Orleans is a wonderful city with a small town feel, great festivals and events, and beautiful weather. If I am going to put down roots anywhere, it is here.
A lot of renters feel fear about a mortgage payment, but the truth is that we are already paying a mortgage every month, it is just not ours. So don't be scared; educate yourself.
There are insanely good programs like FHA loans for first time homebuyers that only require 3.5% down, instead of the standard ten percent. There are also programs that pay your down payment AND closing costs, if you meet the requirements and are willing to look into it...I am attending first time homebuyer training classes (12 hours required) and then I will have qualified for a 25k grant of FREE money! If you stay in the house you buy for five years or more the grant is forgiven and you never have to pay it back. If you sell the house, you simply pay it back from the sale, just like a mortgage loan. Basically it just helps you afford a house that is a bit more than you would have been able to afford, and you don't have to make mortgage payments on the grant money.
Check out HUD, Homepath (great for foreclosures, etc.) and your state's government websites for more info. In New Orleans, the info for the Soft Second Mortgage program (the one I am doing) is HERE. Another great resource here is the Neighborhood Development Foundation - ask for Fred Johnson - he is so nice!
This is really the best time ever to be a first time homebuyer!