By Ron Wolfe

For the past two weeks Iíve written about the dramatic value appreciation that has taken place with platted single family homes in SouthShore.

From 1999 to 2003, the average SouthShore parcel market value increased from $75,954 to $116,711, an increase of $40,757 or 53.7 percent. This amounts to more than 13 percent per year!

There are many persons today who are renting and qualify for home ownership. They just donít realize it and are unaware of the "helping hands" in Hillsborough County. If you know someone that is interested in home ownership and has not pursued it because they feel they might not qualify, please bring this column to their attention.

Hillsborough County can help you purchase your first home. To qualify for county help you need to meet certain income requirements that vary according to the size of your household.

To be eligible for these programs, your total household income must be below the following amounts:

Family Size Income Limits

1 $42,480.

2 $48,480.

3 $54,600.

4 $60,600.

5 $65,400.

6 $70,320.

7 $75,120.

8 $80,040.

This assistance is available only to first-time homebuyers whose total income is less than shown above.

The program offers down payment and closing cost assistance in the form of a loan to purchase a house in Hillsborough County, not including the City of Tampa.

The house you purchase under this program must be inspected by a Hillsborough County approved inspector. The sales price cannot exceed $116,972. If the home is newly constructed, the sale price cannot exceed $122,210. I think you will agree that these amounts will allow a first-time homebuyer to purchase a substantial homestead.

Hillsborough County may provide up to $5,000 to apply to your down payment and closing costs. This assistance is given in the form of a deferred payment loan, which becomes a five-year second mortgage.

No payments need be made during the life of the loan, nor will any interest accrue if the home remains your primary residence. After the five-year period, the loan will be forgiven in full. However, if the house is rented or sold within this time period, your loan must be paid in full.

To participate in the First Time Homebuyers Program, you must meet all of the following requirements: 1) You have not owned a home in the past 3 years. 2) You must be below the household income threshold previously listed. 3) You must have at least $1,000 of your own money to put down on your new home. These funds cannot be borrowed or a gift. 4) You must be able to qualify for a mortgage and the total monthly payment, including principle, interest, taxes and insurance, may not exceed 32 percent of your total gross income and total debt does not exceed 41 percent of your total gross income. 5) Make application to one of the Hillsborough County approved non-profit agencies and provide all documentation requested. A list of agencies may be obtained by calling 744-5557, ext. 102 (English) or ext. 101 (Spanish).

This helpful program is administered by the Affordable Housing Section of the Hillsborough County Housing & Community Code Enforcement Department, 926 Bay Plaza Blvd., Suite 510, Tampa, Fla. 33619.

Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Send letters to: THE VOICE of SouthShore, P.O. Box 476, Ruskin, FL 33575-0476. Phone: 813-273-8976.

E-mail: Ron@thearjaygroup.com.

Web site: http://www.buysouthshore.com.

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