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THERE'S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO BUY A HOME

Many people who want to buy a house think they must have at least a 10 percent down payment and a lot of money for closing costs. But if you can't do that, there are several cheaper ways to accomplish the goal:

- A loan backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.- A mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

- The Fannie Mae community homebuyers program.

- A mortgage backed by state bonds and administered by state housing finance agencies.

"Unfortunately, many buyers are not aware of these options," says Tyrone Starks of GMAC Mortgage Co. "That is why today's mortgage loan officers are being trained in affordable housing programs."

If you're not ready to approach a mortgage lender, you can get some details about low-cost mortgages from any competent real estate agent.

VA

Mortgages backed by Veterans Affairs are probably the best choice for those eligible - veterans, military service members and surviving spouses.

You may get a fixed-rate loan or an ARM for up to $184,000 with no down payment. The agency also allows the seller or a new home builder to pay all your closing costs, and you can spend up to 41 percent of your gross income on the mortgage and other housing costs, compared with the average industry cap of 28 percent.

If you can't find a local lender who offers VA mortgages, call the VA toll-free - 800-827-1000 - for the name of a lender in your region.

FANNIE MAE

The community homebuyers program is offered by thousands of lenders across the country under various names. It allows you to get a fixed-rate mortgage with a 5 percent down payment, 2 percent of which can be a gift. And you can spend up to 33 percent of your gross monthly income on the mortgage and related costs. There may be income restrictions in some areas, but if you pay the entire 5 percent down payment yourself the restrictions are lifted.

For more information on the community homebuyers program call toll-free - 800-832-2345.

FHA

You can get an FHA-backed mortgage with as little as 3 percent to 5 percent down and the down payment and closing costs may come from a gift. The maximum mortgage amount varies by city; in high-cost areas it's now about $152,000. You can use 29 percent of your gross monthly income for the mortgage.

Also, you may include bonuses, overtime and part-time employment income when calculating how much you can borrow. And you don't have to include any child-care costs when totaling up monthly expenses.

STATE HOUSING AGENCIES

These programs are offered only in some states for lower-income homebuyers.

In California, for example, according to GMAC's Tyrone Starks, the California Housing Finance Agency and Housing Insurance Fund offer mortgages of up to $203,150 in some areas with a 3 percent down payment.

You can get some help with closing costs from the seller and use up to 33 percent of your gross month-ly income for housing expenses.