Most lenders require private mortgage insurance (PMI) when you can't afford a sufficient down payment a nonrefundable monthly payment on your part that guarantees they'll be "made whole" if you default on your loan. To add insult to injury, zero-down loans are typically granted at two separate interest rates: market rate for 80 percent of the amount, and a much higher rate for the 20 percent that would have been the down payment. The ACORN Housing Corporation (AHC) is a HUD-certified lending program that allows buyers whose income is below $52,000 per year to finance 100 percent of their mortgage with no PMI and
a below-market interest rate. St. Louis' AHC is deluged with clients and at times feels disorganized, but director Patricia Wright-Sivels still takes the time to patiently guide clients through the byzantine home-buying process. The AHC program is not limited to first-time buyers or buyers with spotless credit records, and it incorporates a counseling program that helps enable anyone to become a homeowner. In short, it's just the sort of endeavor that restores one's faith in the American Dream.