TAMPA, Fla. — First-time home buyers in need of some financial assistance may be eligible for more money than before to help with a down payment. Pinellas County’s down payment assistance program has increased the maximum it offers from $50,000 to $75,000.

As a realtor, Jessica Carrigg has made a career out of getting people into the home of their dreams, but as often as she has helped make others’ home buying dreams come true, she was unable to afford to buy a home for her family.

What You Need To Know

  •  The minimum down paymant assistane was rasiaed from $50,000 to $75,000

  •  The home ownershirp rate in Florida at 68.1%

  •  Florida ranked 22nd in homeownership among other states

“The struggle is especially me being 1099 and self employed,” she said. “So, being a real estate agent, you have all the write off a lot of stuff. At the end of the tax season, then you’re like, ‘okay, this is what I have to show.’”

According to the United States Federal Reserve, the homeownership rate in Florida stands at 68.1%. That ranks The Sunshine State 22nd in home ownership compared to other states.

“We looked at what the needs of Pinellas County residents are right now,” said county down payment assistance program manager Lindsey Latorre. “And with the increase in purchase prices, we’ve got the interest rates that are climbing and then just the market in general is really hard to get into, so we figured out how we can help. It helps with the down payment. It helps with closing costs and it keeps that mortgage affordable.”

For Carrigg, the $50,000 down payment assistance she qualified for helped her family not only move into their own home back in September but also, for the first time, they got to decorate it for their favorite holiday, Halloween.

“Oh, I doubled the amount of Halloween stuff I bought this year,” she said. “You can’t do this pretty much anywhere that you’re renting.”

Now, in addition to decorating outside her new home, she’s able to make the inside a home of her own too.

“I wanna do luxury laminate throughout the house. We’re going to be taking this wall out,” she said.

The entire home buying experience has even made her a better at her job.

“I think I am a more compassionate, communicative and strong person and realtor after that,” she said.