Maria Lerma

Courtesy of Maria Lerma. Maria Lerma, loan consultant at Caliber Home Loans in Brentwood, has over 19 years of experience helping East County residents become homeowners. 

Here in Northern California, it’s tough to plan and save for a down payment on a house.

Whether you are just starting to save money or are close to reaching your goal, Maria Lerma, loan consultant at Caliber Home Loans in Brentwood, has some advice to help you achieve your dream of owning a home.

“You cannot let the thought of saving for a down payment overwhelm you or leave you feeling discouraged,” said Lerma. “It may be more difficult for some than others, but it can be an obtainable goal.”

Lerma, who has over 19 years of experience in mortgage lending, began her career as a realtor before she discovered that she enjoyed working on the financing side of the transaction.

“It gives me a wonderful feeling to help someone realize that they can have their dream of owning a home, make it a stress-free experience and, of course, sharing their happiness at closing,” said Lerma.  

The first step in purchasing a home is speaking to a loan consultant. Caliber Home Loans is a nationwide company that has been ranked one of the top mortgage companies in America. They offer FHA, VA, conventional, rehab, down-payment assistance and portfolio programs. 

“Consult with your loan agent to see what your purchasing power is and what your down payment requirements will be,” said Lerma.

According to Lerma, homebuyers can put as little as 3.5 percent down for FHA loans. Others opt for conventional loans, which can allow them to avoid private mortgage insurance with 20 percent down.

When saving for your down payment, Lerma has a few tips for creating a budget and figuring out how much money you can set aside for savings each month.

“Pay yourself first,” said Lerma, who speaks Spanish and works with many in the Hispanic community to help secure home loans. 

Putting a set amount of money into a savings account each month will allow you to save money before you spend it. This money will gradually add up over time.

Another tip is to make some sacrifices. Instead of traveling with the family on a weekend excursion, stay closer to home and use the money you saved to pay down debt or put into your savings.

“With these two tips, you will see your down payment funds grow each month,” she said.  

For those getting some help from family members, most loan programs allow you to get a gift from a family member to assist with your down payment. 

To assist with closing costs, buyers can request a lender credit or seller credit to reduce upfront costs.

Lerma’s expertise has helped many East County residents’ dreams of buying a home come true.

“Maria was so great to work with and so helpful,” said Oakley resident Marilla Pardee, who purchased a house with her husband Larry in April. “She made sure we not only found a house we wanted, but that it was in our budget and that our world would be secure. She made the experience so positive for us.”

Caliber Home Loans is located at 8338 Brentwood Blvd., in Brentwood. For more information, call 925-418-0912 or visit