by Michelle Wilson Bradley
Special to The New Tri-State Defender

BancorpSouth is conducting citywide Homebuyer seminars for those seeking to purchase and refinance their homes. Through the MaxAccess Assistance Program, mortgage borrowers can obtain down payment assistance up to $7,250.

The next scheduled seminar is August 18, 10 a.m. to noon at New Direction Christian Church, 6120 Winchester Rd., where Dr. Stacy L. Spencer is senior pastor. The events are free and open to the public.

“BancorpSouth is committed to investing in our communities, and that’s why we created this program,” said Johnnie Owens, mortgage loan originator.

A lot of people need homebuyer education, Owens said.

“Our program focuses on the home itself, not income or the credit of the individual. …Memphis has the highest rental rate in the country. This (program) is needed.”

Tina Pillow, branch manager at the 1222 Raines Rd. location in Whitehaven, said, “We want to break (down) barriers to homeownership by providing these homebuyer seminars for the next three to four years.”

Senior Pastor Dr. Christopher Davis and St. Paul Church hosted a seminar on Aug. 3. Pillow plans to take the seminars to schools, library branches and neighborhood association groups as well.

“I do all the planning from beginning to end, which includes serving lunch to attendees and giving out gift card door prizes,” she said.

At the St. Paul event, teachers were given a $250 drawing prize to assist with school supplies and an additional donation was awarded to Oakshire Elementary for student school supplies, Pillow said

The seminars feature credit professionals, realtors, City of Memphis Down Payment Assistance (DPA) representatives and BancorpSouth mortgage staffers committed to answering questions and discussing topics associated with the home-buying process.

“Our program can qualify more applicants for DPA and expand homeownership opportunities,” Owens said.

BancorpSouth can provide up to $7,250 assistance that can be coupled with up to $10,000 of DPA assistance from the city’s program. The City of Memphis has the Homebuyer Incentive Program for Citizens, which has income guidelines according to family size, and the Homebuyer Incentive Program for Police, Fire and Teachers, with no income limits. 

“Both programs can work with the (BancorpSouth) MaxAccess program. In addition to these two, borrowers may be able to obtain $15,000 from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency’s (THDA) Hardest Hit Fund Down Payment Assistance program,” Owens said.

The City of Memphis may provide funds to assist homebuyers with down payment and closing costs to purchase a home inside the city limits. The program is available for first time homebuyers and for existing homeowners who want to sell their homes to upgrade or downsize. 

THDA offers assistance to eligible homebuyers who purchase homes in targeted neighborhoods hard hit by the downturn.

“We are here to offer personal guidance through the entire process,” Owens said.

Lenders must be approved by DPA to use the program. Once the first mortgage loan with the lender is approved, it is submitted to DPA for processing. THDA has eligibility criteria as well.

(Anyone interested in the BancorpSouth program should contact Owens or Pillow at 901-344-7872. Email [email protected] or [email protected] For questions about the DPA program, call 901-636-7474 or visit For THDA, call 1-800-228-8432.)