AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88 You may also have to choose a longer commute to achieve home ownership or search for a property that needs a makeover and do some of the work yourself. Here are some sites that offer first-time-buyer assistance. • calhfa.ca.gov This is essentially a bank operated by the state. It has 13 home-buying help programs, including down payment assistance and 30-year loans at below-market rates. Its price limits are adjusted every six months and it processes loans at the same speed as big commercial lenders, experts say. Buying that first house can be a daunting task, but help, both financial and educational, is available. The help is readily available on the Internet, and lenders and local government agencies sponsor seminars for first-time buyers. The biggest challenge, though, is finding a house you can afford in this record price environment. If possible, start your search before the summer buying season, which typically features the year’s highest prices. • realtor.com. It’s the official site of the National Association of Realtors and one way to price-shop a variety of markets from home. The site includes links to other home-related sites. And it has a primer for buyers and sellers. • www.car.org. This is the California Association of Realtors’ site. It features monthly sales and price information from major markets around the state.• www.hsh.com This is the site for the nation’s biggest tracker of mortgage-market information. It posts interest-rate information for markets across the country and calculators that will help you figure out how much of a house your income will buy. • freddiemac.com and fanniemae.com These are the sites of the two major mortgage-market players; each features links to educational programs. They help buyers through their conforming loan limits. The two companies buy loans from lenders and the conforming limit is the maximum-size loan they will purchase. The limit is based on the October-to-October change in the average housing price. The current limit is $417,000, which makes house hunting tougher for first-time buyers in Southern California. For example, in January the median price for a home in Southern California, whether new or previously owned single-family house or condo, was $469,000, according to market tracker DataQuick Information Systems. And the median price in every ZIP code in the San Fernando Valley is above the conforming limit, too.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!