MADISON, Wis. (1/4/11)--A valuable tool for home buyers, especially first-time purchasers, is down-payment assistance, according to Susan Tiffany, director of consumer periodicals for the Credit Union National Association, whose advice was featured on two of Bankrate.com “6 must-do’s before buying a home.” Strapped-for-cash homebuyers can improve their chances by searching out down-payment assistance in addition to banking their own money, Tiffany said. Often this type of assistance is location-based or tagged to a type of buyer such as first timers. She recommended that buyers conduct an Internet search with the city name, county name, and word combinations like “down payment assistance,” “first-time home buyers” and homebuyers assistance.” A safe formula for home expenses is not to exceed 28 percent of gross monthly income, Tiffany said in another home-buying tip in the article. She said home buyers can improve their chances by “trying on” a rough estimate of their mortgage payment before they sign the papers. Tiffany recommended that home shoppers calculate the mortgage in their price range, along with expenses such as taxes, insurance and utilities, then bank the difference between that total and what they are currently paying for monthly home expenses.