By Dan Bewley and Scott Thompson, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Home sales across the country are improving from a year ago, but many realtors say the numbers are still down due to the recession.

One of the biggest obstacles to home ownership is coming up with the down payment. Several programs in Tulsa can help bridge that gap.

Matt Holland is days away from owning his first home. He has spent the past year looking for the right house at the right price.

"It's a long process to get here, but I'm glad I got here," said Holland.

As a first time home buyer, Holland faced a number of hurdles. He says one of the more difficult parts of the process was finding the money for a down payment. 

"Yeah, it's a huge chunk of money," said Holland.

"Yes, it's absolutely a big concern," said Vicki Elless, of Tulsa Realty.

Vickie Elless is Holland's realtor. She got him in touch with the Tulsa Housing Authority and its first time home buyers program. It's geared to help renters find a home of their own inside Tulsa city limits.

"It's part of the American dream to be a homeowner. It's wealth building, it's forced savings, equity in homes becomes a forced savings for some people," said Sharon Lovett, of Tulsa Housing Authority.

The program has income guidelines and restrictions and the first time buyer must complete several classes on home ownership to qualify. Once done, they're eligible for a loan of 5-percent of the purchase price, up to $5,000, to go towards a down payment or closing costs. In Holland's case, that meant $3,300.

"It was very important. I wouldn't have been able to buy a house without it," said Holland.

If Holland stays there for five years and doesn't take out another mortgage the loan is forgiven. He encourages every first time buyer to look around and take advantage of the help that's out there.

"Do your research, get in a good program, get a good realtor. If you do all those things you can get a really good house at a really good price," said Holland.

For more information, visit the Community Action Project web site or call the Housing Partners of Tulsa at (918) 551-5200.