The state's mortgage program is offering a come-on it hopes buyers will respond to -- a 2.875 percent interest rate.

The Maryland Mortgage Program has $30 million set aside to make loans at that rate over the next three months or until the money is used up. The going rate nationwide, according to Freddie Mac, is about 3.75 percent this week.

What's the catch for the lower rate? It's not available in most of Maryland. Here's a map of the "targeted areas," which in this region includes Baltimore and small slices of Baltimore County, Anne Arundel and Harford.

Also, you must live in your home, which means you can't turn landlord later with a MMP loan if you're having trouble selling the place. And you'll need to go to homeownership counseling beforehand, a move that state officials say decreases the likelihood of buying a home you can't actually afford.

The 2.875 rate, the lowest in the program's history, is a special for June to celebrate homeownership month. 

"We're really excited," said Raymond A. Skinner, the state's secretary of housing and community development.

He said the mortgage program -- which funds its loans by selling tax-exempt bonds, not with tax revenue -- is also offering a 3.25 percent rate in June for people purchasing a foreclosure or short sale in non-targeted areas. (You'd get the lower rate for a distress-sale purchase in the targeted areas.)

State and local officials announced the change in Baltimore Thursday to promote the variety of incentives city buyers can collect to cover closing costs and add to their down payment. Besides the $5,000 in no-interest loans that Maryland Mortgage Program borrowers can get, money is available from the city's Vacants to Value effort, Healthy Neighborhoods, the twice-annual Buying Into Baltimore event and certain employers, including Johns Hopkins.

A Johns Hopkins University employee who bought in the city's Barclay neighborhood last November was at Thursday's event as an example of how the incentives can add up. To $39,500, in her case.

"I still can’t believe it," said the homeowner, Sarah Prammawat.

Got a housing news tip or experience to share? (Or just want to tell me something?) Email me at jhopkins@baltsun.com.