Two new mortgage programs have been developed by area lenders to help homeowners sell their houses at below-market interest rates.

Perpetual American Federal Savings and Loan Association has in the works a plan for servicing mortgages held by the seller. The program, currently under "strong consideration" according to the S&L's President William Sinclair, would take all the paperwork of an "owner take-back" out of the hands of the seller, for a fee.

At Columbia First Federal Savings and Loan Association, homeowners with low-interest mortgages at the S&L now can offer potential buyers below-market, fixed-rate 30-year mortgages, a substantial inducement to buy.

While lenders throughout the area are looking for ways to accommodate customers trying to sell their homes, and to get low-interest mortgages off their books, these programs may be the first of their kind in this area.

Below-market rates are widely available for buyers of new homes because many builders now are "buying down" interest rates for their customers, but resales of homes have relied mainly on assumptions of existing low-rate mortgages or an owner willing to hold the mortgage himself at below-market rates.

The Perpetual American plan would complement the now-common owner-take-back technique. It appears to be along the lines of a program which the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) started several years ago, when a substantial number of sellers began offering to hold below-rate mortgages so they could sell their homes.

Fannie Mae agreed to buy owner take-backs if they were originated and serviced by local lenders, but so far the response from lenders has been "very, very little," Fannie Mae spokeswoman Beth Van Houten said.

Currently, sellers are pretty much on their own if they agree to be the lender on their home sale.

Under the plan being developed at Perpetual American, the S&L would take the buyer's application, check the buyer's credit, process the mortgage papers, collect the monthly payments and forward them to the seller for a set fee. The seller still would actually hold the mortgage.

One advantage of the idea is that such a mortgage probably would be eligible for private mortgage insurance, while owner take-backs now generally are not, said Elizabeth Qutb of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Under Columbia Federal's plan, which began in February, anyone holding a mortgage at the S&L with an interest rate below 10 percent can offer a buyer a mortgage that is double the amount of the current mortgage at four percentage points above the current rate, with a floor of 12 percent.

One area homebuyer reports, for example, that he sold his home immediately after learning he was eligible for Columbia Federal's program, which gave the buyer a $116,000 mortgage at 12 1/4 percent interest over 30 years on the home, which sold for $152,000.

"After dilly-dallying around for seven months, I got a buyer right away," this seller said. "My cheek is still raw from pinching it" over the good news, he added.