The Virginia Housing Development Authority has lowered its interest rate on 30-year home mortgage loans from 9.62 percent to 8.75 percent, which it claimed is the lowest rate being offered in the country.

The loans are available through 600 participating banks to buyers who have not owned a home in the last 36 months. The buyer's income and the cost of the prospective purchase also have to fall within limits that vary from one region of the state to another.

The agency, which raises its funds from the sale of tax-exempt bonds and notes, said home buyers may obtain a 7.16 percent rate for the first five years of the mortgage by paying, or having the seller pay, 5.5 percent of the loan amount in addition to the down payment and loan points. The rate will increase to 8.75 percent in the sixth year of the loan.

Here are the limits, by region, the agency sets on the price of homes and maximum income allowed purchasers: Northern Virginia -- $104,200 for new home and $90,300 for existing home; $41,200 for a new home and $36,500 for an existing home. North Piedmont-Richmond-Petersburg-Roanoke -- $71,000 new, $67,500 existing; $29,900 new and $28,700 existing. Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News -- $78,500 new, $68,300 existing; $34,300 new and $29,000 existing. All other areas -- $61,100 new and $56,500 existing; $29,400 new and $27,200 existing.