"First-time homebuyers are really our focus, but if a family wants to lower their payments, we'll do that too," Rathbun added.
In 2012, the agency provided about $173 million in loans - more than the typical amount doled out in a year's time, he said.
"The average amount we give in a year since I've been here is about $150 million," Rathbun said. "It's been a pretty good year."
Although interest rates are not at their lowest point in history (Merlo has seen rates as low as 2.25 percent for a 10- or 15-year fixed mortgage in his tenure with Express Mortgage) they are still low enough to encourage buyers, he said.
Merlo is also seeing the "purchase market" pick up considerably, he said. And unlike Rathbun, he is seeing fewer people looking to refinance.
"The people that were going to refinance their homes have already done so," Merlo said. "For the last two years, we were slightly weighted toward refinances, but that trend has reversed itself and we're back to heavier purchases."
The low interest rates and rebounding home values make Merlo believe the housing market will get stronger as the year progresses.
"This speaks for a pretty positive outlook for the purchase market here in the Kanawha Valley," he said.
The time to buy a home is now, Merlo believes, because those wishing to sell a home are more likely to negotiate on price.
"Because there are fewer buyers in the winter, sellers are more willing to negotiate on a price than they are a few months down the road," Merlo said.