Low home prices, good mortgage rates, help with down-payments, savings match programs and credit repair counseling: now is a better time than ever to be a first-time homebuyer. The housing crisis may have derailed the American Dream for millions. But for almost everyone it still makes sense to buy your own home.
That was the message at the African American Alliance for Homeownership's 12th Annual Homeownership Fair, Saturday Oct. 30. About 250 families came through Legacy Emanuel Hospital's atrium to attend classes, hear from lenders and talk to housing counselors and real estate specialists. The fair was sponsored by Safeway and Chase bank. The Skanner News Video
"You have to have a job and you have to have a good credit score, but so long as you buy a home that's within your means, the American Dream is still there," said Bertha Ferran, a mortgage loan specialist.
"Interest rates are the lowest they have been in the last 40 years," Ferran said. "Inventory is high, and the affordability of homes right now is the best in the last 30 years. Buyers have the best negotiating ability because sellers really want to accommodate them."
Margaret Kariuki, a CNA, said she is currently in an apartment, but has learned she could be able to buy.
"It's my prayer," she said. "I have to have a place to call my own. That's my goal."
George Hendrix, a real estate broker and president of A-Zebra Realty, was just one of many professionals at the fair who encouraged people to sign up for classes and check out the help available from HUD-certified housing nonprofits, such as: the African American Alliance for Homeownership, Portland Housing Center and Hacienda.
"So many people tell me "I've got too much debt" and "I don't have enough money" Hendrix said. "So maybe you can't own a home in the next 12 months, but maybe you can in the next 18 months or 24 months. And if it takes two years of planning and preparation to get into a home of your own, what is that compared to the 30 years that you will benefit from living there.
"You will be paying rent anyway so it just doesn't make sense to rent when you can buy."
"We're going to hopefully purchase a home in East County before spring" said Christen Madden, who attended the fair with two of her four children. "We've been saving up for the last two years, with the help of a program at AAAH."
Madden, who works in a mental health and addictions clinic, said she'd learned that morning about a grant program for children with disabilities that will help her family. She also is working with Proud Ground, a nonprofit that sells homes to first time homebuyers at a low price.
Proud Ground keeps home prices low by buying the land and keeping it in trust for future homebuyers. So it helps people get into homes at a very low price. In exchange the homebuyers commit to reselling the home at a below market price.
You still will make money on the deal, and have equity to help you into your next home, said Edward Gutierrez, a coordinator with Proud Ground.
"Many people who think they won't be able to buy a home, once they go through our program they realize they can buy," he said. And once people have their foot in the door, they have many more options. "More than 50 percent of our homeowners go on to purchase homes on the traditional housing market.
"It's a great first step to upward mobility – to own the roof over your head."
Also at the fair was Habitat for Humanity, which sells homes at cost. Once accepted into the Habitat program, buyers put in 500 hours of sweat equity, helping build the home they or another Habitat family will live in.
The fair included classes for people hoping to avoid foreclosure, or trying to get on their feet after foreclosure. Cheryl Roberts, executive director of AAAH, said she plans to hold more classes to help people get over foreclosure.
Check AAAH's website, she said, to find out how to register for those classes, or to register for counseling to help you buy your own home.
'The single most important thing to do right now is to get educated about the process," Roberts said. "Coming to AAAH for pre-purchase counseling or a first-time homebuyers class gives you access to our down payment assistance and other great benefits."
Video Grab: LeAundre Gill, a four-year volunteer with the Homeownership fair.
The fair was sponsored by Safeway and Chase bank.