Be a Savvy Homebuyer in Your Market

We all have that savvy friend. You know, the one who seems to have a resource, tip or connection for every hurdle in life. Do you have a go-to person for home buying? Fortunately, with a little research YOU could be that person for yourself and others in your life.

Research paid off for this New York buyer

Take a note from Kimberly Lewis, a textile and wallpaper designer, who bought her first place in Brooklyn after doing her homework, having a vision, and packing some extra patience until she found just the right place…at the right price.

At first homeownership didn’t seem possible with the prospect of a 20 percent down payment in New York City, but then she read about the Housing Development Fund Corporation (H.D.F.C.) that offers affordable co-op properties in older, once-neglected buildings, and the HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance program that helps buyers with up to $25,000 in down payment and closing costs. She began to research more about the programs and the areas where she met the program qualifications. Kimberly even took a class provided by the H.D.F.C. to learn more about purchasing a home through their program.

Next, she discovered Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a HUD-approved homeownership counseling agency. There, she learned more about qualifying for a home loan, debt-to-income ratios, closing costs and other details involved in the purchase of a property.

She kept looking for that perfect place and also enlisted the support of an agent who specializes in working with buyers using the co-op program. When Neighbors Helping Neighbors alerted Kimberly that there was a temporary change in the down payment assistance program guidelines, raising the income cap from 80 percent of area median income to 120 percent, it meant she now qualified.

With the HomeFirst program, her savings and a mortgage she was able to purchase a two-bedroom apartment in her target area for $380,000. Kimberly credits her homeownership success to the New York nonprofits who educated her and helped her prepare.

How to do homework in your own market

Kimberly was her own advocate. She knew she wanted to buy a home, but she also wanted to make an informed, responsible choice. Here’s how to replicate Kimberly’s steps in your own city:

  • Research housing finance agencies in your state and take advantage of the free resources they provide. Sign up to receive updates about available programs.
  • Research down payment assistance programs in your area. Down Payment Resource provides a searchable database of 2,500 programs that can help you save on down payment and closing costs.
  • Take a home buying course. Check out Neighborworks America, a network of community development and housing counseling counselors, and eHomeAmerica, provider of online certified homebuyer education and counseling.
  • Interview buyer agents and lenders. Look for experience in working with layered financing, homebuyer programs and first-time homebuyers.
  • Write down every question you have. You’ll be prepared for your homebuyer education class and know what to ask of your agent and lender. Not sure what to ask? Check out the new edition of 100 Questions Every First-time Homebuyer Should Ask.

Don’t let homeownership become a faraway dream. Make it a goal and start doing your homework today.