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HOMEOWNERSHIP TIPS FROM REAL HOMEOWNERS

Real Homeowners Share Insider Tips For Making Homeownership A Reality

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Oct. 15 2021, Published 10:09 a.m. ET

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This article is sponsored by Bank of America as part of our series Property and Power: The Millennial Woman’s Guide To Homeownership — What Every Woman Needs On Her Agenda To Make Smart Decisions. Catch up on the full series here.

Many renters aspire to homeownership but have questions about how to achieve it.  We asked experts and current homeowners for the inside scoop on how to make homeownership a reality.

Sandy, an aspiring homeowner from Illinois, and her husband, a full-time grad student, have been renting their home in Chicago for seven years – they pay about $1,450 a month for rent and are not responsible for repair expenses. She asks, “We have a single income, so we’re trying to find the best way to make housing affordable. Would a mortgage and home upkeep really be worth the investment?”

To help answer Sandy’s question, we spoke with AJ Barkley, Head of Neighborhood and Community Lending at Bank of America.  She says: “Homeownership remains one of the biggest drivers of wealth creation but stepping into the homebuying process can be overwhelming. To answer your questions about homeownership, it’s important to begin with the right tools and to learn some basic terms.”

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Barkley recommends starting with Bank of America’s First-Time Homebuyer Online Edu-Series,™ where prospective buyers can watch educational videos for insights and resources and hear about one homebuyer’s personal experience.

Following that, Barkley recommends checking out Bank of America’s Real Estate Center. The Real Estate Center helps the buyer pre-qualify for a mortgage and find the right home – a major benefit in this competitive market. The Center includes:

  • Access to and information on grant eligible properties
  • Extensive search engine on properties for sale
  • Home valuation information
  • Homebuyer preparation materials
  • Calculators and tools to help you experiment with potential monthly payment scenarios and predict closing costs
  • Current mortgage rates for fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages
  • Neighborhood data – walkability scores, school rankings, etc.
  • Alerts for new homes in your market area
  • Access to Better Money Habits programs
  • A Mortgage Glossary for understanding terms
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Have A Broker You Trust Before You Start Looking

Tia Williams, NYT bestselling author of “Seven Days in June,” recommends working with a trusted advisor. “It’s super-important to have a real estate broker whom you trust, and who possesses a strong working knowledge of the area where you’re buying. The agent’s expertise, professionalism, and reputation will be key to the smoothest process.”

Find Creative Solutions

The price tag of a home in many locations, especially large cities, can be daunting. Ryan and Rachel Eindfeldt of Chicago found a creative way to make purchasing a home more affordable by purchasing a 2-flat in Chicago.

Rachel says, “We went into it with a plan to a) regularly host guests (specifically international students) who would pay room and board, and b) co-own with a family member who would also live in the home. Since the home has two apartments, it opened up these options to us. While the bank didn’t look at the guest income, our loan was based on just our regular jobs. However, we planned on having that income for our own budgeting purposes to offset homeownership costs.”

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“Making the (house) purchase with a third owner also made it more affordable. There is no way we could have purchased anything more than a small condo with a modest single income. It has been a great experience and we have loved having our own yard, garage, deck, and home!”

Making a commitment to homeownership is an individual decision. When you’re ready to begin your journey, consider using convenient resources like The Bank of America Digital Mortgage Experience®. This online tool allows you to prequalify or apply for a mortgage – from any device at any time – with the ability to speak with an experienced lending specialist if you have questions. You can also lock in your rate when you apply to avoid the risk of rising rates throughout the process.

Other tools like Bank of America’s Mortgage Calculator can help you better understand what your monthly payments will be, based on various loan amounts, to find the right amount for your family’s projected income, lifestyle, anticipated savings and repair costs.

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HOMEOWNERSHIP TIPS FROM REAL HOMEOWNERS

Research The Neighborhood

As you search for the right home for your family, pay attention to the neighborhood data provided with the homes you view. The walkability score could make a difference for a couple who prefers running errands on foot, or the school score could reveal the best districts for kids.

Sandy from Illinois comments, “In the past, I’ve neglected the neighborhood search and regretted it. I wound up in locations that weren’t walkable at all and felt unsafe at night, despite looking reasonably comfortable during the daytime. I’ve had to add security measures I wouldn’t have needed had I done my research. I learned to drive around neighborhoods before moving forward with any decisions – especially when the price of the home seems really good.”

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Call An Exterminator Before You Move In

Tia Williams adds this useful piece of advice, “Before you move in, [have] an exterminator do a thorough sweep of the place. Just for peace of mind. Also, if you’re moving into a home with a previous owner, have the locks changed!”

HOMEOWNERSHIP TIPS FROM REAL HOMEOWNERS
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Your Dream House May Come Through Renovations

Mara Schiavocampo, homeowner and Emmy-winning journalist based in New York, notes that “Not everyone has the stomach for a renovation… It’s such an emotional space. But the upside of a renovation is you get exactly what you want. You get a home and a space that truly fits your needs. And so many of the things that are part of your dream home really don’t cost anything extra if you’re doing a renovation,” she explained.

Mara and her husband spent 18 months in renovations, waiting for their dream home to be ready. Through renovations, they added touches that brought their dream to life.

“For example, we really wanted a knife cut in the counter… If you’re already installing a counter, it literally costs us nothing extra to ask the installer to just cut a knife cut. We have 11-foot ceilings in our bedroom. [We asked our contractors] to frame all the way to the roof. That didn’t cost us anything extra. That’s something for people to really think about. If you can stomach [the cost and time needed for] renovations, you can get exactly what you want and have your dream home without paying [more].”

And for those ready for a DIY project, Kathy from Illinois notes, “You can learn to be handy on YouTube and through free workshops at the hardware store, [so you can do some repairs yourself]. Your first home may need lawn care, [other] repairs and upkeep.”

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HOMEOWNERSHIP TIPS FROM REAL HOMEOWNERS

Pay Down Your Mortgage

Once you’re in your home, you can always evaluate ways to make the space, and your wallet, more comfortable. Rachel Quinn, a homeowner in Tallahassee, Florida, has found an impactful way to make homeownership more affordable.

“Just paying one extra mortgage payment a year can shorten the time it takes to pay off your mortgage by 5 to 7 years. You can divide the additional mortgage payment by 12 and just add that additional amount to each payment so it’s spread out over the year and not all at once. The faster you pay down the principal, the less interest you pay over the life of the mortgage, saving lots of money.”

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Plan Ahead For Your Dream House Interior

To get that dream house, “[start with] a Pinterest board,” Tia Williams says. “Before you start decorating, try to ideate the style you want for each of your rooms. And don’t chase trends – this is your own, personal sanctuary, so fill it with things that truly make you happy (or “spark joy,” to steal from Marie Kondo).”

Conclusion

“Every path to homeownership is unique, and you will have your own questions and lessons learned throughout your journey,” says AJ Barkley. “But if you keep your eye on your goal, take advice from trusted resources and prepare yourself for the process ahead, you will be well on your way to achieving your dream of homeownership.”

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[Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by Bank of America. The words and opinions expressed are those of the author and the sources named.]

  1. Qualified borrowers must meet eligibility requirements including, but not limited to, being owner-occupants, meeting certain qualifying income limitations and purchasing a home within a certain geographical area. Minimum combined loan-to-value must be greater than or equal to 80%. The America’s Home Grant Program is a lender credit. Program funds can only be used for nonrecurring closing costs including title insurance, recording fees, and in certain situations, discount points may be used to lower the interest rate. The grant cannot be applied toward a down payment, prepaid items or recurring costs, such as property taxes and insurance. Borrowers cannot receive program funds as cashback. Maximum income and loan amount limits apply. The home loan must fund with Bank of America. Bank of America may change or discontinue the America’s Home Grant Program or any portion of it without notice. Not available with all loan products, please ask for details.
  2. Qualified borrowers must meet eligibility requirements such as being owner-occupants and purchasing a home within a certain geographical area. Maximum income and loan amount limits apply. Minimum combined loan-to-value must be greater than or equal to 80%. Program funds can be applied toward down payment only. Borrowers cannot receive program funds as cashback in excess of earnest money deposits. The Down Payment Grant program may be considered taxable income, a 1099-MISC will be issued, consult with your tax advisor. May be combined with other offers. The home loan must fund with Bank of America. Down Payment Grant may only be applied once to an eligible mortgage/property, regardless of the number of applicants. Bank of America may change or discontinue the Bank of America Down Payment Grant Program or any portion of it without notice. Not available with all loan products, please ask for details.

Qualified borrowers must meet eligibility requirements including, but not limited to, being owner-occupants, meeting certain qualifying income limitations and purchasing a home within a certain geographical area. Minimum combined loan-to-value must be greater than or equal to 80%. The America’s Home Grant Program is a lender credit. Program funds can only be used for nonrecurring closing costs including title insurance, recording fees, and in certain situations, discount points may be used to lower the interest rate. The grant cannot be applied toward a down payment, prepaid items or recurring costs, such as property taxes and insurance. Borrowers cannot receive program funds as cashback. Maximum income and loan amount limits apply. The home loan must fund with Bank of America. Bank of America may change or discontinue the America’s Home Grant Program or any portion of it without notice. Not available with all loan products, please ask for details.

Qualified borrowers must meet eligibility requirements such as being owner-occupants and purchasing a home within a certain geographical area. Maximum income and loan amount limits apply. Minimum combined loan-to-value must be greater than or equal to 80%. Program funds can be applied toward down payment only. Borrowers cannot receive program funds as cashback in excess of earnest money deposits. The Down Payment Grant program may be considered taxable income, a 1099-MISC will be issued, consult with your tax advisor. May be combined with other offers. The home loan must fund with Bank of America. Down Payment Grant may only be applied once to an eligible mortgage/property, regardless of the number of applicants. Bank of America may change or discontinue the Bank of America Down Payment Grant Program or any portion of it without notice. Not available with all loan products, please ask for details.

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