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The underdog of owning property: Grant qualification
Your mortgage company may or may not tell you about grant options
I knew time was running out on my lease, but I just couldn’t see myself renting anymore. I’d already dated a basketball player who bought property while playing overseas. He said he needed a foundation, whether he ended up in the NBA or not, and that resonated with me. When a co-worker was also interested in buying a home, that was the second person who caught my attention. While the latter guy was married with kids (and fit the image of what I thought a homeowner was), the other one was single as a dollar bill. More importantly to me though, both of them were minorities under 30.
It’s not that I didn’t know any black homeowners growing up. As a kid, I used to sit at the kitchen table with my parents’ chain-smoking, Solitaire playing landlord. I knew black women could own. My parents bought a home, and my grandparents owned their home outright. But these were all married people with more stability. I just didn’t see singles doing it.
In 2021, that hasn’t changed much. According to Pew Research, 59.5% of homeowners are married-couple families; the largest age group (22.8%) is between 40 and 50. And a whopping 75.1% of homeowners are white. Black people, on the other hand, average 20.3% of renters. Meanwhile renters of all groups are primarily under the age of 35 (34.4%) and live alone (38.1%). The odds just weren’t in my favor to buy anything — but those two guys just kept running through my mind the same year my lease was up. Additionally, I took note of my Thai lady landlord who owned a home and rented out a condo unit she owned. (Asian people are 5.4% of renters and only 4.7% of owners.)
I went straight to the mortgage company that my co-worker bought his place from, although I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about when it came to homeownership terminology. (A mortgage training course with another brotha, Christopher Meeks, quickly fixed that.) But early on, two things caught my attention: 1) lesser-known state grants that help people qualify for homeownership; 2) the fact that I would pay several hundred dollars less per month for a mortgage versus rent.
The latter one is mind boggling to many, knowing how much money they shell out for rent each month to get nothing in return on their taxes. My mortgage is two-thirds of my rental rate from multiple apartments, and I instantly felt like I’d been holding up a lighter up to my money for more than a decade when I found out. While my mother would randomly bring up home mortgage interest deductions (HMID) whenever she and I compared notes on our annual taxes, homeownership still felt foreign to me (at the time). I didn’t fit the mold. I wanted no kids and was indifferent to marriage.
But it was the former detail that really blew my mind. I’d already lived in three different states and moved eight times (half of which were college dorms and off-campus apartments). I was tired of packing and unpacking boxes. I was tired of renting apartments and condos. I was tired of other tenants, even as a tenant. So when a mortgage loan officer told me about the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), a second mortgage for $5K (or $6K now) in down payment or closing assistance for both first-time or non-first-time homebuyers, I was curious.
While it does require a 30-year mortgage with a fixed interest rate (including FHA, VA, USDA and FNMA HFA Preferred), nothing is stopping homeowners from paying large chunks early and often. So what’s the catch? First, if your credit score is under 640, you’re probably not going to qualify. Second, you must live in the home you buy for a specified number of years. Those who want to flip houses need not apply; they will check your homeowners insurance to make sure you actually live there. However, considering I had absolutely no interest in moving, this was quite possibly the easiest “con” I could ever dismiss.
In 2021, Home Depot is losing steam with do-it-yourselfers, who were almost living there during social isolation. High construction costs and supply shortages are affecting the home market. However, there are still housing ownership opportunities. For example, $75 million in federal funding is reportedly being offered to supplement buildings that qualify for low-income housing credits and to develop new properties. And with the back-and-forth discussion between the Biden administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Supreme Court regarding eviction moratoriums, that’s leaving tenants wondering, “What’s next?”
If any of those tenants are anything like me and think homeownership is not even an option (assuming you were not hit financially by unemployment related to COVID-19), you may be wrong. Check into your state grants to find out what opportunities are available for you. For all you know, you may be moving out of an apartment and into a home — your own.
Did you enjoy this post? You’re also welcome to check out my Substack columns “Black Girl In a Doggone World,” “Homegrown Tales,” “I Do See Color,” “Tickled,” “We Need to Talk” and “Window Shopping” too. Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter to keep up with all posts at once.
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