Good money is up for grabs to first-time metro-Atlanta homebuyers in their quest to capture a piece of the American Dream.
For real. For real.
The possibility of netting hefty down payment dollars to qualified homebuyers is real provided those interested meet program eligibility criteria.
To tap into anywhere between $5,000 to $40,000 in funds, an eight-hour investment of time must be spent in an approved homebuyer education class. The classes typically cover highlights of the home-buying process.
From tips on how best to qualify for a mortgage and avoid foreclosure to finding out how to select a home inspector and plan for the responsibilities of homeownership, the educational workshop alone is a valuable resource to take advantage of.
Johnette Brown, a senior housing counselor with the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, said new buyers need more knowledge than they often realize.
“Although HGTV is trendy, not to mention my favorite television show for obvious reasons from my experience first time buyers benefit from education offered directly from real estate industry specific professionals,” she said. “The Urban League of Greater Atlanta’s Housing, Wealth-building and Community Development program provides realistic, step-by-step sessions focused on financial preparedness and mortgage readiness and other areas applicable to obtaining and maintaining safe homeownership.”
Brown says three common misperceptions people have about the home buying experience include: 1. My credit is too bad to become a homeowner; 2. I don’t make enough money to become a homeowner; 3. The process is too difficult to become a homeowner or No one in my family has ever owned a home before.
“If a participant is serious about becoming a homeowner, they will do so after following our steps to homeownership,” Brown said.
Realtor Steven Adams has worked with Brown and the Urban League offering his expertise in real estate with class participants.
Adams said we are now in a seller’s market where the inventory of residential listings has a much shorter window.
“During the market crash, the average time a home listed on the market was about 18 months,” he explained. “Now that the economy has stabilized, houses are selling within 90 days. That means a buyer must be ready to move quickly and these classes prepare people to be in the best position to purchase once they are granted a prequalification letter from a lender.
Upon successful completion of the class, attendees will receive a certificate. Once the homebuyer receives the certificate, they are usually given up to one-year to select and buy a home. The certificate unlocks the door to the down payment dollars.
The down payment assistance, in many cases, comes from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The agency approves the classes, and then authorizes local housing and economic development agencies to distribute the funds to selected citizens who can secure a mortgage.
Now, the money isn’t completely free. There can be a few strings attached.
For instance, there could be a certain geographic area the down-payment assistance program administrators may prefer grant recipients to purchase within. Or, they may require recipients to live in the home for a minimum time of 10 years before the homebuyer can sell or refinance the property.
These clearly outlined program requirements vary from program to program and agency to agency, yet many lenders and financial planners say these requirements are minimal compared to the average financial award given to qualifying homebuyers.
Inside Atlanta with Anaré Holmes is a weekly consumer affairs column created to keep you informed of cost-effective solutions to live, work and play inside metro Atlanta. We take you inside the city to reveal how you can make it work for you.
Award-winning journalist Anaré Holmes has worked with CNN, BET News and PBS network affiliates to tell untold and under-reported stories about compelling characters that shape American life. His investigative storytelling earned the prestigious Ida B. Wells Best News Story Award from the National Newspaper Publishers’ Association.
IN A BOX:
We’ve round-up several metro Atlanta agencies in the down-payment assistance giving business. Check them out now. An eight-hour investment of time has the potential to save you thousands in hard-earned cash.
Guide to HUD-Approved Homebuyer Education Classes
Metro Atlanta Down Payment Assistance Programs
Atlanta Development Authority (ADA)
Clayton County CHAPP
DeKalb County NSP
Fulton County Homeownership Program
Georgia Dream (Georgia Department of Community Affairs)
Cobb County Neighborhood Stabilization Program
Gwinnett County Homestretch / Down-Payment Assistance Program