Homeownership Guidance, Advice and Blogs

As the Director of Affiliate Relations at HomeFree-USA, I’ve always been fascinated with how people handle their money. Like everyone else, I’ve had my financial ups and downs. In fact, it took me 32 months to pay off $32,000 in credit card bills and build up a six-month emergency fund. While that was a very difficult period, I am grateful – and wiser -- for the experience.

Through my personal experiences and working at HomeFree-USA, I’ve gained a ton of insight that I feel compelled to share. You’ll find those lessons here. Feel free to take the thoughts and ideas that resonate with you most and put aside the rest for later. I look forward to sharing my journey.

How to find a "gem" of a home

All homebuyers are looking for a great deal, but when you live in a high cost market it can be especially tough to find. Fortunately, HomeFree-USA is here for you.

HomeFree-USA's Community Reinvestment and Development Division acquires foreclosed properties in Washington, DC, Maryland, Florida and Georgia, renovates them, then resells them at market value (meaning we do NOT jack up the price simply because it's been updated.) We only sell to owner occupants, which has the added benefit of stabilizing a community that may have once been overwhelmed with vacant and abandoned homes. In the neighborhoods where we work, quality of renovation and pricing are usually the determining factors in our buyers ability to purchase. Without an affordable, move-in ready home, they'd simply be locked out of homeownership.

So what do you do if you don't live in an area where there's a focus on maintaining affordable homeownership? Don't worry, opportunities always exist. Dominique Clark, who heads our DC and Maryland Development Divisions, offers a few practical tips for finding your Hidden Gem home:

1)   Search for areas on the verge of revitalization. These are neighborhoods that may be blah today, but have been targeted by the city or county for residential and commercial development. To determine where these are, talk to your city/county planners and check out data driven development websites. Also, feel free to talk to a local housing counseling agency. 

2)   Talk to neighbors. If you find a neighborhood that you like, ask the residents if anyone is about to sell their home. They tend to be candid and may even introduce you to the potential seller. 

3)   Ask the locality. The city/county website contains a list of all vacant, abandoned, foreclosed and tax delinquent homes, as well as the property owner's name and address. It doesn't hurt to send a letter offering to buy the home, but beware that the owners mailing addresses aren't always accurate. It's amazing how many will agree to sell.

4)   Get ready. If you find a home at a great price, you have to be prepared to scoop it up immediately. Before starting the search, work with your Homeownership Advisor to get pre-approved, find out how soon your lender can close once the contract has been approved, and line up an inspector. Your advisor should have a good referral. If not, I know of an exceptional company. Also, you should get to know a few contractors.

Welcome to homeownership!

And so it is.