Avoid Homebuyer Pitfalls
By Dianne Anderson
Real estate dealings may not be as discriminatory as decades ago, but the housing crisis of 2008 crushed countless Black and Brown homeowners nationwide, as they were baited into bad loans, and then lost their homes.
Billions in family wealth that had been built up over generations was suddenly wiped out.
Dawn Lee, executive director of the Neighborhood Housing Services Of The Inland Empire, said they want to do their part to make sure that at least some of the worst of housing history doesn’t repeat itself.
For that reason, she is ever grateful for the late Jack Hill for what he was able to bring to the community in 1981 when he, Leonard Davenport, and Luis Navarrete established NHSIE nonprofit so that underserved families of color could buy a home in the city of San Bernardino.
Downpayment assistance is often the biggest hurdle, but she said there are several grants to get families in the door.
“We’ve been blessed with a couple of programs and we have money now that we can help in San Bernardino,” she said. “We have 7,500 that we can give them in a forgivable loan. All we ask is that they continue to live in the house.”
At the same time, she said buyers need to be informed, properly prepared to take on homeownership, and also ready for the responsibility that goes with it.
“We are not trying to get people into a house that they are going to lose three months later,” she said.
Over the years, NHSIE has expanded programs several fold, serving tens of thousands of families in the purchase of their first home, with support to keep their home in hard times, or improve their homes. Today, the organization serves all of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, along with partners in neighboring counties, as well as a member of the NeighborWorks America network.
For most people, buying a house is the biggest purchase of a lifetime, and even for experienced homebuyers, the process can be complicated. Newer buyers often feel pressured, or afraid to speak up.
She has heard some scary stories, and advises homebuyers to know what questions to ask to avoid getting ripped off.
“They feel, I have to do what people tell me to do, or a realtor told me I should work with their cousin because they are a lender. Or, I should buy this house, but it’s more than I want to spend. They tell me I can afford it,” she said.
The organization partners with several programs to help buyers access grants, and free downpayment assistance services. They have helped with thousands of home repairs for low income families that couldn’t afford it.
At the height of the foreclosure bubble, they worked directly with banks to facilitate modified loan terms to mitigate further loss of homes. For new buyers today, their workshops help strengthen negotiation skills.
“We teach them how to pick a realtor, how to select a lender, how to improve their credit so they are a savvy buyer and getting the best [interest] rate,” she said.
Understanding money, getting debt down and building their credit score to qualify for the best interest rate is the first step. Once the groundwork is done, their one stop shop of tools can get help with the lending process, access strong financial partners and reliable realtors.
As part of the city’s economic and neighborhood revitalization, they have had successful home makeovers to make a young family proud.
She said NHSIE put a single mom who works for the county into a home, and the family is now stable and happy. Another family, who had bought a small home that appreciated in value, and recently they were also able to comfortably move up.
“They used the skills they learned from our class to save, and they just bought their second home in Grand Terrace, a much bigger home,” she said.
She said the main goal since the organization was founded is to build up the community.
“And this all Jack, that is his legacy and we’re happy to continue it,” she said. “We’ve helped thousands and thousands of families own homes, clean up their credit, or get in a good stable financial place.”
For more information, see http://www.nhsie.org/