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Feeling Empowered in Homeownership: What You Need to Know

About two-thirds of Louisiana residents own their own homes, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Homeownership is associated with financial stability and freedom, but many people are anxious about engaging in the purchasing process. As we recognize National Homeownership Month this June, it’s important to understand the value of owning your own home and the steps you can take to make that dream a reality.

We spoke with Crystal Casher-Ward, business development officer at the Louisiana Housing Corporation, to discuss the benefits of homeownership. “Everyone wants to become a homeowner, and it's one of the quickest and easiest ways to establish wealth,” she says. “Often people don’t realize that owning their own home provides equity, which is a great way to build generational wealth.”

Here are more of Casher-Ward’s insights on how to approach purchasing your first home.

What can homebuyers in Louisiana do to mitigate anxiety about the homebuying process?

The first step to homeownership is to learn the process. Take advantage of local educational resources. LHC, along with 17 other partners throughout Louisiana, offers workshops designed to expose first-time homebuyers to the resources they need to succeed. Homebuyer counseling provides a solid basis for a smooth home-purchasing process.

These sessions connect prospective buyers with Realtors, lenders, appraisers, etc. They get face time with the people they will encounter throughout the buying process. Recognizing and taking advantage of local resources that are here to empower homebuyers are important steps toward successful homeownership.

What comes next? What can prospective homebuyers do to prepare once they’re ready to take that step?

Homebuyer counseling will help you to identify your credit score, which sets the parameters for home purchasing. Your credit score is the gateway into homeownership, so it’s really important to know where you stand and what steps you can take to make your credit the best it can be. Responsible credit card use will have a massive impact on your ability to purchase a home, but it’s not a skill that anyone is born with. Learning to control your credit score is a crucial step in the process.

Budgeting is another vital piece of the process: You have to take an honest look at your spending habits. Homebuyer counselors will sit down with you to figure out where you can save and to set up realistic expectations. Budgeting and considering a mortgage can be really intimidating. Many people opt to rent because it seems more feasible. A counselor can show you how to prepare for and manage monthly mortgage payments, which are often comparable with — if not less than — rent.

How can homebuyers feel more empowered?

Confidence is key to the homebuying process, and confidence comes from knowledge. LHC is here to offer counseling and educational programs, but we also help homebuyers identify grants and loan assistance that can be incredibly difficult to navigate on your own.

One program we’ve recently begun working with is the Mortgage Revenue Bond, which offers 4% of assistance to homebuyers who are at or below 115% of the area median income. If you think about it, 4% of a $100,000 purchase is huge. That’s $4,000 that goes toward a down payment or closing costs. This program is projected to make home buying achievable for as many as 340 families across Louisiana. And that’s just one program.

LHC is here to help you identify and understand the resources you need to make owning your own home a reality.

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