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Recognizing June as Home Ownership Month

As you may know, June is homeownership month. During the month, we celebrate the value of owning a home to families and communities across the country. In addition, we recognize the organizations that help people achieve the dream of home ownership. We appreciate HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), the Federal Housing Administration, and all of our Realtors, financial and housing counselors, and housing assistance programs. Together they help so many find the place they call home.

Last year was a great year for sellers, with property prices skyrocketing nearly 20 percent from multiple competing bids. It was the most significant annual home price increase in the history of the Housing Index. Homes sold fast regardless of the condition of the property. It was another story for would-be homebuyers as the inventory of homes was very low, and competition for homes was fierce. This year continues to bring new challenges to would-be homebuyers with continued low inventory and rising interest rates. Inflation also is making it harder for would-be first-time homebuyers to save for a down payment. However, all is not lost, and there are ways to get a competitive edge when purchasing your first or third home.

When you decide to buy a home, check out your financing options. To determine how much you could potentially borrow, get prequalified with a lender. This requires you to give information such as your income, debt, assets and credit score. Getting a prequalification is not a loan guarantee because nothing is verified, but it will help give you an idea of what price range you should be looking in. Get underwritten preapproval to be better prepared to make an offer on a home. This takes you further into the mortgage approval process, where your identity, income, debts, assets and credit score / history are verified. All pertinent financial documentation is collected and run through a process called underwriting. This process assesses your creditworthiness and your ability to pay back the loan. This process also looks for inaccuracies and discrepancies in the information you provided. If the underwriting process approves you, you are given an underwritten preapproval. When you find a home, closing on that home will go much faster since you already did the hard stuff. Having an unwritten preapproval also will make your offers more attractive to sellers since the deal is less likely to fall through.

Another way to gain an edge is to include only essential contingencies in your offer. Such contingencies would be loan contingency and appraisal contingency. One contingency that could be bypassed is the inspection contingency if the buyer is willing to buy the home “as is.” It’s still important for the buyer to get a home inspection to know the home’s condition, but it would be used as a guide and not a negotiation tool. Another strategy is leading with your highest / best bid when making an offer. Only bid what you can afford and have approved financing for. Then, when your offer is accepted, be flexible in negotiations. Chances are, the seller will have other buyers lined up behind you, so focus only on nonnegotiable things. And, of course, use a Realtor in your home buying search; their expertise in the business will help you get closer to achieving your dream of home ownership.

The struggle for first-time homebuyers to save enough for a down payment has become more difficult. Between the cost of rent going up and inflation raising prices on everything from gas to food, that extra money is being used for essential living. However, there are lots of different programs that can help. For first-time homebuyers, various programs help provide low-interest financing for low to moderate-income earners. In addition, there are programs that offer down payment and closing costs assistance. There also are opportunities for others buying a home. Check out NewHomeSource to learn about the many programs available to those in Ohio.

The link is https://www.newhomesource.com/learn/first-time-homebuyer-ohio/.

So, just because the current market is a bit tougher doesn’t mean you have to abandon your dream of home ownership. Do your due diligence and research and be as prepared as you can. Where there is a will, there is a way!

Marlin Palich is president of Stark Trumbull Area Realtors, which serves Stark, Carroll and Trumbull counties.

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