The Adventure to Buying My First Home Begins (or does it)

Hello all you lovelies. I know I’ve been silent since last week. I got busy, y’all. I had to watch Dateline Friday night, which is a 2 year old tradition Aunt Connie and I started doing during the pandemic. It stuck. We are now masterminds at murder in the armchair degree division. I also had an 8 hour course this past Saturday (via Zoom) through the United Housing Department for completion of the United Housing Homebuyer Education course. This also included (within the presentation) a completion of the Tennessee Housing Development Agency’s Down Payment Assistance Program. Yay me! I have 2 certificates to prove it, which are both good for one year from date of issue, so if I don’t buy a house in that timeframe, I will have to retake the course to be able to apply for the financial aid.

Don’t worry, that’s the ONLY time I’m going to sound anywhere NEAR fancy pants in this post.

Let me just say: I work from home, so I’m used to sitting in a chair for long periods of time, but this course required showing my face on video for the entire class (8:30 am to 4:30 pm) (where the instructor freakin CALLED ON EACH OF US TO ANSWER QUESTIONS!!! Yes, she DID! I shit you not.), and only gave us two 5 minute breaks in the morning, a 30 minute lunch, and NO BREAKS that afternoon. Y’all. I’m at the age where when I gotta pee, I gotta go RIGHT THEN, do not stop, do not pass go, do not tickle me. GET TO THE POTTY NOW!!!

Yeah, so by the time the course ended at 4:34 pm, I was all of the following: Learnt, HANGRY, hurtin, tired, mad, happy, exhausted, edchuumakaated, about to burst needing to pee, and done, over it, “readt” to go to bed. I was happy I did the course, and I must say I did not have to take an all day course, but that’s what I chose, so it was all on me, even though I did complain about it a small bit on the exit survey, just because the spirit of my mean (and dead, rest her soul) grandmother was upon me in that moment. Whateves.

This course is a requirement in Memphis (actually, all of Tennessee I believe) if you’d like to try and get financial assistance in the form of grants/loans to help with down payment and/or closing costs. The course was $25, and I received both certificates a few hours after class ended via email. This may seem like no biggie to most people, but let me let y’all in on a lil known fact about me (if you’re an outsider lookin in that is): I’m a gypsy soul at heart. I’ve flitted around the south like a lil hummingbird from here to there to everywhere for most of my entire life. I’ve claimed Memphis for most of that time, but when the fancy would strike in the past, I would pack up and go somewhere else until I missed the grit and grind of the city and back I’d happily trudge.

Well, now I’m looking to put down roots. At the spry young age of 49.25 (my birthday is in January), I have finally decided I want to have my own lil home to call my own. For the past 2 years, closer to 3 actually, I’ve been working on my credit report, paying off past debts, establishing good credit, trying to become a much more financially stable and responsible person. Being the create type, this was hard at first, but it’s getting easier. I think the thing was, I needed to really SEE results in order to become properly and 100% “invested” in working on all that. Once I paid off ONE debt, it felt immensely rewarding, which spurred me on. With each lil “win”, I’d see my credit score going up, and up, and up. (It was pretty low, y’all). Now, I’m thiiiiiiiis close to having a really good score, and it feels soooo good! I’m not where I want to be, but I’m better than were I was!

So, back to this class. Yeah. I took 14 pages of handwritten notes. 14. HANDWRITTEN. PAGES. OF. NOTES. Sure did. My lil ole nerdy school self came back out to play and was in note-taking heaven. I learned a ton, and in all honesty, was refreshed on a lot of common sense steps all of us should take overall, whether trying to buy a house or not.

Here’s a few highlights I thought I’d share from my 14 pages of personal notes.

  1. The rule of 3. When trying to pick out services (realtor, insurance agent, mortgage loan, inspector, assessor, boyfriends) always shop around and talk to at least 3 before making your decision on who to go with. APRs, interest rates, and overall taco numbers being bought for consumption (in the boyfriend department) matter.
  2. A USDA Rural Development Loan sounded very interesting to me, as I apparently wrote it down 3x compared to the other types of loans. (It applies to any area outside of city limits = gets me out of Memphis City Limits, if I so choose. I don’t know if I do yet, but it definitely piqued my interest.)
  3. If you can’t afford to put down 20% on a house, you will have a thing called mortgage insurance added to your loan amount until you’ve accrued enough equity for it be dropped. Yeah, didn’t know that. This, in essence, is insurance that appeases the mortgage loan entity in case you default, in which case they will still get their money. It also raises your monthly payments. Sucky.
  4. Lendors look at the four (sometimes five) C’s: Capacity, Capitol, Credit Character (your credit history), Collateral, and sometimes, Conditions.
  5. It’s important to “pre-qualify YOURSELF. Ask yourself, say, “Hey, self, how much house can I actually afford, am I even READY for home ownership, and if not, how long will it actually take me to BE ready?
  6. Believe it or not, 401Ks came up. Overall message: CONTRIBUTE TO ONE IF YOU HAVE ONE and do the max amount possible so your company can match/contribute as well, if they offer. Basically it’s money left on the table if you don’t. Mine matches to 50%, and yeah, it hurts my feelings on the front end to contribute as much as I do, but I’ll be happy I did later. Also, yes, you usually CAN borrow money from your 401K to go towards a down payment on a house. Just be careful, read all your company’s rules in regards to taking a loan out, because there can be some major penalties in various cases, (such as if you leave your company before the loan is paid back, etc).
  7. Ask yourself what your values are. Values can be anything from accountability, cheerfulness, commitment, consistency, courage, vision, faith, etc. What are your goals? Goals can be things such as buying a house, or going back to college, or living in a safer area, etc.
  8. Oh, this is a good one. When you buy a house, your net value increases by 45.9% YAAAEEESSS!
  9. Right now, through April 20th, you can get a FREE copy of your credit report once a week through http://www.annualcreditreport.com. This is HUGE. What is recommended is that you pull your credit report from this site (and this site only, as it’s legit), once a year, but stagger the three agencies. So, basically, once a quarter, pull one report from each agency. Example: Jan-March, pull for Experian. April-June, pull for TransUnion, July-September pull for Equifax. Each one will be free, and this gives you greater control over your credit report and the information on it. Ya know, so you can make sure everything is correct.
  10. DON’T close on a Friday because you will NOT get the keys and move in until at least Monday. It takes time for that check to hit the bank, yo. The more you know. (Of course, there could be exceptions, so just ASK before you close!).
  11. You want a homeowner’s insurance policy that has a plan that covers REPLACEMENT COSTS of items, not actual cash value. Thank me later.
  12. You don’t have to be a teacher to open an account at the Teacher’s Credit Union. Excuse me while I call them.
  13. If you know you’re about to actually buy a house, don’t you go and buy ANYTHING until after you get moved in!

Which leads me to the “Thall Shalt Nots” (do not do these immediately before buying a house)

  1. Thall shalt not change jobs or become self-employed.
  2. Thall shalt not buy a vehicle.
  3. Thall shalt not use credit cards. I MEAN IT.
  4. Thall shalt not spend the money you’ve saved for the down payment on other things. (That 4 story cat condo will have to wait.)
  5. Thall shalt not originate any new inquiries on your credit report (think, applying for a department store credit card, etc)
  6. Thall shalt not change or close bank accounts. Yeah, they will research all that.
  7. Let me put this next one in all caps for greater emphasis: THALL SHALT NOT CO-SIGN FOR ANYONE FOR ANY REASON.
  8. Thall shalt not purchase anything until after your home loan closes.
  9. BUDGET BUDGET BUDGET!
  10. SAVE SAVE SAVE!!!!

So, yeah, even though I’ve come SO far since I started working on my credit, etc., I still have a ways to go before I’m able to purchase my home. The market is also not in my favor at this point, so I know to stay calm and not rush this process. I’ll come back and post updates at each new step, to keep MYSELF accountable, and also to share what I’m sure will be some fun stories along the way.

I FEEL I MUST SAY THE FOLLOWING: I am NOT a financial advisor, and the tips/information in this post are all from notes I took and you should not see them as the be all/end all for YOUR personal situation. Go find you a person who is actually legally able to assist you. These were just some things I learned and felt led to share, for sharing’s sake.

Who knew lil ole me would ever be talking financial crap. uggg.

Published by Kimber

I'm a TV and International Radio host, contributing columnist to DeVille Magazine, motivational speaker, podcaster, blogger, and so much more. I love my fur babies, I love Memphis, Elvis, and all things music! Having toured internationally as a singer/songwriter in the past, it's my joy to once again be working on new music for 2022. There are so many new things on my horizon in the new year, won't you join me?! Authentically, joyfully, beautifully broken, and loudly ME.

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