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National Homeownership Month Highlights Merits of Owning a Home

Christiansburg, Virginia – Owning a home benefits individuals and families, but also gives vitality to America's cities and towns and creates that sense of community that is important to so many Americans. In recognition of the powerful rewards of homeownership, Community Housing Partners (CHP) is celebrating National Homeownership Month throughout the month of June.

National Homeownership Month is observed each June to raise awareness about the vital role homeownership plays in improving lives, creating jobs and economic opportunities, and strengthening America’s neighborhoods.

"Anyone thinking of buying a home really shouldn’t wait any longer," said Kamilia Lawson, CHP’s director of homeownership and principal broker. "Housing markets around the country are improving, home prices have stabilized, there is a great selection of available homes for sale, and interest rates are at near historic low levels."

As a NeighborWorks® HomeOwnership Center, CHP plays an important role in making the dream of homeownership a reality for more and more Americans in the region by providing a one-stop shop that both homebuyers and homeowners can trust for unbiased information from trained, professional staff.

"From educational and counseling programs, to lending and real estate services, CHP can help ensure a more straightforward, and potentially less expensive, home-buying or home-selling experience," explained Homeownership Specialist Ryan Stenger. "Our approach to homeownership is based on three major principles: We individuals for homeownership by helping them become educated homebuyers, we teach them how to make wise and affordable home , and we help with home by offering home maintenance and financial management education."

For those considering buying a home, Stenger offers the following tips:

• Before looking at homes, know what you can afford. Utilize the services of a HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agency or NeighborWorks® HomeOwnership Center where a certified housing counselor can provide you with pre-qualification and housing affordability estimates.

• Create a savings and spending plan for your current situation. Next, create a new savings and spending plan that includes a mortgage payment and home maintenance costs. A certified housing counselor can assist with this.

• Decide on a comfortable mortgage payment you can afford. Then, for the next three months, save the difference between your current monthly rent amount and the anticipated mortgage payment. If you easily saved the amount then this is a good indication that you could afford the payment. However, if you had to go back and use those saved dollars for expenses, then this could be an indication the payment is too high.

• Request a copy of your credit report. Your credit report plays a major part in the mortgage qualification process. If you request a copy of your credit report prior to speaking with a lender, there will be fewer or no "surprises" to deal with. Lenders are reviewing the credit report to determine how you use the credit extended to you and if you make your payments in a timely manner. Be prepared to provide explanations for slow payments, judgments, collections, repossessions, etc. (Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, consumers can obtain one free copy of their credit report every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228.) A certified housing counselor can help you review and understand what your credit report and credit score mean.

• Start saving right away to cover costs such as down payment, closing costs, and cash reserve requirements. Most of the time, there will be out-of-pocket expenses such as the appraisal, the inspection, and the Earnest Money Deposit, that will be required to be paid by the buyer prior to closing.

• Begin gathering basic documentation such as: paystubs for the three most recent months; evidence of any other type of income (child support, alimony, Social Security, disability, pension, etc.); W-2s and tax returns for the last three years; employers name, address and phone numbers for the most recent 24- month period; mortgage or rental history for the last two years; and name and addresses of all creditors, along with account numbers, balances and monthly payment amounts

In the New River Valley, individuals may reach a CHP Homeownership Specialist by contacting Ryan Stenger at rstenger@chpc2.org. In the Richmond area, individuals may email Schirra Hayes at shayes@chpc2.org.