Residents get familiar with homebuying

From left, speakers Melanie Stuckey, a mortgage broker at Innovative Mortgage Services; Zodie Green-Harper, a Realtor at Bosshardt Realty Services, and Gilbert Barber, a loan officer at American First Mortgage in Gainesville, answer questions during a homebuying workshop at Spirit of Faith Christian Center.

BRETT Le BLANC/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 1:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 1:39 p.m.

Residents learn the nuances of buying a home and how to increase their credit rating at a free homebuying workshop that featured experts from various professions in the real estate industry.

With about 238 in attendance, mostly in their 20's and 30's, the workshop was held Saturday morning at Spirit of Faith Christian Center at 1414 NE 23rd Ave. It featured presentations on the homebuying process, buying investment property, the State Housing Initiative Partnership, or SHIP, program, the loan approval process and understanding the Housing and Urban Development Settlement Statement and title insurance policies.

The speakers provided a wealth of information during their 10-minute presentations and those in attendance were asked to listen attentively so they could learn how to get out of renting as soon as possible.

"Renting is like taking out all of the money in your wallet, crumbling it up and throwing it away, and hope to get your security deposit back. That is the equivalent of what renting is," said Jason Hurst, business manager at Spirit of Faith. "What we want is to shift you guys into home ownership, because when you own a home, you get equity, and for those of you who don't know that, you will after this seminar."

Below are some points made by presenters.

— Zodie Green-Harper, a realtor at Bosshardt Realty Services in Gainesville, spoke about the homebuying process. She said determining how much you can afford for a house is the first step in the process, followed by meeting with a Realtor and calculating your debt-to-income ratio, the percentage of your monthly gross income that goes toward paying debts, which she said should be no more than 36 percent.

She talked about loans offered by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, VA, all of which she said require a minimum credit score of 620.

She also said people should get pre-qualified by a lender, most of whom require at least a 640 credit score.

She also talked about alternative credit, which she said is simply having cancelled checks from your bank showing you are paying bills on time. She said ways to increase your credit score include using credit cards to pay for purchases you would normally use cash for, such as buying gas, and asking creditors to change the due date of your bills so that they are staggered throughout the month.

— Melanie Stuckey, a mortgage broker at Innovative Mortgage Services in Gainesville, talked about improving credit scores. She said she increased her credit score from 480 to 640 in two months after graduating from college and being turned down for a car loan.

She encouraged people to pray over copies of their credit reports by asking God to guide them in making their credit better. She also said people should turn to the last page of their reports and look for public record judgments, which can last from five to 20 years and can be renewed every 10 years. She said judgments disqualify people from getting home loans.

She also said it is a good idea to ask creditors to take late levies and closed accounts off credit reports.

— Gilbert Barber, a loan officer at American First Mortgage in Gainesville, spoke about the State Housing Initiatives Partnership, or SHIP, program, which is offered locally at the city of Gainesville Housing Division, Alachua County Housing Programs Division and the Neighborhood Housing and Development Corp. He said SHIP provides down payment and closing cost assistance to qualified buyers. He said homebuyers must attend classes, which are offered free by the city and county, but cost $50 at the NHDC, which can be refunded when the homebuyer purchases a home. For more information, call 352-334-5026 (city), 352-264-7013 (county) and 352-380-9119 (NHDC).

— Kim Bosshardt, a real estate attorney with Bosshardt Title Co. in Gainesville, said the Housing and Urban Development Settlement Statement is the "official closing document." She said title insurance is based on the price of the house. It is purchased for a one-time fee at the closing and lasts for as long as the homebuyer or their heirs own the property.

Lakisha Carter, 30, said the workshop was very informative.

"This is very informative, especially the young lady who talked about credit because people don't know they can negotiate with creditors and get things off their report," Carter said. "For someone like me who grew up on the east side, it is important to know that I can clean my credit up and that there is hope in owning a home."

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