Are you considering buying your first home, but unsure where to start? Purchasing a home is one of the biggest financial decisions a person can make, and the path to ownership may feel confusing for many first-time buyers.

In Chase Home Lending’s First-Time Homebuyer Study, 69% of respondents said they still see homeownership as an important part of building wealth. The survey included more than 1,100 consumers who indicated that they are looking to purchase a home and are actively preparing to buy. Unfortunately, systemic inequities have created historic barriers to homeownership. As a result, rates of homeownership in Black communities are 25% lower than white communities, with the gap worsened by the 2008 housing crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic – both taking a disproportionate toll on Black communities.

For all these reasons and more, Chase is taking steps to play an active role in advancing racial equality by creating opportunities specifically for Black communities. That includes addressing the wealth gap head-on by offering affordable low down-payment options with products and programs. Chase’s new Senior Home Lending Advisor, Justin Cotton, at the Chase Community branch in Skyland Town Center will serve as the community’s dedicated resource and advisor on all things homeownership.

We sat down with Justin to discuss what you need to know about buying your first home.  

What is your role as a Home Lending Advisor?

[Justin Cotton]: I am responsible for helping people in Wards 7 and 8 prepare for homeownership, find the financing solutions to fit their needs, and get all of the down payment/housing assistance they may qualify for. I work very closely with many first-time homebuyers, helping them to navigate this process for the first time. But, I also help customers who are looking to refinance, or who might be upsizing or downsizing their current home. I start by looking at each customer’s full financial picture in order to make the best recommendation for your successful path to homeownership. From pre-qualification to closing, I’m here to offer guidance, support and expertise along the way.

What do first-time buyers need to know when considering applying for home loans?

[Justin Cotton]: A few basic things first-time buyers should understand before starting this process are:

  1. Prepare your finances: Buying a home can be a big financial undertaking which is why it will be important for you to get your finances in good shape. This involves things like continuing to pay bills on time, not taking on new debt and strengthening your credit score, which can help you secure a lower interest rate on your home loan.
  2. Plan for your down payment: It’s a well-known fact that you will most likely need to put money down upfront to purchase a home. However, it’s a myth that you must put 20% down. Every case is different, and there are a variety of mortgages available that may require as little as 3% down, such as the Chase DreaMaker. There may also be local programs that could help with down payment and closing costs. It’s always a good idea to start saving, but it’s also important to get familiar with what products and assistance might be available to you—you can connect with a local lending advisor to get started.
  3. Get pre-qualified: As you begin your homebuying journey, it’s important to know how much home you can afford. Getting pre-qualified through a lender like Chase allows you to see what you may be eligible for, and it also shows sellers and real estate agents that you’re a serious and competitive buyer.
Chase’s new Senior Home Lending Advisor, Justin Cotton., at the Chase Community branch in Skyland Town Center.

What are some of the resources that Chase is offering to help increase homeownership for Black families and individuals?

[Justin Cotton]: Last year Chase expanded its Homebuyer Grant program up to $5,500 for eligible customers to help with closing costs and down payment assistance when buying a home in more than 6,700 minority communities nationwide. Our Chase DreaMaker mortgage offers down payments as low as 3% and reduced mortgage insurance.

We’re also supporting Project REACh, a government-backed initiative aimed at removing barriers to financial inclusion. The goal is to be able to extend credit to people who haven’t been afforded the chance to borrow because they lack a traditional credit score/credit history. In a pilot program expected to launch this year, our firm will begin factoring in applicants’ checking or savings account history as a way to help them build a credit history and score to leverage when it comes time to apply for a mortgage, or other loan.

Are there any other products or tools you recommend for people getting started on their journey toward homeownership?

[Justin Cotton]: Our financial goals hub is a great starting point. You start by picking a goal, which could be saving or building credit, and explore advice, offerings and tools to help you track toward it and achieve it. Our Grow Your Savings page, for example, offers an interactive calculator that maps out a timeline to reach savings goals and highlights how the Autosave tool can help you manage a regular savings schedule to stay on track and meet your goals. There are other great resources, too, like budget worksheets to monitor and track monthly spending, guidance on using the Credit Journey tool to build and protect credit, as well as background on low-cost checking accounts designed for those who have had trouble getting or keeping an account in the past.

When is the right time to buy a home?

[Justin Cotton]:  Buying a home can be exciting, but it can also come with a lot of stress. Learning as much as you can about the homebuying process is the best thing you can do before you start shopping for properties or comparing mortgage options. Other questions you should consider before buying a home include:    

  • Do you have a steady income to rely on?
  • How much home can you afford?
  • Have you picked a location where you want to stay long-term?
  • Are you comfortable managing debt?

If you think you’re ready to take the next step in purchasing a home, stop by the Chase Skyland Community Branch at 2728 Good Hope Rd SE. to find out more about the tools, resources and capital available to help make your homeownership dream a reality.

Sponsored content from JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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