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JP Morgan Chase & Co: Focusing on Financial Health
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. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be. Chase bank can help you navigate the homebuying process so getting the keys to your first home may be closer than you think.
Homeownership is more than just a dream for many Americans. In Chase Home Lending’s newly published 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 homebuyers and communities. That includes addressing the wealth gap head-on by offering affordable low down-payment options with products and programs designed for Black families on their path to homeownership in Atlanta. Chase’s new Community Home Lending Advisor, Carol Walton – who is based at Chase’s Candler Road branch – serves as the community’s dedicated resource and advisor on all things homeownership.
We sat down with Carol to discuss what you need to know about buying your first home, and how Chase can help make your dream a reality.
What is your role as a Community Home Lending Advisor entail?
Carol: As a Community Home Lending Advisor at Chase, I am responsible for helping people in Atlanta 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 am here to help you with your home financing needs so you can make your goals a reality. 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?
Carol: 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.. Chase is making it easier for customers to build up their credit score by supporting a new initiative with Project REACh that will increase applicants’ chances of being approved for credit cards who have traditionally lacked access, so they can take that very first step.
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.
What are some of the resources that Chase is offering to help increase homeownership for Black families and individuals?
Carol: The biggest thing is Chase’s recently expanded Homebuyer Grant program which offers up to $5,500 for eligible customers to help with closing costs and down payment assistance when buying a home. Also, our Chase DreaMaker mortgage offers down payments as low as 3% and reduced mortgage insurance.
Also, my role as Community Home Lending Advisor is a new one that Chase designed to meet buyers’ needs in minority and low-to- moderate income communities. There are three of us in the Atlanta area so far and we’re happy to hear from perspective buyers. We’re experts in local housing and down payment assistance programs and we work closely with local housing nonprofits and other community organizations. To date, Chase has hired more than 100 Community Home Lending Advisors nationwide and will continue to expand.
Finally, 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?
Carol: 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.
What’s your best piece of advice for members in your community considering homeownership?
Carol: Every person buying a home for the first time should strongly consider taking a homebuyer education course. Customers who attend a Housing and Urban Development-certified homebuyer workshop are usually better prepared for and know what to expect during the mortgage application process and throughout their homebuying journey.
When is the right time to buy a home?
Carol: 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?
A version of this story originally appeared in The Atlanta Voice.