Overcoming the challenges of homebuying: Class introduces first-timers to homeownership

Buying a home is an exciting milestone for many people, but for first-time homebuyers, it can also be a daunting task. Imagine a young couple who have been renting an apartment in Grand Rapids for several years. They've saved up enough for a down payment and are eager to take the next step in their lives.

The pair are facing several challenges as they embark on their home buying journey. For one, they're not entirely sure where to start. They've heard about the different types of mortgages available but they don't know which one is right for them. They're also unsure about the neighborhoods they should be looking in and what kind of house they can afford.

Then there’s today’s competitive housing market. With low inventory and high demand, homes are selling quickly, sometimes even within days of being listed. The couple worry about finding a home they love and being outbid by another buyer.

As they navigate the process, these first-time homebuyers have many questions. What kind of home can they afford? Should they get preapproved for a mortgage? How do they make an offer on a house? What happens during the home inspection? And these are just a few.

Overall, the home buying process can be overwhelming but with the right guidance and support, it can also be a source of stability and benefits, such as generational wealth.

Introduction to homeownership class

The Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) is a nonprofit organization in West Michigan that has been providing affordable housing to low-income families for more than 40 years. One of the services they offer is an introduction to homeownership class, which is designed to educate first-time homebuyers about the process of purchasing a home and to provide them with the necessary tools to make informed decisions.

The class covers a range of topics crucial for first-time homebuyers, says ICCF Homeownership Program Manager Nichole DeVries, such as understanding the home buying process, getting pre-approved for a mortgage, negotiating a purchase agreement and the closing process. The class also provides information on home maintenance, budgeting and financial management.

This class is a condensed version of the ICCF's fall homebuyer education class. It is not just a lecture-based course, but an interactive experience that encourages discussion and questions.

"This class is going to focus more on the basics of buying a home, an overview of the process and then a discussion on how to prepare for the process financially," DeVries says. "It's going to give a taste of what's involved in our fall homebuyer education class."

During the fall class, ICCF sponsored instructors dive into more of the details of the home buying process and different kinds of mortgage products available to homebuyers. Individuals who enroll in the introduction to homeownership class may still enroll in our full homebuyer education course or do their own research on topics they want to learn more about, DeVries says.

Challenges for first-time homebuyers

The ICCF's introduction to homeownership class can help first-time homebuyers overcome the challenges they face when buying a home, and there are plenty out there.

Everybody's process is so different depending on their situation, DeVries says. And rising home prices, coupled with ever-increasing interest rates have made buying a home more expensive.

"It's a complex process," she says."There's a lot of stuff, a lot of rules, especially in qualifying for a mortgage. These are not things that people talk a lot about. They're not things people learn by osmosis. Getting that education, or an overview of what's involved and what they can expect, can be really empowering.

"We want to let people know what's coming, so they don't feel so lost in that process and they can convey a lot of confidence in what's next," she adds.

According to a study by the Urban Institute, homeownership can have significant benefits for individuals and communities, including increased wealth, improved health outcomes and stronger civic engagement. However, for many first-time homebuyers, the process can be overwhelming and confusing. That's where the ICCF and their introduction to homeownership class can make a difference.

Overall, ICCF's introduction to homeownership class is a valuable resource for first-time homebuyers in West Michigan. Through education, counseling and support, ICCF is empowering individuals to achieve their dreams of homeownership and to build stronger, more vibrant communities.

The benefits of homeownership

Becoming a homeowner is a significant decision and there are many benefits to owning. As DeVries explains, homeownership is an investment in the future and it allows people to create stability for their families.

Building equity is one of the primary benefits to homeownership. As a mortgage is paid off and home value increases, so does equity. 

Homeownership also provides another kind of stability when compared to the rental market. As DeVries notes, "especially with rising rents and a lot of stuff going on in the rental market, people are just feeling really unsure about their future renting.

"That's why we get a lot of people interested in buying a home," DeVries continues. "As long as you make your payments, that’s your home and you can stay there. That's huge. Housing is so essential to our well-being."

Homeowners have more control over their living situation and can make changes to the property as they see fit. As well, homeownership can be a way to put down roots and become more invested in the community.

Finally, owning a home can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. As DeVries notes, "People are interested in owning and having something that's their own that they have control over and the sense of accomplishment for buying the home. There's also the investment benefit of it and generational wealth that they can pass on to their heirs."

Learning about the home purchasing process through classes such as the introduction to homeownership class offered by the ICCF can help potential homebuyers understand these benefits and make informed decisions about their home purchase.

Resources for homebuyers

If you are a first-time homebuyer in West Michigan, there is no need to be intimidated by the home purchasing process. With the resources and expertise available from organizations such as the ICCF, you can learn about the process and the benefits of owning your own home. Whether you are looking to build equity, gain financial stability or find a sense of community, homeownership has many advantages that can improve your life.

If you are interested in learning more about the introduction to homeownership class offered by the ICCF, there are several upcoming events where you can gather more information. The Grand Rapids Public Library is hosting a session 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 1, that will give attendees a chance to speak with experts and learn more about the resources available to first-time homebuyers in West Michigan.

The ICCF's courses on foreclosure prevention counseling, reverse mortgage counseling, Money Matters workshops and the Financial Capabilities Certificate series can help first-time or future homebuyers, or those who already own a home, to improve their financial knowledge.

Visit the ICCF website, to learn more about the introduction to homeownership class and register.

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