This June is National Homeownership Month, and NPHS is committed to increasing awareness of the resources and opportunities for achieving the American Dream of homeownership.
“During National Homeownership Month and throughout the year, we must do all we can to ensure homeownership is not built on quick sand. Being as prepared as possible before taking on the responsibilities of homeownership is critical and that’s where NPHS’ homebuyer development counseling comes in,” said Clemente Mojica, President and CEO of NPHS.
However, it’s not looking good for homeownership these days. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 63.7 percent of households owned their homes at the end of 2016, down from a peak of 69.2 percent in 2004. While there have been small increases in recent quarters, the homeownership trend since the financial crisis continues to trend downward. We need to reverse this pattern, and these four strategies will help.
First, NPHS offers to demystify the home-buying process. More than two-thirds of adults in a 2016 national household opinion survey from NeighborWorks America described the homebuying process as complicated. NPHS’ homeownership development specialists report that a common refrain from customers they help to achieve homeownership is, “I never thought I could do this.” Because the purchase process is so complex, many potential homeowners don’t even try, essentially self-selecting out of their piece of the “American Dream.” Increasing the homeownership rate in the Inland Empire will also energize the local economy and create jobs from construction to retail.
Second, we have to return to rational credit standards. Right now, credit standards are too tight and thus reduce the prospects for homeownership for many. A recent article by the Urban Institute noted that innovations in credit scoring practices could help up to 3 million first-time homebuyers across the country. Some of them certainly live here in the Inland Empire. The lending industry must seriously pursue such changes in underwriting standards.
Third, we need to do a better job in reaching out to low- and moderate-income consumers and millennials who are the first-time homeowners of the future and they are unsure about the path to homeownership. Nonprofits housing organizations have had a “field of dreams” mindset: if we’re here, homebuyers will find us. That’s not working. The NeighborWorks survey mentioned above also found that fewer than 10 percent of consumers think of nonprofit’s like NPHS first when considering how to achieve homeownership. NPHS is committed to working with low to moderate income consumers and millennials to increase their homeownership opportunities, and is launching a Pathways to Homeownership Campaign to assist these types of customers with resources and education.
Fourth, we must overcome financial obstacles to sustainable homeownership. Home prices are increasing in nearly all markets. Here in San Bernardino County, the median home value is approximately $305,500 according to Zillow, with values having increased 7.5% over the past year. The typical 20 percent down payment is out of reach for most first-time buyers; but the truth is that consumers don’t need a 20 percent down payment to purchase a home these days.
By working with NPHS, homebuyers will learn about lenders who offer 3 percent down-payment mortgages for qualifying homebuyers. In addition, they also will be made aware of the potentially millions of dollars in down-payment assistance funds available in this community and others. The NeighborWorks survey showed that only one-third of consumers are aware of down- payment programs for middle-income buyers.
While there isn’t an unlimited supply of down-payment assistance, if more consumers knew to seek it and sought information from nonprofit organizations, the homeownership rate would increase. That’s good for individuals, families, the Inland Empire, and economy in general.
To sign up for one of our homebuyer education classes or for one-on-one counseling, please email Vanessa Navarro, Program Support Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (909) 988-5979.