Homeowning for Artists: It Can be Done
By: Lisa Donovan
I never thought I would be able to buy a home. I groused about my poor credit scores and bemoaned all of the poor financial decisions I had made in my college years. Our employment "titles" as writers and artists wasn't going to get us very far, we thought, with banks. We have rented homes and apartments for the last five years and it's fair to say that I have dealt with my fair share of crappy landlords and overpriced money-pits that we end up putting too much money into to make livable.
We would run into couple after couple after couple who were in the process of or already had bought a home. Our bitterness toward our friends was becoming too much. We realized that a huge part of our happiness was establishing some sort of stability and that started with owning our own home — a place that we could dig into and make ours for a long time. So, we started asking around. We had no idea how it worked or what the process was. It all started with a lovely lady whom was, herself, in the process of buying her first home.
She, herself, had thought it was never possible. Her credit had been terrible but was on the road to recovery. Her employment, since she was a musician, was anything but stable looking. She thought getting a home loan was as likely as the sky falling. Then she met someone who showed her the ropes. She now owns a gorgeous home and has shown me the ropes. Now that I am knee deep in pre-approval and home searching I thought I might pass along some of the rope showing to you. It is easier and more possible than we think. We can all own our own home, even if it takes some time to work out the kinks.
The first thing to realize is that regardless of how bad you think your credit history and score is, it is probably not that bad. Unless you have filed for bankruptcy you can take some time to fix the problem. This leads me to the first step:
1. Go see a loan officer.
They should be more than willing to consult with you for free upon your first meeting. They can look at your credit history and tell you if you need to spend some time working out some things. They may just look at it and tell you that it is fine, which (believe it or not) is what they told us.
2. Find a realtor that you trust.
We are still in the process of finding one that we feel will work for us. Understand that you want someone who will literally fight for you in the whole battle of home buying. You want someone who is not afraid to counter-offer and work to get you a deal that you feel good about. I have many friends who thought they had a good realtor only to find out that they basically got screwed in the end.
3. Allow yourself some time to get comfortable within your local real estate market.
One of the perks about having to take things slow and think about your credit and your ability to buy a house is that you can watch the market in your city. We have watched houses go up for sale and come off the market so quickly during the summer and then completely come to a stand still toward the end of the year. We have had time to price out what we are eligible for as well as to think about what we, exactly, want/need in a home. It has been frustrating watching homes go by that we wanted but, all in all, I think having time to get comfortable with what you want and what you can get in your market is a great strength to have.
4. Educate yourself about interest rates and other real estate terms.
I am still learning. I believe, though, that an empowered and educated person is a person that seldom gets screwed.