Achieve Your Dream Of Homeownership: You Could Win $10,000

Even if you don't win the cash,you'll come out on top. But don't take our word for it -- three entrants from our first contesttell how homeownership pays off.

As home prices climbed in her area, Melody Jiggetts, 25, felt she needed to strike quickly. When the rent on her one-bedroom apartment in Whittier, California, increased almost 29% in two years, she decided she’d rather pay her own mortgage than someone else’s. To that end, Jiggetts entered BLACK ENTERPRISE’s inaugural Own Your First Home Contest for a chance to win $10,000 toward the down payment on a new home. Her initial attempt to enter the contest by way of the Internet was thwarted by server problems. Undaunted, she submitted her entry form by fax on Sept. 1 — the deadline for submitting entries.

A downed server was nothing compared to the other obstacles Jiggetts overcame to achieve her homeownership goals. In her essay, she wrote that she’d received a “rude financial awakening” in college.

“While my peers were receiving first-time credit card offers, I found that I could not even open a bank account,” she wrote. She met with a representative from Chexsystems, a network of financial institutions that share information on mishandled checking and savings accounts, who advised her to get copies of her credit reports. Jiggetts was astonished by what she found. “I had 14 delinquent accounts — phone bills, credit cards, traffic tickets. I even had a car repossession!”

However, the biggest shock was the identity of the person responsible — her mother. “My mother worked hard to make ends meet, but with an income that classified us as a low-income family, it was very hard,” Jiggetts explains. “That’s why I don’t blame her for ruining my credit long before I turned 18. My mother was ashamed when I confronted her. She assured me that I could get the accounts easily removed [from my credit reports] because I was a minor when the accounts were acquired. She was wrong.”

After three years of conversations with creditors and countless letters, Jiggetts finally had the delinquent accounts removed. “Around this time I subscribed to BE. After reading a few issues, I vowed that I would never use someone else’s credit to acquire things. I vowed to get my credit in order. I wanted to be an ideal candidate for the best interest rates on car loans, credit cards, and, most importantly, a home mortgage. Today I have a credit score of 761.”

Jiggetts started searching for a home in June 2005, concentrating her efforts in Los Angeles County. At the time she was earning $43,000, plus about $8,000 in commissions, as a business analyst at an international food manufacturing company in Glendale, California.

“In a year, I wouldn’t be able to afford anything because my salary wasn’t going up at the same rate as real estate prices,” Jiggetts recalls.

She changed her focus from homes to condos and found a one-bedroom condominium in her price range in Casa Madera, California. Ultimately, Jiggetts received two loans from Wells Fargo — $164,000 at a fixed 10-year rate and $41,400 at a 30-year fixed rate — at a 4.75% interest rate.

To prepare for the transition from paying $900 in rent to a

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