I’m Home!

Helen Flowers is the 2006 winner of the BLACK ENTERPRISE Own Your First Home Contest

find an affordable home in a safe area. In addition, she wanted to purchase a two-family house so that she could help care for her aging parents. “What started out as an optimistic search became painful,” she recalls. “The market was terrible; the only two-family houses I could afford were in downtrodden areas, and the best required too much money down.” In fact, after signing contracts and spending money for inspections, appraisals, and attorney’s fees, two deals fell apart right before her eyes.

Then, in 2005, the tide turned. The city government worker residence rule was lifted, freeing Flowers to look outside New York City. She worked with several real estate agents and became a lot more selective about her power team. “I’ve learned that whenever you’re making major moves, you must do more competitive shopping and networking to seek out the best people and services.” Fortunately, Flowers knew exactly what she wanted in a home, including the price, location, type of home, demographics, and accessibility to the city. “All of those things were my concern because I have children. [Agents] would show me houses that just didn’t fit my criteria. They thought if the house was a great price it didn’t much matter if it was in a poor neighborhood,” says Flowers. After working unsuccessfully with other agents, Flowers hired Taisha Holmes, with Prudential Rand Realty in Central Valley, New York.

Holmes showed Flowers 10 houses their first time out. With flashlights in hand, they peeked under cabinets and peered through windows. After viewing several homes, Flowers found the perfect house for her and her family: a sky blue colonial that sits on a 1/2 acre, complete with a decorative well and pine trees. Holmes advises choosing real estate pros with caution. “Do your homework on the people that you use, and don’t take the first [house] you see. Find out w
ho your [agent] is, and get a reputable mortgage broker. I’ve seen a lot of brokers promise the world and then [not deliver].”

At times, prospective home buyers will go through this process without ever really speaking to the people on their team. But getting to know them, who they are, and what they stand for and against should be a priority. “Start early in the process because it’s important to do your research in the market, to know all the properties out there. By looking online, talking to people, and talking to brokers, you’ll have a better chance of finding the right property for you,” advises Joe Holland, a real estate developer with Uptown Partners in Harlem. Also, make sure you save enough money because you’ll need “to have as much capital to invest as possible. It’s not only the down payment — it’s closing costs and moving costs,” he says.

In addition, read books such as Mortgage Confidential by David Reed (AMACOM; $16.95), an excellent resource. “I’ve read about the process,” says Flowers. “But researching and learning and going through are a whole different thing. Do your homework; don’t just

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