The Long Road Home

Elena Borneman Wins Our Third Annual Own Your First Home Contest

its Clearwater organization, and was making nearly $60,000 a year. But she was paying $1,415 a month, plus utilities, to rent a three-bedroom, two-bathroom condo that was 45 minutes from her job. This left little to no room for savings.

“Like most people she had the attitude of ‘I don’t want to rent anymore,’ says Teresa Cintron, an assistant vice president at Bank of America and board member for Clearwater Neighborhood Housing Services. “So, when she called me we put her on a buyer-ready application which allows an underwriter to review an application and give us conditions for approval before the property is found. Then I contacted one of the realtors I work with [and we had a] conference [with] Elle on the phone,” Cintron says.

Borneman prequalified for an $180,000 mortgage loan through Bank of America. With a loan commitment letter in hand, she began her house hunt, touring eight houses in a single day. Borneman knew exactly what she wanted: separate bedrooms for the girls; plenty of outdoor space for them to run around; and a location that would put her closer to her job, shopping, and other attractions. But Borneman also wanted a mortgage payment that she was confident she could handle. She says some home buyers fail to do all the math-forgetting to factor in expenses such as insurance, taxes, utilities, and maintenance-and end up borrowing more than they can afford. So, although she prequalified for $180,000, she looked for houses that cost about $40,000 less and made an offer $5,000 below the $145,000 asking price. Within three hours her offer was accepted.

Pooling Your Resources
The clock was ticking. Borneman had qualified for a mortgage and found a house. But, she still needed money for the down payment.
While first-time home buyers naturally have a range of financial concerns, Cintron advises checking with a Housing and Urban Develop
ment certified counseling agency in your area to see what first-time home buyer programs are available. “There are many different programs, whether it’s 100% financing or down payment assistance,” she says. Also, check with your local municipality to inquire about housing loans and other down payment assistance.

Borneman had been notified that she was a finalist in our contest. But with no savings and no guarantee that she would win the contest, she filled out an application with the city of Clearwater for down payment assistance. She applied for a program that required mortgage approval for the buyer, a house located within Clearwater, and a purchase price of less than $180,000. One other wrinkle: The program required that the median income for a family of three not exceed $57,800. At first glance, Borneman got a little nervous. Luckily, her annual salary of about $57,000 put her right under the income threshold, and she was approved for a $15,000, 30-year deferred Federal Housing Administration loan at a fixed-rate of 6.5%.

“With the $15,000 down payment assistance that I got, and the $10,000 [from the contest], that gave me $25,000 to put down, so I only

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