Create Your Own Financial Recovery

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Lakimlyn Ford is one of the fortunate house hunters who took advantage of a buyer’s market. She purchased a home in Columbus, Georgia, in late November for $118,000 by working with NeighborWorks America, a community development and affordable housing organization. The 33-year-old accountant bought a tri-level home with four bedrooms and two and a half baths. A divorced mother of a 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter, Ford acquired the home to show her children that they, too, could someday achieve the American dream and own a home.

“I got a pretty big house for the money I paid,” she says. The seller paid the closing costs and offered a year’s warranty on the entire home and its contents, including the appliances, air conditioning unit, hot water heater, and new roof. “I was truly blessed,” says Ford.

The nation’s overall homeownership rate was 66.3% during the third quarter of 2011, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau report. The rate was 74% for whites, 46% for blacks, 48% for Hispanics, and 56% for all other races including Asians.

Falling home prices over the past four years have benefited new homeowners like Ford, but at the same time they have troubled homeowners who faced lower-valued homes and underwater mortgages (a loan that exceeds what the home is worth).

Gradual improvement is expected in housing in 2012, with slight increases in the sales of new and existing homes and a bit of a boost in median prices, according to projections at the 2011 Realtors Conference & Expo in Anaheim, California. Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, stated in a press release that sales of existing homes are expected to rise about 5% in 2012 to a projected $5.22 million, from a projected $4.97 million in 2011. He sees mortgage interest rates gradually rising from recent record lows to reach 4.5% by mid 2012. For home values, he expects modest appreciation this year.

Deborah Boatright, northeast regional director at NeighborWorks America, suggests that potential first-time homebuyers consult a certified homebuying adviser before they pursue buying a home.

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