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What It's Really Like To Buy Your First Home: A Guide

A little education about what it's really like to buy a house can simplify the home-buying process.

Finance

According to Statista, "Approximately 82 percent of Americans aged 22 to 30 who bought a home were first-home buyers, whereas only just under half of the homebuyers between 31 and 40 bought their first home in that year." This means, unsurprisingly, most first-time homebuyers tend to be in the beginning stages of a budding career, taking higher-education courses, and trying to keep up with student loan payments.


Gen Z and Millenials have so much to juggle already, purchasing a house can feel like another stressor — but a little education about what it's really like to buy a house can simplify the process.

Take Advantage of First-Time Homebuyer Benefits

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Buying a home as a first-time homebuyer can be nerve-wracking, but your "first-time" status unlocks several perks. First-time homebuyers are eligible for loan programs, tax breaks, and assistance programs that are created to increase homeownership accessibility. You might even still qualify for first-time homebuyer programs, even if you've owned a home before. Don't neglect options created to help you on your journey to homeownership. Know your options.

First-Time Homeowner Loan & Assistance Programs

  • FHA Loans - An FHA loan is a government-backed mortgage that is guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, but issued by private lenders. It's hands down the most popular loan option for first-time homebuyers since they have low down payment and credit requirements.
  • USDA Loans - USDA loans are mortgage loans backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that make housing affordable in rural areas. Since they're government-backed loans, they can provide lower interest rates. On top of low-interest rates, borrowers don't have to pay a cent towards the down payment.
  • Good Neighbor Next Door - The Good Neighbor Next Door Program was created by The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to strengthen communities by offering teachers, law enforcement, firefighters, and EMT's the ability to purchase homes at a reduced rate. Purchase HUD homes for 50 percent off the list price with a low down payment of $100.

There are several first-time buyer programs to choose from. Do your research to track down the option that fits your needs.

Address Your Financial Health

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Review Your Credit. Even though the average credit score for homebuyers in America is 731, most people can qualify for conventional loans with a credit score of at least 620. But, a lackluster credit score doesn't kill your homeowner dreams. You can still buy a home with bad credit if you know your available options.

Calculate Your Expenses. Mortgage payments can take up a good portion of your expenses, but living expenses can as well. It's hard to narrow down your list of potential homes when you don't know what you can afford long-term. Before looking for a home, sit down and calculate your living expenses. This can include an estimation of monthly car payments, student debt payments, entertainment expenses, retirement savings, and other regular commitments.

Check Your Current Savings. If you have savings tucked away, that still might not be enough since you have to consider upfront costs, long-term and closing costs. Trust and believe, you don't want money getting in the way of landing the perfect home and keeping that home in the long-term.

  • Do you have enough savings to cover your down payment? If you're not financing your home using a program that eliminates a down payment, then it's important to know what you're expected to pay upfront when purchasing a house. Make your life easier and use a down payment calculator to estimate your potential costs, so you have the money prepared when you're ready to buy your brand new home.
  • When purchasing a home, you have to consider if you can afford the home in the future as well. It's smart to have an emergency savings account that can cover at least 3 to 6 months of living expenses on top of savings that are specifically for the costs that come with purchasing a home.

Find A Home & Make An Offer

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Once you have your finances figured out, it's time to start searching for a fabulous home with all of the features you've envisioned in your head. The entire process of searching for a home can be overwhelming, which is why it will make your life a whole lot easier to hire a local real estate agent. And, homebuyers on the lookout can scour online listings or take a drive through your desired neighborhood to see if any homes are for sale.

When you've finally found a house that you'd like to call home, the only thing left to do is make an offer. If you choose to work with a real estate agent, your agent will help you to decide how much money to offer the seller in exchange for the home and any other conditions you want to put on the table. The real estate agent will present your offer and conditions to the seller's agent who will accept your offer or propose a counteroffer.

As the buyer, you can accept their offer or present your own counteroffer, and this process can continue until an agreement is made. Or, until one of the parties decides to opt out of the negotiation process.

Close On The Home

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If you get to this point, congrats! It's time to sign your name on the dotted line on several documents and cross your fingers that the deal doesn't fall through the cracks. This is the time to focus on closing costs which can include purchasing home insurance, getting a home appraisal, and any extra fees.

In 2020, the homeownership rate amounted to a striking 65.85 percent! Who knows, after exploring your first-time homebuyer programs, addressing your financial health, and finding your dream home, you could be a part of that large chunk of American homeowners.

You're armed with the tools to start your search for a home fit for a queen like yourself, so there's nothing between you and your homeownership goals now. Happy house hunting!

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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