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How These Single Women Saved To Buy Their First Home

The path to ownership isn't without steps and sacrifices.

Life & Travel

With the questions of down payments, closing costs, and how much home can you afford, it might seem daunting to step out of your comfort zone and purchase your first home. Especially as a single woman. But it is most definitely something that can be done.

In fact, I recently spoke with four amazing women oozing with all kinds of black girl magic who can testify to this. What I learned from them is that the path to ownership can take quite a few steps and sacrifices to get there, but ultimately, the first step is actually making the decision to own and shifting your mindset.

Changing Your Home Buying Mindset

Cierra Craig, a 31-year-old traffic officer from Washington, DC. Craig purchased a new 3-bedroom, 4-bathroom single family home at the age of 30 and doesn't regret it one bit. "A lot of people believe that you have to have all of this money to get started...and it prevents them from even looking into it because they feel like they aren't in a position to own anything," she shared.

Long gone are the days where women are waiting around for "the one" to come along and sweep them off of their feet, get married, and purchase a home with their spouse. Nah. More and more women are going out there and making their goal of being a homeowner happen all by themselves!

Kiara Arnold, a 29-year-old IT auditor from Charlotte, NC who purchased her 3-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom single family home at the young age of 25, explained how she didn't see any representation of someone young and single owning a home in her family. She knew that she had to do something to break the cycle. "It's important to challenge that belief that you have to wait until a partner comes along," she revealed.

"You don't have to be married to take ownership of something."

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Prioritize Saving & Prep for Sacrifices

The next most important thing to do once your head is in the game and you're ready to move forward is save, save, save (and make some sacrifices)!

It took Kimaada Sills, a 30-year-old adjunct professor in Essex County, NJ four years to save $30,000. "I just lived at home with my family right after grad school to save up money for my down payment. While all of my other friends were moving out and getting apartments, I didn't have the opportunity to do that and still meet my savings goals," Sills said.

The sacrifice that was made afforded her a much greater opportunity instead. She was able to purchase a multi-family home at the age of 28. Arnold took two years to save $15,000 and moved back in with her parents to make it happen. Craig said she saved anywhere between $10,000-$15,000 over the course of two years because she was unsure of how much she was going to have to put down on her home. She actually ended up not having to put anything down and just paid for the home inspection. Phylicia Franklin, a 28-year-old dwelling in Atlanta and working in recruitment, recently purchased her first single family townhome and saved about $5,000-$6,000 in a span of six months.

Franklin made the sacrifice of picking up a second job temporarily to bring in some more cash for towards her down payment. "I think that was the most stressful thing (through homeownership process), trying to balance two jobs," Franklin expressed.

She also gave up her apartment and moved in with a friend for 6 months to make her savings goal happen. Everyone's savings goal and sacrifices that need to be made are going to be different. That's why it's important to do what makes sense for you on the journey of homeownership. "You gotta do what you gotta do and believe in," Craig advised.

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Be Honest About What You Can Afford & Do Your Research

All four women also stressed the importance of knowing what your budget is and being honest with yourself about what you can afford. "I think that we get so caught up in looking at our dream home, and then when we see what we can actually afford, we get discouraged. We feel like we should have what we deserve, which we should, but we all have to start where we are at. Just because it might be your first house, dont mean it's going to be your last," Craig added. "We feel like we should have what we deserve, but we all have to start where we are at."

Her advice is to see what you get approved for prior to actually looking for a home so that you don't get your hopes up. Arnold recommends looking into starter neighborhoods in your area for homes that aren't as expensive when looking to purchase for the first time.

Three out of the four women utilized first time home buyers programs to make their dreams a reality. There are a ton of resources out there for people looking into homeownership and even help with covering some of the costs. Because of the HPAP program Craig utilized in DC, she wasn't required to pay a down payment. For 10 months, Sills worked with a first time home buyer program that allowed her to get an interest rate much lower than the market rate.

"I went to a number of workshops. I spoke to any and everyone who owns a home, about 10 different banks, and just processed the information," Sills shared.

Franklin was able to get $1,000 towards her closing costs through her lender and an additional $2,000 through her builder. Unfortunately, a lot of time, people are unaware of the resources that are out there. That's why it's super imperative to do extensive research in order to discover the gems in your area.

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Lessons Learned Through First Time Home Buying

With all of these nuggets that were being shared, I just had to know if these women would've done anything differently throughout the process. It was interesting to hear about the lessons that they learned along the way and the advice that they'd give someone who is looking into buying their first home.

"I wouldn't do anything differently...I really feel like the journey and the process that I went through or that anyone goes through is for them," Craig said.

Sills wouldn't have done anything differently either. She stated, "I had years before to prep before I started looking. I was well prepared for it."

Arnold explained how she put 5% down on her home and that if she could do it all over again, she would've put at least 20% down. She also pointed out the importance of thinking about things that rarely get taken into account when looking into a home. "I would make sure that my house is not on a hill, that it's not elevated because you may incur different expenses depending on where how your house is positioned," she continued.

Arnold also warned to think about maintaining the lawn and how the sun rises and sets on it as it can burn the grass. Because of these things, she has to make sure she budgets money for lawn maintenance. Franklin stated that she would have sought advice from homeowners about their experiences and other educational programs in her area. "I went through the process pretty much by myself and it was trial and error for me. There were so many things (resources) available that would have just answered all of my questions prior to me going into the process," Franklin shared.

She also discussed how she didn't realize how important credit was: "Your credit is everything. It basically affects what your interest rate is going to look like and whether you get a 15-year loan or a 30-year loan."

If you're looking into purchasing your first home, remember that patience is a virtue. It's not an overnight process that you can just rush. Take the proper time to get your mind right and educate yourself, research programs in your area, get your credit and savings up, and search for properties within your budget. Don't put too much pressure on yourself as the process is already a lot on its own!

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Originally published September 29, 2018

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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