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If you want to buy a place to live, now is a great time to get serious about jumping into the market.

Republicans are busy working on proposals that will limit funds for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, which issues nearly $8 billion annually to companies creating low-income housing. This reduces the financial incentives for companies to partner with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to build affordable rental units. According to the Urban Institute, about 41.2 percent of African-Americans are homeowners, compared to 71.1 percent of whites. The rate of Black homeownership has long lagged that of whites, but is now compounded by the fact that many college-educated, “middle-class” bound Blacks and browns are saddled with student loans and have no financial support to help pay them down (in fact, recent studies show that most Blacks owe more than they did when they graduated). That means that rent prices will continue to increase and more folks who want to take advantage of home ownership will be trapped because they can’t afford to save for a down payment on a property.

So what are folks to do? If you’ve been thinking about buying, it’s time to move into informed action. Here’s how.

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1 Educate Yourself

Look for national, reputable homebuyers programs that will help you get your funding in order, connect you with local housing options and offer information sessions about the practical skills necessary for homeownership. You might not find all of these in one place, so be prepared to do a little leg work. Also, you should NOT pay for these services (if you do it should be nominal). The government and non-profit agencies offer these programs for free.

 

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2 Huddle Up

If you have a high student debt load, are low-income or live in an expensive housing market, you may need a partner, or two, to make ownership happen. Silence your ego and think about the big picture win (which is to stop renting). Buying a property with someone is a business arrangement, whether it’s your mama or best bud, and should be treated as such. Get everything in writing. Have an exit strategy and make sure your financial partner is responsible.

 

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3 Aggressively Attack Student Loans

Student loans will be the bane of your existence until you pay them off. Actively create strategies to get rid of them. Get another job. Get a roommate (like in your room, dorm style). Sell all of your ish. Do whatever it takes to get rid of them. Remind yourself that any discomfort you experience will be short term, but once you pay off your loans, you’re done.

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4 Stop Using Your Credit Card

Cyclical consumer debt is worse than student loans. Say, “Damn, that’s me” if you’ve ever paid off all of your credit cards, breathed a sigh of relief and then found yourself in the same situation six months, a year or two years later. Credit cards teach people to live above their means. Student loans don’t re-up, credit cards do. Imagine if you applied $2,000, $3,000 or $7,000 pay offs you made on your cards to your student loans. Same thing goes for those refund checks. Right. Stop using your cards and focus on your loans.

 

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5 Think Landlord

Buying a single family home, condo or co-op can be pricey—and the thought of covering an entire mortgage by yourself can be intimidating. Becoming a landlord is a great way to minimize your debt load because you will use the income from your tenant to offset the mortgage costs. Your market really guides your options. For example, in some markets multi-unit homes are popular, while single family homes are a must in others. You can buy a two or three unit property and reside in one unit (collecting rents from the others), reside in the one family and take in roommates or buy a single family and rent it out (while you reside elsewhere, but reap the tax and income benefits of ownership). Research your market and review your finances to determine what works best.

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