Assisting Buyers with Financial Issues
March 2, 2023
The tight labor market, reduced consumer spending, and pandemic-related relief programs during 2020 and 2021 helped to improve the financial health of many low-income families. But the Making Ends Meet report released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) based on data from early 2022 revealed a decline in several key areas.
The annual report, based on surveys measuring consumer financial health issues, noted rapidly declining financial competency last year, especially among ethnic groups, consumers under age 40, and low-income renters, largely due to income uncertainties, deleted savings and unexpected expenses.
Further, while all racial and ethnic groups applied for credit at similar rates last year, Black and Hispanic consumers were more likely to be turned down or were less likely to apply for credit because they believed they would be turned down.
What does this mean for real estate professionals seeking to help lower-income consumers to become successful first-time homebuyers?
The good news is that there are still advantages to not having owned a house before – primarily government programs including tax breaks, loans backed by the federal government, and programs to reduce down payment requirements.
Even some clients who are not first-time buyers may qualify for government programs The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says a person is considered a first-time buyer if they have not owned a home for three years – and single parents and/or those who previously owned a home with a partner are also eligible.
Savvy real estate agents should have a complete understanding of the benefits related to these programs, who can qualify for them, and how to educate buyers about what it takes to be approved.
Buyers who lack the funds for a down payment, for example, must still save up to some extent – but the 20 percent down payment of yesteryear has given way to many lower-cost options for first-time buyers, including 0 percent from the VA loans program and 3.5 percent for FHA government loans.
Additionally, buyers who have a retirement program such as an IRA can borrow up to $10,000 without penalty to help with down payment and closing costs – and a knowledgeable agent can be a valuable resource for buyers with credit issues if they not serious enough to require resolution by a credit repair company.
Consider becoming the area expert in putting vulnerable clients in the best possible condition to get the home they want. Continuing education programs to help sharpen your skills in these areas are offered by the National Association of REALTORS®.
Bobbi Pronin is an award-winning writer based in Orange County, Calif. A former news editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism and corporate communications, she has specialized in real estate topics for over a decade.