The time is right for the big move. Though the housing market has seen its share of ups and downs, owning a home remains the American Dream for most adults.
A decade after the housing market collapsed, which impacted millions of homeowners, there was a shift in U.S. households to move toward renting instead of buying.
According to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau housing data, while the total number of households in the U.S. grew by 7.6 million between 2006 and 2016, the number of people owning their home remained relatively flat, in large part due to the continual effects of the housing crisis.
Dana Williams, a mortgage originator with Colony Bank in Valdosta, says now is an excellent time to buy a home in Lowndes County.
“Spring is usually a busy home-buying season,” she says. “Once the weather starts getting nice, we see more people out looking at homes.”
Even millennials, an age group that in the past has leaned toward renting versus buying, are starting to evaluate home buying options.
The Pew Research Center identifies millennials as anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 23 to 38 in 2019). With the millennial generation set to surpass the baby boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation, this tech-savvy group represents the newest crop of potential homeowners.
Approximately 75 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds consider owning a home an important goal.
While millennials may think homeownership is out of reach, Williams encourages them to consider their options. “A lot of young people find it surprising that they can often get a mortgage equal to, and sometimes less than, their monthly rent payment.”
With a preference among millennials to use online banking services, Williams says personal service is essential when it comes to purchasing a home.
“With online mortgage companies you don’t get one-on-one service,” she says. “With all of our customers, we want to build a relationship. Buying a home is a major purchase, and my job is not only as a cheerleader, but also an investigator. I have to ask a lot of questions as we go through the process.”
As lending standards have tightened over the past decade, some adults consider the move from renter to homeowner out of reach.
“It starts with having a budget,” Williams says. “We talk about their budget to determine what monthly payment they can realistically afford. This gives them a maximum house price. With this information, they are ready to start working with a local realtor.”
With more than 30 years of local banking experience and 20 years working directly with home mortgages, Williams said she has seen the home buying process flip.
“People used to find a house first and then come get a loan, but getting pre-qualified should always be the first step,” says Williams, who is the past president of the Valdosta Mortgage Bankers Association. “Before you start looking at houses, you need to know how much you can spend. Most realtors want to know your budget before they start showing you available homes.”
While the steps in the mortgage loan process have changed, the importance of a good credit score remains essential in becoming a homeowner.
“The higher the credit score, the better,” says Williams. “This can be a challenge especially for first-time buyers.”
Williams says online monitoring services have made it more convenient to check credit scores.
“People are now more aware of their credit score; however, banks will sometimes get a different score,” says Williams, “I still think people should check their scores often and remain aware of changes in their credit rating.”
In addition to home mortgages, Williams works with customers to secure home renovation loans.
“A blended loan can be a good alternative to a traditional second mortgage loan,” she says. “With the second mortgage, there is usually a higher rate and shorter terms, which means higher monthly payments. A blended loan gives you more flexibility to do all the renovations in one loan.”
With 27 offices located throughout Central and South Georgia, Colony Bank is the 8th largest bank in Georgia, and the largest community bank headquartered outside of Atlanta.
“We offer the products and services of a national bank while providing the personal relationship that customers want from a community bank,” says Williams.
For more information, contact Dana Williams at 229-241-9900 or visit her at the Valdosta Colony Bank located at 3774 Old U.S. Highway 41 North. www.colonybank.com