Photos by Jeylin White
Scores packed the hallways at the Divine Faith Ministries International church, in Jonesboro, to receive information about the housing market.
JONESBORO — Divine Faith Ministries International opened its doors to the Southern Crescent community Saturday so that experts could educate, dispel myths and provide resources about the housing market.
The sanctuary was filled with homeowners and prospective buyers tuning in to the knowledge of housing experts Mickie Williams, with Clayton County Housing and Community Development; Anthony Harris, assistant vice president of D and E Housing Counseling Group, in Forest Park; Malisa Thompson and Cynthia Harrison, representatives with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs; and Ruth Trembley, representative from the HUD District Office.
Rashonda Self and her husband, Ivory, were among those in attendance. The couple recently moved from Ypsilanti, Mich., and live in Henry County. They said they came out to the summit because they’re looking to purchase a home in the next year.
“I don’t want to always have to rent apartments,” said Rashonda. “I would like to own my own home one day but there’s so much about purchasing a home that we don’t know.”
Elwin Laster, DFMI church member and realtor, said that is precisely the reason the ministry wanted to do the housing summit. Laster was responsible for Saturday’s event and making sure it went off without a hitch.
“We wanted to empower the community and let them know what their counties have to offer them,” said Laster. “So many people are not educated about the housing market so we wanted to shine a light.”
Kelly Dover and Suzette McLellan, mortgage bankers with Loan South Mortgage in Kennesaw, came out to provide information about applying for a loan. The pair said one of the biggest misconceptions is most people think all they need is a good credit score.
Laster said the average score to qualify for a home is 640. However, McLellan and Dover said that’s not enough if their tax information is not in order.
“People make a mistake by trying to write off everything on the their taxes, so they can get a larger tax return, but if you’re looking to purchase a home in the near future that can really hurt you,” said McLellan.
For example, she added, if your income was $100,000, but you write off $50,000 on your taxes, and you apply for a mortgage loan you will only qualify for $50,000 loan.
“People should really give that some serious thought,” said Dover. “You may have a good credit score, but we also have to look at your income to make a determination of what kind of home you can afford to handle.”
Laster said nowadays it’s cheaper to own a home than it is to rent.
“It’s a buyer’s market right now with so many homes in foreclosure,” he said.
McLellan agreed. She said for those who are paying between $800 to a $1000 in renting an apartment could be living in a $100,000 home.
“The wisest thing to do is to let your home make money for you,” she said. She added people should not let their income deter them. She said there are plenty of homes on the market ranging for $50,000 to $80,000, for those living on an income less than $27,000.
The Selfs said the information Harris provided about the “ABCs” of buying a home — the importance of having a home inspection, staying away from online home insurance companies, and finding a suitable realtor — that helped.
“Our goal is to get a home and provide a better future for our four children,” said Rashonda. “The whole process of searching for the right home and realtor was eye-opening for me and my husband.”
Thompson and Harris, with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, gave hope to those who already own a home or may be behind in their mortgage payments. The duo gave information about the Georgia Dream Program, which provides assistance to modest-income families and financial assistance to those who are unemployed, or on a fixed income, and are behind on mortgage payments.
“It’s the American dream to own your own home,” said DMFI Bishop Donald E. Battle. “There are plenty of resources out here to help people stay in their homes and to become home owners. ... We need to fill these empty homes in our neighborhoods. It will help reduce crime and revitalize our communities.”