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Empowering Black America

Preparing for Homeownership & Finding a Loan That Fits


Karen Gajeski

Senior Vice President of Mortgage Banking, Thrivent Federal Credit Union

What does the future of homeownership look like for African-Americans?

The success of African-American homeownership hinges on the community’s ability to ask questions and seek help when they need it. The three questions every new homebuyer should ask are: How much can I afford comfortably? What does my credit look like? What’s my budget and my long-term plan? Lenders and mortgage counselors both do a great job of helping new homebuyers talk through these questions to reach meaningful answers.

How can leaders in this industry work to reverse the ideas of the mid-20th century that prohibited black people from owning homes in the suburbs, a law that still affects the state of black homeownership today?

The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) and the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) both work to regulate fair lending practices across all financial organizations and the emphasis on those two regulations has grown dramatically in the last decade. In addition to these laws, every financial organization can do two big things: Promote proactive education and promote proactive planning. Buying a home is a long-term investment. That’s why it’s so important to find a lender who’s ready to look at your big-picture goals and help you create a financial roadmap for achieving those goals. 

When is the ideal age to begin saving for a home? Purchase a home?

The earlier you start saving for any financial goal, the better. Saving for a home doesn’t have to include setting aside hundreds of dollars each month. It could be as simple as saving $5-10 per month. The most important thing to remember about saving is that it’s not a one-time action. It needs to become a habitual behavior that you build into your life. Remember, housing is not a short-term endeavor. It’s a long-term investment.

Where should those interested in learning more about mortgage loans turn for financial advice and assistance?

Start with a lender or a mortgage counselor. Seeking help from financial professionals doesn’t mean you’re in trouble. It’s a practical step in educating yourself before you make a big decision. Plus, if you begin your home buying journey with a lender and then find a realtor, you won’t fall in love with a house that’s outside your price range. Understand your budget and what you can afford first. Then, connect with a realtor to find a property that aligns with the goals you laid out with your lender.

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