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How to Get Your First Home in America

DISCLAIMER: The following content is for educational and informational purposes only. Laura Marenco is not a finance professional and the following is not intended to be a substitute for professional financial advice. Always seek the advice of a finance professional with any questions you may have regarding credit and any other finance-related topics. In addition, every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of this content. However, the content below and in the links is subject to change at any time without notice. Besides the links pertaining to our own products and services, Golden Beacon USA does not endorse nor is it affiliated with the companies, organizations or agencies and/or their products or services whose links are included in this post. In addition, we cannot control or guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in these links. Golden Beacon USA does not earn commissions from any of these entities.

A job. A family. A car. Your very own home. These are all parts of the American Dream. Obtaining that dream home might seem impossible as an immigrant, but you aren’t alone. Currently, less than two-thirds of the United States population owns a home. The people least likely to be homeowners: those who are young, especially under the age of 44. Not many Americans are achieving this dream, regardless of status.

But don’t let these statistics scare you! Homeownership is still an achievable dream with a bit of effort. That’s why we’ve compiled the following tips to help you find your first home in America. After reading, be sure to check out our video where we interview seasoned real estate expert Mary Bowen from real estate company Long and Foster on the types of housing in America and the entire process of buying a home, from searching to moving in!

Your Immigration Status

You might be afraid that homeownership is out of reach due to your immigration status. While the road to homeownership will be different depending on your status in this country, there is still a path to take. If you are a permanent resident of the United States or a green card holder, you have the same options as any other U.S. citizen for a mortgage, or a loan from lenders that allows you to purchase a home. For temporary non-resident aliens, there’s the Federal Housing Administration loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Still, to qualify, you need proof of employment, social security number (or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number), as well as past tax returns and bank statements.

Your Credit Score Is Important

Credit scores factor into typical, everyday American life.  From jobs to loans, everyone is judging your credit. Unfortunately, this also applies to homeownership. Depending on where you are from and your past transactions in the United States, you might have very little or no credit. But credit is a significant factor when it comes to obtaining a mortgage.

If you recall from our previous blog post, your credit is based on your ability to pay back money. A good credit score from FICO is generally between 670 and 739 points. Not sure what your credit score is? Check your credit report for free through the Annual Credit Report.

Depending on your lender, you may still qualify for a mortgage even if you have a lower credit score. A credit score between 580 and 669 points might land you a home. However, keep in mind that your interest rates, or the additional money that must be repaid in addition to the original loan balance, might be affected given your credit score. The higher your score, the less you need to pay through interest. The lower the score, the more time and money you will need to put into your home. Before setting out to buy your new home, you might want to first build up your credit score. For ideas on how to do this, check out our e-learning video, ‘What is Credit?’, where we interview banking expert Ronnie Roizin on how to build and maintain good credit.

Money, Money, Money

A good credit score is only one part of the process of getting a new home. Most mortgage lenders also want to know if you are employed. Usually, you will need to provide proof, such as pay stubs or two years of income tax returns. However, if you are outside the country while trying to buy a home in America, you will most likely need to make a down payment, or an initial up-front partial payment, for the purchase of your home. A down payment can cost between 20 and 50% of the total cost. In 2020, 39% of homes purchased by foreign nationals were not paid using down payments but were paid fully in cash. If you have the funds, paying in full upfront can make the process of buying a home much easier. For more information on loans, check out this article from Rocket Mortgage about applying for mortgages as a non-citizen U.S. immigrant.

Know Your Rights

Racism and xenophobia are unfortunately still prevalanet in the United States. These painful ideologies sometimes affect business transactions, including buying and selling homes. However, laws such as the Fair Housing Act of 1968 make it illegal to discriminate against someone due to his or her race, religion, national origin, and/or sex when purchasing, selling or renting property. Keep in mind that it is against the law for real estate agents or landlords to ask you about your race, religion, or immigration status!

Buying your first home might be scary, especially in a new country, but it isn’t impossible. Need help finding a real estate agent or mortgage lender? Buy a Resource Referrals package today so we can do the research for you and put you in touch with the service provider who fits your needs the best. Golden Beacon USA’s products and services are here to make your transition to your new country as easy as possible! Questions? Contact me today at laura@goldenbeaconusa.com or call or text (866) 403-7173. Remember, you are not alone!

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