National Homeownership Month is a good time to celebrate service



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Whether you’re working with first-time homebuyers or helping seniors stay in their homes, the way that you support homeownership matters, writes broker-owner Teresa Boardman.

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June is National Homeownership Month. The National Association of Realtors supports homeownership and works to increase homeownership opportunities.

I never thought of homeownership as a tax break. The way property taxes keep increasing, my home is the opposite of a tax break. It has been a good investment, yet I also recognize that homeownership isn’t for everyone.

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We still live in the old house we bought decades ago. It is paid for and if there is a downside to living rent and mortgage-free, I haven’t experienced it.

Homeownership has never come easy

People assume that homeownership came easy for those of us who were born near the tail end of the baby boom.

The unemployment rate in the United States reached a post-World War II high of 10.8 percent the year I graduated from college. It was hard to find a job and even harder to find one that paid enough to save for a down payment on a house and qualify for a mortgage.

At the time, mortgage interest rates were slightly north of 16 percent. Buying a house wasn’t an option; it was just a dream.

As a family of four, we rented a two-bedroom, one-bath second-floor apartment for seven years.

We let the kids have the larger bedroom, and we took the room that was next to the walk-in closet and similar in size. The biggest difference between the two was the window.

I used to imagine living in a house where we could open the door and be outside. I dreamed of buying groceries and being able to put them away without having to climb two flights of stairs.

We lived in that apartment for several years. The kids learned to ride bikes in the parking lot across the street after business hours. For a time, I believed we would always be renters and that our children would never have rooms of their own or a yard to play in.

Eventually, the recession ended, and I was able to land a decent job with a decent wage and excellent benefits. After six months of putting a paycheck a month into our savings account, we were ready to buy a house.

Navigating the homebuying process

We went to a few open houses. We avoided the Realtors as best we could. We wanted to buy a house, but we didn’t want anyone to sell us a house. The Realtors we encountered seemed a bit aggressive.

I remember one of the houses we passed on. I eventually listed it and held a few open houses in it. The house we bought is worth about twice as much as the one we almost bought, even though both houses were similarly priced when we were choosing between the two.

Location matters, but at the time, we had no idea how our neighborhood would change. It went from scary to gentrified and property values have gone up so much that I sometimes wonder if we could afford to buy the house today.

We made some mistakes when we purchased the house. The listing agent convinced us that we didn’t need an inspection because the city did a code compliance inspection. I remember the surprises we had the first winter in our new home when the pipes froze.

I can’t think of anything I have enjoyed owning as much as I have enjoyed the house. The neighborhood is a huge part of my social life and for many years I have volunteered to do everything from leading Girl Scouts to delivering meals to the elderly. I have served on the board of directors of three local non-profits.

As a volunteer election judge, I recognize many of the voters in the precinct, and when someone mentions an address, I know if the street is in our precinct.

Last summer, I gathered resources and helped a community-based non-profit organization build a page on its website that lists resources for elderly homeowners. I continue to advocate for older homeowners.

As housing becomes more scarce and less affordable, seniors are vulnerable to homelessness. People who are over 65 are the fastest-growing group of people to become unhoused. Seniors who live on the streets have shorter life spans than their peers who have housing.

Owning a home is a life-changer

When I work with first-time homebuyers, I try my best to put myself in their shoes and remember what it was like to buy a house and how Realtors made me feel and how important it is to buy the right house.

I think about how important buying the right house is. I remind myself that when someone buys a house, it isn’t just a “deal,” “transaction” or a “commission.” Buyer’s agents need to be paid, but the homebuyer’s needs have to come first.

I’ll never take homeownership for granted. Homeownership is a privilege and working with homebuyers is also a privilege and should never be taken lightly.





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