Real estate expert opinion: what to know before you buy a home


By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member
msayles@afro.com

When it comes to building generational wealth and closing the racial wealth divide, homeownership has become a key pathway. Buying a home is a long-term investment, and because houses typically tend to appreciate, it’s one that pays off overtime.

As homeowners pay off their mortgage they also build home equity, which can then be used to pay for college tuition, consolidate high-interest debt and to start or scale a business.

Although purchasing a home—especially, for the first time—can be a complicated, taxing transaction, real estate agents help to streamline the process.

The Wilson Homes Group, a Black-owned real estate agency, has been serving the Greater Baltimore areas for more than 25 years. The group buys, sells, and invests in real estate. They also rehabilitate homes and manage rentals.

Baltimore native Dawn Pollard has been with the firm since 2020, but she’s had a fervor for real estate since she was young, particularly because it allows her to meet and support people in various stages of their lives.

At the Wilson Homes Group, Pollard and her fellow agents take pride in their dedication and accuracy, and they consider themselves a family.

[Real estate] is one of [the most]if not the most, lucrative ways to build wealth in America,” said Pollard. “The income potential is unlimited. The opportunity to meet people is unlimited, and ultimately, I just love helping people.”

Currently, Maryland’s housing market is a seller’s market, according to Pollard. The demand for homes is higher than the supply, giving sellers’ the upper hand. However, Pollard says the market is starting to shift, and she expects that interest rates will continue to climb.

According to Pollard, the first thing new homebuyers should do is ensure their credit is in good standing.

Accessing mortgage loans is one of the most significant barriers to homeownership. Most lenders require a credit score of 620 at a minimum, but some will accept a score as low as 500. If buyers have poor credit scores, the Wilson Homes Group refers them to credit counseling and restoration services.

Before starting the homebuying process, she also said it’s important for individuals to have money saved that can be used for earnest money deposits, down payments and closing costs. They should also consider what various neighborhoods offer in terms of school districts, community life and work commutes.

Throughout the process, Pollard recommends various local grant programs to help her clients acquire additional funds for down payments and closing costs. Some include Vacant to Value, a Baltimore City incentive program for buyers of city-owned vacant properties, and Chenoa Fund, a national down payment assistance program provided through CBC Mortgage Agency.

When choosing a real estate agent, Pollard said homebuyers should look for agents who are knowledgeable about the market and its condition and transparent when they don’t know the answer to a question that’s raised.

Just as a real estate agent has to ensure a client is a good fit for them, a buyer or seller must do the same, according to Pollard.

“Once you build equity in your property, you can always, always, always pull some equity out,” said Pollard.

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