RENTING vs. BUYING
Owning a home is the American Dream. It’s a great way to create wealth and pass it on to your family, but there are many factors to consider.
The first step is to decide whether now is the right time to for you to buy a home or if it’s best to rent for a while.
FIRST-TIME HOME BUYING
Being a first-time home buyer is both exciting and scary. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the average home price rose more than $350,000 in 2021. The National Association of Realtors warns that available homes often disappear off the market in weeks or just days. In this market, it’s easy to make a mistake that could affect your finances negatively for years. It’s important to educate yourself and be prepared.
Are You Eligible for Down Payment Assistance (DPA)?
There are a number of federal, state and local programs to help first time homebuyers with a down payment. Some of these programs are income based, others are based on development efforts in specific areas or neighborhoods.
The importance of building your credit
From mortgage applications to future jobs, your credit score impacts many of life’s most important milestones—and that holds true for new immigrants
Coming to the country at a young age, Sylvia Alvarez became her parents’ translator and connection to this new world. “I didn’t know that helping and learning from my parents’ immigrant experience would set me off in my life’s work,” says Alvarez, now executive director of the Housing and Education Alliance. “Seeing them secure a mortgage to buy their first home brought them immense joy and pride. It meant owning a piece of America.”
For many new to the country, realizing such dreams often starts with building a credit score. It’s a challenging process—one not known for its friendliness toward new immigrants. But navigating the American financial system ultimately determines whether you can take out a mortgage or get a new credit card, and even be checked by hiring managers or potential landlords.
Here, we answer your credit questions.
Credit and the American Dream
“People don’t understand all the different aspects of their lives that credit will impact,” explains Alvarez. “Next to having a good income, you better have good credit because otherwise, you’re not going to go anywhere.” A good credit score is a major asset, and one you should begin building as soon as you arrive in America.
And Alvarez personal story is a prime example of this.
Understanding credit scores
Building your credit is essential for life in America, and not having one can impact nearly all aspects of your life. A credit score may look like a simple three-digit number, but these digits can have a change your life—and not just financially. Your credit score is your reputation as a borrower; it shows your ability to borrow and pay back money. If you don’t have a credit score (or have a low number), you’ll have a harder time getting loans; and if you do, it will come with higher interest rates. “Good credit can open doors for you in America,” Alvarez emphasizes. “The better credit you have, the better loan you’ll get.”
Behind the number itself (credit scores typically range from 300 to 850), there are many factors used to calculate credit scores. Your payment history (think making payments on time), how much money you owe, and how much of your available credit you are using is key in determining your credit score.
What good credit means for you—and your future
“In order to advance in this country, you must have good credit,” emphasizes Alvarez. One of her recommendations? See your credit score as your “financial power.” The better the number, the more options—or power—you will have.
Especially when starting out in a new place, a good credit can do wonders for you. Since this is what determines how much money banks will be able to loan you, it can mean how big you—and your family—can dream. Be it that your goal is getting a work truck to start a new business or finding the right place to build a home, having strong credit will help you both save money (by getting lower interest rates) and make your financial life easier (by having more options)
How to start your credit journey
Building your credit is a long-term endeavor. If you don’t have a credit history, it’s hard to get a loan, a credit card or even an apartment rental. But how are you supposed to show you’re responsible for your finances if no one will give you credit in the first place? “You have to be very patient,” explains Alvarez. “There’s no quick fix.”
You may not be able to start or fix your credit in one night, but you can take steps to move you in the right direction. For example, you can start with a small credit card line and build from there by paying bills on time. Another way to build your credit is by getting a car loan with a car dealership you trust. Having different types of loans will help you develop your credit mix, further improving your credit score.
Building your credit can be overwhelming, but there are ways to do it and institutions willing to help you out. If you’re patient and willing to put in the work, you’ll be able to build your own version of the American Dream.