Tag Archives: financial literacy

HOMEteam Success!!!


Homeownership was a goal for Jackie and Mike Thompson while renting an apartment in Concord.  However, they were not certain about how prepared they were and were still just thinking about the possibility.  In August 2017, they participated in HOMEteam’s Financial Literacy workshop series, followed by an eight-hour First-Time Home Buyer seminar in October the same year. Over the following months, they met one-on-one with Homeownership Counselor, Richard Patterson.  Richard helped them develop a personal action plan, based on their specific needs and financial capacity, to identify and address any concerns and/or obstacles in realizing their goal of homeownership. 

 In May 2018, only seven months after taking HOMEteam’s First-Time Home Buyer seminar, Jackie and Mike purchased their first home in Boscawen.

At a recent event, they provided a great example to the crowd of the importance and value of participating in HOMEteam’s homebuyer educational programs and counseling services.

 As it turns out, we were much more ready to be able to buy a house than we thought we would be, but our lack of knowledge combined with the fear of making a bad decision had been holding us back. When we were finally ready to put all of our preparations and plans into action and look for a house, we both felt confident that we knew what we were doing now, and that the HOMEteam staff would be available to help us if we needed it.

 On May 5th of this year, we closed on our house in Boscawen, NH. Two days later when we showed up to move in, we learned firsthand why your insurance policy starts the moment you buy the house (something we learned about in class!). The night before, the area had some extreme weather and a 70ft pine tree fell overnight, missing our new house by mere feet. Because we felt so prepared to handle the ups and downs (literally) that come with owning a house, this unforeseen event on day 1 didn’t feel like a crisis – just something we had to deal with as part of being homeowners.


They recently celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary. Mike is currently a full-time student, studying wildlife and conservation biology while working a part-time job on campus. Jackie works full-time as the Housing Coordinator at a NH college, and plays the piano at her church.




Hard work brings New Hampshire family home


When Jeremy Charron lost his construction job in the wake of the 2008 housing crisis, he and his wife Siobhan had no choice but to file for bankruptcy.  They thought their credit would never recover, even after they got back on their feet, and that their dream of owning a home would remain a fantasy.  With three small daughters and Siobhan’s father and grandmother living with them, renting was not ideal, as it wasn’t always easy to find a house to rent that fit their specific needs.  That all changed when she saw a HOMEteam IDA program brochure.

The young couple met with a HOMEteam housing counselor only one year after their bankruptcy, and they found getting into a home of their own may not be as impossible as they had previously suspected.  Jeremy and Siobhan had to learn to budget strictly, something they had never done before.

“We couldn’t have done it without the help of the [IDA] program and the HOMEteam counselors.” Siobhan said.

The Individual Development Account [IDA] helps families like the Charrons commit to saving for major purchases, such as buying a home, or attaining higher education.  It matches the savings of an individual as they work towards their goal, and fosters good savings habits. In the Charron’s case, they each had an account, and saved enough to put towards their down payment, closing cost and other expenses associated with buying a home.

“Going through the IDA program and then doing the Home Buyer and Financial Capabilities Seminars, it really taught us a lot – how to use your credit, how to make it better, and how to prepare for the future and the unexpected… we really are grateful,” Siobhan said.

The paperwork involved in the application process was substantial; however the Charron family was able to complete what was necessary and not miss a class.  “We maximized the payments [into the IDA accounts], and we struggled. We were tight on things like groceries, but we knew we had to do it to meet our goal” Jeremy commented.

They saved and put money towards their IDA for a year before they started the home buying process, at times saving $200 a month, no small feat with two small girls and parents to feed.  They attended classes with HOMEteam, received counseling, and eventually found a home they were interested in.  It seemed nearly perfect for their situation.  It had enough bedrooms to accommodate their two children and Siobhan’s father and grandmother, and even had two bedrooms and a bath on the first floor, providing accessibility to her aging parents.  It was a little out of their price range, but the seller eventually agreed to meet them at a more affordable price point.

It was at this moment the lender suddenly rescinded their pre-approval, and it nearly cost them a chance at owning a home. “We were devastated,” Siobhan recalls.

Crestfallen and ready to fold, they called Ryan Tufts, their Home Ownership Coach at HOMEteam, for help.  Jeremy’s new employer had referred him to his lender, and without a secondary recommendation they were weary to try just any lender.  Ryan recommended several lenders who often work with HOMEteam’s clients.  Siobhan and Jeremy found a lender who was able to work with them and their unique situation to get the approval they needed to get into their new home.

Now owners living and working in their new home, Siobhan and Jeremy are proud of what they accomplished, “Now we are here, and we feel like we are through the hardest parts. We are truly grateful to be here.  There are always new challenges, but at least we are home.”

How does my credit score affect buying a home?


Tips to build the score you need for the mortgage you want.

Your credit score is an important factor in buying your new home. It helps determine the type of loan you qualify for, the interest rate you pay, how much you can spend on a home, and in some cases if you can buy a home at all.

What is a credit score?

A credit score summarizes the payment and balance information credit reporting agencies collect and intends to reflect your reliability as a borrower.  Credit scores generally range from 300-850.  35% of your credit score is determined by whether or not you pay your bills on time, and another 30% on how you manage balances on credit cards and other debts.  So, if you have a history of late payments or use more than 25% of your available credit, you may have a lower score.  You may also have a low score if you don’t have a long history of borrowing, or have recently opened many new credit accounts.

What credit score do I need to buy a home?

Many New Hampshire Housing lenders will accept applicants with a credit score of 620 or higher on an FHA loan. If you can increase your credit score to 660 or above your lender will have a wider variety of mortgage types to match you up with. This could result in better interest rates, lower mortgage insurance premiums, and lower monthly payments. Keep in mind that your credit score is only one factor in a loan application and the higher your score, the stronger your application. Aim for a score of 720 or higher to build a strong case for an approval.

How can I improve my credit or keep it high?

The best way is to make sure you are current on all your bills, including past debts, and to continue to pay your bills on time.  One $50 collection could have a dramatic impact on your score, so make sure to pay attention to all your debts, even the small ones.  Make an effort to keep credit card balances low.  A high credit card balance in relation to your limit will have a negative impact on your score even if you make your payments on time.

Before applying for a mortgage, request your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can request free reports from all three agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com, though you will have to pay extra for your scores. Check your reports for inaccuracies and file disputes if necessary.  Also, take advantage of the free credit score estimator and tracker at Credit Karma.  You want to make sure you know what’s on your credit report before visiting a lender to avoid any surprises.

HOMEteam’s Common Cents in Uncommon Times goes even deeper into understanding credit and its impact on obtaining a loan. Sign up for April’s series in Nashua!

Any other ways you keep your credit score up? Leave tips in the comments section below!

What can I be preapproved for vs. what I can afford.


Everyone answers a simple question at the onset of each Home Buyer Seminar: “How much are you prepared to spend on your monthly mortgage compared to your rent?” The question is simple enough, and answers typically range from $150 less, to about the same, all the way up to whatever it takes. While the whatever it takes responses scare me a bit, most say they are prepared to spend about $200 more on their future mortgage than they are currently paying for rent. $200 seems reasonable enough, right? Let’s take a look.

While ultimately you need a lender’s approval to obtain a mortgage, knowing what you can afford to spend monthly and how that payment fits into your spending plan (or budget) is the best place to start. If you are currently spending $1,000 on rent and you feel you can afford to pay $1,200 on you future mortgage, where is the $200 increase in payment coming from? If you plan on “buckling down” when you move into your new home, why not start now?

Start making those practice payments by saving the difference between your projected mortgage payment and your current rent. If this comes easily, then you know your future payment is truly affordable. If it’s a struggle, consider scaling back your payment limit to something more comfortable. You also have to take into account possible increased utility costs, increased transportation costs if you are increasing your daily commute, and home maintenance and repairs. The last thing you want is to bite off more than you can chew and commit to too large of a monthly payment. The key is to be honest with yourself and the payment you are comfortable with. You don’t want to be “house poor!”

Making practice payments also help you save towards your down payment and closing costs. Not to mention, the habits you’re developing in the meantime will serve you well as a home owner. How are you going to pay for that untimely roof leak? You guessed it, through a rainy day saving account.

Remember to ask the right question, and that you set your own limit. Buying the nicest house on the block has its benefits, but can you truly afford it? Don’t ask your lender “how much will you lend me to buy a home?” First find the answer to “how much can I truly afford?” then go for that preapproval. Having trouble finding where to start? Attend a First Time Home Buyer Seminar, and we will help you get theere!

Buying a House? First, Put Your Financial House in Order


You know you want to own a home one day, but how do you get there? One of the first steps you can take that will also bring long-term benefits is taking charge of your finances. Besides getting you ready to make that important purchase, it can give you confidence, show you what is affordable, and make it easier to pay your bills while you’re renting. Here are some tips you can follow to help boost your bank account and get ready to buy a home.

Commit to a budget. Creating a spending and savings plan helps you see how much money you’re taking in versus how much you’re spending on bills, food, and other expenses.  As a general rule of thumb, follow the spending guidelines below:

Category % of your net budget spent on that category
Housing 20-30%
Utilities 4-7%
Food 15-20%
Transportation 6-20%
Medical 2-8%
Clothing 2-4%
Saving/Investing 5-10%
Debt Payment 15-20%
Misc. 5-10%
Net Income (Total) 100%


If you are spending more than you bring in, identify discretionary spending where you can cut back. When you spend less than you earn, use those extra earnings to save for that house.

Write down everything you spend. After you have committed to a budget, writing down your spending habits can help you see how well you are sticking to it. Keep receipts and make note of everything you spend each month. You may be surprised to see where your money goes!

Bank the difference between your rent and a mortgage payment. Use a mortgage calculator to get an idea of how much a mortgage may actually cost. If you want to see what it’s like to pay a mortgage, set aside the difference between your current rent payment and that “mortgage payment” in a savings account. This will help you build up savings quickly while getting you ready for the extra expenses that ownership can bring.

Check your credit report. You are able to get one free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – each year. Ask for copies of your credit reports here and check them for accuracy. Remember, it is your responsibility to make sure they are accurate and to report any inaccuracies you may find. This will help put you in the best position possible when you are seeking approval for a mortgage, and it can help you catch identity theft.

Seek out budgeting resources. If you’re feeling overwhelmed getting your finances in order, you don’t have to go it alone. There are HUD-approved Housing Counseling agencies across the state that can help you create a plan to improve your credit and become financially ready to own a home. You can attend a free seminar or workshop and receive free one-on-one coaching afterwards to help you develop your personalized budgeting plan. You can also check out your local library and search for online resources that offer tips about how to build a budget and stick to it.

Have you followed any of these strategies to save for a house? Do you have money-saving tips of your own? Share them in the comments!

New Hampshire Housing is your statewide housing resource! Through a broad range of rental and homeownership programs, we promote, finance and support affordable housing for Granite State residents. Since our inception, we have helped more than 40,000 families purchase their own homes and have financed the creation of more than 14,500 units of rental housing for individuals and families. More information about our homeownership and rental programs can be found on our websites at www.nhhfa.org and www.GoNewHampshireHousing.com.

Amanda Flitter is the Communications Administrator and Web Content Manager for New Hampshire Housing. You can follow New Hampshire Housing at http://newhampshirehousingheadlines.org/.

Welcome to HOMEblog!


I’d like to welcome you to the launching of the HOMEblog!  Our HOMEteam coaches will be utilizing this blog to impart much of their skilled, useful and often very interesting knowledge and ideas on future homebuyers and current homeowners.  We believe that every homebuyer and homeowner should have a trained coach on their side to guide them through the many complexities of buying and maintaining a home.  We are excited to be that objective and experienced “voice of reason.”

We understand the purchase and upkeep of your dream home can be very daunting and are happy to offer that friendly face with the necessary skills waiting to educate and assist you in person.  Our team of well trained and certified counselors work with NH residents of all backgrounds in helping to achieve and keep the dream of homeownership!

In honor of April being Financial Literacy Month and Fair Housing Month, we have hosted and participated in a packed schedule of Financial Capabilities Workshops, First Time Homebuyer Seminars and Foreclosure Prevention Information Sessions.  It’s nice to see so many NH residents taking part in empowering themselves through education and knowledge! I hope you will find our HOMEblog as a valuable and important resource.

Written By: Paul McLaughlin