First-time homebuyers—consider Stephenson Co.

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According to presiding Stephenson County Board Chairman John Blum (on WFRL’s April 12 Talk of the Town), in the last three years, 100 new families have realized the American dream of owning a home in the area.

The realization of the American Dream in Stephenson County is thanks to the joint efforts of the county, the City of Freeport, local agencies such as Northern Illinois Community Action Agency and NeighborHood Housing Services of Freeport, and progressive lenders and Realtors.

While Blum stressed “this program is not necessarily for low-income folks,” some have been able to capitalize on the opportunity to own their own home.

Families of four with incomes up to $80,000 may find they qualify for down-payment assistance, reduced interest rates, longer mortgage terms, and closing costs to buy a home with a market value up to $140,000.

Buyers may need no more than $1,000 out-of-pocket to own their first home; buyers may also qualify for additional money for basic remodeling, improving energy efficiencies and/or bringing older homes to code.

The first step—find a participating lender and apply; if you qualify, then the banks/agencies work with you to customize your homebuyer assistance package.

If you do not qualify immediately due to no credit or bad credit, agencies can help establish or re-establish good credit.

You will also need to take homebuyer training, wherein you learn about the responsibilities of home ownership. This training includes teaching you to live within your budget—setting aside or escrowing money for taxes, insurance, repairs and maintenance. After all, buying a home is one of the biggest investments you will make and you want to do everything you can to protect it.

So, if you are considering buying your first home, give Stephenson County a hard look.

From the April 19-25, 2006, issue

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