If you find yourself waking up this morning with a roof over your head and a bed in which to sleep, consider yourself fortunate! Home insecurity is a difficult reality for many members of our community, and a severe lack of affordable, decent housing is partly to blame.

There’s no need to feel any guilt. We would love for everyone to wake up in their warm beds, especially during this winter season! But we do want you to recognize how fortunate you are while thinking about how you can help others overcome housing insecurity.

So, what can you do to help support the development of affordable housing in Memphis? First, you can share your knowledge with your friends and neighbors. If you know families who are renting and think homeownership may not be an option for them, let them know about United Housing. We can supply the knowledge that families need to actualize their dream of homeownership.

Next, be sure to vote! Many organizations like United Housing receive government support that makes our program possible. Without this support, we’re limited in how much aide we can provide to families. Your candidates, especially local officials, might also take stances on development in your community and city. Consider candidate positions on housing and development when you head to the polls.

Finally, you can make an enormous impact by becoming a regular donor to United Housing. As a not-for-profit organization, we invest every penny beyond our operational costs into programs that support families striving toward homeownership, and we even build affordable homes for families to purchase! When you support United Housing with a one-time or recurring gift, you’re investing in families, the education of children, the revitalization of neighborhoods and a reduction in crime, all of which are impacted when we have more homeowners in our community.

You guessed it – strong! Since the housing market crashed following the recession in 2008, things have slowly been inching onward and upward in Memphis. Earlier this year, several news outlets, including Forbes, reported that the local real estate market was booming. Sheldon Rosengarten of Memphis’ Marx-Bensdorf Realtors told WMC-TV that he has never seen anything like the current Mid-South market in his 40 years of experience!

Quick facts courtesy of Zillow:

  • Price per square foot: $68
  • Home value: $83,400*
  • List price: $109,900
  • Days on the market: 62

*Home values have gone up 6.5% over the past year.

According to Realtor.com, Memphis has been a seller’s market for most of 2018 (but that can fluctuate, so check this link to see the current state of the market). This means those looking to purchase a home outnumber those who are selling their homes. Because demand is high and supply is low, this type of market is more advantageous for the sellers rather than buyers. Zillow reports that homes are only on the market for 62 days. And, with so many being on the hunt, buyers often get into bidding wars, which oftentimes results in homes being sold for far more than the asking price (and sometimes, more than they’re actually worth).

Although it is a seller’s market, there are still some positive takeaways for home buyers. For example, the median list price of homes still falls well below the national average, with Memphis’ coming in at $109,900 and the national average at $275,000. And, to make matters even sweeter for those looking to buy, homes in the Bluff City typically sell for $10,300 less than the list price even with the current state of affairs.

Don’t let a seller’s market deter you! If you’re interested in purchasing a home, United Housing is here to help. From homebuyer education classes and credit counseling to mortgage lending and down payment assistance, we can help make your dream of owning a home a reality.

When preparing to purchase a home, many questions arise. Luckily, we’re here to help! One of the most common topics we discuss with our clients seeking homeownership is credit scores. So, how does your credit score impact your ability to get a mortgage loan? Here’s the scoop.

Your credit score, which is calculated based on the information in your credit report, is a key ingredient in determining two things when it comes to securing a mortgage loan. Not only does it determine whether or not you qualify for a mortgage loan, it also dictates the interest rate you will pay each month. Before we dive too deep, let’s break down credit score ranges to give you an idea of where you stand.

  • 750-850 is considered "excellent"
  • 700-749 is considered "good"
  • 650-699 is "fair"
  • 300-649 is "poor"

Your credit score is calculated based on the information in your credit report, including your lending history, length of credit accounts and any incidence of collections, among other things. If you have a higher credit score, you may be eligible for lower interest rates and are more likely to be approved for your mortgage loan. The lowest credit score to purchase a home with a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan is 600, according to credit.com. FHA loans are great for first-time homebuyers and require a minimum down payment of 3.5 percent.

Now, just because a credit score of 600 will likely secure your home does not mean you should stop working toward improving your credit score. Part of our education program at United Housing is our credit counseling. Raising your credit score is extremely important as it can lighten financial burdens for years to come. So, how do you do it?

Pack your patience. Your credit score didn’t plummet overnight and it won’t skyrocket overnight either, but don’t panic! Raising your credit score is definitely doable, and we are here to help. Here are a few tips.

  1. Contact your creditors to set up a payment plan.
  2. Pay your bills on time every month. If possible, pay more than once in a billing cycle to speed the process of raising your score.
  3. Pay off credit cards that are “maxed out” first.
  4. Do not close unused credit card accounts. If you must close accounts, close those that are newer.

For more information on how your credit score plays into purchasing a home or on United Housing’s credit counseling services, give us a call at 901-272-1122.

Last month, we discussed the impact stable homeownership has on children's health and wellbeing. But, it’s not just the physical health that’s impacted – a child’s social development and education are linked to his or her housing situation.

Consider this scenario – a grade-school aged child lives in low-income rental housing. Though his home has two parents who are invested in his well being, he is subjected to frequent moving as his parents struggle to find a renting situation that is safe and stable. Each move changes his school zoning, and puts him in a new classroom with a new teacher, sometimes in the middle of an academic year. Progress tracking is inconsistent, teachers can’t identify challenges and he fails to meet educational milestones as a result. This scenario doesn’t even begin to touch the implications of social development that occur when children are forced to frequently abandon and make new friends.

Statistically, children in under-resourced communities lag behind their peers in standardized tests. There are a few causes that shape this trend: residential instability, absenteeism and comparatively worse schools. Homeownership can have a positive impact in each of these areas.

Homeowners stay put. A study by National Association of Home Builders shows that the average homeowner lives in their house for 13 years. Coincidentally, that’s the length of time a typical US child spends in the public school system. Residential stability allows students to progress through schools where teachers and administrators know them and are invested in their education. They also keep a similar group of peers, spurring strong social development during crucial formative years.

Health and homeownership are linked in children. If you haven’t already, read our recent blog post on homeownership impact on health in children. Absenteeism can be greatly reduced if students are healthy and able to go to school.

Homeowners invest in their neighborhood, including schools. When it comes time to vote and pay taxes, homeowners contribute to the health and success of their local schools. Homeowners are twice as likely to vote, and electing local representatives who are dedicated to your schools can have a positive impact on school funding and opportunities.

Purchasing a home undoubtedly positively impacts the buyer, but what about the other family members living in the home? Fortunately, they reap the benefits, too! At United Housing, our mission is to make that improved well-being possible for the underserved families who may not realize homeownership is within reach. We strive to provide quality, affordable housing opportunities in an impoverished city that boasts more substandard rental units than owner-occupied homes, according to American Housing Survey.

Parents have a lot on their plates - kids, work, their own parents, bills and more. All these important things that they are responsible for can lead to quite a bit of worry. Owning a home offers a safe place to land amid the chaos of life and can serve as a solution to many of these issues. For example, did you know homeowners are known to experience higher levels of life satisfaction, self-esteem and perceived control over life? The positivity that stems from these areas is contagious and can create a happier, more stable environment for everyone involved.

The condition of the home matters as well. Because homeowners are economically invested in the property they inhabit, they are more likely to maintain their living space at a higher level. As a result, all family members living in the home experience a cleaner, higher-quality environment. Those in houses of poor quality are more likely to be exposed to harmful conditions and overcrowding, both of which can result in negative health effects. Realtor University’s report highlights a significant correlation between poor housing and health problems, especially respiratory conditions such as asthma, injury and exposure to toxic substances like mold, which can cause a variety of respiratory issues. These effects are heightened in Memphis, where energy burdens are among the top five highest in the country.

The benefits don’t stop there.

And, a recent study put out by Children’s Health Watch noted that the medical expenses accumulated by children living in unstable housing contributed $8 billion in avoidable health care and education costs in 2016. That’s a burden we all feel. Furthermore, over the next ten years, researchers project health and education costs to rise to $111 billion!

It’s crucial for United Housing to let families living in renter-occupied dwellings know that homeownership may not be easy, but it is possible and there are organizations out there to help them make it happen through financial education and credit counseling. To put it simply, preparing Mid-South residents to become homebuyers is the heart of everything we do. Purchasing a home is not just a luxury - it’s an important benefit to many aspects of life. The ripple effects of homeownership extend beyond the house, creating stable, healthy environments.

Becoming a homebuyer isn't easy. United Housing can help.

You learn a lot of things in grade school. The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. A rhombus is a quadrilateral with four sides, two obtuse angles and two oblique angles. Simple enough! While we’re able to recite a line of Shakespeare, many of us leave middle school, high school and even college without an idea of where to start the homebuying process.

What’s even worse is that, without guidance, many people jump into the process uninformed. They overextend themselves financially, become a victim of predatory lending, choose a home that doesn’t fit the long-term needs of their family, or settle on a home just because they feel like buying a home is the “right” thing to do.

So, how should you start the process? First, start with resources like those found on THDA’s website. THDA provides you with information about down payment assistance, loan options and homebuyer education course information. By reviewing these materials, you could learn about available resources that make homeownership possible or more attainable for your family.

Once you’ve learned about your options, enroll in a homebuyer education course, like those offered by United Housing. In these classes, you’ll learn about more than just the homebuying process. You’ll learn how to budget for a mortgage while building up your savings, how to improve your credit score, why homeownership matters, how to maintain your home, and so much more. Plus, you’ll learn from a well-educated teacher who can answer any of your questions (we know you have a ton!).

From there, you’ll be ready to meet with reputable community lenders and shop for mortgages. Your HBE teacher may even connect you with a few trustworthy agencies. You’ll need to review a few mortgages before deciding which lender is right for you, as the amount for which you are approved and interest rates will likely vary. This will give you a clear price range, which is essential before you start looking at homes.

Now, here comes the fun part! You’ve chosen a lender and have a clear budget, it’s time to connect with a licensed realtor. Your HBE instructor will likely have a few recommendations. Talk with your real estate agent about what you need and want (there is a difference!) in a home, what neighborhoods you want to consider and set clear boundaries on your budget. Then, let the tours begin!

Hopefully, by the end of this process, you’ll be able to look back on this from the comfort of your new living room! But, to get started, you need to connect with organizations like THDA and United Housing, who will provide you with in-depth information and guide you through the process. Connect with us through the links above today!

Memphis has recently received accolades such as Best Place in the World to Visit in May by CNN Travel and was ranked 23rd on Indeed’s Best Cities for Job Seekers in 2018. These honors have allowed the Bluff City to gain attention on a national scale, which is a good thing. Right? It increases visibility, which increases tourism. Visitors fall in love with our great city, and more and more people are moving here. You get the point! But, there’s a catch.

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As a result, houses and apartment complexes are popping up all over Memphis to accommodate the influx of new residents to the city. And, homes in the city’s core are selling almost as soon as they’re put on the market. These homes, however, aren’t always affordable. High-traffic areas, like Downtown, have list prices that are above the price range for your average Memphian. Memphis isn’t the only city struggling with affordable housing. NPR reported that an estimated 11 million Americans pay more than half their income towards rent, and according to Zillow, more people are renting now than ever before.

money sign.pngA 2015 report conducted by the Tennessee Housing Development Agency found that the median income for Memphians is $36,445. This is 19.4 percent lower than the state average of $45,219. And, according to research from the University of Memphis, the Bluff City has a poverty rate of 26.9 percent. Using a lower budget to illustrate the reality of many Memphians’ financial situations, if you were following a three-to-one income-to-rent ratio and made $1,500 a month, you would have an estimated $500 to spend on rent. That leaves only $1,000 to cover utilities, groceries, transportation, health care, and the list goes on and on -- clearly a tight budget for a single family.

According to Zillow, the median rent price in Memphis is $890 per month, lower than the Tennessee median of $1,275. Why are the prices lower? It’s because Memphians make a median salary of $36,445 compared to the state of Tennessee as a whole, which makes $44,297. Lower salaries call for lower rent, but the median salary isn’t even able to afford the median rent price!

The problem not only lies in the lack of affordable housing but in the failure to educate soon-to-be renters and buyers about options for financial assistance. More often than not, people believe that owning a home is impossible in their current position. United Housing’s education programs exist to help Mid-Southerners better understand homeownership, mortgage loans, the risks of predatory lending, foreclosure procedures and more. For complete details on the classes United Housing offers, click here.

P: +1 901.272.1122

2750 Colony Park Drive
Memphis, TN 38118



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