MILWAUKEE — It took Heather Long about seven months to go from a renter to a first time home buyer. And she did it during a pandemic.
"You have to stick to a strict budget going through the process but also even after you buy your home," Long said.
Long credits homeownership counseling she took advantage of at Housing Resources. Due to COVID-19, many of her interactions with staff, realtors and lenders had to be by phone or computer. Also, at times, she had to sign waivers before touring homes, saying she didn't have COVID-19.
She said working with Housing Resources helped her meet her goal of owning her very own place on the northwest side of Milwaukee.
"In those workshops, they prepare you for first-time homeownership and they help you figure out how much home you can afford," Long said.
"If after looking at all of your information they feel like you have a few things that you need to do before we can go through this process, they will give you the advice, tell you how to do it and set up an appointment for you to come back at a different time," she continued.
"When I say they hold your hand and literally walk you through the process, they do," she said.
"I think my staff is busier now than we were before the pandemic," said Katrina Weinberg, Homeownership Center Manager with Housing Resources.
Weinberg believes the increase in clients interested in buying has to do partly with low-interest rates.
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"It's not as hard as you'd think. We help people that are on all different types of income levels," Weinberg said.
"We'll see people that might need maybe six months of hands-on work with our counselors, sometimes we see people that could be as long as four years that might need a little bit more extra help fixing their credit," she continued.
Weinberg encourages potential home buyers to look into available grants and other funding opportunities. For instance, at Housing Resources, you could qualify for grant money up to $10,000 to be put toward closings costs and down payments.
"When I was thinking about renting, I was thinking about how I was paying my landlord's mortgage and helping him raise his credit and making things better for him," Long said.
Now, Long doesn't have to think that way.
"In the end, when you're at closing, and they are handing you over those keys, it's all worth it," said Long.
Visit Housing Resources to learn more about the homeowner education, counseling, and grant money.
Ask your lender if you qualify for any grants and ask about a loan with WHEDA.