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HOMING IN

[National Homeownership Month graphic]

ANCHORAGE - Looking for a reason to party? Well, June is National Homeownership Month. Can there be any better reasons to celebrate?

Well, of course there can. Your birthday, anniversary, graduation, Mothers' Day, July 4th, Halloween, New Year's Eve and so on and so on.

But National Homeownership Month is still worth celebrating. Why? Because owning a home is still at the very heart of the American Dream. Homeowners put down roots, build equity and become a member in good standing of a larger community. And, the Federal Reserve Bank reported in 2012, over the 15 prior years the net worth of a typical homeowner averaged 31 to 46 percent higher than the typical renter. So, if you don't mind mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters or the neighbor next door, it's an all-around good deal.

For your kids, too. The National Association of REALTORS, in fact, says children who grow-up in owned homes have better physical and mental health, lower rates of teen pregnancy, higher student test scores, higher graduation rates and, as a result, higher future earnings and a greater participation in organized activities and less time in front of the "boob tube."

We're also in a new era of homeownership. The Great Recession is over. Millions of Americans who lost jobs have found new ones and home values that dropped precipitously when the mortgage markets collapsed have rebounded. Most of the bad practices and bad players that created such financial risk, even harm to hundreds of thousands of homeowners and borrowers are out-of-business. And lenders are lending again.

HUD, no surprise, is a bit biased on the subject. HUD's often called the nation's homeownership agency, thanks to one of our best-known "products," mortgages insured by FHA - the Federal Housing Administration. For more than 80 years, it's been helping families - more than 45 million them, in fact - buy their piece of the American Dream.

If today's a typical day, 46 families will close today on an FHA-insured mortgage to buy a home or refinance an existing mortgage in Alaska. The average value of their mortgage will be $257,262 and, they'll get a fixed market rate for the 30-year life of the loan and to seal the deal they will need bring a very affordable 3.5 down payment - or just over $9,000 - to the closing. They won't need a 5-star credit rating and if mom or dad, grandpa or grandma want to help them assemble the down-payment, that's fine with FHA.

In Alaska FHA has endorsed more than 110,000 mortgages, helping to pump some $15.7 billion in "homeownership capital" into the state's economy. Of those, 75,397 were "active" as of April 27th, 2017. Put all those 17,203 FHA families in one place and you'd have the second-largest city in Alaska. Clearly, FHA-insured mortgages are a strong, sound, safe product that's helped thousands of Alaska families own their piece of the American Dream.

Your family could be next. But only when you're good and ready. Buying a home is not as simple as 1-2-3. And chances are it will be the single-largest financial investment you make in a lifetime. It's an extremely important decision.

And like your mom and dad the best decisions are made by informed decision-makers. So, if you are or are thinking about becoming a part of the homebuying market, take your time, do your homework and, if you want to be an informed consumer, sit down with one of our 3,200 HUD-approved housing counseling agencies to pick their brains about what you need you know, how you need to proceed and how you can tell what looks like a 'good buy' is a smart decision for you and your family. Best of all, HUD-approved counselors provide their services - and their very considerable expertise - free of charge.

So, shop around for the home that best meets your needs and for the loan you can best afford. Talk with people you know - and trust - who've been through the homebuying process and can help you navigate the pitfalls. Sit down with a HUD housing counselor and a local real estate agent or two to make you understand the risks and benefits of buying. If you don't understand an answer, ask the question again. Don't sign a document until you know what - and why - you're signing. And, most importantly, take your time.

After all, you're not in the market to buy something you'll regret. You're in to buy a home you and yours can celebrate for decades to come.

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