The Obstacles to Buying Your First Home


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Every year, the Real Estate section of The New York Times tackles the subject of first-time home buying with all of the disappointments and joys that are associated with finally owning a house.

For many Americans, a house is the biggest investment they will ever make. Their home is their biggest asset, paving the path to financial stability and even to generational wealth. But the rate of homeownership continues to lag among Black, Latino, Asian American and Native American people, compared with the country’s white population.

As we developed stories that included buying your childhood home and buying while single, we were conscious of the imbalance of homeownership in the United States. In the past, the Real Estate desk has explored racial bias in home appraisals and the discrimination Black real estate agents face.

For these most recent stories, Colette Coleman, a freelance reporter who contributes to The New York Times, found an optimistic trend in Latino homeownership. Speaking to the Urban Institute, a think tank, she learned that the homeownership rate among Hispanics increased more than any other demographic group between 2019 and 2022. The think tank estimated that an overwhelming majority of net new homeowners in the next 20 years will be Hispanic.

Looking at the current market, Colette dug into a trend among Hispanic households: co-borrowing to afford a mortgage and pooling together resources to pay the mortgage. She talked to Danae Vega, who bought a home with her sister Ashley a year ago in San Bernardino County, Calif. Their whole family, including another sister, three brothers and their parents pitched in.

In Las Vegas, Alexandra García and her father, Rosalio, bought a house for their family together, qualifying for a loan after she added her father, who is an auto mechanic, to her credit cards so that he could have an established credit history, they told Colette.

Other first-time homeowners are getting creative in other ways. Heather Senison, also a freelance reporter, traveled to the Saint Regis Mohawk Reservation in upstate New York to talk with Randa Martin who had bought land on the reservation from her aunt and had secured a mortgage through a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Randa’s story was bittersweet. She had applied with her longtime partner and father of her children, but he died suddenly of a heart attack as the loan was being processed. Grieving, Randa worried that her loan application would be denied because it was now based on a single income. But a loan officer from the local housing authority saw a notice of her partner’s death and redid the application on Ms. Martin’s behalf. The loan was for $198,000, and Ms. Martin and her four children have plenty of space, a welcomed change having lived in apartments.

Heather learned that such loans on reservations are rare: Just 17 U.S.D.A. loans were borrowed by home buyers on reservations nationally, up from six in 2019, a spokesman for the Agriculture Department told her.

The two stories demonstrated the various barriers to homeownership and the ways people were able to overcome them.

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