Are You Ready for Homeownership?

Which way leads to the own house

Interfaith Housing Alliance has a fantastic program called Purchase-Repair Homeownership. The program provides affordable homeownership opportunities to families and individuals that wouldn’t otherwise qualify for a traditional mortgage. Do you fit within that category? Do you feel you are ready to take the steps to homeownership? Please reach out to Carol Riggles at 301-662-4225 to gather more information and set up an appointment with her to discuss how IHA can help you achieve your dream!

In the meantime, there are steps you could be taking to be more successful in the home buying process! Maryland SmartBuy is a popular homeownership program which provides a lot of great tips so individuals can be more successful in the process.

To make a successful contract offer when you find your home, you will need to be prepared to move quickly. Having your finances in order could make the difference in submitting a successful contract offer.

Here are some suggestions to follow to put your financial affairs in order:
Set a budget.
Numerous mortgage calculators can help you factor what your monthly payment will be for principal and interest; however, be sure you factor in real estate taxes, homeowners insurance, and mortgage insurance, if applicable. These costs are paid into an escrow account and distributed by your lender. That total will be your monthly payment, and is what you should build your monthly budget around. Best practice: If you are not currently paying rent, start putting that mortgage payment amount aside monthly

Build your savings. From the moment, you begin to think about buying a house—preferably sooner—start saving money. It will help not only with closing costs and other costs associated with buying a home, but with those unexpected costs that always seem come up along the way. And if they don’t come up, you’ll have additional money in your pocket for a bigger down payment\

Pay off small debts. Paying off credit card debts, car loans, and other monthly installments can make a positive difference in your credit score, which will help dramatically when you seek approval for a mortgage loan. If you can’t pay them off, make sure you pay them on time and consistently. Different lenders may have different criterion, but all will look at your financial and payment history

Get pre-approved. Having a lender review your financial documents, income, and other factors will help you understand how much home you can afford. Having pre-approval for financing also helps sellers evaluate how likely you will be able to execute the offer you have made to buy a home, and thereby their willingness to accept your offer

Take a homebuyer education class. The Maryland Mortgage Program requires loan applicants to have take a homebuyer education course, and lists providers of such courses in each county in the state. Take the course early in the process of your search for a home, so it can help you evaluate homes you are considering for purchase.

For more information please visit:





IHA is a 2017 Unity Campaign partner!

IHA is proud to announce that they are one of the 27 Frederick County nonprofit organizations selected to partner with the United Way of Frederick County, Maryland’s Unity Campaign.

Unity Campaign

What is the Unity Campaign?

Launched in 2014, the Unity Campaign was built on the success of two previous fundraising efforts – Frederick 48 and Frederick News-Post’s Season of Hope. When County funding for local nonprofits was being eliminated, an effort was begun to “fill the gap” by raising funds from the Frederick Community.

Through a vigorous 12 days of giving in September, the Unity Campaign aims to raise funds to benefit 27 local nonprofits that will address basic human needs and at-risk youth, bettering the Frederick community as a whole.

Why is the Unity Campaign important?

Our neighbors NEED us! The Frederick Community has a large population of individuals, families and seniors who are in need of food, shelter, clothing, financial sustainability and healthcare.

IHA’s vital mission to develop additional affordable housing units, provide homeownership programs, financial counseling programs and supportive services will assist with the ever-growing need among seniors, working families, and individuals within the Frederick Community.

By DONATING TODAY, you can support IHA through the United Way and join our commitment to address affordable housing in our community!

Visit: IHA’s Unity Campaign partner page

Through the generosity of Incentive Match sponsors, 100% of your contribution goes directly to the designated Nonprofit. In addition, your individual gift is boosted because a portion of your donation is matched by the sponsors.

Late Credit Card Payments – What to do!

pastdue credit card payment

Late credit card payments happen to all of us. Sometimes life gets busy and the due date was missed or maybe it was a little bit of a struggle to come up with enough money for all the monthly bills. In any case, missing a payment could have a negative impact on your credit score. Here is some great information and steps to take as soon as you realize the bill was late:

1. Make Your Payment As Soon As Possible

If you’re late on a credit card payment or missed it altogether, don’t just wait for the next bill to come. Make a payment on your card as soon as possible. The sooner you do, the less chances it will have a negative impact on your credit score.

Here’s what you need to know about credit scores and late payments: a payment is typically reported to the credit bureaus if it’s 30, 60, or 90 days late. But if you get your payment in before that 30 days, you can rectify the situation before it hits your report.

2. Call Your Credit Card Issuer and Ask them to Waive the Fee

Believe it or not, if you were charged a fee for your late payment, there’s a good chance you can get it waived. Simply make your payment and call your credit card issuer. Tell them that it was a mistake and not one you intend to repeat, and chances are they’ll take the fee right off for you.

Here’s what not to do when you call: Don’t give a sob story. Don’t try to tug at their emotions or their sympathy. Don’t get angry. Don’t tell them all the details about your life and your finances. This won’t work.

Instead, be courteous and professional. Tell them that it was a mistake and that you have now made your payment, and since you’ve been a loyal customer for so long you’d greatly appreciate it if they remove the fee. Keep it simple and polite and your chances will be much better.

3. Make A Plan to Prevent this From Happening Again

Late payments happen to everyone – that’s one reason credit card companies are decently fair about removing fees. We all make mistakes sometimes!

But if it happens over and over again, then it will turn into a much larger problem. Continually missing payments could lead to a hike in your APR, less cooperation on fee removal, and even eventual default. If the latter happens, you’ll see a major dip in your credit score and you’ll have to deal with debt collection agencies.

A mistake happens once – but three, five, ten times is a habit. That’s why it’s important to make a plan of action now. The more you can do to prevent this from happening again, the better off you’ll be.

For more information:

An Affordable Housing Success Story

IHA’s mission is to strengthen communities and improve the quality of life and economic stability for seniors, working families and individuals through the creation and preservation of affordable housing. For Amanda Lambert, an original tenant at Penn Avenue Townhomes in Cumberland, Maryland, these goals have been achieved through homeownership. This is a FANTASTIC success for Amanda and IHA could not be happier to see her achieve this dream.

Pictured below: Amanda and her kids outside of their Penn Avenue Townhome.


Lacy Ames, Special Project Coordinator, had the opportunity to interview Amanda about her experience, her future, and any advice she has for those struggling to obtain affordable housing.

Prior to moving into Penn Avenue Townhomes, Amanda rented a house down the street which was much more expensive and more space than she needed. This left her with virtually no money to cover other routine expenses, let along invest in the future. As a single mother to a little boy named Jameson, Amanda knew she had to find something more affordable.  Penn Avenue Townhomes opened in 2012 and Amanda was one of the first tenants in the community.

During her time at Penn Avenue Townhomes, Amanda was able to begin putting money aside for a home of her own. Amanda stated during our interview that she “didn’t look to stay here forever”. Amanda came in with the mindset that she wanted to prepare for a future home for her family. Working towards this dream, Amanda took advantage of all the resources available. Her son attended community events and various children’s projects. Additionally, Amanda stated she could always rely on the Property Manager and maintenance staff to keep her townhouse well-maintained and running smoothly. She even learned some basic home maintenance along the way. She also utilized resources provided by the Supportive Services Coordinator to learn the specific steps to homeownership.

A piece of advice she has for others who are utilizing affordable housing but would like to own a house of their own in the future, is to be patient. It takes TIME and PERSISTENCE to save enough money. She said she would take notice of the amount of maintenance that would need to be done, even just the need for new lightbulbs, and understand that she would need to save enough money to be ready for all the unexpected, maintenance costs that go along with owning a home. The Cumberland area can be very pricey and owning a home would have been difficult to do years ago as a single mother. However, after 5 years in an affordable townhome, she was able to reach her dreams.

Pictured above: Amanda, her fiancé Michael and their new home

Amanda recently got engaged to her fiancé Michael, who very creatively proposed via  live dance video. Her life has recently been very busy with the engagement, recent birth of her daughter Lily, and of course purchasing the home of her dreams. She is READY and EXCITED to move into her new space, into a place she can call her own.


IHA is honored to have been part of Amanda and her family’s journey. We hope this success story provides those in similar situations the motivation and confidence that their dream of homeownership could come true as well!




Decisions, Decisions: To Buy or Rent?

DecisionsBefore starting down your path to homeownership, take a moment to consider whether buying versus renting is the best path for you at this time in your life. Your finances, career goals, individual circumstances and lifestyle are all important factors to think about when selecting which path to take.

The financial part of the decision is actually the easiest to determine – numbers don’t lie.  In the article referred to at the bottom of this post is a link to an online calculator to help you determine whether it is better for you to rent or to buy.

The tougher things to consider are related to career and lifestyle choices.

For instance, renting grants greater freedom to relocate in the event you want to change jobs or find a new living situation. However, renting is not an investment in the future. If you can see yourself staying in the same location for the foreseeable future (at least 5 years) and believe that monthly rent is a waste of your resources, then perhaps homeownership is the right path for you. If you feel that you may have to relocate in a couple of years, renting is probably the better path right now because of the extra costs of purchasing and then selling a home.

Owning versus renting can allow you to live in the neighborhood you desire rather than settling for where apartments or rental homes may be available.  Many of IHA’s clients looking for homeownership opportunities cite the neighborhood as the reason they want to stop renting and to buy their own home.

Housing security is also a consideration.  Just because the home you are renting is available this year, it may not be available next year.  The owner could sell to someone that may not want to use the home as a rental.  The owner of a home or apartment could also stop paying their mortgage and be forced into foreclosure, and ultimately your home or apartment could become owned by a bank that has no plans to continue leasing the unit until it is finally resold.

One of the best aspects of homeownership is the ability make your house your own. You can paint, landscape and remodel to fit your lifestyle. This isn’t always the case when renting which limits how comfortable and settled you may feel, especially if your landlord is slow to respond to maintenance requests.  In your own home you wouldn’t think twice about taking care of a dripping faucet or a loose handrail right away, but you probably will not fix these annoyances yourself in a rental situation which can make you feel like you are living a less than perfect lifestyle.

There are many more pros and cons in both categories to consider.  Here is one place to start your research:

Ways to Pay Down Your Debt

Paying down debt is something we all want to know more about. How can we do it faster and in a way that is manageable? Carol Riggles, IHA’s Homeownership Program Manager, has two ways to pay down your debt faster!

There are two great ways to pay down debt faster. One way suggests that you should choose the credit card with the lowest balance and pay it off first and the other way recommends that you choose the card with the highest interest rate to pay off first.  Both methods expect you to continue paying the same monthly payment regardless of whether you are required to do so, and both also assume that you are not still using the cards.  (Keep in mind that you should use a credit card at least once a year to keep the account active, but only charge something for $10 or less so that your goal to pay off your balances stays on course!)

Here is how it works:

Method One – Select card with lowest balance.

  • Pay minimum payment on all cards except this one and pay as much as you can afford each month until it is paid off.
  • Then start doing the same for the next card with the lowest balance, but now you are adding the monthly amount you were paying on the paid off card to the amount you are required to pay.
  • For example – Card One has a $400 balance and an interest rate of 17% and you can afford to pay $60 a month.  Card Two has a $1,000 balance and a 21% interest rate and the minimum payment is $30.  Card One gets paid off in about 8 months, and then you start paying $90 a month to pay off Card Two.  The balance on Card Two is now about $894 and paying $90 a month will take 12 months to pay off the debt completely.  The whole process took 20 months.

Method Two – Select the card with the highest interest rate.

  • Using the same examples as in Method One, Card One has a $400 balance and an interest rate of 17% and a minimum payment of $30.  Card Two has a $1,000 balance and a 21% interest rate and you can afford to pay $60 a month.  In 15 months, Card One is paid off and then you add the $30 to the $60 you are paying on Card Two, and 4 months later you are paid off completely and you have $72 to put into savings because the balance on Card Two was only $18 on the 19th payment.
  • You are accustomed to paying $90 a month, so start adding this amount to your savings every month to build up an emergency fund so you won’t have to reach for your credit card as often!

There are lots of calculators online to help you with your calculations.

Here’s one:

Building your credit and paying down your debt can assist individuals on their pathway to homeownership!