The Path to Homeownership


By Aryeh Goetz
Director of Neighborhood Investment
CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc.

Becoming a homeowner can seem like a daunting experience.  CHAI can help make that experience easier.

Below are 10 basic steps to homeownership.


  • Learn the home buying process, the technical terms used and the housing professionals.
  • Attend a Home Buyer Workshop.
  • Scan the real estate section of the Sunday newspaper and search online.

Counseling: Meet with a housing counselor to:

  • Review credit report and scores.
  • Construct household budget and savings plan.
  • Determine employment status and annual household income.
  • Determine an affordability price range for home searching process.

Credit Review

  • Obtain a copy of your “in file” credit report.
  • Understand your FICO Ssore, which determines your credit risk to lenders.
  • Repair any credit problems or correct errors and close unnecessary lines of credit.
  • Pay all your bills ON TIME, at least for the last 12 months.


  • Apply with a lender (bank) for a pre-approval letter.
  • Determine if you will meet the criteria for a specific mortgage product or program.
  • Determine what interest rate, loan amount and monthly payment the lender can offer.

Home Selection

  • Look at houses to compare prices and features
  • Overall condition of property, number of bedrooms & baths, square footage, exterior and yard area.

Contract of Sale

  • The buyer presents the contract (offer) to the seller.
  • If using a realtor, the agent will prepare the contract. An “Earnest Money” check made out to the real estate firm should be given as a deposit to the agent (customarily $1,000).
  • In an FSBO (For Sale by Owner) property, the price is often agreed upon orally before the time and expense of submitting a written offer is expended.
  • In a FSBO property, a real estate lawyer or a title attorney can draw up the contract of sale. The earnest money deposit can be given to the attorney.

Home Inspection

  • Contact a home inspection firm to inspect the property within 14 days (or as stated in the contract).
  • Attend the home inspection and learn about the systems in the home.  A termite inspection is also necessary, within 30 days of settlement.


  • Submit a completed mortgage application to the lender.
  • Make an appointment with a loan officer.
  • Obtain the “tri-merge” credit report and score, and the home appraisal.

Settlement (or Closing):  The steps to take legal ownership of the property.

  • Set a date, time and place to sign the deed and legal papers, exchange the funds and receive the keys. A “walk through” of the property should take place within the three days before settlement. All parties must receive a signed copy of the settlement sheet, which is a HUD-1 Settlement Statement.

Move in and Post Purchase:  Prepare the new home for living.

  • Make sure the final reading for gas and electric utilities are scheduled at least three days prior and the phone, cable and internet service will be activated.
  • Find out the days for trash and recycling collection.
  • File change of address to forward mail with the post office OR online at
  • Re-key locks.

Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc. (CHAI) and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore have created programs to help people find their path to affordable and sustainable homeownership. Visit to learn all about CHAI’s available Housing Services and Loan Programs.




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Filed under Families, Women, Young Adults

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