Graham Wood is senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through Thick and Thin
When hurdles make the homebuying process difficult, real estate professionals help clear the way.
September 16, 2015
Steady Supporter on the Way to Stronger Credit
Like many would-be home buyers, Jarvis Luster and his wife, Amy, of Aurora, Ill., were afraid their credit histories would prevent them from buying a home. He was beset by $195,000 in student-loan debt, and past financial hardships still plagued his wife's credit rating. Their credit scores hovered in the mid 500s—well below many lenders' requirements.
The couple had been paying $1,800 to rent a house. They knew owning would be cheaper but weren't sure how to boost their scores. They found the help they needed from their real estate agent, Sue Wiskowski-Fair, CRB, CRS, broker-owner of Realty Executives Premiere in Aurora. She connected them with agencies that could help them repair their credit.
"They were really determined to make this happen," Wiskowski-Fair says. Following her advice, the Lusters began working with a company in June 2014 to better allocate their debt payments and raise their scores. It took nearly a year for them to qualify for a mortgage. At every frustrating turn, Wiskowski-Fair was there to smooth their journey.
"She listened to us, told us where to go and what to do, and didn't try to sell us on anything we didn’t want," Jarvis says.
Once they found a home they wanted, Wiskowski-Fair counseled the couple on the extra measures they would have to take to satisfy lenders, including showing proof of rental payments dating back one year.
Now in their new home, Jarvis says his credit score is in the high 600s, and Wiskowski-Fair’s guidance was a crucial part of attaining that goal. "We actually miss hanging out with Sue," Luster says. "There were a lot of laughs along the way, and she made the journey personable and fun."
Timely Sisterly Guidance
Lillie Mary Adams had no clue what she was getting herself into when she and her husband, Terreance, decided to buy their first home earlier this year. She had just started working as a nurse, and the couple and their two children were living in a small house he owned in Chattanooga, Tenn. They decided it was time to trade up, but their hectic schedules made the idea of a home search overwhelming.
Although Adams' husband was already a home owner, his credit score had fallen over the years. So Adams had to take a lead role in buying their next home. She soon discovered how unprepared she was. It was helpful, she says, that her agent, Brandi Pearl Thompson, CRS, GRI a sales associate with Keller Williams Realty in Chattanooga, was also her sister.
"I let them know what to expect," says Thompson, who also offered tips to avoid closing delays. "She never realized what it was like handling all of this. She has a different respect for it now."
Given her $20,000 in student loans, Adams had to work with a mortgage loan officer to figure out how much additional debt she could reasonably take on. While they prepared for their purchase, Thompson also guided them through the process of selling Adams' husband’s home. "I was shocked at all the little things that are crucial in making it to closing," Adams says.
But Adams considers it all a valuable life experience. "Brandi taught me about different loan options, things to look for in a contract, and even how to get home owners insurance," she says.
Adds Thompson: "It definitely became very stressful at times, but my sister will be a much more informed buyer in the future."