Housing Week Day 1 Recap: Credit and Credit Restoration

We’re recapping all our tips from yesterday’s first day of Housing Week–a weeklong tip series aimed to help prospective buyers rest easy knowing they have all the info they need to understand the home buying process.

What is credit:

Credit Scores are numbers between 300 and 850 that let lenders know your credit worthiness. The higher the score the more reliable you are as a borrower.

A good credit score is 670-739. A very good credit score is 740-799. An excellent credit score is 800-850.
Don’t panic if your credit score is lower than a 670. There are ways you can restore your credit and improve your credit worthiness so you can access better mortgage rates and have a brighter financial future.

Do you have bad credit? 

If your credit score is lower than you think it should be or it’s been awhile since you checked your credit, have a credit report done then go through and confirm the information is correct.  Dispute and erroneous information.
Your credit score might reflect a high debt to income ratio.  Using more than 30% of your available credit line will impact your credit, so pay down those debts! Focus on one account at a time and watch your credit score rise.
For more credit building tips, check out our housing and financial counselor’s video.

No credit, no problem?

No credit isn’t necessarily bad credit, but it does make buying a home, car, or renting an apartment difficult.
There are somethings you can do to build a credit history.
We suggest opening a secured or limit credit card with your bank or trusted lending institution, open a credit card in a store you regularly shop in (like Wal-Mart, Shell Gas, or Target) and/or become an authorized user on family member or friend’s account.
No matter which option or options you choose to build credit you MUST:
-Pay your bill on time each month.
-Spend less than 30% of your credit line.
-Monitor your credit card so there are no surprises when you pay your bill each month.

If you have any questions about credit, your finances, or would like some personalized guidance, contact Sonya Dease, our housing and financial counselor.  She can be reached by phone (410.282.0261 ext 107) or email (Sonya@DundalkUSA.org).  You can also schedule time for a virtual meeting.  Her services are completely free, thanks in part to existing sponsors and donors.

Housing Week Day 2 Recap: Building Stability

We define stability as having the resources necessary to make sure future hiccups, like the unexpected end of a lease, a couple of weeks without pay or illness don’t derail your entire future. By building stability we hope everyone can experience a sense of security and feel confident planning their financial future.
While buying a home, sending a child to college or planning for college might seem like an insurmountable financial goal, a sense of stability will help you plan for these events because you’ll know exactly what you need to do into to make your future goals a reality.

Renting Vs. Owning

Home ownership is an investment in your future. It helps you build equity and gives you a space that’s uniquely your own. If your mortgage is around $1100 or more a month it might make sense for you to buy a home of your own.
Owning a home means building equity and tax breaks, but it also means being responsible for every repair you home will need and saving enough to put down a downpayment and cover moving and unforeseen expenses during the home buyer process.
If you’re thinking about changing locations in the next year or so, renting may still be your best option.

Plan Ahead 

Life uncertainties are a guarantee, so plan ahead. Your emergency savings should amount to 3-6 months of your monthly expenses. It will take time to develop but its imperative you maintain consistency with contributing to your overall goal. Small changes to how you save can really add up!
Keep the change.
Sounds small but saving change from purchases adds up over time. If you use your debit card often, safe and secure apps like Acorn can aid accumulate “your change” into an interest bearing account.
Establish an automatic savings from your paycheck and set a monthly savings goal.
If your employer offers direct deposit, set aside a consistent amount to contribute to your savings every pay cycle.
Save your tax refund.
This yearly return is a great way to boost your savings.

Housing Week Day 3 Recap: Grants and Loans

Loan Programs

When it comes to loans, you have options.  The two most common loan terms you’ll encounter are FHA (Federal Housing Administration) and Conventional.   FHA loans are insured by the government and are a great way for first time home buyers to become home owners.  Conventional loans are originated and serviced by private mortgage lenders (think banks, credit unions and other financial institutions).  Each financial institution will have their own credit score requirements and down payment needs.  They might even have additional incentives or offer up to 100% financing.  Financial institutions might even have their own grant program, like PNC’s $1,500 Grant..

If you’re wondering what type of mortgage would be best for you, contact a housing counseling agency or a lender to discuss your options.


The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Homeownership Assistance Program provides down payment and closing cost assistance to eligible first-time homebuyers purchasing a home in Baltimore City.

Eligibility and Limitations

  • You must earn a homeownership counseling certificate before making an offer on your home.
  • You must live in this home as your primary residence.
  • You must contribute at least $1,000 of your own money to your home purchase.
  • Your mortgage amount cannot exceed the current FHA mortgage limit of $517,500 for a single-family home.
  • You must apply and be approved prior to closing on your home. Program funds are not retroactive.
  • Household income cannot exceed 80% AMI
  • First-time homebuyers only
  • Requires a “Housing Quality Standard” (HQS) inspection
  • Fixed-rate mortgages only. Co-signers, cash sales, and owner-financing are not permitted.


SELP (Settlement Expense Loan Program) is a forgivable loan program for residents below 80% of the average median income. If you’re eligible for self you could receive up to $10,000 to help pay closing costs.  Home buyers must live in their home for 15 years in order for their loan to be forgiven.

Dundalk Renaissance Home Buyer Grant

We like to say our grant picks up where SELP leaves off.  Our grant is targeted for home buyers earning between 80-120% of the average median income.  Check out our chart and see where you fall.

If you’re eligible for our grant we require that you attend our Be a Buyer Workshop, attend a Main Street event (non COVID times), receive one-on-one housing counseling (through us or a housing counseling agency) and get your home buyer certification.

To finalize your application process and verify your income, you must submit tax returns from the past 2 years, an ID (if you have one) and 2 months of paystubs to our housing initiatives manager, Tasha Gresham-James (Tasha@DundalkUSA.org).

Housing Week Day 4 Recap: Home Buyer Pro Tips

Kimberly Schoberlein at Key Bridge Realty recommends creating a list of questions about the process, a list of minimum criteria for your home, and a wish list full of features that would be nice to have, but wouldn’t be deal breakers.
This information will help your real estate agent find homes that could be a good fit for you.
Once you find your home, you’ll need to do an inspection–even if your home is brand new. Here are some tips from Classic Inspection Services.
Your inspection should always include:
  • Attic & ventilation to attic construction.
  • Electrical service panels, fixtures, switches, receptacles and major appliances.
  • Exterior gutters, downspouts, roofs, walls, chimneys, driveways, walkways, patios, doors and property drainage.
  • Foundations, wall, supports, columns, beams, flooring and structure of the home.
  • Heating and air conditioning, ductwork and vents.
  • Interior walls, ceilings, windows, doors and flooring.
  • Life expectancy on all mechanicals.
Depending on the location and age of the home you may want to have your inspector check/test for radon, mold, lead and termites.