Desoto County News

Harris: Preparing for home ownership in May

By Charlestien Harris

June is known as Home ownership Month, and if you plan to become a homeowner, now is the time to start preparing to make your home ownership dream come true. 

It has long been said that owning a home is part of the American Dream, and if that is one of your goals, then some preparation is in order. Owning a home requires careful planning, and getting your finances in order is one of the necessary steps. Buying a home is a powerful decision and a major step in determining your family’s future housing needs. Unlike renting, owning a home means more than just having a place to live. It offers a sense of belonging, stability, and freedom, giving you a unique sense of pride. 

Let’s look at some money moves that will help you achieve your goal or at least move you closer to realizing the American Dream.

  1. Find a homebuyer education class and take it! You might wonder why you should start here. Taking the course will help you understand the homebuying process on which you are about to embark. It will also answer most of the questions you have or never thought to ask. This 8-hour course is usually required by lenders and can benefit participants by reducing loan interest rates and making them eligible for downpayment or closing cost assistance. See your lender for details.
  2. Visit with a HUD-Certified Housing Counselor and set an appointment! HUD-Certified Housing Counselors are professionally trained to provide factual information about the homebuying process and guide you through it if you request their assistance. Southern Bancorp Community Partners has four Certified Housing Counselors on staff who would be happy to help. You can also find a HUD Housing Counselor by visiting HUD’s website. Including this step can significantly enhance your understanding of homebuying.
  3. Get a copy of your credit report and review it! Your credit history is a critical factor in the home buying process. Knowing your credit score before applying for a loan allows you to address any issues that may prevent approval. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report weekly by visiting Annual Credit Report until further notice. Although the report will not include a score unless you pay for it, the information can reveal problems you need to resolve before applying for a loan. A HUD Housing Counselor can help interpret your credit report and develop a strategy to improve your score.
  4. Start living on a budget BEFORE you buy your house. I often emphasize this step because it is crucial. Managing your money before taking on more debt helps determine if your income can handle the mortgage you envision. Knowing your debt-to-income ratio is important because your income can only support so much debt. Most loan products require a specific percentage to determine how much house you can afford. Budgeting doesn’t have to be difficult. There are many tools available, such as budgeting apps, websites, and printed materials. Our resource learning center can be found at Southern Bancorp Learning Center.

There are many reasons why buying a home can be a positive experience and an asset in your quest to build wealth. If you’re financially stable and need a place to live, buying a home can be a great investment. With a mortgage, you can stop spending money on rent, start building equity, and enjoy the tax deductions that come with homeownership. Purchasing a home is a major decision that requires detailed preparation, but there are plenty of great resources available to help. 

For additional information on this and other financial topics, visit our blog at, email me at, or call me at 662-624-5776.

Until next week – stay financially fit!

Charlestien Harris is our financial contributor and is a financial expert with Southern Bancorp Community Partners whose articles are seen in a number of publications around the region.