I have been a renter for a long time. I like many in would like more of the American Dream and part of that dream always is owning a home. But since the great housing bubble burst saving for a down payment and then qualifying for a home mortgage is harder than ever. Or what if you own your home and need to save it from foreclosure? What if you need help paying your school taxes or heat your home in the winter? Since the economic collapse of 2008 many us had family members or ourselves laid off and were forced to take jobs that paid less, but unfortunately our bills stayed the same. So what can we do? We can get smart and ask questions, seek answers and ask for help if we know where to find it. This article may help us all find a few answers to those questions.
Recently my mother had a small stroke, but unfortunately she needed rehabilitation. With the rehabilitation it was hoped that she would regain most of her speech and swallowing ability. So she was transferred from her senior facility to a rehab for a few months. During this time she needed some money from her bank account. So I went over to her bank to draw some money out for her needs. There I got on a discussion with one of the bank representatives on how costly home financing and home ownership has become. Since I had gone to a home ownership educational course only a week before it was all still very fresh in my memory. He told me how his father had just recently had a stroke as well and that his fathers home was in foreclosure. I told me that my mother had recently had a stroke too and that I had gone to a home ownership course and that they not only helped with financing a home but also with many other home ownership issues such as foreclosure. I gave him the contact information for this program and left to accomplish several other tasks that day. What interested me about the conversation I had with the bank representative is my presumed stereotype of a bank representative. On the news we see wealthy bankers and million dollar CEO paychecks, however we never really realize just how hard it is today to make a living. We often are one paycheck away from losing our home and our way of life. That is why information is power. If we know where to ask for help when we need it and then take that help we can hopefully bridge the gap between that last paycheck or illness to recovery. His father needed help that he could not give and I could not give, but maybe some other organization could. I hope it helped him and I hope the list of organizational contacts I list for you below can help you too.
The first one is the contact I gave the bank representative and the one who will be helping me find and obtain financing for a new home. They provide a myriad of services, just some of them being financing a home, dealing with the IRS, help with finding emergency housing, getting help with academic issues and dealing with foreclosure. Click on PathStone to see their site for more.
The second is the New York State School Tax Relief Program or the (STAR) program. This program can help you lower your school taxes by allowing partial exemptions on your school taxes based on your earned income. The STAR program allows you to exempt a portion of the total value of your home, thereby reducing the total amount of taxes you would pay otherwise. If you do not live in New York, please check your own state’s website for similar programs. Click on this link to see about the New York State STAR program.
The next program can save you some money on your winter home heating bills. Like the Star Program, this program has a window of time which you can apply for the program, after which you will not be eligible to receive funds so check the dates and apply early. The Home Energy Assistance Program or HEAP program is also a New York State initiative and its goal is reduce your energy costs by reimbursing a portion of your home heating bills. The program also provides assistance with home weatherization which can also reduce your home heating and air conditioning costs, If you are a landlord you can have your units inspected by registered contractors and if they determine weatherization upgrades can be performed they can do it for free, no cost to you the landlord. Click on this link to see about the New York State HEAP program.
The last program can help you monitor you obtain your credit rating for free and monitor your score for free with no strings attached. This could be helpful if you are planning to buy a home in the near future but are unsure what is on your credit report, what your credit score is or how to improve it. I first heard of Credit Karma on the radio. I was reluctant to try it out because all the free credit score sites I knew of wanted me to buy something in the end. I thought it was too good to be true, but I now use it and would recommend it for anyone. It is similar to mint.com in the way it functions so if you’re familiar with that site you will feel at home with this one. They pull your TransUnion score so you may still need to work with the other two of the big three credit reporting organizations. But, you can pull your credit when you need it and it is free so that a price I could not say no to. I can also simulate how my credit score would change as well, for example, if I payed off my credit cards or added a new line of credit. The site has 256 bit encryption and a class 3 extended SSL certificate from VeriSign, so it secure. Click on CreditKarma to find out more on their program.
Hopefully like me you will keep the door open to buying a house if you really desire to and if you need help stopping a foreclosure, paying for home heating or reducing your school tax burden you will reach out to these organizations and ask for help. If you need new insulation for your roof, or need to find emergency housing, these organizations may be able to help you as well. If you need to know your credit score in order to finance a home or a car, or need to help with the IRS they can also help you. Even if you need to find child care or you need help finding educational service, they may be able to lend you a hand. Ask, you may just be surprised who can help and how much they can help. No one should have to deal with an illness or foreclosure by themselves, not me nor the nice bank representative I met. I hope I helped him that day and now I hope what I told him will help you too.