Down payment assistance helps college student become homeowner

Dee Warren’s attention turned from apartment hunting to house hunting after she learned about down payment assistance programs. Warren had been renting with roommates in different areas of metro Atlanta, including Jonesboro and Gwinnett County.

“I felt like I was wasting money paying rent all the time. My rent was more than what I pay for my mortgage now,” Warren said.

A friend told her about Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, which offers down payment assistance programs for homebuyers purchasing homes within the city. Warren, 23, a student at Clayton State University, said she wanted the accomplishment of owning a home and decorating to her taste, as well as the tax benefits of owning versus renting.

Assisted by Becky Dickerson with Prestige Realty Express, Warren faced other bidders as she looked at Intown condos, townhouses and homes during her four-month search.

No. 1

Near Atlanta attractions

A one-bedroom, one-bath unit in Swift Co. Lofts — in Atlanta’s Castleberry Hill neighborhood — offered quick access to Centennial Olympic Park, Phillips Arena and the Georgia Dome. Downtown Atlanta views served as the backdrop for the private rooftop deck. Inside, the unit had exposed brick and the kitchen and bathroom were updated. The building dated back to 1950 and the condo was listed for $115,000.

No. 2

Upgrades galore

A three-bedroom, two-bath home on Beecher Street in Atlanta was nearly 90 years old but modern touches included granite countertops, travertine tile and stainless steel appliances. Charming features included crown molding. The home, built in 1925, was listed for $150,000.

No. 3

New construction

A three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home in Atlanta’s Rosewood at Southbend neighborhood offered the opportunity to work with the builder and make some changes before moving in. The warranty that came with the new home also meant she wouldn’t have to worry about paying for any immediate repairs. The home was priced at $108,000.

The Choice

No. 3. Warren was in the process of putting a contract on property No. 2 when she found No. 3. (Others already had placed contracts on No. 1 — the Swift Co. Lofts unit.)

“You know how after you’ve been searching so long, you’re just like, finally? I just felt it,” she said.

By participating in three down payment assistance programs (requirements included attending an eight-hour homebuyer’s course), Warren received more than $30,000 in assistance from Invest Atlanta to help buy the home. “I wouldn’t have been able to afford this,” she said.

Warren offered the asking price and received a few upgrades, such as tile instead of vinyl floors. The builder also painted the home, which has stainless steel appliances in the kitchen. Since moving in during June with her dog, Mr. Dimples, Warren has enjoyed decorating her backyard with patio furniture that she found on sale at Target and a fire pit that she received as a housewarming gift.

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