Follow the dates.
That was this month's Most Important Thing for students to take away from the daylong Home Grown homeownership course put on by the Regional Housing Alliance and Housing Solutions for the Southwest.
With so many important things for a first-time homebuyer to know, instructor Julie Levy said the most important thing changes every month and even several times each class.
But this month, the course's 15 students were told to follow the dates. The first two pages of a contract, after all, contain all the important dates for purchase - payment dates, inspection deadlines, the closing date.
Internalize them, said Levy.
The free course, held at the Commons Building on Camino del Rio, was broken into lessons ranging from budgeting to mortgages to inspections to reading the contract. Advice was offered from trial-running the mortgage payment to help at the closing table.
Levy, mortgage consultant Pam Moore and real estate agent Chris Bettin fielded questions such as "Should I stay away from owner-listed houses?" and "What's the difference between preapproval and prequalification?"
The home-buying process is complicated but can be managed if careful consideration is taken, said Levy, and risk can be minimized with effort.
"You will drive yourself crazy trying to figure every factor in this market. What you need to know is if you are in a good place for you to buy," she said.
Hon Schlapfer, 34, said the time is right for him. He recently returned to government work after several years in the private sector. Now working as a hand-crew supervisor with the U.S. Forest Service, he said he and his wife, a private chef, now have the stability they need to get into their first house. Incentives, falling prices, free aid and his new job's benefit package, he said, helped push him toward purchasing.
"No, it's not a rite of passage," he said. "You have to earn it."
An unrepentant cheerleader for homeownership, Levy cautioned students against being intimidated by the surfeit of for-sale signs north of town or dire news from the East. She thinks the housing market will bounce back, but said purchasing isn't right for everyone.
"We had one class evaluation a few months back that said, 'After taking this course, I know that I'm not ready for homeownership.' That was a success for us," said Levy.
Levy, herself a first-time homebuyer at 26, is at Step 3 of the course's six-step home-buying strategy, the house search.
She cites establishing equity and building wealth and stability as justifications for her own considerable financial and emotional investment.
"It's written right into the Declaration of Independence - life, liberty and the pursuit of property," she said.
And, as several students said, rent is bad.
"I'm tired of paying someone else's bills," said first-timer Mike Brace, 26.