Adding Fun Flavour To The Kitchen

A key focus of my blog is Financial Literacy/Money. A primary residence is the largest investment many people will ever make. To increase the value of your investment, you have to know what updates to make to your home. One place is the kitchen. The following contributed post is entitled, Adding Fun Flavour To The Kitchen.

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Now that the New season is well and truly here, you might be looking at your home as a whole and wondering what you can do to make it more exciting. The kitchen is the heart and soul of the home, and if you are looking to update your living space this year, it could be one of the first places you start. Today we are going to look at some fun ways to add colour and flavour to your home this year.

New knobs

One method of making the kitchen feel refreshed and new without even really trying is to replace your old door knobs with new ones. If you had boring wooden or silver ones before, upgrade these to copper or gold for a stunning setting which will be ideal for you.

A bright floor

If you want to be outside of the norm this year and more exciting in your home, epoxy floor coatings are the way forward. Rather than sticking to traditional marble, wood or stone effects on your floor, why not try a colour? Covering the floor with a bright colour such as yellow or blue could be a great way to life the whole room and it will be a talking point every single time someone comes to see you in your home.

Acrylic patterned splashbacks

Speaking of bright colours, another method to add some extra colour to the home would be to add an acrylic splashback which is bright and bold. A splashback can be a great feature for the kitchen and a centrepiece of your design, and you can be as bold or reserved with the colour as you like!

Fun artwork

Artwork is always something which is great for the home, and in the kitchen it is no different. If you find that you have a lot of empty wall space in the kitchen this year, it could be a great chance to add some artwork. You could either choose images of the outdoors and flowers to help feel as if the kitchen and garden are linked, or you can instead think about something more abstract with bold colours and patterns. Find inspiration online and have fun with it.

Hanging herb garden

A herb garden is not only a great decoration for the garden but it also provides a great way for you to spice up your cooking, literally. Hanging a herb garden on the wall with your favourite flavours can be a wonderful feature and the ideal way to make sure that your cooking is top class.

If you’re happy and you know it….

Hang your pans! If you have a lot of space up above in your kitchen and you are looking for a countryside vibe for the space, hanging your pans in the middle of the room above your heads can be ideal. It is a feature which is stunning and modern and classic at the same time, and it allows you to show off those fancy copper pans you bought last Christmas!

Settling Your Fears When Considering Your First Home

One of the key focuses of my blog is Financial Literacy/Money. One of the largest investments any of us will ever make is our primary residence. There can be a lot of fear associated with purchasing one’s first home. The following contributed post is entitled, Settling Your Fears When Considering Your First Home.

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Your first home is often one of the largest milestones of our life. Of course, we enjoyed living in our childhood place, but there’s something much more prominent, and something that signifies the next chapter of our lives when we decide to purchase a home. But, like anything exciting and anything signifying wonderful change, it might be that this progression scares you a little. That’s good. It shows that you care.

But too much fear and you’ll neglect making a move at all. Sometimes a nice middle-ground can be found, and might give you more to think about while still helping you structure your cautioned approach. Settling your fears when considering your first home is not an easy task, but it can be achieved if you consider the underlying foundations of why this decision is being made in the first place.

With the following advice, we hope you can move forward, or pause this approach, with a little more surety.

Square Yourself Away Financially

It’s essential for you to have an ideal idea of what your financial limits are when considering a home. If you have slightly less than that you might need to set yourself up ideally? It might be worth waiting just to grow your savings a little more. If now is a fantastic time to invest in a certain area and you can stretch to the cost relatively comfortably? It’s worth considering. This is where SBA loans can come in very handy, as with an excellent arrangement you may not need to worry about staying within too-difficult limits, and instead give yourself that room to breathe.


It might be that the idea of signing yourself away to a financial commitment that could last decades is worrying. Well, that’s true. Thinking so far ahead in the future could be a strange prospect to even consider, especially if you’re only just married or have only just brought a baby into the world, and are having to deal with those responsibilities too. This is where considering the current progression of your life is important. Remember, you won’t experience all that time in one fell swoop. You’ll take it one day at a time. If your relationship has been incredibly stable, if you have the support structure in place, if you have job security or alternate transferable skills, it might be that the future is something you know you can deal with. Plus, it will only get easier as you progress.

Jumping In Blind

It can be hard to know if you’re making the right decision. What if the home has hidden damage and rot you miss when inspecting it? What if this area isn’t as nice as it might have been advertised? What if you might not be guaranteed a spot in the best local school when your child grows? This is why it’s best to conduct research as you grow, to prevent jumping in blind yes, but also to give you a competent means of understanding the finer deals. With hired professionals to help you inspect or conducting online research, you will tick off those variables well.

With these tips, you’re sure to settle your fears well when the prospect of finding home ownership comes up.

Easy Ways To Add Value To Your Home This Year

A key focus of my blog is Financial Literacy/Money. The biggest investment for many people is their home. Many things effect home prices – some of which are in our control and some of which aren’t. If you can add value to your home, it’s worth the effort. The following contributed post is thus entitled, Easy Ways To Add Value To Your Home This Year.

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No matter which way you look at it, buying a home is a major investment. In fact, it’s likely to be the biggest one that you make throughout your entire life. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll stop with one house. If you plan to work your way up the property ladder and buy bigger and better houses later, then you need to make sure that your current home turns a profit. With that in mind, here are six improvements you can make to add value to your home this year.

Credit To

1. Spruce Up The Garden
When potential buyers arrive at your home, they may already know the asking price, and will immediately start to question whether or not it is worth the investment. For this reason, it’s vital that you make a great first impression. As the first thing buyers see, this means that your garden must be in good shape. From weeding to painting, there are lots of ways to boost curb appeal.

2. Repair The Damaged Roof
Any sort of structural issue can significantly harm the value of your property, but, because it’s on show for everyone to see, a damaged roof can be an even bigger problem. When you repair this issue, you could take the opportunity to make your roof more energy efficient, by investing in Tamko shingles. As energy costs are on the rise, this can be very appealing to potential buyers.

3. Upgrade The Kitchen Area
The kitchen is the heart of most homes, so, naturally, it’s a place where surveyors and home buyers pay a little more attention. With that in mind, you should look for ways you can upgrade your kitchen space. If you plan to sell your home with appliances included, then start by replacing these with new energy-efficient models. This can help you to save money in the meantime too.

4. Replace Any Old Windows
Good-looking and energy efficient windows add instant appeal to your home. Not only do they look great and cut energy costs, but they can also make the house more comfortable, by trapping heat and reducing noise pollution. Because of this, you should consider replacing your old windows with double glazing. Just make sure that the finish and style are right for your home.

Credit To

5. Add Extra Living Space
As long as it’s in keeping with your home and done well, adding living space is always a good investment. You could add an extension or a conservatory, for example, or even convert the attic or basement. This can increase your buyers list, by making your property an option for larger families. If you don’t have the find to increase living space, try to add some extra storage instead.

6. Make The Space Lighter
Increasing living space can be beneficial, but it’s also quite costly. If this is just too much for your budget to handle, then make your home lighter instead. This will give the illusion of space, which will increase your home’s value. There are a number of ways to go about this, but some of the simplest include keeping your windows clean, painting the walls white, and adding mirrors.

Whether you want to sell your home or not, improving its value can only be a benefit. Hopefully, with the advice above, you have some idea of where to start.

House Proud: Finding Ways To Love Your Home

A key focus of my blog is Financial Literacy/Money. The greatest investment, many people will ever make is their home. Once you’ve made the purchase, transforming it into the optimal space for you is a key for your wanting to stay there long-term. The following contributed post discusses this and is entitled, House Proud: Finding Ways To Love Your Home.

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(Image Source)

With the price and scarcity of modern homes, most people don’t feel like they get the chance to live somewhere which they will love. Being forced to make compromises based on money or space, people are left looking at their home as if it is a simple tool, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. To help you out with this, this post will be exploring some of the work which can go into giving yourself a greater love for your home. With all of this in mind, anyone should be able to adapt their space into something which works better for them, even when you have a complicated lifestyle.

What Do You Do?

As you start this journey, one of the first things you will need to explore will be the hobbies and interests which you like to invest your free time into. These parts of your life are some of the most important to you, and it makes sense that your home should reflect this, with companies like SATP being able to push you towards creating a place which enables you to throw yourself into your hobbies. For example, if you really like to fish, you could look for a place which has a river on the property. This will give you the chance to spend far more time doing something you love.

How Does It Look?

Function isn’t everything when you’re trying to improve your home, and style plays a big role on the way that people feel about spaces like this. Instagram is a great place to go when you’re looking for inspiration for areas like this. Millions of people post each day, and this means that there are loads of photos to go through all the time. While changing the colour of your walls will be a little bit awkward, the work itself won’t be too hard, making it worth putting some time into doing some decorating for yourself. It will make you feel very proud inviting people into a home which you really like.

Collecting Memories

Of course, in reality, a large part of the way that a lot of people will feel about the spaces they visit will be based on their memories. When you’ve spent loads of time with your family at home, it will be easy to feel calm their, and you will constantly be reminded of the time you’ve spent together. This area is the easiest of them all, with friends and family being the perfect tools when you’re trying to build some positive memories. A camera can be helpful with this, but it will be important to make sure that you don’t miss out on real memories as a result.

With all of this in mind, you should be feeling ready to take on the challenge of making your home into something you can love. There are always loads of routes which can be taken with work like this, though a lot of people will ignore them, simply accepting their space for what it is.

Costs You’ll Need To Consider When Buying A Home in 2019

A key focus of my blog is Financial Literacy/Money. A key component for wealth-building for most people is the purchase of a home. The more research done ahead of the better. Markets are different as are years. The following contributed post is thus entitled, Costs You’ll Need To Consider When Buying A Home in 2019.

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Will 2019 bring a big purchase for you? For some readers this will be the year in which all of your scrimping and saving pay off and you finally get a foot on the property ladder. It may be the year in which you upsize your home to accommodate a new addition to the family. Or it may even be the year in which you get your first ever investment property and begin to earn money as a landlord. Whatever your reason to buy, 2019 looks to be a promising year for property. Interest rates have been hiked multiple times throughout 2018 (more on those later) but they now show signs of stabilizing. Lawrence Yun; chief economist of the National Association of Realtors told the Washington Post;

Image by Pixabay

““The forecast for home sales will be very boring — meaning stable” although Yun was quick to note, “Home-price appreciation will slow down… The days of easy price gains are coming to an end, but prices will continue to rise.”

While 2019 seems as safe a time as any to invest in property, buyers will need to familiarize themselves with some of the costs incurred when buying real estate, especially if they are doing so for the very first time.

Interest rates

After years of stagnation, interest rates have risen sharply with no less than 3 interest rate hikes from The Federal Reserve in 2018. While rising interest rates are nowhere near bad enough to result in negative equity or chase buyers away from the market in their drives, but it is significant enough to add a little extra onto your monthly mortgage repayments.

The difference will depend on the size of the property you wish to buy. It could be as little as $50 or it could be a couple of hundred dollars.


There are a number of different types of surveying which the property may require and it’s up to you to find a good engineer to carry them out. The property may well be subject to;

• ALTA / Land Title surveys (usually required by mortgage lenders)
• Surveyor’s real property reports
• Property boundary surveys
• Easement surveys (a survey that determines where an outside agency, for example, a utility company has the right of access to a portion of your property to carry out necessary maintenance or repairs.

Realtor’s costs

Unfortunately, realtors don’t like to work for free. Between your agent and the seller’s agent you can expect to pay around 6% of the value of the property in realtor’s fees.

Property taxes

They’re the only thing in life that’s certain other than… Wel, you know!

Closing costs

Aside from the surveyor’s fee you will likely also have to pay a range of closing costs to cover the legalities of conveying the property from the seller’s ownership to yours. These may include;

• Appraisal / valuation fees
• Wire transfer fees
• Underwriting and origination fees
• Document prep fee
• Credit report charges
• Title insurance: This protects you in the event that the seller doesn’t actually have full deed and authority to the property.
• Recording fees.

Miscellaneous running costs

Finally, you’ll need to account for all the extra miscellaneous costs that come with running your new home. These can quickly add up even if you live a frugal life. For example, if you’re used to an apartment, you may find that a house costs more to heat, water and tax.

Still, so long as you’ve taken the time to familiarize yourself with the inherent costs of buying real estate in this day and age, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the home of your dreams in 2019!

3 Suggestions for Setting up a Home Office

The first principle of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success, and two of its key focuses are Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. Many entrepreneurs must set up offices at home to carry out their operations, and this space can be critical for concentration and production. Some aspects will make your space more conducive to productivity. The following contributed post is therefore entitled, 3 Suggestions for Setting up a Home Office.

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Image via Pixabay

Whether you want to embark on an entrepreneurial path and chart your own professional destiny in life, as your own boss, or whether you just want a quiet place to sit, journal, and reflect — a home office is a fantastic and multi-dimensional gift to give yourself.

A good home office should be a place where you can shut out the concerns of the outside world, and invest yourself wholeheartedly in whatever endeavour you’re pursuing. It should be a self-enclosed dimension where you can pen that novel you’ve been working on, produce your blog posts for the next week, or even just read and absorb a book without any significant external distractions.

Of course, a good home office has certain traits. Here are some suggestions for getting your home office set up to a decent standard, in short order.

Your chair is your most important tool — choose one that you can bear to sit in for hours at a stretch

Adjustable standing desks can be a great addition to any office, since it’s good to alternate periods spent seated with periods spent on your feet and moving around, for overall health reasons. In reality, though, you are likely going to spend the vast majority of your time in your home office sitting down.

Your chair is, therefore, your most important home office tool. It has to be something that you can bear to sit in for hours at a stretch. Ideally, it will even be a pleasant experience, as much of your ability to do productive work, or absorb information, will rely on your not being simultaneously distracted by physical discomfort.

Address every aspect of what make for a good office chair. Make sure it’s well-padded. See that it has the best caster wheels for ease of movement. Check that the back support works for you.

Eliminate all distractions from the area, to the best of your ability

The famous author Stephen King has written that authors should “close the door” while working on their books — at least until the draft is ready for other eyes. In this context, he uses “close the door” both literally and figuratively, and advises aspiring authors to work in isolation, to filter out distractions, and to keep their work hidden from prying eyes during the early drafts.

Though this advice was intended for authors, it can be applied to anyone who writes, or has any sort of creative or thoughtful work to attend to, at all.

A distraction-free environment reduces procrastination, boosts productivity, and aids focus. Ensure your home office doesn’t feature TVs, videogames, or anything else of the sort.

Keep the space tidy — an organised desk (and office), means an organised mind

With the constant flow of information that we’re all exposed to, courtesy of the internet and other modern technologies, many of us suffer from chronically disordered thinking, and an inability to strategise and focus.

Keeping your home office space meticulously tidy can help to counteract this chronic low-level chaos, and aid clear thinking.

It seems to be the case, psychologically speaking, that when our immediate environments are messy, cluttered, chaotic and disordered, our thoughts come to be so as well. By contrast, an orderly, neat, and well-structured environment promotes focused and structured states of mind.

Simone Griffin of HomeFree-USA discusses homeownership and the African American community part three

This is the conclusion of my interview of Simone Griffin of HomeFree-USA regarding Homeownership and the African American Community.  In part two of our discussion, we talked about some of the impediments of Black homeownership, some things our youth can start learning at an early age regarding financial literacy, and finally, the effect of the housing market boom and crash on African American wealth.  In part three of our discussion, we talked about Reverse Mortgages, and general recommendations and considerations for first time African American homebuyers.  This entire interview addresses all of the principles of my blog recently added to the site.

Anwar Dunbar:  What is a Reverse Mortgage and why are they bad products?

Simone Griffin:  They aren’t necessarily bad.  It is about the type of reverse mortgage you get and what you need it for.  A Reverse Mortgage is for people 65 years and older who wish to borrow against the equity in their home. This is a loan which has to be repaid when the homeowner dies. The homeowner still has to maintain the property, and pay property taxes and homeowners insurance.

Reverse Mortgages can come with high fees, so they should really only be utilized if there are no heirs to the house, or if the homeowner truly has no other money to live on.  Let’s say you own your home outright and have no other ways to pay your bills.  If you get a reverse mortgage and there’s nobody who can step in and pay that loan off when you die, the only way to get it paid off is by selling the house.  You’ve lost way more than you’ve gained.  Your family and future generations have just lost a piece of property that they could have lived in.

Consider Brooklyn, NY, where the difference between the average income and the cost of a home is astronomical.  Imagine a Black family who bought a home in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, who may have come in through the great migration from the south and bought a home in the 1960s or 1970s – now those Brownstones are going for well over a million dollars.

In 2010 Grandpa took out a reverse mortgage for $300,000, plus fees.  He died last year, and now the family can’t come up with the amount owed to the bank, so the only thing they can do is sell the house.  That’s a million-dollar house which they could never afford today, and $700,000 in equity has gone to the bank.

This is why we have to train our people in their working years about how to afford retirement. Aside for a reverse mortgage you can’t borrow for it.  If you don’t have anyone to leave the home to and you need the money, then it’s fine.  However, it should be a choice, not something you do because you didn’t plan well for retirement; especially if you have kids and grandkids who can utilize that property.

AD:  Redlining.  Are you seeing a lot of that in DC?

SG:  After the housing, boom shady investors went door to door saying, ‘We want to buy your house. We’ll offer you $300,000 cash if you move tomorrow, and we’ll take care of all of the repairs.’  Except that the house is actually worth $500,000.  When you’re paying cash for a house, an appraisal is not required.  So people didn’t bother to spend the money on one, they just took the $300,000 and ran.  If the homeowner had the property appraised, they could have sold it for a much higher amount.  Or they could have kept it. Unfortunately, many of the same people in DC with parents or grandparents who purchased houses for $30,000 or $40,000 sold them at the wrong time.  Now the neighborhoods are turning and they’re saying, ‘I want to move back,’ but they can no longer afford to.

AD: I used a first time homebuyer’s 3% down program with cash back at closing when I bought my condo.  That came with several caveats and nuances that I didn’t understand – I just saw that it was 3% down with cash back at closing.  I also bought into the sentiment that I was wasting money by renting and making someone else rich – a common motivation for first time homebuyers.  What advice would you give first time African American home buyers who are looking to purchase a home?  What things should they stay away from and what would you encourage?

SG:  I would encourage them to stay away from Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMS) and creative financing.  A 3% down payment is fine.  Right now those the 3% down loans are often an FHA product, which means you have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), around 1% of the total loan until you have about 20% equity.  There are also 5% and 10% down products that don’t require PMI but the additional down payment may delay your purchase.  Using an organization like HomeFree-USA will help you leverage the home buying opportunity since we’re familiar with many different products, as well as different loan officers.

Lenders are now starting to understand the drawbacks that requiring 20% down or PMI brings. As a result, more are offering lower down payment products. Our job at HomeFree-USA is to be aware of these products, and marry them with local, state and federal funds that will help decrease the cost of homeownership for the buyer.  Now is a very good time to buy.  But don’t fret if you can’t find a product right now – we know where they are.

If there is any way to pay down your debts as much as possible, you should do that.  I know this is easier said than done, but if you can do it, it’s incredibly important to your peace of mind and  for affordability.  People get intimidated by their debt pay down process and what they have to sacrifice.  They’ll say, ‘Well it’s two whole years,’ and then I flip it and I say, ‘It’s only two years.’  In the grand scheme of life, the money you can earn from saving or investing the money you’re paying in debt is substantial.

Let’s say you’re paying $200 in student loans every month, and you’re able to get that paid off in one or two years.  If you put that $200 into a Mutual Fund, that money will grow over time.  You’re paying interest while in debt, so it’s worth it to just drop out of life for two years, or however long it takes, and say, ‘I want this over.  I’m paying off these debts and moving forward with life.’  Then you can take the money you’ve saved and use it towards a down payment on a house and avoid things like financing cars by paying cash.

People assume that they have to finance a car and that’s not the case.  I’ve never financed a car.  I only buy used cars, and each one is better than the last. But many Americans do not take the time to say, ‘I’m willing to put off something that I really want for the greater good (delaying gratification), so I don’t have to spend money financing a car.’  I recommended this to a friend.  She didn’t do it and is still not at the level that she wants to be financially. I thought to myself, ‘If she’d taken the year I suggested to not have a car, her company would have paid for transportation to and from meetings, she could have walked, gotten rides, taken the Metro or Lyft, and after only a year would’ve been in a much better position in life.’

She lives in the center of the city.  It’s an entirely different situation if you live in Odenton and have to drive to DC every day.  But when you live in the city and work in the city, and the metro is only 10 minutes away, there is some leverage.  It’s just a matter of being slightly inconvenienced for now in order to get to a greater position later (delayed gratification).  And many Americans don’t feel comfortable doing that, but the problem is Black Americans have fewer options than non-Hispanic whites.

AD:  That’s absolutely right.  I personally have some higher financial goals and decided to get rid of my car for numerous reasons in 2012; living right next to the metro being one of the main ones.  Some people just can’t fathom the idea of not owning a car.  But I aspire to do things like growing my net worth, and attaining some assets (stocks and eventually real estate, for example).

SG:  My father has a condo in the U Street Corridor.  I was there this week helping him, and it’s very hard to find parking. The metro, and a bike stand, are both 2 blocks away.  There are three grocery stores in the neighborhood and numerous restaurants.  Why would you need a car if you lived there?  If you live someplace that’s not far from the metro, why not take the opportunity do this for yourself so that you can eventually drive whatever you want?  Like Dave Ramsey says, ‘We’re going to live like no one else, so later we can live like no one else.’  Take that opportunity now.  But many people just don’t see it as an opportunity which is unfortunate, because where Black people are concerned, we don’t have as much to fall back on.

AD:  That’s right.  So a lot of this is in how you’re perceiving things, what you know, and what you’re willing to do.

SG:  Exactly.

AD:  Well, Simone, that was awesome.  A lot of people are going to benefit from reading this.  Do you have any parting comments or do you want to introduce HomeFree-USA one more time?

SG: To learn more about HomeFree-USA, go to My financial blog is  If they have any questions they can reach out to me at If your readers are ready to start the homeownership experience, they can contact us at 301-891-8400.  They don’t have to talk to me for that.

We have a free class at our Riverdale, MD office every other Thursday, “Five Home Buying Secrets Everyone Ought to Know”.  HomeFree-USA is judged by the number of successful and sustainable home owners we produce, not just the number of clients we see.  That’s the key difference.

AD:  Okay, well Simone, that’s all I’ve got.  Once again thank you for this interview and for sharing your expertise and your experiences.  If we can do a follow up piece in the future, that’s something I would be very interested in.

SG:  Okay, thank you Anwar.

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you enjoyed it, you might also enjoy:

Simone Griffin of HomeFree-USA discusses homeownership and the African American community part one
Simone Griffin of HomeFree-USA discusses homeownership and the African American community part two
Your net worth, your gross salary and what they mean
The difference between being cheap and frugal
We should bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing story
Challenging misconceptions and stereotypes in class, household income, wealth and privilege

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site. Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on Instagram at @anwaryusef76, and at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Simone Griffin of HomeFree-USA discusses homeownership and the African American community part two

This article is a continuation of my interview with Simone Griffin of HomeFree-USA regarding homeownership and the African American community.  In part one, Simone discussed the inception of her organization HomeFree-USA, and why homeownership is critical to the African American community in the United States.  In part two, we discuss some of the historic and recent impediments to black homeownership, some of the things our youth can start learning at an early age regarding Financial Literacy, and finally the effect of the Housing Market Boom/Crash on African American wealth.

Anwar Dunbar:  You touched upon this earlier when you discussed disparities in income, but what are the other main impediments holding African Americans back as a group in terms of homeownership?

Simone Griffin:  There are a couple of different things.  Number one, lenders aren’t as open to lending to people with lower credit scores.  Because they’re over-correcting after the housing crisis, they prefer to lend to people with a 750 credit score or higher.  Many black people don’t have that, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t pay our mortgages.  They simply may not have learned the importance of credit and how to manage it.  And it has nothing to do with your education status – they don’t teach personal finance in college, and are just beginning to do so in high schools.

AD:  No, they don’t.

SG:  If your family doesn’t know anything about credit and you don’t learn about it in school, then how could you be prepared with a 750 or greater score?

AD:  Yes, that’s a very good point.

SG:  A big difference between us and non-Hispanic whites is that between the Great Depression and the 1960s when America was building its wealth, black people were locked out due “Redlining” and other discriminatory tactics.  The Fair Housing and Fair Credit Laws were enacted in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which made it illegal to discriminate against people of color.  The problem was, when we tried to buy homes we were expected to make a 20% down payment, and many black people simply didn’t have that type of money. So when home appreciation soared during the 1970s and 1980s, many moderate income black people were unable to buy, which further crippled their ability to build wealth.  Many are still trying to catch up, and it’s 2017!

Meanwhile there are other ethnic groups who have money saved and may be able to give their kids a leg up.  Their kids may have student loan debt, but they can help them pay down their debt faster, or with a down payment on a house.  Mostly though, we’re starting over with every generation.  There are still many first generation college students in our communities – and college is a big indicator of how much more money you’ll make throughout your career.  So we’re still playing catch up to a degree.  This is why HomeFree-USA is so important, because you need that type of knowledge and access to get ahead.

Likewise, we’re positioned to tell the mortgage industry, ‘You say you want diversity, and want to lend to all kinds of people, but your 750 credit score requirement is locking black people out – black people who really could qualify.’  We’re not suggesting they throw a mortgage product out there and tell everyone they’re eligible. We never did that.  There were so many people we met with during the housing boom and said, ‘You should not be buying right now.’  But there were certain things they could do to improve their position, and we’re here to guide them through the corrections.

What’s important is a level of education to the borrower and to the lender.  The lender needs to understand what the borrowers are dealing with right now – what black people are dealing with.  We may have excess student loans, but if you look at non-traditional sources of credit, you will see that these borrowers are typically paying their rent on time for example, something that’s rarely reported to the credit bureau.  Cell phone and utility bills are also not always reported.

Many African Americans are unbanked or under-banked and we’re not used to working with the traditional lenders.  But that doesn’t mean that we’re not paying our bills, and these are the kinds of things that we’re communicating to the lenders.

AD:  I help teach the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University Ministry at the Alfred Street Baptist Church.  As I’ve gone through as a student and a group leader, I think about the things that I was taught home (and not taught).  My mother says that she taught us about mortgages, but I don’t remember getting any of that – or I was just too caught up in the distractions of being a young adult.  Is there an age that’s too early for our kids to start learning this stuff?  Ideally how early should our kids be getting these things?

SG: I think you can start early, but age appropriately.  The sooner someone can start working and making their own money, that’s a big thing.  But in the interim just teach kids about giving, saving and spending, and allow them to hold their own money.  Kids for example, may know that money comes out of an ATM but they don’t understand what goes into making the money.  They may ask, ‘Can we get this?’, and you might reply, ‘No it’s not in the budget,’ allowing you to go into an understanding of what the budget is.

My friend has a nine-year old son who is in love with Pokémon cards and always asks her to buy them so he can trade them in school.  The problem is, he has no concept of how much the cards cost.  I suggested she give him an allotment of money every month for the cards, and once he spends it, it’s gone and that’s it. When it’s his money, as opposed to asking her to spend her money, it will change the level of focus he has on the purchase and care of the cards.

AD:  Earlier you talked about African Americans not having access to homeownership when other groups did from post the Depression era to the 1960s.  How did the 2008 Housing Market Crash affect African American homeownership since we were already playing catch up and were just getting into the game?

SG:  It obliterated our wealth.  One big mistake African Americans made is that we looked at our houses as investments.  We would buy a house, but not put any money into savings or other investment vehicles.  In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, our parents and grandparents had pensions, but most companies have replaced those with 401k plans, which they may not contribute to.  We now have to be conscientious about our entire financial life, including retirement.

When the housing crisis hit, it wasn’t all our fault.  Some people were truly led astray, and there were certainly many people who shouldn’t have been approved for such large mortgages.  I lived in Atlanta during the crisis, and the city was hit brutally by the crisis.  I met so many older people whose houses were paid off, and somebody at their church convinced them to get a Reverse Mortgage, which needlessly got them back into debt.  They didn’t even know what they were signing.  There were so many scams going on in Georgia at that time, including one where people thought they were signing up for one mortgage payment, only to find that there was a carbon copy of the real mortgage document underneath the original one, which required them to pay a far higher monthly payment.

Buyers were often blamed and told they bought too much house.  No, some of these people did their best to buy affordably, but were led astray – another reason why HomeFree-USA is so important.  If you’re working with us, we teach you the questions to ask your loan officer, realtor, inspector and appraiser.

During the housing boom loan officers were saying, ‘Oh, I can get you qualified for a $400,000 house even though you only make $40,000.’   Couple that with an agent who says, ‘I see you’re qualified for $400,000. Let me show you a house that’s worth $450,000 and we can negotiate down to $400, 000,’ and it ends up finally being around $425,000.  You say to yourself, ‘It’s fine because my loan officer says I can pay $500 every month.  So, today your payments may be an affordable $500 a month, which makes you feel comfortable in using your credit cards to pay for your new furniture. But five years later you receive a letter stating that you owe $20,000, due within 30 days. After the 30 days and $20,000, your new mortgage payment will be $5,000 per month. This actually happened to several people.  The homebuyers were either completely unaware of the balloon loan, or were told by their loan officer that they could simply refinance.  But the housing market crashed and they now owed more than their house was worth, meaning they were stuck.

This is why I avoid thinking of a home as an investment.  It can go down in value, especially at the beginning of your mortgage before you’ve built any equity.  We go financially awry when we make our house our only real investment without understanding that you have to diversify your portfolio.

This interview will continue in part three of Simone Griffin of HomeFree-USA discusses Homeownership and the African American Community.  To read some more of Simone’s financial writings, visit her blog at  She can also be contacted directly at

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you enjoyed it, you might also enjoy:

Simone Griffin of HomeFree-USA discusses homeownership and the African American community part one
Simone Griffin of HomeFree-USA discusses homeownership and the African American community part three
Your net worth, your gross salary and what they mean
The difference between being cheap and frugal
We should bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing story
Challenging misconceptions and stereotypes in class, household income, wealth and privilege

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment.  To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site.  Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on Instagram at @anwaryusef76 and a the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page.  While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/site I endorse which be found on that particular page of my site.

Simone Griffin of HomeFree-USA discusses homeownership and the African American community part one

One of the goals of the Big Words Blog Site is to discuss Financial Literacy-related topics, particularly as they relate to the African American community.  A key aspect of wealth building is homeownership.  Coincidentally, for my very first interview for the site, I had the privilege of interviewing the very knowledgeable Simone Griffin of HomeFree-USA.  Simone and I met at the reception for the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) at the 2016 Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference.

During our interview, Simone discussed how HomeFree-USA was conceived and its mission, why homeownership is critical for African Americans, the effect of the 2008 housing market crash on African American homeownership and wealth, and the overall challenges the Black community faces in securing and maintaining homeownership.  Based on the wealth of information shared by Simone, our very candid and insightful interview will be posted in three parts.

Anwar Dunbar:  First of all, Simone, I want to thank you for your willingness to talk.  When I finished school, I realized that there were gaps in my financial knowledge.  Homeownership and real estate fall under that umbrella so I want to disseminate information that can help individuals, like myself, who want to have a firmer grasp on these concepts much earlier in life.

How did you get involved in real estate?

Simone Griffin: HomeFree-USA is a family business, which my parents started in 1995.  My father was in Mortgage Servicing for almost 20 years before that.  The servicing entity collects your mortgage payments and pays out the property taxes and homeowner’s insurance.  If you fall behind on your mortgage, they’re the ones you speak to.

My mother was in the retail business, and had a marketing background.  My parents noticed how many minorities in the DC area were locked out of homeownership, primarily because they didn’t know that they could afford it.  Many were government employees with very stable jobs, but no one in their family had ever owned a home.  My mother started HomeFree-USA, and my father later joined her, for those who had no one to guide them through all facets of becoming a successful, sustainable homeowner.

Realtors are often the default vehicle for helping people with their credit and debt issues, but that isn’t their job.  Their real job is to help you find a house.  It’s the job of the financial institution to make sure that you’re financially capable of repaying the loan, but as any homeowner knows, there’s far more that goes into owning a house than just the paying the mortgage.  And when you’ve been renting your whole life and don’t know any homeowners, it feels like a lofty feat.

HomeFree-USA walks with you so you know what you’re doing, are confident that you’re getting a good loan, and are buying well within your affordability range.

Ninety-six percent of the people who fell victim to the Housing Boom and subsequent Foreclosure Crisis didn’t see organizations like HomeFree-USA when they were buying their homes.  Had we seen them, there’s a high chance that they wouldn’t have been in those situations.  They worked with realtors and loan officers, but again it’s not their job to educate and prepare.  Their job is to help you get a loan and into a house.  Because there are shady businesses everywhere, you have to have enough knowledge to know when you’re being lead in the right direction and when someone is trying to take advantage.  That’s why HomeFree-USA is in existence.

AD:  Okay, so in summary, what is the mission of HomeFree USA?

SG:  The mission of HomeFree-USA is to:

  • Strengthen people through sustainable homeownership, financial education and coaching;
  • Enhance communities by creating affordable homeownership opportunities through the acquisition, rehabilitation and sale of Real Estate Owned (REO) properties; and
  • Elevate our partners with capacity building assistance and mutually beneficial programs and initiatives.

AD:  Before we move on you mentioned when the DC market was, ‘Affordable.’  For readers who don’t live in the DC area, what was affordable price-wise versus where we’re at right now?

SG:  Most of our homebuyers at that time were moderate income single mothers – making $35,000 to $55,000 a year.  You could buy a home in DC at that time making that kind of money.  Even if you adjust for inflation today, you cannot buy a house unless it’s an affordable set-aside (of which there are few) with that income.  I made $30,000 when I bought my house.  I could do that in the District then: now, no way.  The average income has also increased in DC, but not to the point where it makes homeownership affordable for all.

AD: They say that DC is no longer Chocolate City.

SG:  No, it’s definitely not Chocolate City anymore.

AD:  Why is homeownership so critical for the African American community in the United States?

SG:   First, one of the big misnomers is that homeownership should be used as an investment vehicle.  I don’t necessarily look at it as an investment vehicle, although homes typically appreciate in value over time.  Most importantly, homeownership stabilizes your expenses, which is invaluable when building wealth.  It also gives your family a foundation that they always know they can come home to.

On average, people of color are still paid less than non-Hispanic whites in this country.  I believe Black women are paid 60% less than their non-Hispanic white male counterparts, so we have to create ways to stabilize our income and expenses as much as possible, while continuing to work on income disparities.  Also, homeowners are typically more focused and invested in the state of their community.  If you have kids, the school system becomes really important.  Holding legislators accountable for actions which may affect your home value also becomes really important. There is a direct correlation between the health of a community and the number of homeowners.  You also get the advantage of having a tax write off.

I just don’t want people to look at homeownership purely as an investment.  Some people feel like it’s a given that their house should go up in value, and that’s not true. It’s an investment and investments are risky.  In the long run though, real estate tends to beat even the stock market in returns.

AD:  I was talking to a coworker recently and we were in fact discussing that when you rent, your rent tends to go up every year, and when you have a mortgage it tends to stay stable.

SG:  That’s true.  Your property taxes and homeowner insurance may increase, but if you have a consistent mortgage payment every month, you can stabilize your overall budget and begin to build true wealth.

This interview will continue in parts two and three of Simone Griffin of HomeFree-USA discusses Homeownership and the African American Community.  To read some more of Simone’s financial writings, visit her blog at  She can also be contacted directly at  A special tank you is extended to Simone Griffin and HomeFree-USA for participating in this interview and also for providing the picture for this post.

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you enjoyed it, you might also enjoy:

Simone Griffin of HomeFree-USA discusses homeownership and the African American community part two
Simone Griffin of HomeFree-USA discusses homeownership and the African American community part three
Your net worth, your gross salary and what they mean
The difference between being cheap and frugal
We should bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing story
Challenging misconceptions and stereotypes in class, household income, wealth and privilege

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site. Pease visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on Instagram at @anwaryusef76, and at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.