By  Jerlysha Williams

Owning a home is a part of the American dream and a core building block of stability and wealth. Today’s interest rates and the consumer price index are still trending up as the economy continues to grow. According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January saw a 0.5% increase in all items, along with a strong increase in job growth.

With these rising costs, how is the average American supposed to achieve the American dream formula of owning a beautiful home with a white picket fence? There are a number of creative ways you can save money, get expert advice and, when you’re ready to buy, to find the best deal possible. Here are a few steps to get you started on the journey to homeownership. 

Hire a mortgage broker. Shopping around to get the best interest rate can save you thousands of dollars in interest payments, and a broker can help you find a rate that best suits your goals. People generally don’t purchase the first car they test drive. Applying this same logic to mortgage shopping may benefit you greatly in the years to come. Become informed about costs in addition to the purchase price; the down payment, cost of a home inspection and appraisal, and closing costs should all factor into your plan.

Find a realtor you trust. A realtor can be of great assistance on the path to homeownership. They know the local market and sometimes know about hot listings before they even hit the market. Be sure your realtor has a clear understanding of your goals and target price range before signing a contract.

Nicole Marshall, an experienced local realtor, said a realtor should be familiar with a variety of programs that support buyers. The Maryland Mortgage Program and Federal Home Loan Bank  grant are two such programs that assist individuals looking to buy in Laurel. 

First-time home buyers can turn to  the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of American ( for assistance. NACA offers a program to help buyers get their finances in order and learn how to budget.

The program also assists first-time home buyers cover major expenses when buying a home. Qualified participants can leverage lower mortgage rates than the national average and purchase a home with no down payment or closing costs. The program also allows a participant to purchase a property with up to four units, three of which could be rental units. 

Search high and low for great home deals. Banks often own foreclosure properties that they are eager to sell. Check out and

The federal  government also owns surplus properties. Both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have programs for first-time home buyers. Freddie Mac’s and Fannie Mae’s aim to sell properties in a timely manner and to preserve property values within communities.

For-sale-by-owner properties are often listed on Zillow, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist; local auction houses may handle these sales, as well.Other home search options are, and

If you’re ambitious and have the cash and time, you can renovate a property or build a new home. Properties that need work often have a lower price tag. Purchasing a less-than-perfect property not only saves money, up front; renovations to that property can significantly increase equity. A 203 (K) home renovation loan will supply you with the funds to purchase and renovate the home.

Building a home could be an expensive option but there is a local nonprofit development firm, Affinity Community Development Inc.,, that is a public charity organization which specializes in custom-built homes, affordable housing and land development. Affinity’s mission is to enhance the community with high-quality custom built homes.

Affinity has developed a custom built home program to help buyers save money on a new  construction home, while working to protect the buyers interest in all categories of the process,”  said Mateen Adullah, Affinity vice chairman.

Be patient. Sometimes the timing isn’t right. Ian Cruse, recently moved from Chicago to Laurel; he’s a multi-state real estate investor and independent stock market day trader. Before moving to Laurel, Cruse analyzed the market and decided to rent rather than purchase a home.  

“It’s been shocking to see mortgage rates jump from a COVID low of 2.5% to over 6%. As a result, it now costs much more to borrow money than before, and with the housing market still peaking, I’ve made the decision to rent until home prices come down,” Cruse wrote in an email. “From a financial standpoint, it just doesn’t make sense to borrow expensive money in order to buy an expensive property. Something has to give, and for now, I’m content to continue renting an apartment that fits my needs.” 

Only you know what is right for you and your family. Take time to speak to other homeowners to learn from their experience and knowledge. Most importantly, make a plan and set a budget.