Lee Hatcher

Finding Home: Moving from Renting to Owning

When her monthly rent payment started to increase, and she knew her money was growing someone else’s asset, Southwest Georgia Farm Credit’s Residential & Lifestyle Lender Lee Hatcher decided she’d had enough. Not only was the apartment she was renting too small and crowded, but she also was ready to move her young, and soon-to-be-growing, family to a home of their own.

“I had only been in the workforce a year before I decided to try to buy a home,” Lee, who works in the Association’s Thomasville office, said. “I was working in (Southwest Georgia Farm Credit’s) marketing department at the time, and honestly, my first question was, ‘am I credit-worthy?’”

Not unlike most first-time home buyers, Lee was skeptical about finding a home that would suit her needs. Beyond ensuring her credit was going to be acceptable to a lender, interest rates, inventory, and understanding exactly how much house she could afford, were just a few of the questions she needed to get answered. And, perhaps just a bit of anxiety was starting to set in.

“I was tired of pulling up to that apartment every night,” Lee said. “I was paying a lot of money for something that would never be mine. I was very motivated to find a house that I could make a home.”

Lee started her home-buying journey with one question for Jordan Gilbert, a Southwest Georgia Farm Credit Residential & Lifestyle Lender who has worked with numerous buyers just like Lee. “I went to Jordan and asked her if she thought I was ready to buy a home. Could I do it? And Jordan told me yes and explained the process. And from there, I was on my way.

“I think I have a really good understanding of both the motivations of a first-time buyer and the emotions,” Lee continued. “I was pretty naive about the process. But what the experience taught me is that now, as a  lender, I can walk someone through this journey—hold their hand—to get them into the home they want and need.”

Lee said the process is simple and easy, and shares a few tips to get started.

  1. The most important thing is to get preapproved. Your lender will provide you with a preapproval letter which is a document stating that the lender is tentatively willing to lend to you, up to a certain amount. This lets you, the seller, and your Realtor know that you can secure credit— and how much house you can afford.
  2. Know your credit score. You can check your credit score for free at annualcreditreport.com.
  3. Take some time to collect your financial documents. You’ll need proof of employment and income tax returns. You may also need savings and checking account statements.
  4. Think about your down payment.  Numerous programs are available offering down payment assistance, and some loans require as little as 3% down. Some loan products offer 100% financing.
  5. Finally, ask yourself, am I totally ready for this responsibility? “Yes, this is a big decision, and so worth it,” Lee said. “Your home is typically the biggest investment you’ll make in your lifetime. So, be thoughtful, but not fearful.”

Next, get to know the market. Lee offered this advice:

  1. Remember that real estate is ever-changing, Lee advised. It will benefit you to keep an open mind and be flexible.
  2. Do some research about inventory on the market in the area you want to live in. Visit Zillow or Homes.com.
  3. Work with a Realtor who understands your budget and timeframe. Your Realtor will be your biggest advocate. Lee noted: “Just because you are a first-time home buyer, it doesn’t mean you are not worthy of someone’s time or attention. You are worth the time so find a Realtor who truly wants to help you.”

The closing of your loan should be simple, too. When everything has been done correctly, you simply show up and sign your documents. “I left the closing with keys in hand,” Lee said. “It was an emotional moment.”

Two more pieces of advice Lee shared. “I always ask my clients about their boundaries,” she said. “What is your real budget? How long do you have to look for a home? Do you need to be close to family? There is no point in being house-poor, or living too far from your job or the infrastructure you rely on. So, be honest with yourself and share that information with your Realtor.”

And, finally, Lee said it is important to trust your gut. If something is out of the ordinary, or you can’t make sense of it, it might be a good idea to seek some additional professional advice or pass on the opportunity. “Trust that you’ll know when the right house comes along, at the right price,” she said.

Are you a first-time homebuyer ready to get pre-approved? Call Lee Hatcher at 229.254.8383 or email at LHatcher@SWGAFarmCredit.com.

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