FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The American Dream has always included the idea of owning a home, giving you the concept that you could own a little piece of the dream, something that you worked for and could pass down to loved ones.
But for a large portion of the country, minorities, in particular, homeownership is still more of a dream than a reality.
"Majority of the wealth in the US is in homeownership...so if we fix this problem what would our world look like?" said Josh Harmon, owner of Harmon Real Estate.
According to data from Zillow, in 2020 out of all the home loans Arkansans applied for, 38.9% got denied. Of that 38.9% who were denied, 12.9% were white, while Black Arkansans were denied at more than twice that rate with 26%.
The data shows that Black Arkansans are struggling to become homeowners, but what's the solution? Experts agree education is the first step.
"As minorities, Black people specifically, we’re okay with doing things on our own. We’re okay with figuring things out, but if we get the information, it just makes the process so much easier," Harmon said. "You can honestly work hard and think you’re doing the right thing on your own, but you’re going in the wrong direction."
Harmon has already been able to help several young Black homeowners in the River Valley, including Jasmaine Armington, who walked into one of Harmon's first-time homebuyer workshops. She was a single mom with questions and walked out educated and determined.
“I’m like 'let me just go just to see what I can learn' cause I know absolutely nothing about buying a house, so when I went to the workshop I got a lot of knowledge behind it as far as what you need to do...the process and I’m like, 'well maybe I can do this,'” she said.
"That streamlined event that we had essentially was the reason she was able to execute and buy a home," Harmon said. "It was one of the better feelings I’ve ever had. One of my favorite clients that I’ve had."
That information has changed not only Jasmaine's life, but the life of her son as well.
"I was actually shocked cause they were like 'oh you’re approved' I literally was in tears, 'cause I never thought I’d be able to own a home," she said. "As soon as I signed the paperwork, walked in the house and I was like 'this is mine', of course, I had my son with me as well, closing and all. So it was the best feeling ever."
Harmon isn't the only resource out there for new homebuyers. Arvest Bank has started a pilot program called Reach to Enrich. Tammy Roper helps oversee that program.
"We want everyone, anyone who’s interested, we want them to come in, if they need help that’s our goal," Roper said. "There’s no cap we want to be able to help everyone in the community."
The program is a community outreach effort by Arvest Bank. The concept is to break down some of the cultural barriers that keep minorities from being able to sign on the dotted line.
"That is a key point, we are at the forefront of collaborating and trying to funnel and facilitate getting people the right information and the right resources," Roper said. "Bringing the resources to you..helps to put you at ease and hopefully learn without the shame, cause we aren’t singling you out, we’re doing it in a group setting."
Believe it or not, that shame, the fear of rejection, will often keep people of color from taking the steps needed to own a home.
"It’s already an intimidating thing but then you want me to go sit down with someone that I don’t relate to, doesn’t look like me..." Harmon said.
"That’s pride. I know our culture is very prideful, but I think if you can do better, why not, why not do better?" Roper said.
Doing better, as a people and as a country, is ultimately the goal. We need to work on making those painful stats a thing of the past.
"At the end of the day it’s about just giving the information and most of the people who show up," Harmon said. "When they hear that 'hey you can buy a home with a credit score as low as 580,' it’s like everything just expands from there."
"Sharing that information is also important, as you and I know, if we know the information why not share the information that’s another key of financial power and literacy is sharing what you know with someone else," Roper said.
Roper and Harmon are always willing to share and help, but it's ultimately up to each of us to want that information, the way Jasmaine did.
"I think they need to have more of them because a lot of people don’t know, what do I have to do in the process, what steps do I have to take. If I had never taken that class I feel like I wouldn’t have known anything," she said.
More education. more information and less fear can change a lot more lives in the future.
Watch our video below for more tips from an expected on a better home buying experience:
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