For Cameron Smith, homeownership used to feel like an overwhelming goal that was almost too daunting to consider.
“I thought I needed to have a huge down payment, or that I’d feel pressured into buying something I’d regret later,” Cameron said.
With encouragement from his boss and mentor, Cameron took the first step on his journey to homeownership and found a community of support that stepped up to help him make his dream a reality.
“If it wasn’t for the advice of my boss, I probably would have spent my savings on a motorcycle or a trip,” he said. “I’m so glad I took the path that I did and chose to begin the process of buying my own home. I learned that the process is more achievable than you might think.”
When he first reached out to loan originator Mark Gust to ask what it would take to get a loan, Cameron had a solid down payment saved.
Everything changed in one short weekend, when unexpected circumstances in Cameron’s personal life drained his savings and took him back to square one.
“I had to reset my life,” Cameron said.
“My credit score was a challenge even before my savings were depleted, but Mark was there for the whole process and never gave up on me from the first time I called. For about six to eight months, we just focused on rebuilding my credit.”
– Cameron Smith, Alaska homebuyer
With Cameron’s credit score growing, Mark helped find the loan that would be right for him.
“Affordability was critical,” Mark said. “We layered a Federal Housing Administration loan with an AHFC loan, which can be layered without giving up credit quality. Suddenly we were back in the game.”
“Mark put in hours looking for ways to save me a dollar here or there,” Cameron remembered. “I couldn’t have asked for a better loan officer.”
Expanding His Knowledge
With his credit growing and homeownership beginning to feel within reach, Cameron took one of AHFC’s online homebuyer education classes and expanded his knowledge of the buying process, learning what questions to ask.
“The class really helped,” Cameron said. “That’s where I learned what to look for in a house. Not just asking myself ‘does it look nice,’ but considering the future and asking specific questions about the electric work and plumbing. I even learned how homeowner associations work.”
Finding ‘The One’
In July 2022, empowered by practical information and with a team of support behind him, Cameron put in an offer on the house that was the right fit for him.
“It was exciting,” he said. “I had a good feeling about it as soon as I put in the offer.”
After about a year and a half of pursuing his goal, Cameron said the feeling of having his offer accepted was “the feeling of reaching the top of a mountain when you didn’t really think it was possible.”
“When I got the keys and walked into my own home for the first time, there were tears of joy and disbelief,” Cameron remembered. “I felt so proud of myself and grateful to everyone who had helped me.”
A Life-Changing Investment
Since becoming a homeowner, Cameron has found a whole new way of thinking about home.
“No one can raise my rent or end my lease. I can choose to upgrade my floors or paint a room,” he said. “It has lifted boulders of pressure off my shoulders, knowing that I don’t need to worry again about where I’ll live, knowing that I have something to leave for my daughter.”
Speaking to others who might feel that buying a home is out of reach, Cameron said, “Everyone has different circumstances, but the goal of homeownership really is achievable. I wish I’d known that sooner.”
Interested in beginning your own homeownership journey but not sure where to start? Visit AHFC’s Alaska homebuyer checklist to find the resources you’ll need.
Alaska Housing does not endorse lenders or real estate licensees, but we are pleased to highlight individual experiences of partnership. Thank you to Cameron Smith and Mark Gust (NMLS #1895500) of Residential Mortgage (NMLS #167729) for participating in this blog post.