Although the homeownership rate in the US hit an all-time high of 68 percent this year, mortgage lenders are trying to drum up more business. They’re developing new programs with the hopes of attracting folks who never thought they could own a home.

It might….if you can get over the fact that you need an income of about $75,000 per year to qualify to buy a median-priced home in Chicago these days — that’ll cost you a quarter of a million dollars. With the price of homes skyrocketing, mortgage lenders are coming up with some creative new ways of reaching new home buyers. And in some cases, they’re succeeding.

“I was living up north. It took me about 30 minutes and 10 miles, so it as an hour of travel each day to work,” says Lance Hernandez, a teacher at Kennedy High School.

What Lance Hernandez wanted to do was to buy a home and cut his commute. But without the cash for a big down payment, he needed a little extra help. On the Chicago Public Schools website, he found Bank of America’s Neighborhood Champions Program.

“An individual buying a one-unit, single family only has to come up with $500 out of their own pocket, or 1 percent, whichever is lesser,” says Gwen Thomas, Bank of America.

Those kind of numbers sound almost too good to be true. But these days, mortgage lenders are looking for ways to add new customers.

“We are working with our lenders to look at ways in being more flexible in terms of mortgage products, as well as lowering down payment costs or out-of-pocket costs,” says David Elam, Fannie Mae.

“This is the fourth of fifth place we looked at and when I walked in I pretty much knew this was the home I wanted,” Hernandez says.

“We’ve helped 12,000 teachers become homeowners,” Thomas says.

Now, policemen, firefighters, and medical workers can take sign up for this super-low down payment program.

“We have done a lot to simplify the process. There is tons of education out there and people to help you navigate the process,” Thomas says.

And if you won’t go to them, some mortgage lenders may come to you — like 5/3 Bank’s new homeownership education center on wheels.

“I was on my way to somewhere else and the bus was just sitting there,” says Timothy Day, a minister.

“We think it’s a great way to bring the bank to those communities that may not be as convenient to some of the traditional brick and mortar we have around the greater Chicago area,” says Bradlee Stamper, 5/3 Bank.

“There are some renters who should be ready to go to the next step and own and they’re just scared to ask the questions they need to ask,” says Latasha Thomas, 17th Ward Alderman.

Many residents find walking into a 40-foot RV is a lot less scary than walking into a bank branch.

“I was able to get a credit history report, which was excellent, and I’m going to use that to advance and to get information about housing and mortgages,” says Virdell Berry, a neighborhood resident.

“In all my life, I’ve been skeptical about buying a home because of the full responsibility of owning a home. I’ve come to find out that it’s more beneficial to myself and my family to own a home than to rent. Because there’s a lot of freedom that comes with owning your own home,” Day says.


5/3 Bank homeownership mobile will be traveling around the greater Chicago metro area for the next month. Here is where you can find it:

September 10 Humboldt Park, 1440 N. Sacramento 1-5pm
September 11 Little Village, 3000 S. Lawndale 10-3p
September 13 & 14 Mexican Consulate, 204 S. Ashland 7-1p
September 16 Chatham, Ice Theater 210 W. 87th Street 1-6p
September 17 Lawndale, Ice Theatre 3330 W. Roosevelt Rd. 1-6p
September 18 Austin, Harold Washington Square 4800 W North Ave 11-4p
September 21 Little Village, 3955 W. 26th Street, 1-5p
September 22 Jefferson Park, Copernicus Theatre 5216 W. Lawrence, 1-6p
September 23 Archer Heights, Bobak Sausage, 5275 S Archer Ave, 11-4p
September 24 Ice Theatres, 2258 W 62st 1-6p
September 25 Auburn Gresham, St. Sabina 1210 W 78th Pl, 10-3p