Chicago Crusader – Chase Financial Health Column


As part of an ongoing sponsored series on Black financial health, we are exploring the racial wealth gap, its impact on our community, and what’s being done to address it. In today’s column, we focus our conversation on access to homeownership, with tips for interested readers on how to get the process started. We welcome your ideas and questions to be covered in this series, and encourage you to email those questions and ideas to

In October of last year, JPMorgan Chase announced a commitment to help an additional 3,000 Black and Latinx Chicagoans purchase a home with Chase, representing a 60 percent increase in home lending to these families. Through this $600M commitment, the firm expanded low down payment loan programs and increased grants for homebuying and refinancing.

So, for those interested in becoming a homeowner, where do we start? Today, we sat down with Felton Ellington, Senior Home Lending Advisor for Chase in Chicago, who offered a series of tips for buyers to help them prepare for the homebuying process and know where to turn with questions.

Establish an Emergency Fund

Having an emergency fund is a good way to protect against the unforeseen, like a job loss or illness, and is important to have before you’re ready to buy a home. The money in this fund isn’t meant to be used for your down payment, moving, or closing costs. Instead, it’s your buffer for managing the cost of unexpected expenses, and gives you the cushion to make sure you can make your mortgage payments on time once you own the home.

If you deplete your entire savings account balance for the sake of becoming a homeowner, it can leave you relying on high-interest credit card debt should you run into an unexpected expense or emergency like home repairs or an increase in your local property taxes.

Use Technology to Start or Boost Your Savings 

If you need a way to build your savings and stay consistent with your homebuying goals, setting up an automatic funds transfer can help. You can set up a transfer from your checking to a savings or investment account at your financial institution. Another method can be having a portion of your paycheck directed into a retirement or other account by your employer, if possible.

A variety of banks and savings apps also round up purchases to the nearest dollar and puts the change into a linked savings account, so you can save without it being a heavy burden.

Determine All Upfront Costs, Not Just the Down Payment

It’s important to factor in the additional expenses above and beyond your mortgage that come with homeownership. This can include everything from inspections to repairs to consider that add upfront costs, like fees on your mortgage loan, your closing costs, and the cost of a home inspection.

Additionally, closing costs vary drastically depending on where you are buying. It’s important to work with an agent and lender in your local market who can provide clarity on closing costs specific to your market.

Determine Your Budget

To calculate how much house you can afford, look into your household income, monthly debts (for example, car loan and student loan payments) and the amount of available savings for a down payment. As a homebuyer, you’ll want to have a certain level of comfort in understanding your monthly mortgage payments, and a lending expert can help you do that.

Understand Your Debt

Checking and tracking your credit will come in handy long before you start shopping for a home — like when you’re trying to qualify for a credit card or an apartment to rent. When it comes to homeownership, your credit score, along with your debt to income ratio, is a major factor in determining what your loan terms will be. That is, whether you’ll be approved for a mortgage, and if so, at what rate.

Evaluate Your Specific Situation

I recommend that clients connect with a Chase Home Lending advisor or a real estate agent on their specific situation. What one buyer needs can greatly differ from another depending on if they are purchasing a primary residence versus a vacation home versus a rental property. What’s required for home purchases varies greatly and is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Some local areas have different grants and funds available for down payment and closing costs, but again, this can vary by location.

And, I’ll end with a myth-buster. Homebuyers do not need a 20 percent down payment.

It’s no longer the required norm to put 20 percent down. Some home loans may require far less, even between three and five percent; the industry average is typically within six and eight percent.

In addition, certain areas across the country have different grants or programs for low-to-moderate communities to assist with down payment.

As a part of our commitment in Chicago, we are doubling our special Chase Homebuyer Grant to $5,000 to help customers with the upfront costs of buying a new home, which are often a major barrier for purchasing.

Felton Ellington, Senior Home Lending Advisor for Chase Chicago

To learn more about the homebuying options available to consumers in Chicago, or to connect with a home lending advisor, visit or visit your neighborhood branch.

This story is the third in our series on Black financial health that is made possible from a sponsorship by JPMorgan Chase.

JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. Member FDIC Equal Housing Lender

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