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Ridgewood bank says local economy is strong, helps community get housing amid rising inflation

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Ridgewood Savings Bank wants its customers to know that though the local economy is strong, buying a house is difficult amid rising inflation and they are here to help. 

The U.S. Labor Department recently reported that the consumer price index (CPI) increased 8.5% from March 2021 to March 2022 — the largest 12-month hike since 1981. 

Anthony Simeone, chief banking officer at Ridgewood Savings Bank, said that as inflation continues to dramatically rise, so do interest rates, making it more difficult to buy a home.

“The most difficult thing for folks to overcome is the down payment on a house,” Simeone said. “I think inflation is going to impact everyone, even just going to the supermarket and buying a loaf of bread. In terms of real estate, we’re really trying our best to overcome any obstacles.”

Despite the difficult circumstances for homebuyers, Ridgewood Savings Bank offers a variety of services to help alleviate the burden of these historically high interest rates.

Ridgewood participates in the city’s HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance Program, which allows them to help first-time homebuyers with a down payment and closing costs. Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HomeFirst works with more than 20 local counseling agencies to assist first-time homebuyers in securing a home. 

First, these agencies help certify income to qualify and ensure consumers complete the mandatory homebuyer education classes. Then, lenders, like Ridgewood Savings Bank, help consumers with pre-qualified mortgages to purchase a one- to four-family home, condominium or a cooperative in the city.

This program, coupled with Ridgewood’s own Good Move Mortgage and Good Move Plus Mortgage services, puts the bank in a good position to help low- to moderate-income households secure a mortgage. 

“We feel an obligation to the areas in which we serve,” Simeone said. “We have really focused on the need for affordable housing over the last five or six years. We want to cater to every community we serve, and that ranges dramatically in socioeconomics.”

The Good Move Mortgage offers down payments as low as 3% with a $2,000 credit toward closing costs on purchases. Good Move Plus Mortgage also offers a 3% down payment and up to a $7,000 closing cost and mortgage insurance assistance. Both programs offer up to 95% financing for two-family homes. 

Simeone mentioned that whether you are trying to buy a home, refinance your mortgage or simply grocery shop, inflation is affecting everyone and the best thing to do right now is save.

“With inflation, and uncertainty of the future, saving and having the discipline to do that is very important. As a mutual savings bank, that is what we are built upon,” Simeone said. “Trying to live in [a manner] in which you can afford but not live beyond your means.”

Ridgewood recommends considering an interest-earning emergency savings account that covers three to six months of living expenses. They also encourage people to take advantage of their Multiply the Change program which rounds up a purchase to the nearest whole dollar and saves it. 

“We feel we’re serving a really important need for folks that need a [community bank], especially today when there aren’t many community-oriented banks around,” Simeone said. “Were proud of what we’ve done and the folks we serve. It is heartfelt and it is our corporate philosophy.”

Ridgewood Savings Bank was founded in 1921 and has grown to become a bank with over $6.5 billion in assets and 35 branches located throughout New York. It ranked first on Forbes’ “Best-in-State Banks” list in 2021. 

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