From Partnership to Homeownership

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Whitney Jett is a NOAHH partner family who started her partnership in June 2016. NOAHH will be following her story through the entire partnership and hopefully beyond. Part 6¬†is about the first time home-buyer’s class she attended. For previous parts, click here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

One of the key elements in our homeownership program is the First Time Home-Buyer’s Class. Partner families take two classes during the program (the other on financial fitness) as part of learning everything they need to know about owning a home. Whitney scheduled her first class in October with Desire Community Housing Corporation, one of several local groups that offer sessions. Some of them cost money, some don’t. Some are more flexible with their scheduling than others. Whitney selected Desire Community Housing Corporation after calling several of the organizations and working out the best schedule.

“I don’t have the best schedule,” Whitney¬†said, laughing. “That’s why the month of October, I barely got any hours, because I had to use my Saturdays to take these classes. Then I still have to schedule my financial fitness classes, and those are gonna be in the evening so I have to do that straight from work. That’s gonna be fun. Scheduling wasn’t too bad. It was just a matter of ‘when is it?’ ‘Can I do it?’ and trying to work with my work schedule and have them let me have these two Saturdays off so I can do my classes. But that part was actually pretty easy.”

She found that some of the organizations were only scheduling in certain months or after she wanted to have the classes completed. NOAHH offers several different options for the classes knowing that some partner families will find different ones more convenient. Some have Spanish language options, for instance, and some classes can be done for free, for those on a tighter budget.

“I did find one online,” she said, “and I was hoping [her Case Manager] Emily would say I could do that one. I’m a millennial. Kind of. Kind of. I like to do everything online, but it was only fair, because everybody else has to do these classes. I should do them at the local classes.”

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She arranged her schedule so she could spend two Saturdays in class. She met Deborah, who was teaching the classes at her own home. Deborah teaches classes through the Desire Community Housing Corporation and is one of many organizations NOAHH recommends for first time home-buying classes.

Whitney attended the two sessions along with several other students, who helped add insights to the class.

“It was good to have other people,” she said, “because everybody had some different job that they did or some different input that they could put into the class of whatever topic we were on, like credit scores and things like that, so it was cool.”

The class focuses on all of the aspects of the traditional home-buying process, from what banks look for in home loan applicants to what one should do upon moving into a home. In some ways, the class illustrated how NOAHH’s program differs from the traditional process. NOAHH homeowners don’t have a down payment or closing costs to save for, but they do 350 hours of sweat equity and save up monthly payments of $225 while in the program for their first year’s payments. There’s no bidding process, because the homes are new construction (rather than the purchasing of existing homes) sold for cost with a soft second mortgage covering the difference between the cost and the appraisal value. NOAHH covers the inspection process (mostly city inspectors who check various stages of home construction). For a traditional new home construction process, many of these fees would be covered in the agreement with the contractor.

“[I didn’t know] how nerve-wracking the [traditional] home-buying process is–I’m so glad I don’t have to go through that. ‘Let’s see if the owner accepts your bid’ and the whole pins and needles. Even after you entered into the contract, and you have to go through all these inspections. Maybe the house might fall apart while you’re inspecting it. You never know, so it was a relief. It was a relief. But talking about interest and PMI [private mortgage insurance, which traditional home-buyers sometimes have to pay for] and all those extra terms that other home-buyers would have to deal with that I won’t, I was so happy to just say, okay, well, I don’t have to worry about that.”

But the class also provided valuable insights for Whitney about what to expect once she owned her new home and helped prepare her mentally for a future as a homeowner.

“The second half of the class we finally ended off with this note of once you’re in the house,” she said,” what’s the first thing you do? And everyone was thinking–change the locks! Blurting out things at that point. Overall, it was good advice. Good little tidbits of information. Get to know your neighbors, things like that, but I learned a lot. Insurance, that’s important; when your bill comes in, pay attention to make sure if it’s going up or down, so you don’t get any surprises on your escrow. Things like that. That’s not things I would think about going into this. It got me thinking about the things that I don’t know, the things I don’t know about as soon as I move in. It’s like–now what? It kinda set me up for that.”