Sweating toward home ownership | VailDaily.com

Sweating toward home ownership

Kristi Moon, Elyse Howard and Emily Peyton
Habitat for Humanity
Eagle County, CO Colorado
The Loera-Lopez Habitat family — Arnoldo, Leticia, Refugio and Jesus.

EAGLE COUNTY ” We can all achieve greatness ” it’s about setting goals and achieving them even if they seem beyond normal limits.

Becoming a homeowner, when it doesn’t seem probable, empowers families and allows them to see that anything is possible. By helping people help themselves, Habitat for Humanity believes that home ownership will have a ripple effect on people’s lives and allow them to achieve great things.

Building your own home is not an easy task. Habitat families must be people that believe in themselves. The selection process is comparable to a mortgage application and a job application combined. Families must have a good work history, good credit and be able to pay their mortgage. The goal is to select families that are ready for home ownership but can’t seem to get financing through traditional means. The selection process takes approximately six months. The specific criteria includes a need for safe, decent affordable housing, an abililty to pay a small down payment and a monthly payment on a 30-year mortgage at zero interest, and a willingness to partner with Habitat for Humanity on the construction of the home ” each family contributes 250 hours of “sweat equity” per adult and participates in first-time homeowner and self-sufficiency counseling.

Habitat for Humanity serves families earning 25 percent to 60 percent of the area median income, which for a family of four in Eagle County is roughly $25,000 to $50,000.

Habitat for Humanity is a community program. Members of every part of the community, including professional builders, realtors, school teachers and resort leaders, come together to help make it happen. These volunteer groups work side-by-side with the family members to build the homes, creating a real sense of connection.

“We are looking for families that are members of the community and have the desire to stay here and contribute” said Elyse Howard, development director. “We have one homeowner to be that has been a valued employee at the Vail Marriott for nearly 15 years.”

None of the 19 Habitat homeowners in Eagle or Lake Counties have ever sold their homes ” it’s all about having a safe, affordable place to call home.

As a prerequisite for their selection, Habitat families are required to attend homeowner education classes in order to make the transition into home ownership successful.

The comprehensive homeowner education curriculum covers a range of responsibilities, including money management and budgeting, mortgage and financial literacy, home maintenance, landscaping and good neighborly practices. Organizations like BOLD Real Estate Solutions, the CSU Cooperative Extension and the High Country Human Resources Alliance (HCHRA) have stepped up to help Habitat families prepare for and succeed in the new world of homeownership by conducting some of the classes.

BOLD Real Estate Solutions recently partnered with Habitat to provide management for the Home Owners Association at the now completed Bluffs project in Eagle.

“We had a hard time figuring out how to give back to the community,” said Onie Bolduc, the president broker at BOLD. “We wanted to use the tools and strengths that we have as a real estate company and team to give back to the industry we work in.”

The homeowner curriculum is not only aimed at creating successful homeowners, but also successful community members. The HCHRA recently conducted a course on job searching skills and human resources benefits.

“We would like to know that we helped someone get their dream job, a promotion, or a healthy work environment through our education process,” said Julie Jacoby, of HCHRA.

Liz Fessenden, one local Habitat owner, said it’s the people that made the journey easier.

“This process brought me strength, faith and encouragement that will never leave my soul and that will only flourish in my future,” Fessenden said.

Besides professional advice, Habitat attempts to provide the personal touch. The goal is for each Habitat family to have a partner family or advocate. These family partners assist their assigned families throughout the entire process of becoming homeowners by answering questions, helping with planning and budgeting, tracking sweat-equity hours, identifying other available community resources, following up with workshop materials, providing home maintenance tips and more.

A Family Partner serves as a liaison between the family and Habitat staff to ensure that the family understands the requirements of becoming a Habitat homeowner. Family Partners have regular contact with their family by phone or in person until six months after the family moves into their home. The two families often create a lasting bond.

Habitat for Humanity can use your help. There are so many ways to get involved:

– Become a family partner. Act as a coach, guide and mentor as a family realizes their dreams of home ownership

– Gather a volunteer group to build a home together

– Apply for home ownership

– Conduct a class based on your professional knowledge and skills

– Donate your gently used furniture or reusable building materials to the Habitat Home Outlet. Call the store to schedule a pick-up 970-524-0669.

To contact Habitat for Humanity of Eagle and Lake Counties, call 970-748-6718 or visit http://www.habitateaglelake.org.

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