Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Making Homeownership Attainable on Cape Cod

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Feb 22, 2017 @ 09:51 AM
Karin Bar-2.jpgHAC's Karin Bar manages Barnstable County's Down Payment and Closing Cost Program.

Sometimes the difference between becoming a homeowner on Cape Cod and remaining a renter is the matter of a few thousand dollars. Over the past three years, HAC Housing Counselor Karin Bar has seen the impact this kind of money can have in realizing the American dream as the administrator for Barnstable County’s Down Payment and Closing Cost Program.

HAC has managed the program for more than two decades, providing first-time home buyers who meet income eligibility requirements with the funds they need to purchase a home.

How effective is the program? Last year, HAC gave away $250,000 to 20 households on Cape Cod. Those no-payment, zero interest loans ranged from just over $3,000 to $20,000; the average loan was roughly $14,000.

The program is federally funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Loans can only be used for homes in Barnstable County; in 2016, loan recipients purchased homes in Barnstable, Centerville, Marstons Mills, Yarmouth, Sandwich and Harwich. When one of these homes is sold, the loan will be returned to the county so the money can be used again for the same purpose.

Last May, the county raised the loan amount from $10,000 to $20,000, allowing applicants “to qualify for different loan programs and a slightly better house,” Bar said.

Those who benefit from the program tend to represent Cape Cod’s workforce. “These are teachers, bank employees, contractors, one person who works for DCF [Department of Children & Families], chefs, school administrators and health care workers,” she said, adding that the age range goes from those in their 20s to people in their 60s.

To qualify for a down payment or closing cost loan, Bar said, applicants need decent credit and have to be able to obtain a preapproval letter from a lender as well as a mortgage.

A Number of Benefits

One of the advantages of the county program, Bar said, is that “this makes housing affordable without creating a deed restriction” on the home. “That is what makes this very attractive.”

It often results in residents reducing their expenses as “their mortgage payment is the same or even less than the rent they were paying,” Bar said.

Home buyers can make these loans go even further with additional mortgage products that includes the Buy Cape Cod and Islands initiative which reduces the minimum down payment prospective homebuyers need to 1.5 percent. Rolled out last summer, the initiative is a collaboration between MassHousing, Bristol County Savings Bank, First Citizens’ Federal Credit Union and Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank to help people overcome the obstacles to homeownership.

As to why these programs are important, Bar highlighted several of those who made the jump from renter to homeowner last year, utilizing these HUD funds from the county. Last spring, a single father with a teenage son were living in a one-bedroom apartment in Hyannis. When they moved into their own home, Bar said, “the son actually cried, saying, ‘Thank you for helping me get my own room.’”

One family had been outbid on seven properties before utilizing $20,000 from the program to finally purchase a roughly $279,000 home in Centerville.

For Bar, who also conducts foreclosure counseling at HAC, the program represents the joyful side of her job. “It is fantastic. I get bouquets of flowers and hugs and kisses and tears. It is pretty wonderful. It is very rewarding when there is a happy ending,” she said.

For more information on HAC's Down Payment and Closing Cost Program, contact Karin Bar at either 508-771-5400, ext. 289 or at kbar@haconcapecod.org

Tags: affordable housing, homeownership, Karin Bar, Barnstable County HOME Program, Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance Program

HAC Turns Dreams of Homeownership into a Reality

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 @ 12:23 PM
Troy Beth and Julian Smith Edited-2.jpgTroy and Beth Smith with their 17-year-old son Julian. Now that they are homeowners, Beth said, "I feel like we're a part of the community. I feel like we really belong on Cape Cod." 

This past summer, Troy, Beth and Julian Smith sat outside in their Centerville backyard watching “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” playing on a movie projector. They were joined by friends and family and there was music playing, a fire pit blazing and tiki lamps burning, adding warmth to the festive gathering.

It was an idyllic setting, evidence that the Smiths have settled into this place called home. “For now, it’s our little thing. Our little moment,” Troy said of the summer movie night which, in its second year, is becoming a family tradition.

It is a moment made possible by HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC). Between the two of them, Troy and Beth took HCEC’s First-Time Homebuyer workshop three times.

The couple, who have been together for 32 years and married for 28, had briefly lived on Cape Cod in the mid-80s before moving to Boston. In 2001, they returned to the Cape with their then-two-year-old son Julian. “We loved Cape Cod and always knew we were coming back,” Troy said.

They had originally planned to rent for a year and then buy a house. “We didn’t realize it would be a 14-year odyssey,” Troy said.

The initial step towards homeownership was taking HAC’s class geared towards first-time homebuyers. “The first time we took it was great,” said Beth. “It showed us we weren’t ready… It helped us fix our credit score, plan accordingly for what might lie ahead and we started thinking realistically about savings and investments and what it means to be a homeowner.”

A little more than a year later, Beth opted to take the class once again. And Troy took the online course.

A Better Understanding
Taking the class multiple times allowed the Smiths a chance to understand what questions to ask Cheryl Kramer, HAC’s HCEC manager, as they moved forward with their dreams of homeownership. “No one tells you the exact things that are going to happen and all the steps involved until you take the class,” Beth said. “Then you meet building inspectors, insurance people and bankers. It seems overwhelming at first, but when you put the pieces together, it’s doable if you’re organized.”

After finishing the second round of classes, the Smiths

started looking for a home in Barnstable in early 2015. They eventually found a two-bedroom ranch that happened to be just one block over from the house they had been renting the past 14 years.

Thanks to the help of HAC’s Karin Bar, the couple qualified for $10,000 in down payment assistance that went towards the purchase of their home. HAC administers the funds through Barnstable County’s HOME Program.

When they finally closed on the home last year, Beth said, “we screamed and yelled and cried.”

“We had always hoped and dreamed of buying a home,” Troy said.

“But we never thought it would be a reality,” Beth said.

Today, the Smiths could not be happier and they give a lot of credit to HAC. “We knew everyone at HAC was going to help us and they did every single time we called,” said Troy.

As to what owning a home means, Troy said, “there is a certain degree of pride involved that you accomplished something. It was a difficult journey to buy a house and some people don’t make it or quit, or do it foolishly and have their home foreclosed on. But I’m grateful we listened to the advice HAC gave us. It paid off tremendously. We wake up happy every day.”

To learn more about HAC's First-Time Homebuyer Workshop, click this link. And to help families like the Smiths experience the joy of homeownership on Cape Cod and the Islands, click this link

Tags: HCEC, homeownership, First-Time Homebuyer workshop, Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance Program