Frequently Asked Questions About Homeownership
What is the first step for Habitat homeownership?
The process of homeownership begins by submitting an application during an open application session. We generally accept applications for housing once per year. Check this page on our website to see if we are accepting applications at this time. Habitat staff is available to meet with interested applicants to discuss the process in depth.
If we are not accepting applications, please check back later. We will post on the website as soon as we have an application round scheduled.
- Completed homeowner application in English or Spanish
- Copy of birth certificate, passport, or permanent residency card
- Social Security card
- Driver’s license or state-issued photo ID
- Copy of current rental agreement or lease
- Employer name and contact info (if applicable)
- Income documentation, including (if applicable): W-2 forms for most recent tax year, Tax return for most recent tax year, Paycheck stubs for past two months
- Government assistance award letters: Food Stamp/SNAP benefits (if applicable)
- Social Security and/or Disability benefits (if applicable)
- Documentation of alimony and/or child support (if applicable)
- Documentation of any other regular income received (if applicable)
After an applicant hands in a complete application for housing with required support documentation, the Homeowner Selection Committee begins by evaluating an applicant’s financial eligibility. This consists of reviewing income documentation and a credit report. Items that may detract from an applicant’s financial eligibility include outstanding collections, excessive debts, recent bankruptcy and any unpaid judgments or liens. The Committee is also looking for sufficient, stable income to ensure the applicant is ready for the financial responsibility of homeownership.
If the applicant meets financial requirements, there may be a home visit. Here the Committee gathers information about the applicant’s need for housing and willingness to be an active partner with Habitat throughout the program. After the Homeowner Selection Committee approves an applicant’s eligibility it presents recommended applicants to the HFHVV Board of Directors for approval.
“Need for housing” generally means that an applicant’s current housing is inadequate. The Homeowner Selection Committee typically chooses applicants who can prove at least one of the following housing conditions:
- Substandard Housing: Your housing may have maintenance and/or structural issues that create health and safety problems (such as mold, poor heating or plumbing, or unsafe construction).
- Your house is overcrowded, or is not good for handicapped/disabled family members.
- Temporary Housing: You have temporary living arrangements or transitional/subsidized housing.
- Excessive Cost: Your total housing costs (rent and necessary utilities) are more than 30% of your income.
- Unsafe: Your neighborhood is unsuitable or unsafe for family members, especially children or elderly/disabled individuals.
Good credit means that you pay all your bills on time each month and you don’t have excessive debt. Your credit is your responsibility and maintaining good credit is one of the most important thing you can do for your financial health. Having good credit means that you have a good credit report. A credit report is a record of the personal financial transactions that make up your credit history, such as credit cards, car loans, personal loans and negative items such as collections from utility or telephone companies.
How does your credit history look? You can check yours by getting your credit report. You are able to get a free credit report once a year from each of the three reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. To obtain a copy of your free credit report, visit: www.annualcreditreport.com
The Homeowner Selection Committee considers the whole picture of an applicant and looks for applicants who are ready to accept the responsibility of homeownership. At the same time, we do not want to sell an applicant a home that she or he cannot afford. We do not expect applicants to have a perfect credit history. We do require applicants with negative credit accounts to have a plan to fix any outstanding collections or past-due items. We are unable to partner with applicants who have active, unpaid judgments or liens. Excessive debts and/or very recent unresolved collections may also disqualify an applicant.
Applicants who have filed for bankruptcy in the past should show a good credit history since the bankruptcy, and bankruptcies must have been discharged at least three years prior to the application for housing. Certain requirements may be waived in cases of personal or natural disaster.
You may access one free copy of your credit report each year at: www.annualcreditreport.com.
If you plan to apply for Habitat’s Homeownership Program during the next application round, you can prepare by collecting your financial documents. Get a recent copy of your credit report and check to make sure the information is correct. You can get one free copy of your credit report each year at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Habitat for Humanity is not a quick housing solution. The application process takes between six and ten months. If an applicant is accepted into the Homeownership Program, the process from acceptance through moving into a home can take from eight months to one year, depending on available funding, construction schedules and the future homeowner’s Sweat Equity progress.
Absolutely. We have limited available spots in our Homeownership Program. Sadly, this means we cannot accept every qualified applicant. If an applicant is not approved during the current application process, we encourage her/him to improve eligibility (if applicable) and reapply during a future application round.
Some of our partner families were denied the first time they applied due to outstanding collections and debts, income that was below our limits or other issues. They successfully improved their eligibility, reapplied and were accepted into the program.
If you need help finding community resources, please fill out the questionnaire at the back of the homeowner application and Habitat staff can refer you to the tools and resources that are available in our community to provide assistance to you and your family.
Sweat Equity is the work a future Habitat homeowner spends helping to build his/her own home as well as the homes of other future homeowners. It is a central principle in Habitat’s mission of building community and partnering with families to provide “a hand up, NOT a handout.” Providing the opportunity for our future homeowners to work alongside volunteers and future neighbors to build their homes is one of the most unique, empowering and rewarding aspects of Habitat for Humanity.
Once you are approved by the Board of Directors to become a part of our Homeownership Program, you must complete the required number of Sweat Equity hours at Habitat’s construction sites. It’s important for a future homeowner to give consistent, active participation on the construction site. In fact, most families exceed the minimum required hours (250 hours per adult family member). Friends and family may help a future homeowner by volunteering with Habitat and donating their hours to help fulfill your Sweat Equity requirement.
Habitat does not require any previous construction skills or knowledge to be a volunteer or a future homeowner. We have a fully trained staff and long-term volunteers who are eager to teach our future homeowners and volunteers the skills they need to be successful on the construction site.
Habitat is a nonprofit organization that provides three distinct services in the homeownership process: home construction, mortgage financing and mortgage servicing. These services would normally be given by for-profit real estate businesses. Additionally, Habitat staff members serve as housing mentors, here to support our homeowners in learning the ins and outs of homeownership, getting through challenging times and celebrating successes.
By providing all of these services by ourselves, Habitat is able to offer its homeowners a substantial amount of savings. We are able to open the door to homeownership for those who would not be able to buy a home of their own.
Because Habitat builds homes with affordability in mind, Habitat homeowners have more limited choices about their homes than someone buying from a traditional homebuilder. While Habitat homeowners are able to choose things like the color of the counter tops, the homeowner will have limited choices about things such as the location of the home or the number of bedrooms and bathrooms inside the home.
Habitat for Humanity, with its partner families, builds safe, decent, affordable houses. Our homeowners feel comfortable and secure in their new homes. Because we build houses with affordability in mind, Habitat homeowners have limited choices about their homes, including the location of the home.
Our homeowners generally are able to choose:
- Counter top color
- Flooring shade (light or dark)
- Carpet color
- Color of appliances
Fair Housing, Nondiscrimination Clause
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the nation. We encourage and support an affirmative advertising and marketing program in which there are no barriers to obtaining housing because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.