Making the dream of homeownership a reality for underserved communities

The journey to becoming a homeowner can be rewarding, but also challenging. For some aspiring homeowners in underserved communities, the process may be even harder to navigate.

Residents in these communities may be less likely to possess generational wealth to put toward a down payment, or may not have a family history of homeownership.

Oneka Davis always dreamed of owning her own home. At the start of her path toward buying her first home, she wasn’t familiar with the process. What she felt she lacked was a trusted ally to help guide her through the many steps to take.

Through a close friend, Davis was introduced to HomeFree-USA, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help prospective buyers reach homeownership. HomeFree-USA teams up with lenders like Citi in its outreach and education.

“Citi and HomeFree-USA have come together to educate, prepare and give people who have been thinking about homeownership a helping hand,” said Marcia Griffin, President and Founder of HomeFree-USA. “HomeFree-USA gets homebuyers mentally and financially ready for mortgage approval.”

After engaging with HomeFree-USA, Davis was able to make her dream a reality, securing a home loan through Citi. But what did it take to get there?

With HomeFree-USA’s Mortgage Achievement Roadmap, Davis was able to take on each step with a trusted homeownership advisor by her side. As part of Davis’ roadmap, advisors worked with her to help her develop a financial plan. She also took HomeFree-USA’s courses, which helped her mentally prepare for the borrowing process as well as readied her financially.

“I had a ton of questions throughout the process that both HomeFree-USA and Citi answered—on multiple occasions. Citi never left me hanging,” said Davis. “I received quick responses and knew exactly what I qualified for while searching.”

Since most nonprofit homebuying advisors are educated on the local down payment assistance programs available in the areas where they operate, these types of organizations know how to review program eligibility requirements and make recommendations. Nonprofits like HomeFree-USA also have a network of realtors, lenders, home inspectors and title companies that they work with on a regular basis, offering clients like Davis, who are seeking further assistance or advice, options for the resources and support they may need.

“They provide much-needed services that no other person involved in the transaction can provide for clients,” said Mark Grant, a Business Development Officer at Citi, who pointed out that clients who partner with a nonprofit develop a sense of trust with the organization and are more willing to follow the guidance provided.

Nonprofits play a vital role by working with the client to become “mortgage ready,” and set the client up for what Griffin calls sustainable homeownership – meaning that the homeowner not only can handle the cost of buying a home, but can also manage the ongoing expenses of living there.

When a client is nearly ready to get a mortgage, organizations like HomeFree-USA might offer to refer them to a lender, like Citi, that can advise the client on options when it comes to a home loan.

“If ready for approval, HomeFree-USA educates and provides a down payment and closing cost certificate [a document that proves completion of the homebuying course] and stays connected through closing and beyond,” explained Griffin.

When Davis became mortgage ready, HomeFree-USA worked with Citi to get her to closing day. Throughout the process, Davis faced common issues, such as being outbid on a property and encountering unexpected defects in homes she toured that wouldn’t have passed inspection. But with HomeFree-USA and Citi by her side, she faced each challenge head-on with a supportive lending partner that helped minimize fallout.

“HomeFree gave me a sense of confidence that I did not have prior to receiving their assistance,” said Davis.

The work that HomeFree-USA does alongside Citi points to how the bank helps to light the way toward homeownership through a community-oriented approach to lending, particularly in underserved areas. In addition to HomeFree-USA, Citi works with a variety of other firms – such as affordable home builders and developers – that are actively creating further homeownership opportunities.

“Now, more than ever, it is essential that we partner with organizations such as HomeFree-USA to connect with diverse communities in an effort to expand our outreach and increase access to mortgage programs and services,” said Brad Wayman, Head of U.S. Mortgage at Citi.

Now a proud homeowner, Davis says she has no regrets about her journey.

“It’s safe to say that I would not have found the home that I’m in now without the help of HomeFree,” said Davis. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

HousingWire –