Preparing for Homeownership: How to Get Started
The process of applying for the Passaic County Habitat Homeownership program can seem overwhelming.
We want to help you plan ahead for the next application cycle.
Keep reading to learn more about our program and to see if it is a good fit for your current needs and situation. There are also some helpful tips on how to prepare for the next application cycle.
How does the PCHFH Homeownership Program work?
The Homeownership Program is designed for low to moderate income families to purchase a home with an affordable mortgage. Each application cycle has specific requirements including but not limited to, meeting the income guidelines, submitting supporting documents for each employed household member, credit, and background checks.
Once a prospective homebuyer is qualified, each Habitat partner family must complete 200 hours of “sweat equity” to build their home and the homes of other Habitat families and complete several workshops.
How to prepare for future application cycles:
PCHFH’s path to homeownership is an important and in-depth process, requiring time and dedication.
To prepare for future applications cycles and homeownership we recommend you:
Manage your budget.
A budget is a spending plan based on income and expenses. It’s an estimate of how much money you’ll make and spend over a certain period of time, such as a month or year. Click here to read Habitat for Humanity of Broward’s step by step blog post on how to create a budget.
If you are late paying bills, it’s time to put together a plan to bring everything current. Not only will you eliminate late fees, but you will also improve your eligibility for the program.
Review your credit history.
Federal law requires each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion - to give you a free credit report every 12 months. Visit https://www.annualcreditreport.com/requestReport/landingPage.action to request your free reports. If there are any issues on your credit reports that you need to address, it is a good idea to begin soon. If you’ve paid off accounts and they still show a balance, contact the company to have it removed from your report.
Save for your home purchase.
Although Habitat for Humanity homes are purchased with an affordable mortgage there is still a down payment and closing costs associated with the purchase. You’ll need to save for those expenses before your closing. There are also responsibilities a homeowner assumes with owning a home and those must be budgeted for in terms of both time and money.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What if I have a lot of debt?
During the application process, we evaluate and consider the debt the applicant has accumulated. This is to ensure that the debt load is not a financial burden to buying the home. If you have debt, we suggest that you put together a plan and begin paying down that debt.
It is important to know what your credit history is, so we suggest pulling a free credit report once a year. Knowing what is on your credit report will help you to begin clearing up some of your past debt and improve your financial picture. We suggest using Annual Credit Report.
After you download your credit report look at each credit account listed on the report. Then begin addressing your debt by paying off balances and making on-time payments for each account. Making on-time payments is just as important to maintaining good financial health as paying down high balances.
To find free certified and trained credit counselors visit: http://hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hcs.cfm
2. I’ve paid down most of my debt, so now what?
One important habit to get into is creating a budget and sticking to it. There are endless ways to create a budget and manage your expenses. The system that you choose depends on many things, the most important is what you are comfortable with and what you will continue to practice. To learn how to create a budget, you can visit: https://consumer.gov/managing-your-money/making-budget
3. Where can I find more financial education resources?
Educating yourself in preparation of homeownership can have long-term benefits. This can diminish the inevitable bumps in the road that most homeowners face and will prepare you for advantages like wealth management and long-term savings. HUD (Housing and Urban Development) offers many on-line education programs. For more information on these programs, you can visit: https://www.hud.gov/states/new_jersey/homeownership
4. OK, I’m ready! I want to be a Habitat Homeowner!
Application cycles open as we build homes, so we don’t accept applications on a continuous basis. We currently do not have an open application cycle. In the meantime, you can sign-up for our 2024 email notification list. We refresh our email notification list annually, so you must sign-up ONCE a year if you want to continue receiving information about our homeownership program.
5. What is our email notification list?
You will be notified via email when an application cycle opens. You can also visit our Homeownership Program webpage to view the status of application cycles.
Once an application cycle opens you should review the application criteria. Each application cycle has specific requirements such as your household’s gross income (it must be between the minimum and maximum income levels). If you meet the initial requirements, you can download an application on our website.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
PCFH’s Homeownership Program is a long-term solution to homeownership. The program typically takes between x and x months to complete. Once a homeowner purchases their home, we begin a 30-year relationship as homeowners pay down the mortgage.
If you are looking for short-term or immediate housing solutions, please visit our 211.org or call 211.
What if I'm not ready for homeownership?
That's okay! Homeownership is a huge responsibility. PCHFH’s goal is to help you become not just a homeowner, but a successful homeowner. If homeownership is your ultimate goal, but you’re not quite financially ready to apply, see our tips above.
There are several Financial Counseling Organizations that offer free and confidential credit counseling, rental counseling, homeownership classes and homeless counseling.
A local resource is, the United Way of Passaic County's Financial Empowerment Zone (FEZ) which helps individuals and families attain and preserve assets, become more financially stable, and achieve long-term economic independence. They are located at 301 Main Street, Paterson (unitedwaypassaic.org)
We also recommend visiting 211.org for a list of resources.