The Mt Washington Valley Habitat for Humanity organization is proud to work in partnership with an organization called Affordable Housing, Education and Development (AHEAD). AHEAD is a community-based housing development organization dedicated to strengthening families by helping them build and preserve their financial assets.
Like Habitat for Humanity, they also believe that stable homeowners are the backbone of a vital community. The ability to manage family resources and financial assets is an essential tool for maintaining a stable home. Since 1991, AHEAD has lived its mission by providing family support and financial education to thousands of rural northern New Hampshire families residing in Carroll, Coos and Grafton Counties.
HOW TO GET AHEAD
Each Habitat Affiliate has a Homeowner Support Committee whose mission is as the name implies. Part of the support provided to a new conditionally approved applicant is presentation of a pre-purchase homebuyer education class that is part of the core sweat equity program. Understanding mortgages and deeds, financial literacy, escrow accounts, and consequences of default are deemed absolutely necessary for the new homeowner.
This is how a prospective homebuyer gets AHEAD, both literally and figuratively. Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Littleton, NH, the mission of AHEAD (Affordable Housing Education and Development) is “To develop and provide quality affordable rental housing, financial education, and home ownership opportunities that strengthen the families and communities of Northern New Hampshire.” In addressing financial education, AHEAD provides the: “First Time Home Buyers Workshop”, an eight hour course that covers budgeting, credit, purchase/sales agreements, mortgage terms, closing costs, homeowners insurance, and home inspections.
This workshop is mandatory for the successful Habitat applicant at no cost. The workshop is given once a month (except December), on a Saturday on a rotating basis in either Littleton, Lebanon or Conway from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.
The value of this workshop cannot be overstated. You do not have to be a Habitat selected applicant to enroll. Any individual or family thinking about purchasing a house for the first time should avail themselves to what AHEAD has to offer. AHEAD will continue to work with you after having attended the workshop. Counselors will review your credit report, help you develop a household budget, determine if you are eligible for financial assistance, establish a realistic timeline for purchasing a home and stay with you throughout the home buying process.
A matched savings program, called: Individual Development Account (IDA) is another advantage to signing up for a workshop. At a minimum, each dollar deposited in one’s account will be matched by three. This ratio is variable. Minimum deposit is $25.00, maximum $200.00. Each household is allowed to have two participants. Although there is a cap on how much can be saved, successful Habitat applicants have saved enough to cover closing costs as well as reduce their mortgage principal.
For both Habitat and the prospective homeowner, AHEAD’s workshop programs amount to a win-win situation for both parties. They:
- Empower the families with valuable skills that will remain with them far beyond their involvement with Habitat.
- May decrease the incidence of defaulted loans or neglected properties.
- Provide an opportunity for peer interaction and relationship-building among families and the Homeowner Support committee.
- Begin to break down the landlord/rental mentality.
- Foster networking
For more information regarding the services that AHEAD offers, visit: www.homesahead.org
HOW THE PROCESS WORKS
When a Habitat prospective homeowner attends the Habitat orientation, they have the opportunity to sign up for a one-on-one appointment with AHEAD staff. Anyone can sign up for the appointment even if they don’t plan to apply for the Habitat house.
Each applicant also signs up to attend a homebuyer workshop. This 8 Hour class covers all the basics of budgeting (income and expense) and savings. The cost is $35 per household (reduced from $55) and includes a free credit report, credit counseling, and a buyer readiness review.
The AHEAD staff then prepares participant summaries based on the financial, credit, and household information gathered. These summaries are submitted to Habitat as part of the consideration process for selection. After the new homeowner is chosen, the remainder of the applicants are able to continue on the path to homeownership using AHEAD’s services.
Another major benefit from working with AHEAD is a savings program called an Individual Development Account (IDA). The IDA is a matching account where for every dollar the homeowner puts in, it is matched with $3. There is a requirement to attend education sessions and the participation is only for two years with a maximum homeowner savings of $1,000 year. However, if the homeowner saves $2,000 in two years, the account will be matched with $6,000 for a total account balance of $8,000. Funds can be used for home ownership, home repairs, or further education.
For more information about AHEAD, visit www.homesahead.org – Or call their local office in Conway 603-444-1377 Ext 1011.
Main Office: 161 Main Street, Littleton, NH 03561
Local Office: Tech Village, 53 Technology Lane, Conway, NH 03818