WILMINGTON — Land a job, buy a home, that’s the dream, right?
For first-time homebuyers in Wilmington, the climate to buy just isn’t what it used to be. Tentative loan options and limited affordable housing availability have dimmed a once optimistic light for first-timers.
As a longtime renter, Wilmington resident Rebecca Trammel is tired of a hole in her pocket.
“I feel like I’m investing in someone else’s future and not my own,” said Trammel.
Trammel registered for Wilmington’s Home Ownership Pool (HOP) Homebuyer Education Seminar, a free six-hour course that aides low to moderate income residents in securing their first home.
The course’s has several requirements, some of which include:
- A minimum credit score of 620
- No cosigners
- Must be one year in profession and six months with current employer
- Income limit for one-member family is $38,200, a two-member family is $43,650, a three-member family is $49,100, a four-member family is $54,550
- Liquid assets cannot exceed $40,000
If applicants complete the course and meet all requirements, they are eligible to obtain a loan through HOP’s partnership with local banks.
Since the program’s inception in 1991, HOP has connected over 400 first-time homebuyers with the keys to idealistic, financial independence.
Like the other members of the seminar, Trammel looks forward to the possibility of homeownership, but is realistically cautious.
“There is no affordable housing in Wilmington,” she said.
City of Wilmington Affordable Housing offers HOP education seminars once a month. The courses are designed to give hopeful homeowners the tools necessary to be seriously considered for a mortgage.
Tanita Wallace, community development specialist for Wilmington, leads the courses and has seen a fluctuation in both participation and follow-through.
The first class she taught, only three students participated. On Friday, Jan. 19, 10 students arrived at Wallace’s class ready to learn and own a home.
“There’s no better feeling in the world than that attorney handing you those keys,” Wallace said.
Wallace provided a comprehensive crash course on owning a home. From offering viable tips to repair and maintain credit to connecting with the right broker or loan officer, the seminar covers a lot of ground.
Still, showing up is just half the battle. Wallace said that only one student submitted an application after a previous course. Another was denied because her credit score was 619, one point short of the program’s requirement.
Though financial stability is required, a local broker says the brunt of the onus falls on outside forces.
But, what’s left?
After spending a career as a social worker, Bobby Jean Harvey transitioned into real estate. She carried craft of getting people on their feet with her. Harvey is a certified broker with Wilmington’s Home Ownership Pool.
Harvey says that the credit and financial viability of applicants are just one small piece of the pie.
“It’s very hard to find a house thats in a decent condition that’s in the prices they’re searching for,” she said. “It’s a very hard road to take.”
HOP requires the homes granted through its program to maintain an acceptable level standard of living and condition. As a broker in the Wilmington market, Harvey said it is difficult to locate feasible options “in the condition the city requires it to be in.”
For example, many homes built before 1978 used lead-based paint, and if a city inspector finds a single misplaced chip of paint in an older home, Harvey said the deal is done.
“If there’s a chip found anywhere then it collapses,” she said. “It’s getting harder and harder every day because they’re not building affordable housing.”