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November 19, 2017

The American Dream of Homeownership is ALIVE!

By Mark Hite
President, Greater Chattanooga REALTORS®

Habitat for Humanity provides a critical path to achieve the American Dream of Homeownership!

Throughout 2017 this column has reported on rising home prices and decreases in the housing affordability index.  For the first 10 months of 2017, the median home price in the Greater Chattanooga Region has grown from $161,000 to $175,000.  While this 8.7% increase is music to the ears of existing home owners, to many in our community it is the reality that home ownership is slipping further and further out of reach.  For the most vulnerable of the working families around us, homeownership is just that, a “dream”….  hence the critical mission of Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity is a non profit organization that does far more than build affordable homes, it changes lives!  While most homes build by our local Habitat affiliate are 3 bedroom and 2 bath floor plans, they have also built slightly larger homes to accommodate specific family needs.  These 3 bedroom/2 bath homes generally appraise for $105-$115,000 in the current real estate market.  As you can imagine becoming a home owner at a price of  $115,000, thus $60,000 below the market median price opens the door for many working Chattanoogans to home ownership. 

This modest price is only accomplished through partnerships with local businesses, churches and civic organizations.  Volunteer man hours are critical to the process of keeping costs down.  Further more, the need for donations and fund raising is another key component to this low cost construction tight rope.  Greater Chattanooga Realtors is proud to be apart of a multi year partnership with Habitat for Humanity, both suppling volunteer workers as well as a bi annual fund raiser called “Tee Up and Wine Down”.  The next such event will be April 9,2018 at Black Creek.

The path to home ownership is not a quick or easy one for a Habitat family.  The initial application and vetting process is just the first of many steps that take place in the 18-24 month pathway to home ownership.  Families must complete between 200-400 hours of “sweat equity” working on both their homes and other construction in process.  Children under the age of 16 are taught the value of hard work, as their good grades and perfect attendance in school is counted toward these hours.  A total of 20 classes must be attended, with topics ranging from: saving money,  home maintenance, wills and estate planning, clean and healthy homes and more.  These classes help ensure once achieved, the Habitat Home owner keeps their home for many years.

Another key factor that keeps the costs of ownership low, is the 30 year 0% interest loan that is offered and serviced by Habitat.  With limited closing costs  and no long term interest accruing, the home owner starts paying toward their principal with the first payment.  This is only possible, thanks to Habitat’s non profit status.

So in this season of giving and thankfulness, if you would like to help continue the dream of home ownership by contributing your time or resources, simply contact Dominique Brandt at 423-756-0507 or you will find them on the web and on Facebook.  Another opportunity to support Habitat is by donating to their 2 ReStores, the first is located at 1150 E 14th street on Chattanooga’s Southside and the newest store is located at 9408 Apison Pike in Ooltewah.  Each store can schedule a free pick up for larger donations.

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