06/28/09 — City housing fair draws homeowner hopefuls

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City housing fair draws homeowner hopefuls

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 28, 2009 2:00 AM

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Edward Jones Investments representative Chad Gibbs, right, talks with potential customers at the Goldsboro Community Development Housing Fair Saturday.

One person wanted to know about buying a low-income house. Another was interested in the true worth of having a house inspected before buying. Still others wanted to know about buying foreclosed houses, credit checks and programs available for first-time home buyers.

Regardless of their reasons for attending, the 30 some people at Saturday's city-sponsored Community House Fair were told that knowledge is an important to the home-buying process.

"If you don't have knowledge, you don't have any power," said Valiera Powell-Best, Goldsboro Community Development director.

A panel of speakers addressed topics ranging from shopping for a home to credit and financial counseling. Also on hand were a number of vendors representing Realtors, lenders, county Health Department and Habitat for Humanity.

The fair was a follow up to Fair Housing Month that was observed in April, Ms. Powell-Best said.

"We want to give people more awareness about home ownership," she said.

She said follow-up contacts would be made with those who registered for the program to see how far they have progressed in their goals of buying a home.

"It is really important for people to know the needs for them to become homeowners," she said. "Knowledge is power because a lot of people who could be homeowners aren't because they lack the knowledge of how to prepare."

For example, the Community Development utilizes federal Housing and Urban Development grant money to assist with down payments on houses, she said.

First-time could qualify for up to $30,000 to apply towards a down payment.

The program is open to all county residents who meet eligibility requirements. However, the house being purchased must be located inside the Goldsboro city limits.

The buyer must be pre-qualified by a lender and earn 80 percent or less of the median income for the city.

People at 60 percent of the median income may be eligible for up to $30,000, while those making 61-80 percent may be eligible for up to $15,000.

The $15,000 is forgiven after a person lives in the house for five years and the $30,000 after 10 years.

While the loan may be refinanced to obtain better repayments, the house cannot be sold so that the person who received the help makes money on the transaction.

People may move from or sell the property, but they must pay the balance of the funding they received to make the down payment.

The nonprofit Credit and Financial Counseling agency provides educational home-buying classes every two months, she said. The next one will be held in August.

The class take people from "just the thought of buying a home right down to closing," she said.

Lilly Sutton of Lilly Sutton Realty told audience members they should not begin shopping for a home until after they have laid the groundwork -- repairing credit problems, receiving pre-approval from a lender.

Looking for a house without the groundwork is like going grocery shopping and not having any money to buy the food, she said.

"Please don't believe the media," she said. "If you can qualify, it is a good time to buy."

She urged them to find a real estate agent with whom they feel comfortable with and who is knowledgeable.

Also, before buying a home an inspection is recommended, said Aldon Summerlin of ADS Inspections.

"It is like getting a physical from your doctor,' he said.

An inspection could take up to two hours to complete, depending on the size of the house, he said.

One woman in the audience wanted to know how thorough an inspection is. Also, she asked about people who camouflage defects with fresh paint or other means. Summerlin said the inspection would include looking at the roof and crawl space's. It would be impossible to check wiring and lumber inside a wall. He agreed that some people do try to hide problems.

She also asked if inspectors offered advice as to whether to buy. That is not the inspector's job, he said. Summerlin said an inspector looks for certain things and makes a list of problems. They cannot make buying recommendations, he said.

In commenting about foreclosures Martha Beach, staff attorney for Legal Services of North Carolina, said that people need to be sure they understand the terms of what they are signing.

"A lot of people come into our office who didn't understand," she said. "If you are unable to pay contact the person you are paying -- don't wait."

She also cautioned them against using agencies that promise to secure a loan modification, but that require an upfront payment. That, she said, is not legal. Anyone who offers such a service should be reported to the state attorney general's office, she said.