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Local center provides home-buyer education and counseling aimed at reaching an American dream

Local center provides home-buyer education and counseling aimed at reaching an American dream

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Caprice Glenn grew up in a house with a backyard, a place where she could play.

But in recent years, she became a renter, living in an apartment.

Then Glenn, now 24, became a single mom and decided it was time to make a change in her living quarters.

“I didn’t want to have my son in an apartment because he couldn’t experience the same thing I did when I was growing up,” Glenn said.

In January, she and her son, who is a year old, moved into a house in Winston-Salem. It has a backyard.

“He loves to go outdoors and being able to go outside and just play with his neighbors,” she said.

As part of a requirement for the Habitat for Humanity house she bought, Glenn recently attended a home-buyer education class through the Center for Homeownership, based in Winston-Salem.

“The homebuyer-education class is designed to provide an overview of the entire home-buying process,” said Phyllis Caldwell, the director for the Center for Homeownership. “We include five critical components — preparing for home ownership, shopping for a home, obtaining a mortgage, the closing process and life as a homeowner.”

The Center for Homeownership is a program of Financial Pathways of the Piedmont, formerly Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Forsyth County. The agency provides housing counseling and home-buyer education to potential homeowners, as well as a home maintenance workshop in partnership with the City of Winston-Salem Neighborhood Services/Housing Rehabilitation Department.

Clients who sign up for one-on-one counseling will work with a counselor who will look at their income and debt, review their credit report and then come up with an action plan.

“The action plan is developed to sort of eliminate the barriers to the home-buying process,” Caldwell said. “We know that the two biggest barriers are credit and debt. So those are the things we’re going to address.”

Many clients are referred to the Center for Homeownership by lenders, realtors or other housing-service providers.

“The center acts like the umbrella organization,” Caldwell said. “Our role is to provide supportive services for those organizations.”

Dan Kornelis, the housing director for Forsyth County, called the center a one-stop shop for first-time homebuyers.

“They prepare our first-time homebuyers for homeownership and make it easier for us to do our job,” Kornelis said of the Forsyth County Housing Department. “We have a very low foreclosure rate with our first-time homebuyers, and a lot of that is because of the counseling and education they (homebuyers) get from the Center for Homeownership.”

Since the center opened in 2002, 1,254 of its clients have bought homes. Overall, the center has served 7,596 clients.

In the center’s fiscal year from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012, 41 of the center’s clients bought homes, compared with 76 for the same period the previous fiscal year. This year, 34 clients have bought homes as of April 30.

The Center for Homeownership doesn’t have any eligibility guidelines.

“Housing counseling and home-buyer education should be a requirement for any first-time homeowner,” Caldwell said. “I don’t care how much money you make.”

While the home maintenance workshop is free to the public, the home-buyer education workshops and one-on-one counseling services are $25 for Forsyth County participants and $50 for people who live outside the county.

Alex Klein of Winston-Salem and her husband Eddie Garcia also participated in the center’s home-buyer-education class.

Klein hopes to buy a house in or near downtown Winston-Salem because her company, Green Clean, is on Marshall Street and her daughter goes to school in the downtown area.

“We wanted a little bit more stability and we also need more space than we’re finding for rent,” Klein said. “It just seems like it might be more cost effective to buy than to continue renting and kind of throwing away money every month.”

The couple didn’t know much about the home-buying process before they took the class, but said they might consider finding out more about some of the down-payment assistance programs through the City of Winston-Salem that were mentioned in the class.

Glenn said that the class opened her eyes about the types of loans people should avoid.

“I knew a little information about loans, but I didn’t know a lot about predatory lending and anything like that,” she said.

Glenn said that the biggest benefit of her new house is having something she can actually call her own, something she can pass down to her son.

The only downfall has been cutting her grass and trying to put in a mail box.

“That was pretty tough,” Glenn said laughing. “I’m still learning on that.”

fdaniel@wsjournal.com

(336)727-7366

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