For the First-Time Homebuyers

Approximately two-thirds of adults describe the homebuying process as complicated- and it is. There are a lot of details and people involved.  Knowing where to start and what to expect can be difficult. So we wanted to share some tips on what to expect when looking to buy a home, and how to prepare.

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Before you start looking for your dream home, take a look at your credit score. Our housing counselors recommend your credit is at least 640 before you apply for a loan. It can take several months or more to build up your credit, depending on how far you need to raise it. This should be factored into your homebuying timeline.

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Building your credit is important because it can save you a lot of money down the road. A good credit score can help you get a lower interest rate on your loan. Even just a small percent reduction on the interest rate can add up to big savings.

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Being patient is critical during the homebuying process. At times you can feel rushed to find your home, but taking your time can help you make sure you find a home that has everything you need and is within your budget.

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Again be patient! Don’t take the first offer that comes to you. Not all lenders are the same. Find the right lender who will help you get the best package possible. And keep in mind, if you get a pre-approval, that does not necessarily mean that is what you can afford. Know your budget before you agree to a loan!

The best thing you can do to prepare to buy a home is to see a homeownership counselor. They will help you look at your budget, figure out what you can afford and help you apply for your mortgage. Our Director of Housing Counseling explains, “It’s so helpful to have a third party person who doesn’t benefit from any of the transactions, and can act as an advocate for you.” She recommends housing counseling to all homebuyers to help make sure you find a home you can afford to stay in for as long as you wish.

 

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St. Ambrose 50th Anniversary Gala Celebration

For 50 years St. Ambrose has been a grassroots advocate for the people of Baltimore working to find and keep a home. On Saturday, April 28th we celebrated this long-standing commitment with a special gala. Joined by hundreds of partners, supporters and friends we recognized the many achievements made to preserve affordable housing in our city.

With Jayne Miller as our Mistress of Ceremonies and special remarks from Secretary Kenneth Holt and Harry Spikes, we had the opportunity to look at the future of housing for Baltimore, as well as share in some of the highlights of St. Ambrose’s history. This all came together in the premiere our 50th anniversary celebration video, which you can find here.

Thank you to everyone who was part of this celebration. Through our entire 50 year journey, we have been aided by so many people and organizations. We would not have been able to serve the Baltimore community for so many years if it were not for people like you who have been a part of our mission. Together we will continue to make Baltimore home.

Want to catch more highlights from the gala? Click here to see the video of the event. Click here to see more photos.

 

 

Wells Fargo supports rental housing in communities of opportunity

 

Through their Priority Markets Program, the Wells Fargo Foundation has awarded $80,000 to St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center for the preservation of affordable rental apartments in the Hampden community. The award provides the final funding needed for St. Ambrose to begin a comprehensive renovation on their Union Avenue Apartments.  This garden style apartment complex is home to 54 families.

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Since the initial renovation in 1996, normal maintenance has occurred as residents moved out.  Heating and hot water systems were replaced complex wide within the last 5 years.  However, the turnover rate has been historically very low and the property needs a substantial renovation to the interior and exterior to assure that it meets the competitive standards of today’s market and the neighborhood. The planned renovation will upgrade the property to include central air conditioning, enhancing the exterior of the property by removing unsightly window units and replacing windows.  The agency is holding units vacant to enable an in-place rehab.  Residents from an entire building will relocate to renovated vacant units allowing for the total renovation of one building at a time.

With a severe deficit in the number of affordable rentals in the City, this funding from Wells Fargo represents a significant investment in the community and assures an improved quality of life for the residents. Union Avenue apartments provide an affordable home for families in a neighborhood that is bustling with newer developments and is close to public transportation and schools.  The anticipated start date for the renovation is the summer of 2018 and St. Ambrose is committed to creating a property that demonstrates that affordable rental can blend into the urban aesthetic and be viewed as an asset within the community.

Thank you to Wells Fargo for their support in creating better housing opportunities in Baltimore.

Host Home Program for Homeless Youth

In June 2017, key stakeholders in Baltimore assembled to kick off the city’s first Host Home Program for homeless youth, particularly those who identify as LGBTQ. The program identifies, screens, and trains community members who volunteer to host youth aged 18-24 who are in need of immediate housing.

You can help us fight youth homelessness by being one of our Hosts for young adults. Hosts receive a stipend and ongoing support from the Host Home Coordinator during their time in the program. If interested in participating in our upcoming training or just want to learn more about Host Homes, please contact Renee Stainrod at:

St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center
321 East 25th Street
Baltimore , MD 21218
410-366-8550 x233
860-532-8835 (Cell)
410-366-8795 fax
Renees@stambros.org

Our 2-part monthly Host training schedule is as followed:

  • December 15th 5:30-7:30pm & December 16th 9-5pm
  • January 12th 5:30-7:30pm & January 13th 9-5pm

 Please RSVP by December 8th 2017

St. Ambrose’s Host Home Coordinator will collaborate with PSY, Star Track, and YES! to identify and appropriately connect young people in need out housing with hosts. Below is more information about the partnering organizations that are each contributing their unique strengths and knowledge to reduce youth homelessness:

Point Source Youth is working to implement research and scale the, Family and Kinship Strengthening, Short-Term Host Homes, and Rapid Rehousing programs that will help in the prevention of youth homelessness in Baltimore.

St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center has a long history of connecting homeowners to interested renters who may not have the capital or credit to thrive in Baltimore’s rental market. They are excited to expand to short-term host homes for youth and will recruit 15 hosts in 2017.

Youth Empowered Society focuses on serving homeless youth while allying with them to create the change that is needed. YES! will be offering rapid re-housing units with an emphasis on case management and connection to employment.

Star Track (Special Teens At Risk–Together Reaching Access, Care, and Knowledge) is launching family and individual therapy designed for young adults who are homelessness or unstably housed. Program therapists are youth-centered and use a justice framework.

 

NeighborWorks America in Baltimore

St. Ambrose is a member of the NeighborWorks Network. NeighborWorks America is a congressionally chartered organization that supports a network of 240 organizations across the nation who share a collective vision of building strong communities and creating affordable housing opportunities.

In late July NeighborWorks staff and network members gathered together for a peer sharing of lessons learned and best practices from our work. It was a reunion of the Northeast and Southern regions of the NeighborWorks network and Baltimore had the special privilege of playing host to this diverse and driven group of housing and community development leaders.

While enjoying the conference and learning from our peers, we connected with a few of the attendees to find out what they learned at the meeting, and what they loved about Baltimore!

Maybeth Morales-Davis, Director of Development and Public Relations at Neighborhood Housing Services of Waterbury: Waterbury, CT

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Favorite meal in Baltimore?

Oysters at Ryleigh’s Oyster in Federal Hill

Something you’re excited to take back to your organization?

There are so many things that I have to take away, but especially being more organized. I know that I can save so much time with an editorial calendar and making the time to create a plan will be a big help in the long run.

James Ross, Relationship Manager at NeighborWorks America  in New Orleans, LAJames ross

Favorite meal in Baltimore?

Crabcakes at Koco’s!

Something interesting you learned in Baltimore?

Learning about how eHome America started. I knew some of the founders of the program, but I didn’t know how everyone was really brought together to make it happen- that was really cool.

Amanda Meyers, Marketing Manager at Housing Development Corporation MidAtlantic: Lancaster, PA

Amanda Meyers.jpgFavorite meal or experience in Baltimore? 

Eating in Little Italy and coming out to see the lights strung up around the neighborhood. Walking around the harbor, watching the paddle boats, stopping by the World Trade Center for a moment of Reflection at the Sept. 11th memorial.

Best thing about the NeighborWorks convening?

New connections! Networking with peers and understanding how each other’s shops work was extremely beneficial. I’m leaving with names and email addresses of people I can continue to connect with when I get back to my organization.

My St. Ambrose Story

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Thanks to everyone who came out for our Stoop Storytelling Event! We had a wonderful time reflecting on St. Ambrose stories, both new and old. If you missed the event, we have some good news! We’ll be sharing the Stoop Stories in our 50 Stories in 50 Weeks campaign to commemorate our 50th Anniversary.

What’s the 50 Stories in 50 Weeks Campaign? Each week for 50 weeks we’ll publish a new St. Ambrose Story from the last 50 years to highlight the people and places that have made St. Ambrose the organization it is today. The stories can be found at Stambrose50.org. You can even submit your own story if you have one to share!

 

Four Strategies to Revive Homeownership

It’s not looking good for homeownership these days. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 63.7 percent of households owned their homes at the end of 2016, down from a peak of 69.2 percent in 2004. While there have been small increases in recent quarters, the homeownership trend since the financial crisis continues to trend downward. We need to reverse this pattern, and these four strategies will help.

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First, we have to demystify the process. More than two-thirds of adults in an Oct. 2016 national household opinion survey from NeighborWorks America described the homebuying process as complicated. Our network’s counselors report that a common refrain from customers they help to achieve homeownership is, “I never thought I could do this.” Because the purchase process is so complex, many potential homeowners don’t even try, essentially self-selecting out of their piece of the “American Dream.”

Increasing the homeownership rate in Baltimore will energize the local economy and create jobs from construction to retail.

Second, we have to return to rational credit standards. We shouldn’t return to the loose underwriting of the early 2000s. However, right now, credit standards are too tight and thus reduce the prospects for homeownership for many. A recent article by the Urban Institute noted that innovations in credit scoring practices could help up to 3 million first-time homebuyers across the country. Some of them certainly live here in Baltimore. The lending industry must seriously pursue such modifications.

Third, we need to do a better job in reaching out to low- and moderate-income consumers. These are the first-time buyers of the future and they are unsure about the path to homeownership. Nonprofit housing organizations have had a “field of dreams” mindset: if we’re here, homebuyers will find us. That’s not working. The NeighborWorks survey mentioned above also found that fewer than 10 percent of consumers think of nonprofits like St. Ambrose first when considering how to achieve homeownership. Our organization and others working to increase homeownership, especially among first-time buyers, need to act more like businesses and seek out these types of customers. Word of mouth isn’t enough.

Fourth, we must overcome financial obstacles. Home prices are increasing in nearly all markets. Here in Baltimore, the median price is approximately $102,750, and the stereotypical 20 percent down payment is out of reach for most first-time buyers. However, the truth is, consumers don’t need a 20 percent down payment to purchase a home these days. In some cases, just a 3 percent down payment is required. However, not every lender offers flexible mortgages.

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By working with St. Ambrose and other housing nonprofits, consumers will learn about the lenders who offer 3 percent down-payment mortgages. In addition, they also will be made aware of the potentially millions of dollars in down-payment assistance funds available to Baltimore home buyers. The NeighborWorks survey showed that only one-third of consumers are aware of down- payment programs for middle-income buyers.

While there isn’t an unlimited supply of down-payment assistance, if more consumers knew to seek it and sought information from nonprofit organizations, the homeownership rate would increase. That’s good for individuals, families and Baltimore.