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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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.

 

Talking Homeownership with Pam Petty

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June in National Homeownership Month! To commemorate the occasion we sat down with Homeownership Counselor Pamela Petty to learn about the role she plays to help her clients become happy Homeowners. Pam has been a St. Ambrose Homeownership Counselor for 19 years.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
The folks! I love seeing their faces when they come in and realize that they can buy sooner than they originally anticipated. I love helping my clients understand what funding is available to help them reach their goal of homeownership.
A lot of times my clients come in with a lot of nerves about the home buying process. Being able to explain the process to them helps to settle their nerves and relieve some stress about buying a home. When I’m able to show them that they have more control over the process and the partners they choose to work with, I can see them becoming more relaxed. I love seeing my clients walk out the door with more confidence and settled nerves about the home buying process.
What’s the most common misconception that your clients have?

Sometimes people come in thinking they can afford more house than is realistic for their income. Another misconception is that many people don’t understand the importance of good credit.

What’s your vision for a better Homeownership department:
I think a standard counseling certificate for the whole state would better serve many of our clients. You don’t always know where you’ll find your perfect home. It would be helpful if the counseling certificate was universal for the whole state rather than being separate for each jurisdiction.
It’s great that we offer eHome America to allow clients to complete their homeownership workshop online. I think we need to continue to use technology to serve our clients better and make our counseling program unique.
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Pam with her client, Leslie H., after their one-on-one homeownership counseling session.
What is National Homeownership Month? Here’s an excerpt from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Press Release:

WASHINGTON – This week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) kicks off National Homeownership Month by recognizing how homeownership enhances lives and contributes to thriving communities we call home. “Dare to Own the Dream” is the theme of this month-long recognition, reinforcing the long-held belief that owning a home remains one of the cornerstones of the American Dream. Read President Obama’s National Homeownership Month message. 

When President Obama took office nearly eight years ago, the nation’s housing market was in free-fall, unemployment was rising and many families were left feeling trapped and anxious about their mortgages. He immediately took action to address these issues and to protect the middle class. The steps he took helped millions of Americans stay in their homes, save money on their mortgages and turn their communities around.

“Homeownership Month is a good time to reflect on the progress the Obama Administration has made to ensure that owning a home is always within the grasp of the average American family. A home is the place where we raise our children, establish roots in a community and plan our future,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “The opportunity to be a homeowner should be open to those ready and able to buy a home.  As the housing market continues its recovery we must ensure that responsible homeowners have access to credit to make their dreams of homeownership a reality.”

Interested in learning more about Homeownership Counseling at St. Ambrose?  Visit the website to explore your options.

St. Ambrose begins Historical Preservation of homes in Winters Lane, Catonsville

With support from Baltimore County and the State’s Community Legacy program, St. Ambrose is beginning the preservation and renovation of 10 duplex rental homes in the historic black community of Winters Lane in Catonsville, MD. Though St. Ambrose has a long history of doing quality renovation and rehabs to Baltimore area homes, the historical significance and value of these particular houses has had a great impact on our approach to completing the renovations. In the Winters Lane Community, it’s not just about improving the quality of the home, doing energy efficient upgrades, installing new appliances, and making an investment in the community at large. Preserving these homes for their historical value is critical to the project’s success. The extensive renovations  will maintain the historical character of the 100+ year old homes as a celebration of the heritage and historical significance of Winters Lane .

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Winters Lane is one of 40 historical black communities in Baltimore County. Source: Baltimore County Department of Planning

Winters Lane is a historically African American community founded by freed slaves following The Civil War. Officially added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 2007, the history of Winters Lane is well documented thanks to the research of Louis S. Diggs, author of the 1995 book entitled, “It all Started on Winters Lane.” In his book, Diggs primarily takes a genealogist’s perspective to the history of the black community in Catonsville. Diggs’ book draws on oral histories, historic newspapers, census and civic documents to describe in the fullest detail the life and times of the community as it grew and flourished in the years and decades following The Civil War. As we move ahead by making a necessary investment in the future of the community, it is critical to look backward to honor the amazing accomplishments and resilience of Winters Lane.

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In the August 19th, 1961 edition of the Baltimore Afro American newspaper, journalist Elizabeth Oliver introduces the community in this way:

In the Catonsville Development, just two miles from Baltimore’s Western City limits, sprawls the near perfect example of suburban living, homeownership, and community spirit. There is no undertaker here and but one physician, since citizens are interested in living. The welcome mat is always out to summer visitors who find the community a nice place to visit.

The article goes on to describe the community’s picturesque residential gardens and winding lanes, high rate of registered voters (4,000 in total), its ample opportunities for civic and social engagement, and the resolute commitment of the community’s leaders and business owners. This glowing depiction of a harmonious and thriving community is reinforced throughout the pages of Diggs’ book, most conclusively in the oral histories provided by residents who grew up in the community in the first half of the 20th century. In the face of rampant institutionalized racism during the Jim Crow era, the tight knit community of Winters Lane burgeoned and prospered.

The settlement was founded in 1867, one year after the civil war ended. Some of the original founders came into deeded property upon being released from slavery, while others migrated to the settlement from other parts of Maryland and purchased property along Winters Lane in the late 1800’s. Due to segregation and the distance from Baltimore, Winters Lane became a largely self-sufficient community.

In 1868, J.W. Gould donated a tract of land and old school house on the corner of Winters Lane and Edmondson Avenue. The building became the community’s first church, known today as Grace A.M.E ., as well as the first school for black children, School #23. Grace A.M.E. is still an active community church today, though it moved to its present location in 1890. At least 5 churches were founded within the next few decades and the school expanded and moved to accommodate a growing community.

William Washington and Charles Woodland were two of the prominent business owners and home owners in the community’s early days. The Washington family owned one of the first community grocery stores, also on the corner of Winters Lane and Edmondson, which served as an additional community meeting space. According to the oral history of Eva Adele Page Brooks in Diggs’ book, the top floor of the grocery store also housed the classrooms of the 5th and 6th grades in the 1920’s.

 

Left: The Washington Grocery Store built in the 1800’s has been demolished. Right: The Charles C. Woodland House, built in 1874, was  purchased in 1914. The house is registered with the Maryland Historical Trust. 

Washington and Woodland were two of the founding members of The Catonsville Cooperative Corporation. The Co-op was founded in 1890 as a way for local residents to pool their resources to support new businesses. One venture of the Co-op was the Greenwood Electric Park which was a wildly successful amusement park that attracted African Americans from all over the Baltimore metro region. At the time of the Co-ops disengagement in the 1960’s, there were 523 shareholders.

The Weekly Clarion was a local newspaper that first circulated in 1919 as a newsletter for the Grace A.M.E. church.  It soon became a community wide voice with a small editorial staff and control board.

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Advertisement in the Baltimore Afro-American July 16, 1910
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June 2, 1934 edition of The Weekly Clarion. Source: “It All Started on Winters Lane”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Civic and social organizations thrived throughout the 1900’s including a football club and baseball club, homeowner’s organization, and various men’s and women’s social clubs that organized community service activities and hosted dances and social gatherings.

Left: A present day picture of Landmark Lodge #40. The Masonic Temple was established in 1904 as a lodge for the Freemasons. The chapter is still active today. Right: 1930’s photograph of members of the Emma Williams Temple. The temple was founded in 1925 and is still active today.

The tradition of strong community organization in the early years of the community paved the way for one of the most active organizations still involved in community affairs today. The Concerned Citizens of Catonsville was founded in the 1980’s to encourage an open dialogue about the increasing crime rates in the Winters Lane District. Today, the group advocates for community revitalization projects, coordinates crime watch patrols, and gives voice to current neighborhood concerns. A legacy of strong leadership continues with the Concerned Citizens of Catonsville who have forged robust community partnerships to fight for for redevelopment and new investment in Winters Lane.

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The rehab and preservation of the historic homes on Shipley and Roberts avenues is just a first step to preserving the resilient community for the future. The homes will be updated to meet current building codes, the living spaces will be expanded and modernized and the exteriors restored. The goal is to maintain the historic character and architecture of the homes, meeting the requirements of the Maryland Historic Trust, while making an investment in the quality of the homes and ultimately the community as whole. Renovations will begin this spring, but the preservation and investment in the Winters Lane community is an enduring project that will ultimately include the preservation of additional homes and new development of affordable homes.

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Sources/ For more information

Diggs, Louis S. “It All Started in Winters Lane.”1995. website

Catonsville Patch: “Winters Lane on a Winters Day”

Maryland Historical Trust: Woodland House

The Afro American July 16, 1910

Baltimore Sun “Winters Lane Masonic Temple”

Baltimore Sun “Winters Lane National Night Out”

Baltimore Sun “Revitalizing Winters Lane to be discussed”

Baltimore Sun “County considers Historic Preservation”

Baltimore County Government “Historic Winters Lane Home to be Restored”

My Sister From Another Mother

By: Annette Leahy-Maggitti, Homesharing Housing Counselor

Torrie came to the St. Ambrose Homesharing program in 1989 when her daughter was four years old.  We were not able to find her a perfect match at the time, but Torrie found a home to rent in northeast Baltimore. A few years later she came back to Homesharing looking for someone to share her home and help her maintain her household. She needed someone available to be home for her daughter after school. Her daughter was then 11 years old.

Mildred, who had hit on hard times, reluctantly came to St. Ambrose. She had a heart attack and had to leave her factory job.  Her unemployment benefits were running out and she did not want her 18 and 20 year-old sons to have to take care of her.  When I interviewed her, it was clear that she was skeptical that such an arrangement could be successful. “I was a nervous wreck thinking about sharing a home with a stranger, but Torrie’s openness made me relax a bit!”

Smiles Mildred and Torrie

Both Mildred and Torrie agreed that the ‘match meeting,’ when a homesharing counselor works out an agreement with both parties, was most helpful and created the necessary boundaries to make a successful arrangement. No money was exchanged.  It was strictly a barter situation.

Mildred was able to complete a state run program that retrained her for employment and helped her get back on her feet, and she also became a surrogate grandmother to Torrie’s daughter and a close companion. Torrie said, “It was truly life changing for me. Mildred has become my best friend, my confidant. I needed someone I could trust to give me peace of mind when I had to leave my child.  Mildred was the ‘gap childcare’ I needed to be able to work full time.  I don’t know how a mom works regular hours without help.  We respected each other’s time and space. I just love her!”

Now Mildred has her own apartment but Torrie and Mildred continue to share many holidays and birthdays with eachother’s families.  “Mildred is my sister from another mother,” said Torrie, hugging her.