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City targets special services for home buyers and owners

Boston Home Center offers a wealth of services for homebuyers and homeowners

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City targets special services for home buyers and owners
Prospective homebuyers talk to specialists during a recent event hosted by the Boston Home Center. (Photo: Photo: Courtesy Department of Neighborhood Development)

Stable neighborhoods are healthy neighborhoods, and the most stable ones have a solid base of homeowners. Dedicated to helping Boston residents obtain, maintain and retain their homes, Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Department of Neighborhood Development support the Boston Home Center.

Author: Photo: Courtesy Department of Neighborhood DevelopmentMayor Martin Walsh addresses attendees at an expo sponsored by the Boston Home Center. The events help home buyers and owners learn about services offered by the city and local nonprofits.

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On May 20, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Boston Home Center will hold its Spring EXPO at Madison Park Technical and Vocational High School. This event kicks off the 2017 spring homebuying season, with free classes led by BHC staff to help potential homebuyers understand how they can achieve the dream of homeownership. Attendees will also learn about all of the services the city offers to help existing homeowners keep their homes in good repair. For more information about BHC, call 617-635-HOME (4663) or visit: www.boston.gov/housing/boston-home-center

Through BHC and its events, city residents gain access to approved mortgage lenders, realtors, non-profits, federal and state housing partners, city agencies, local elected officials, city officials and trained BHC staff to help them learn about homeownership and about valuable programs such as Renew Boston, the Neighborhood Homes Initiative and Seniors Save. In addition, organizations such as the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, MassHousing and other approved nonprofit partners, realtors and mortgage lenders often attend BHC’s events.

“In Boston, our priority is making sure residents can live, work and thrive in our city, and that includes becoming a homeowner,” said Mayor Walsh. “Our Boston Home Center provides residents with the support they need to assist them with the homebuying process and throughout their years as a homeowner.”

Here is a summary of the services BHC offers:

Services for homebuyers

Boston Home Center’s homebuyer services ensure that people seeking to live in Boston — regardless of race, age, economic status or physical ability — can find a place in the city to call home.

Homebuyer education

Homebuyer education is the cornerstone of the BHC homebuyer program, including the following classes:

  • Homebuying 100: Introduction to Homeownership: This one-and-a-half-hour course is ideal for anyone exploring the homebuying process. You’ll learn about the pros and cons of homeownership, about preparing your finances and about determining what type of home is right for you.
  • Homebuyer 101: This is a comprehensive, 10-hour introduction to buying a home in Boston, graduating 1,600 empowered prospective homebuyers each year. Graduates of Homebuyer 101 are able to navigate the home buying process and gain access to sound, affordable and sustainable mortgage products.
  • Homebuying 102: How to Buy a Condo: The free two-hour seminar is available to graduates of Homebuying 101 and offers condo purchase information and tips for financing.
  • How to Assemble Your Homebuying Team: Join our panel discussion to find out who should be on your homebuying team. The session introduces you to the types of professionals you’ll be working with, like mortgage loan officers, realtors, insurance agents and real estate attorneys. You must be a member of the Homebuyer Club to join this discussion.
  • Loan to Own: This course covers the different types of mortgages and how lenders make loan decisions. We also discuss federal laws and how to avoid predatory lending.
  • Drop-in Counseling Sessions for Homebuyers: Free group counseling sessions for graduates of Homebuying 101 can help you see where you are in the homebuying process and what steps to take next.
  • Structuring Your Finances for Homeownership: This one-and-a-half-hour workshop will teach you how to review your credit report, optimize your debt-to-credit ratio and organize your financial documents. The goal is to help you prepare for applications to financial assistance programs and lenders.
  • Your Strategic Money Management Plan: This two-hour workshop helps you analyze your spending and credit situations, and answer the question: Am I making the right choices to manage my finances effectively?

Financial assistance

For qualified homebuyers, the BHC may be able to help with down payment and closing costs. Homebuyers may be qualified for loans of up to 3 percent of the purchase price toward your down payment and closing costs on one- to two-unit properties and condominiums. In addition, the Home Center may be able to offer up to 5 percent loans for three-unit properties. These loans carry no interest and are forgivable after 10 years.

In addition, BHC hosts Meet the Lenders and Realtors, credit seminars and spring and fall housing EXPOs in neighborhoods across the city.

Boston Homebuyer Club

The Homebuyer Club helps potential homebuyers get ready to buy in Boston. Club members receive assistance in following the path to homeownership. Graduates of the city’s homebuyer education classes are eligible for membership. Homebuyer Club members receive a monthly email about courses, classes and workshops, and are notified automatically about affordable properties for sale, such as homes available through the Neighborhood Homes Initiative.

Services for Homeowners

In addition to helping prospective buyers, BHC seeks to help maintain neighborhood stability by offering funding, assistance and education programs to current Boston homeowners. Here are some of the services homeowners can access:

HomeWorks

The Boston Home Center offers financial assistance for home repairs through the HomeWorks Home Equity Loan Program. HomeWorks assists participants through the entire process for these interest-free loans, including collecting and reviewing bids from contractors; checking on work quality; and getting a final inspection once everything is complete.

LeadSafe Boston

LeadSafe Boston is the Boston Home Center’s lead abatement program, offering financial help to get rid of lead-based paint, technical advice from city lead specialists and help complying with state lead laws so owners can receive lead removal tax credits. Recently, the BHC was awarded a $2.9 million Lead Hazard Control grant and a $325,000 Healthy Homes grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). As a result of this funding, the City of Boston will be able to address lead hazards in even more housing units, providing safer homes for low and very low-income families with children.

Seniors Save

The BHC also support the Seniors Save program, which provides income-eligible seniors with brand-new, energy-efficient heating systems.

— Boston Department of Neighborhood Development

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