AUGUSTA – Over the past 10 years more than 12,500 potential Maine home buyers have learned the ins and outs of buying a home, and the responsibilities of owning a home, by attending classes offered through the non-profit hoMEworks organization.
The goal of hoMEworks is to provide a standardized, comprehensive homeownership education program, delivered by industry professionals in a neutral environment. Educators and guest lecturers at hoMEworks classes are prohibited from making direct marketing or sales presentations.
“What we are seeing right now with the national wave of foreclosures is a prime example of why homebuyer education is so critical, especially for people purchasing their first home,” said hoMEworks chairperson Sharon Brobst, one of the founding members of the organization. “Many of these people are losing their homes because they used mortgage loans they did not understand and could not afford.”
Buying a home is not only the largest single investment most people ever make, it also is one of the most challenging, especially with today’s complex mortgage products that are constantly changing.
“The best protection against predatory lending is an informed borrower who has received an objective education about home buying,” Brobst said. “Buyers who take home buyer education classes ask the important questions and can make better decisions about what homeownership loan product is right for them.”
MaineHousing, one of the funding organizations supporting hoMEworks, encourages all the borrowers using its first-time homebuyer program to take the classes. It requires borrowers using the agency’s down payment and closing cost assistance program, Maine Assist, to take a hoMEworks class.
“I believe one reason our foreclosure rate is below the state average, even though we are serving a lower income household, is that many of our borrowers have taken the hoMEworks class,” said MaineHousing Director Dale McCormick.
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and several local Maine banks also help fund hoMEworks. This keeps the cost of the classes, which often are offered at night or on the weekend to help working families, to $30.
In 2007 hoMEworks conducted 130 classes attended by over 2,500 prospective homebuyers. The classes are available through 10 approved hoMEworks educator organizations, held in different communities throughout Maine.
Not everyone who takes a hoMEworks class ends up buying a home. Some learn they are not ready financially or emotionally for the responsibilities of homeownership.
For others, the classes made buying a home easier. “The hoMEworks homebuyer education course was excellent. It helped us understand the home buying process. The quality of our lives will forever be changed for the better … we are homeowners,” said Britta Brydon, who purchased a home in Portland.
More information about hoMEworks, including a schedule of where and when classes are held, is available at the organization’s website at www.mainehomeworks.org.
“June is National Homeownership Month,” Brobst said. “This is a good time for people who are considering becoming homeowners to check the website to see when classes are offered in their area, and decide if taking the class is the right step for them.”