How Habitat For Humanity Works
Thank you for your interest in becoming a Habitat for Humanity of Worcester County Partner Family.
Please note, our Homeownership application periods are now closed for the remainder of 2017. We will not be accepting any inquiries or applications for homeownership. We will open up the homeowner application rounds again on January 2, 2018.
We will be accepting inquiries and applications for existing Worcester County, MD homeowners in need of Critical Repairs to their homes during our quarterly application rounds. Please visit our Critical Repairs page for more information on this program and how to apply. Remaining Critical Repair Application rounds are July 1 - July 31st, and October 1 - October 31st, 2017.
Families work in partnership with Habitat Worcester, volunteers, and the local community to build their homes. Habitat Worcester at times functions both as a construction company and mortgage company. In some cases, Habitat partners with approved third party lenders such as the USDA to access financing programs to enable the homes to be built. Families pay back the cost to build their homes via monthly mortgage payments that on average last for 25 – 30 years. The cost to build is lower than market average due in part to volunteer labor and donated materials, making the program affordable. Habitat affiliates do not earn profits from the homes they build and sell. Families must meet certain criteria, (defined below), in order to qualify for the program.
Habitat Worcester accepts inquiries for our Homeownership Program, during four quarterly application rounds: January 1 – January 31, April 1 – April 30, July 1 – July 31, and October 1 – October 31. Reminder that homeowner application rounds are closed for 2017 and will open up again in January 2018.
First Steps to Apply:
- Please take the time to read this page, become familiar with our homeownership process and qualification requirements.
- During regular application rounds (next round opens in 2018): January 1 – January 31, April 1 – April 30, July 1 – July 31, and October 1 – October 31, and if you have read the below guidelines and feel you meet the qualifications, you may send an inquiry email to:
- Families@habitatworcester.org with “Homeownership Program” as the subject. Briefly outline your need for a Habitat home, the times you are available for a phone call, and a Family Selection Committee member will be in touch to set up your pre-application interview. Please note we are unable to accommodate requests that are sent outside of application periods.
General Guidelines for Partner Family Selection:
- Must Demonstrate a Need for adequate shelter: Examples of circumstance include: current housing is too small for the size of the family and family is unable to obtain alternative housing; housing is unsafe; rent is greater than 35% of monthly income (cost burdened)
- Willingness to Partner – Applicant is willing to commit to the “sweat equity requirement” (400 hours for a build). Applicant agrees to make “earnest money” payments into escrow account during the build process, will not incur any additional consumer debt during this time, will notify the affiliate of any changes in financial status, and agrees to maintain home after purchase and pay mortgage payments each month on time.
- Ability to Pay – The cost for construction is paid back to Habitat Worcester through no profit monthly mortgage loans for a period of up to 30 years. Families must earn between 30% - 60% of the AMI for Worcester County (as defined by HUD) to qualify. Families must submit all of the requested verification documentation. Debt and monthly expenses will be taken into consideration.
- Must Pass Credit and Background Checks – including but not limited to a minimum credit score, criminal, sexual and terrorist or suspicious activity background checks; there must not be any liens or judgments against the applicant or co-applicant
- Application Fee: $30 to help cover the costs incurred by the affiliate
- Must be a US Citizen or Resident and Worcester County, MD resident for at least one year.
- Must not be able to otherwise afford a conventional mortgage
Things to Keep in Mind Before Applying for a Habitat Home
Habitat homes are not rental homes and Habitat is not a landlord. If you have always rented a home, making the leap to homeownership is a big responsibility that can be challenging. Some of the responsibilities to consider:
- Time: Habitat mortgages last on average 25-30 years. If you are used to a year-to-year lease with the option to leave and move to another place, making a 30-year commitment to remain in the same home may not appeal to you.
- Escrow: Each month you will be responsible for making payments into an escrow account to cover your homeowner's insurance premium and property taxes that are paid bi-annually. Both of these are required in order to be a homeowner, and are in addition to the principal payment, which covers the repayment of the costs associated with building your home.
- Mortgage payments: Must be paid on time each month. Late payments are reported to credit bureaus and will reflect negatively on your credit score, which can prevent you from being able to secure future credit for items like vehicle loans or credit cards.
- Maintenance: Homeowners are responsible for the upkeep of their homes. Homeowners must mow their lawns, weed, spray for pests, remove snow in their driveways and along public sidewalks, clean gutters, have HVAC serviced bi-annually, change air filters, repair or replace appliances as they age, repair or replace doors and windows if they are broken, fix any plumbing issues.... and the list continues. These are just some of the responsibilities a homeowner assumes with owning a home and must be budgeted for in terms of both time and money.
Habitat homeownership is not always the next most logical step. Often families reach out to Habitat because they are frustrated with landlords who don't respond very quickly to repair requests. Keep in mind that with homeownership, home repairs will be your responsibility. Please take time to consider these factors before applying for a Habitat home.
Income Level, Credit History and Background Checks
To qualify for a Habitat home your total family income must be between 30% and 60% of the current median income level in Worcester County, as defined by HUD. If you have a two-income family, both incomes will be used to determine eligibility. Couples need not be married to be accepted. Credit histories of both applicant and co-applicant will be investigated. If there are unsatisfied judgments or liens against one or both parties, you will be required to clear up those issues, with few exceptions. We are required to perform sexual offender, criminal background, and terrorist/suspicious activity background checks on all applicants.
Homeowner Sweat Equity
Families must be willing to put in hours of unpaid volunteer work for various Habitat for Humanity of Worcester County projects, including work done on your own future home. This is known as “sweat equity” and is required of all Habitat families. Once you are accepted as a Habitat family, you may be helping to build houses other than your own. If you have physical limitations that would keep you from swinging a hammer or performing other manual labor, you can help with office work, volunteer coordination, or with community outreach. Your willing participation in these projects not only helps with the work of Habitat for Humanity of Worcester County, but also shows your sincerity and commitment to the partnership.
Are you prepared to wait as long as two years for your home to be built? Habitat for Humanity of Worcester County is not an emergency housing program, or a quick fix to your current housing situation. We do not provide options for emergency housing, free housing, transitional housing, or rental housing. Our goal is to build communities as well as homes, and this process takes time. We are working to provide a permanent solution. During application rounds, the process to acceptance can take several months. The build process can take up to two years.
You must be willing to accept a home in any area of Worcester County where the affiliate is able to build.
Home Assignment & Acceptance
You must be willing to accept the home that is assigned to your family. This decision is made based upon the size and needs of your family. Habitat for Humanity homes are basic, decent homes and do not have formal dining rooms, wood stoves, fireplaces, decks, or fences. They are not customizable, with the exception being paint colors in most cases.
Closing Costs & Monthly House Payments
Once accepted as a partner family, you must begin saving money each month to pay the closing costs on your Habitat home mortgage. This money must be paid before you can move into your home. The average closing cost for one of our homes is $2500 - $4000, but since you will have up to two years to save, a small amount each month will get you to this goal. You must also agree to make regular monthly house payments. It is important that these payments are made on time because your mortgage payments go toward building the home for the next family on the list.
Habitat for Humanity of Worcester County relies upon the goodwill of the Worcester County community. Donations and volunteer labor by individuals and groups are our primary sources of support. For public relations purposes, you and your family may be asked to pose for photos or be interviewed by news or television reporters. More importantly, as a Habitat family, you must be willing to keep up your Habitat home in a manner that speaks well of the organization. This means that you are expected to keep your home and lot in good order and not engage in any activities that are disruptive to the community or are in any way illegal.