Counseling program helps residents buy homes Help with debt plans, other basics offered

September 30, 1997|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

For Robert J. Rose, a single father of three living in subsidized housing in Annapolis, buying a home was a remote possibility two years ago. At best it was a five-year goal.

Then a guidance counselor at his children's elementary school told Rose about a homeownership counseling program run by Arundel Community Development Services Inc. (ACDS). Rose attended a seminar in September 1995, and after his first individual sessions with a counselor his outlook changed.

"Once I got in there and learned of the programs that exist and what I qualified for, my five-year goal became a six-month goal," said Rose, who was living in Bywater-Mutual Homes with his children at the time.

Less than a year later, Rose bought an $85,000, two-bedroom cottage in Edgewater near community beaches and fishing piers.

Rose, 33, was one of 68 Annapolis-area residents who completed the program, which includes seminars and one-on-one financial counseling, since it began in 1995, said Kathleen M. Koch, executive director of ACDS. Of those, 33 are known to have purchased homes. About 50 others are still in the program.

ACDS is expanding the program, once focused on Annapolis, to the rest of the county, with marketing targeting Galesville, and Bacontown and the Pioneer Drive area in West County.

Counselors review participants' credit history, their earnings and other factors and help them see their financial status the same way a lender would, said Koch. They also help participants set up plans to pay off their debts or save money, and they sometimes help with basics such as opening checking and savings accounts.

Rose, a buyer for a telecommunications company, is a fan of the program and of his first house.

He used a $20,000, no-interest loan from ACDS for the down payment and closing costs, and the seller agreed to pay off some of Rose's outstanding debt.

It was an unusual deal that someone "clueless" about home-buying could not have worked out on his own, Rose said.

But getting to closing that summer was an emotional "roller coaster" ride in which contracts on two other homes didn't work out and two lenders, including his own bank, turned down Rose, who earned less than $20,000 a year.

Rose's counselor helped him remove from his credit report debts that his ex-wife had accumulated and helped him write letters of explanation on other issues, said Rose. And the help ACDSS gave him with closing costs made buying a home seem "doable," he said.

ACDS has dispensed $430,000 in down payment and closing-cost assistance to 30 people in the program, Koch said. Such assistance is not available this time around.

Rose said he doesn't miss the three-bedroom townhouse he and his daughters, ages 12 and 8, and his son, 11, left behind.

"I like the fact that when I make that payment every month -- the mortgage payment is significantly more than I was paying for rent -- I'm investing in something for myself and my children," he said. "I feel like I have more of a sense of roots. The kids actually have a home that is their own. It's not a borrowed place."

Pub Date: 9/30/97

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