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Community Action Agency works to help first-time homebuyers



Free homebuyer education workshops offered by the Community Action Agency of Oklahoma City and Oklahoma/Canadian Counties (CAA) give first-time homebuyers a clearer understanding of the process of purchasing a home. Workshops are held twice a month in the metro; January's are scheduled for Friday and Jan. 23.

The half-day classes, from noon to 4:30 p.m., are just one of the many projects undertaken by the Community Action Agency, a service organization started in 1964 with a mission of helping low-income families and neighborhoods.

"We want to educate potential homebuyers," said Jackie Baker, director of projects with CAA. "We work with mid- to low-income families who have never purchased a home. Many are first-generation homebuyers."

The workshop is taught by industry professionals, including a real estate agent, home inspector and loan officer. Instruction focuses on fair housing, the lender and the loan process, the real estate agent and the contract, homeowner's insurance, credit issues and homebuyer's rights. Class attendees learn about the homebuyer's responsibilities within the loan process, which include the termite inspection and home inspection.

Another element associated with the education workshop is information on qualifying for a five-year, no interest loan that is available to first-time buyers. Certain Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines must be met to qualify for the money, which can be used for expenses such as inspections. One qualification for the no-interest loan is that the homebuyer must provide 1 percent of the purchase price toward the down payment and they must live in their home for a minimum of five years. The CAA has assisted people as young as 18 and as old as 80 to buy their first home.

"We've done 1,700 closing since 1995," Baker said. "That's 1,700 families we have helped."

For more than a year, Bobby Alexander, a Realtor with Keller Williams, has taught the real estate agent portion of the CAA workshop. During the class, he explains the benefits of using a real estate agent and what their obligations are to the homebuyer. Alexander said most of the potential homebuyers can afford their new monthly mortgage payment because it is the same as their current rental rate. However, what they cannot afford is the out-of-pocket expenses associated with buying a home, such as the inspections and closing costs. That's where CAA can help.

"The CAA has great benefits for first-time homebuyers," said Alexander. "I worked with six buyers this year. A lot wouldn't have been able to get in their home without the help of CAA."

The CAA programs remain strong despite the nationwide economic downturn and have not slowed down. There were 148 closings in 2007 and 161 in 2008, not including December closings, Baker said. In November, CAA held 23 closings, which Baker commented was the most ever done in a one-month period.

"The federal money could dry up, especially with the economy," Baker said. "We hope that because of how much good we are doing, that the federal funding will continue."  "Gina Dabney

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