Shandra Pollard wants to be a homeowner one day. So on Wednesday she attended a housing fair organized by NeighborWorks Columbus.
"I just want to know what it is like to have my own," said the 36-year-old nursing assistant. "I have a 19-month-old daughter and when it's my time I just want something to leave her."
The fair was held at the Government Center Annex in commemoration of National Homeownership Month. Pollard was among about 30 people who gathered to learn more about homeownership and obstacles that could stand in their way.
Wanda Jenkins, marketing and communications specialist, told the group that she was a NeighborWorks client about 10 years ago and eventually became a homeowner. She said it required sacrifices such as giving up cable and other amenities.
"Sometimes we want to go out and get our nails done, but sometimes you have to hold back on that if you want to become a homeowner," she said. "There are different things we could do to throw our money away and it's never going to come back to us. I had a person tell me one time that purchasing a house was the single best investment you could ever make and you should always put money back into your home because that's equity and money coming back to you."
Denise Henderson, a NeighborWorks housing counselor, said the agency helps people get their budgets in order, resolve credit issues and find lending institutions and Realtors.
"I have no greater pleasure than when you actually receive the key to your house," she told the group.
Entry into the program is generally 6 p.m. the fourth Thursday of the month, she said. She recommends that people call and register ahead but walk-ins are welcome. Orientation is about an hour then one-on-one appointments are scheduled with a housing counselor. The program also includes a financial fitness course the third Thursday of the month and an eight-hour, down-payment assistance certification program at least once a year. It helps clients qualify for the Columbus Down-Payment Assistance Partnership Program, which provides qualified individuals up to $10,000 in down-payment assistance.
Melanie Faison, executive vice president of the NeighborWorks Homeownership Center, told the group that credit is the No. 1 obstacle hindering people from purchasing a homes. She said people should focus on paying bills on time and eliminating debt.
"A lot of times people have made credit mistakes in the past and guess what they do?" she asked. "They think, 'It's over for me. I can't repair it.' And they bury their heads in the sand and they just have bad credit. (But) if you don't do something about bad credit, it doesn't become good credit because it takes work."
Faison said student loans are one of the biggest problems hindering people from purchasing homes in today's economy.
"A lot of times the person hasn't even gotten a degree, and they're already in $50,000 and $60,000 of student loan debt," she said. "It's really tricky, so beware when you hear advertisements from these expensive schools saying, 'Hey go back to school, go back to school. Go home and really do your homework and realize that you're getting student loans. It's not for free, and student loans never go away."
Tesia Essandoh, 22, and her husband, Kobina, 23, are newlyweds. He works at Kia and she's a nanny. They're both taking online courses through Southern New Hampshire University. They want to buy a house within a year and said they found the fair very helpful.
"You need to know information and sometimes Google gives you too much," Tesia saud. "Someone who's in the business and knows what they're talking about, it's very enlightening."