An Education in Hope
MVHP Helps First-Time Homebuyers Earn Their Keys
The holidays are quickly approaching. For many of us, this signifies rich smells wafting from the kitchen and family bonding within the confines of our cozy lodgings. For others, however, homeownership is a luxury that feels out of reach. The Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership (MVHP), a nonprofit organization in Lowell, is working to show potential homeowners how to make their dream a reality.
Since its founding in 1986, MVHP has evolved to offer education and training for first-time homebuyers. Executive Director Jim Wilde sees an overwhelming need for his organization’s services. “There are so many misconceptions about the homebuying process that stop people from buying a home,” he says. “Our courses are taught by industry professionals [lenders, attorneys, real estate agents, and home inspectors] and cover 10 hours of information. After the classes are over, we have a counselor go over everyone’s individual situation to provide suggestions.”
A recent analysis of Census Bureau data by Pew Research Center says that an astonishing 52% of young adults ages 18 to 29 were living with one or both of their parents this past July. That’s a higher rate than the 48% reported at the end of the Great Depression in the 1940 census, according to Pew. One of the primary contributors to this situation is the overall lack of housing opportunities in New England. According to Wilde, “there is a major challenge for homebuyers. Massachusetts has held low inventory for many years now, yet the number one concern that our clients express is centered around the down payment required to purchase a home. Many of these people are not aware of the numerous programs available to help alleviate the burden.”
Sean Lozowski, 30, and Katie Pelleriti, 29, first heard about the Housing Partnership from Pelleriti’s mother. Initially, the pair assumed they needed 20% for a down payment. That, coupled with Pelleriti’s student loan debt, dissuaded her and Lozowski from signing up for the program for months, figuring there was no hope. “I had numerous limiting beliefs,” Pelleriti says. “I’m not even sure where I heard all of these rumors about buying a home, but many of them proved to be exaggerated or false. I hope younger people read this and understand that there are many different options available for first-time homebuyers, and you do not always need to put 20% down.”
With a little pushing from Lozowski, the pair decided to sign up for the Housing Partnership. After attending the class, they were ready to buy their first house. That was until Ed Alcantara, the Partnership’s homebuyer counselor, encouraged the couple to wait and build their credit scores. “We were never really taught about these things in school,” Pelleriti says. “My credit score was solid, but Sean had some work to do. So, Ed Alcantara gave us some tough love and a list to complete. Overall, it took us an extra seven months before we were ready to begin our search.”
The couple closed on a new construction condominium on May 29, almost a year after they completed the course. “We owe a lot to the Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership,” Pelleriti says. “We met our lender, home inspector, and attorney through the program, and the courses thoroughly taught us about the homebuying process.”
The Housing Partnership offers over 25 classes annually in three languages (English, Khmer and Spanish). Because of the pandemic, the organization has been hosting all offerings via Zoom, including first-time landlord classes. As a nonprofit, the Housing Partnership accepts donations and raises additional money to keep costs low for participants. If you would like to help support the organization, head to their website. Or, you can refer struggling prospective homebuyers to the classes. The results may be worth it. For Pelleriti and Lozowski, the homebuying struggle is behind them, and they can enjoy the holidays in their new home.
Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership