Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership is offering free Home Stretch classes throughout the month of June. The nationally-recognized course will give potential homebuyers information on setting a budget, selecting real estate agents and lenders, purchasing a home, managing the inspection and budgeting for ongoing home maintenance. Classes are open to any homebuyer at any stage in the buying process, and completion of the course meets homebuyer education requirements for many first-time homebuyer loan programs and down payment assistance.
"We're offering free Home Stretch classes in June because we want to give everyone in southwest Minnesota a chance to get the facts on buying a home so that they can make smart choices for themselves," said Ali Joens, Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership director of homeownership services. "Homeownership is at the heart of our community, and we believe courses like this are essential to helping everyone who chooses to buy a home succeed."
Interest in homebuyer education is on the rise across Minnesota. Statewide, the number of households completing homebuyer education in 2013 was 33 percent greater than at the peak of the housing market, despite far fewer homes being sold overall. A recent study by NeighborWorks America found that, even at the height of the foreclosure crisis, homebuyers who completed a course like Home Stretch were 30 percent less likely to fall behind on their mortgage.
"Homebuyers today want to know more about the purchase they're making and to arm themselves with solid, unbiased information," said Julie Gugin, executive director of the Minnesota Homeownership Center, the non-profit that leads homebuyer education programing and funding to Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership and a network of 50 non-profits across the state. "We're proud to partner with Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership and other non-profits across Minnesota so that anyone interested in buying a home can get the information they seek from local people whose only incentive is to set every homebuyer up for success."
To correspond with the free classes, the Minnesota Homeownership Center also released a report detailing the state of homeownership in Minnesota on May 27 - from how the benefits of homeownership fared in the foreclosure crisis, to the outlook for homeownership across races, ages and regions of the state. The report identified three important issues impacting homeownership in 2014:
Benefits of homeownership remain long term: assets, community, safety, health and education. Post-foreclosure crisis research affirms that the long-term benefits of homeownership still hold true. Homeownership remains the greatest asset for most homeowning families, including providing more than half of total wealth for Hispanic and black families. Homeowners are still more likely to be engaged in their neighborhood's safety and are 25 percent more likely to participate in civic or neighborhood groups than renters.
Homeownership's benefits for health and student achievement remain true as well, and the foreclosure crisis showed how losing homes could have detrimental effects. For example, the number of homeless or highly mobile (HHM) students in Minneapolis public schools increased by 40 percent between 2005 and 2009. A recent study of Minneapolis' HHM students found that less than half made adequate yearly progress during their years of transition.
Neighborhoods are recovering unequally, adding to the homeownership gap. The foreclosure crisis is nearing an end in most of Minnesota, but the metro area neighborhoods where black, Hispanic and other communities of color are the majority of residents, continue to face depressed prices and high foreclosure rates. For example, in North Minneapolis, prices have fallen so far that a homeowner who purchased in 2006 at the neighborhood's median price would need to see their 2013 home value increase by 85 percent to return to its purchase price. A typical homeowner in Southwest Minneapolis, on the other hand, has already recovered any lost value. Minnesota's homeownership gap grew during the foreclosure crisis and now stands near levels not seen since 1990. Closing the gap will require strategies to both stabilize hard hit neighborhoods and tailor education and support to the needs and cultures of future homebuyers of color.
The next generation of buyers are influenced by personal, local economics. For Millennials, home purchases have been delayed by a slow start to their careers and high levels of student loan debt. Still, 93 percent of Millennial renters hope to own a home someday. In Greater Minnesota, local economies and the availability of homes are driving the next generation of homeownership. For example, Thief River Falls is managing shortages in homes available for purchase, and affordable housing generally, as major employers Arctic Cat and Digi-Key continue to add jobs.
These findings come as the foreclosure crisis nears its end in most of Minnesota. The state's nearly 12,000 foreclosures in 2013 matched the number experienced in 2006 - the first year of the crisis - and were less than half of the more than 26,000 of foreclosures experienced at the peak in 2008.
For more information about free courses offered, visit www.swmhp.org. To learn more about the Minnesota Homeownership Center or to download a copy of The State Of Homeownership: Smart Choices, Vibrant Communities, visit www.hocmn.org.