by Dennis Dalman
Many people thinking of buying their first home have no idea what a thicket of challenges and glitches the process can become.
That is why the “Home Stretch” workshop was developed – to guide first-time buyers through the exciting but challenging steps that lead to home ownership.
A “Home Stretch” one-day workshop is slated from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15 at Liberty Savings Bank at 111 7th Ave. S. in downtown St. Cloud. Registration is required. To register, call Trista at 320-258-0681 or register online at www.cmhp.net. For those who want to check out an online course, similar to Home Stretch, there is a link on that site about “Framework” and how to register for it.
Registration for the Home Stretch course must be done by Tuesday, Jan. 14.
There is a fee for the Home Stretch workshop, but those who bring someone else will receive a discount, and the person brought along will also receive a discount. All attendees will also be automatically registered to receive a gift card.
Home Stretch is a program that began in 1995 by the Central Minnesota Housing Partnership. The workshop prepares people for what to expect when buying their first home. The topics covered include the importance of credit scores, qualifying for a mortgage, the entire buying process, how best to shop for a home, the closing process, government loans, down payments, cost-assistance programs and even the basics of home maintenance. Those who complete the one-day workshop will receive a certificate of completion, which is a requirement for some of the home-buying programs available for first-time buyers.
Jason Krebsbach is community-development director for the CMHP, which is a non-profit organization that provides affordable-housing services to central Minnesota and which also coordinates the Home Stretch program.
Buying a home, Krebsbach said, is a serious process, not like going out to buy a flat-screen TV or even a car.
“Buying a house is one of the biggest events in your life so it’s best to be as prepared as possible,” Krebsbach said.
There are many Home Stretch workshops held throughout central Minnesota. The typical workshop has about five to eight enrollees, although before the housing slump hit five years ago, that number was much higher, as many as two dozen or more, Krebsbach noted. However, the smaller number of enrollees is ideal because it allows for lots of personal interaction between instructors and enrollees and more time for one-on-one help.
Those who cannot attend the Jan. 15 Home Stretch might consider enrolling for the two-part upcoming evening workshop, which will take place from 5-9 p.m. on two evenings, Feb. 25 and Feb. 27. For more information about that workshop, call Trista at 320-268-0681.
Krebsbach said even if people don’t plan to shop for their first home until a year or more from now, it’s a good thing to take a Home Stretch workshop as soon as possible. Learning the ins and outs of home-buying as early as possible is a big boost to success as it will allow people to plan more wisely and get things in order, such as credit scores, before the active process of home-buying begins. Such preparations give people the vital facts needed and help them become thoroughly knowledgeable about home-buying. People can learn a methodical process instead of having to learn all of it in stray bits and pieces, Krebsbach noted.
Another step Krebsbach recommends is for people thinking of buying their first home to make an appointment with a CMHP home-ownership counselor to review one’s financial situation. The service is free.
Krebsbach said he loves his job.
“I like to help people we can assist,” he said. “It feels good to help them realize their dreams. I helped start the Home Stretch workshop and taught it myself for a year. It was fun and interesting, and I met a lot of people from different backgrounds. They learned what they need to do in purchasing a home. And it was good, when I’d do follow-ups with them, to hear they did close on their house sale and that things were going well for them.”
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.