Apply for the Program

We are not accepting applications at this time, having closed our current application cycle back on March 9th. 

[We will repost here, on Facebook, in area papers, and through our email list when the next application cycle opens.]  Please read on to learn more about our selection process and use the request form to receive print-copies of general information.  Thank you.

 

hud-logo-equal-housing-opportunity

Habitat for Humanity provides an opportunity for those in the community who qualify, to buy their own home, selling the home to the selected partner(s) at no profit to the organization under affordably financed mortgages. Eligibility for Habitat for Humanity is based on: Need, Willingness to Partner, and the Ability to Pay (monthly mortgage payment + closing costs).  More information can be found in our FAQ section below.

NEED: You can be considered for a Habitat home if your present housing is inadequate and/or substandard, and if you are unable to obtain adequate housing through conventional means.

In terms of the condition of your present living situation, we define ‘inadequate or substandard’ as housing which is too expensive, temporary in nature, has structural problems (including issues with accessibility for a special need or problems with basic systems such as water, electrical or sewage), and/or is overcrowded.  Other factors may be also be considered in this definition.  In defining overcrowding, the number, age and gender of children is taken into consideration compared to the number of bedrooms in your current housing. If you are living in subsidized or transitional housing, such as Section 8, you may qualify.

In assessing need, Habitat also looks at the income eligibility guidelines below and must be able to verify income from all adult members of the household, not just the program applicant(s). 

INCOME ELIGIBILITY: The income requirement is that a household of x size earns between 30% and 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI), as defined by HUD. (HUD calculations are based on a household of 4 with slight changes in the applicable % either up or down based on the household size. Approximate incomes within these ranges are shown in the table below. Income ranges are updated annually. Actual income ranges for a specific Habitat project could be different due to funding requirements.)  Note: We can provide the income range for household sizes above 8 upon request.

 

WILLINGNESS TO PARTNER: When selected, you become a Habitat “Partner”. Each partner contributes 250 hours of ‘sweat equity’ per adult in the household (up to a maximum of 500 hours) on the construction site, at the ReStore, and in various other capacities.  Partners are also required to complete homeownership courses covering topics such as personal finance, home maintenance, etc.

Note: Accommodations to the completion of sweat equity can be made for documented disabilities in accordance with the ADA.

ABILITY TO PAY: To be selected for a Habitat home, the applicant(s) who will be listed on the mortgage note(s) must have documented, adequate, and reliable income to make their monthly mortgage, real estate taxes and insurance payments.

Please note that we request that you list all sources of income on your initial pre-qualification application but that in determining eligibility, we look for steady income that is reliable, verifiable and expected to continue for at least three years or more. These figures include all forms of income such as alimony, child support (if you have at least five additional years to receive it, and it is consistent), pension, retirement, SSDI, SSI, Survivor’s benefits, and wages. We can include non-work related income such as food stamps, TANF, etc. as stable income if you can guarantee you will receive that income for the next three years. Unemployment, vouchers, fuel assistance and other such forms of financial aid would not qualify but should still be disclosed on your application.

RESIDENCY STATUS: The applicant(s)/borrower(s) must have lived and/or worked in Hancock County for a minimum of six months prior to application. Also, any applicant(s)/borrower(s) who will be listed on the future mortgage note(s) must be legal U.S. citizens or permanent residents. 

National origin-immigration status. The applicant’s immigration status and ties to the community (such as employment and continued residence in the area) could have a bearing on Habitat’s ability to obtain repayment. Accordingly, under the Special Purpose Credit Program definition, Habitat may consider immigration status and differentiate, for example, between a non-citizen who is a long-time resident with permanent resident status and a non-citizen who is temporarily in this country on a student visa. [Paragraph 6(b)(7).  — www.fdic.gov/regulations/laws/rules/6500-300.html

Not all members of the household must be legal U.S. citizens or permanent residents, but household members must be on the path to citizenship [see FAQ below] in order for Habitat to be able to accurately define and verify “need”; Habitat must be able to verify all adult household member(s)’ income and monetary contribution(s), if any, and design an appropriately sized home with adequate # of bedrooms per HUD’s definition of overcrowding.

Our Selection Committee is eager to find qualified applicants from all parts of Hancock County or those willing to relocate to Hancock County, either with or without land. (Please note that having land does not give an applicant an advantage over others in our process.)  


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

What is the first step for Habitat homeownership?

The process of homeownership begins by submitting a pre-qualification application during an open application cycle. We generally accept applications for housing once every 12-18 months. During each open application cycle, applications are available by email request [please utilize the contact form found at the bottom of this page and do NOT include sensitive personal information in your email request] and at our Main Office during open hours or by appointment. Habitat staff may also hold an informational meeting to explain the Homeownership Program and hand out applications, although attendance at the meeting is not required to receive an application packet.

If we are not accepting applications, please check back later. We will post on the website and on our FaceBook site as soon as we have an application round scheduled.

How do you choose homeowners for the Habitat homes?

After an applicant hands in a complete application for housing with required support documentation, the affiliate’s Qualified Mortgage Loan Originator begins by verifying and evaluating the income of all adults in the household to determine need.  Next, the applicant(s)’/future borrower(s)’ financial eligibility is evaluated. This consists of reviewing income documentation and a credit report. Items that may detract from an applicant’s financial eligibility include outstanding collections, excessive debts, recent bankruptcy and any unpaid judgments or liens. Habitat is also looking for sufficient, stable income to ensure the applicant is ready for the financial responsibility of homeownership.

If the applicant meets financial requirements, there may be a home visit. Here Habitat’s Homeowner Selection Committee gathers information about the applicant’s need for housing and willingness to be an active partner with Habitat, participating fully throughout the program. A follow-up home visit may also be scheduled. After the Homeowner Selection Committee approves an applicant’s eligibility it presents recommended applicants to the Board of Directors for approval.

How is household membership/size determined?

Hancock County Habitat designs its homes based on those listed as current members of the household during the initial application process, or those who will be permanently joining the household and have established residency by the time of the Homeowner Selection Committee interview.  [All members must be physically present at the time of the interview.  See also the Q&A regarding the interview, house design criteria, and determination of full household income under “need”.] Please be sure to explain any household size situations in your application.

Household member definition / include on your application:

  • All related (by blood or marriage) individuals who will be occupying the home full time
  • All persons whose names will appear on the title to the property 
  • Significant others who will be living in the home
  • Temporarily absent family members: i.e. military deployment, temporary work reassignment, etc. (must be able to show documentation)
  • Unborn children of pregnant women 
  • Adopted children
  • Children who live in the home and are in the process of being adopted
  • Children who are temporarily absent due to placement in a foster home
  • Children who will be living in the home at least 50% of the time
  • Adult children for whom the applicant(s) has legal guardianship who also resides in the home at least 50% of the time 

Are Habitat houses free?

No. Habitat is a “hand up”, NOT a handout. As an investment in their homes, our partners agree to provide 250 hours of sweat equity per adult (up to 500 hours per household). This includes working on their own home or other Habitat homes and attending workshops on subjects like home and yard maintenance and budgeting.

Each partner has a mortgage that is repaid monthly. Monthly payments, which include taxes, typically run on average less than a 2-bedroom monthly rental. Each house is independently appraised for Fair Market Value (FMV) prior to closing, and the difference between the first mortgage (priced based on affordability) and the appraised value typically becomes a silent second note. Habitat also requires partners to save $1,500 toward their closing costs (vs. a conventional loan’s 10-20% down), to be paid at closing before a homeowner moves into her/his home. (Note: Overall settlement or closing costs are generally about 3-6 percent of the sale price of the Habitat home. The remaining costs for closing not covered by the partner’s savings for things such as inspection, title policies, insurance, mortgage and transfer taxes, attorneys’ and recording fees, and escrow reserve funds are to be added/wrapped into to the cost of the first mortgage.)

The first mortgage is paid down each month by the Habitat partner/borrower along with escrow for taxes and insurance, but, in recognition of the equity already invested in the house, the second mortgage is forgiven a certain % each year over the history of the term of the first mortgage, provided the partner remains in good standing on their mortgage. The home is fully owned by the family at the end of the mortgage.

How is Habitat different from a traditional bank/home builder?

Habitat is a nonprofit organization that provides three distinct services in the homeownership process: home construction, mortgage financing and mortgage servicing. These services would normally be performed separately by for-profit real estate businesses. Additionally, Habitat staff and volunteers serve as housing mentors, here to support our homeowners in learning the ins and outs of homeownership, getting through challenging times and celebrating successes.

Habitat is able to offer its homeowners a substantial amount of savings by bundling these services and providing them all in-house or through a combination of in-house services plus unique partnerships with other community organizations and businesses. Through the Habitat model, we are able to open the door to homeownership for those who would not be able to buy a home of their own.

Once requirements are complete, and the construction of the home is finished, Hancock County Habitat for Humanity then sells the home to the future Homeowner at no profit to the organization, financing the sale with an affordable mortgage loan.

What documents are required to apply for the Habitat program?

All items MUST be submitted [by the specified cycle deadline and/or the subsequent Notice of Incompleteness] + a series of home visits and interviews (generally 2) must be performed by members of the Selection Committee for an initial pre-qualification application/ assessment to be considered complete.  In applying this standard, HCoHFH follows the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA).

  • Standard HCoHFH Application, completed in its entirety (includes background check stipulations)
  • Government-issued Photo ID for every adult in the household (Passport, National Identification Card, Driver’s License, State Issue Non-Driver Photo ID)
  • Social Security Card or TIN & Birth Certificates for all household members
  • Green Card (non-citizens) or
  • Status update + Original filing of:
    • Application for Naturalization (Form N-400)
    • Petitions filed to help relative(s) become a lawful permanent resident of the US – Form I-130 or Form I-485
    • K-2 visa(s) for dependent children
    • Application for Asylum (Form I-589)
  • Medical documentation of special need (for potential house design or sweat equity accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act)
  • Employment (if applicable) & personal references (4 minimum; letters of reference preferred over just contact info.)
  • Evaluation by bank or credit union loan officer regarding [denial of] conventional financing options; if applying as co-applicants to Habitat, the evaluation must also show joint application
  • Current Bank Statements (ALL accounts, last 6 months)
  • Proof of Income
    • Note: Income does not have to be employment-based, it must, however, meet Habitat’s definition of verifiable and reliable [as noted under “Ability to Pay”]. Retirees, those on disability and households with other income situations are encouraged to apply.
    • For those employed: W-2 Forms [GROSS income is considered in calculations.]
    • 1099s for non-employee compensation
    • 1040 Income Tax Returns for the past 3 years (pg. 2 of Form 1040 must be signed and certified copies may be requested by Habitat) w/ Schedule C for self-employed individuals [NET for self-employment income is considered in calculations.]
      • Note: Habitat recognizes that some applicants to our program may be below the threshold required to file annual tax returns.
    • Pay-stubs (6 most recent, consecutive) or P&Ls for your self-employment business, if applicable
    • Verification of support income or public assistance (copy of award letter)
    • Official proof of alimony or child support (if applicable)
    • Verification of income from all other sources (e.g. SSDI, SSR, etc.)
  • Proof of Payments/Expenses (recent)
    • Utility bills
    • Rent or house payment stub
    • Credit reports and credit references
    • Records of liens and judgments (Note: It is a requirement of HCoHFH that the applicant has not had a foreclosure, short-sale or filed for bankruptcy in the past 36 months.  Past bankruptcies must have been discharged for at least 36 months prior to the application for housing.  Good credit history must also be reestablishe/demonstrated after such an event.)
  • A series of home visits and interviews (generally up to 2), performed by members of the Homeowner Selection Committee; all household members listed on the application must be physically in attendance

Note: Hancock County Habitat is considered a Special Purpose Credit Program provider, and, as such, may ask for & consider information not typically required by a conventional lender.  For more information see: www.consumerfinance.gov/policy-compliance/rulemaking/regulations/1002/8/

Note: Beyond the above items, Hancock County Habitat adheres to the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) definition of a completed mortgage loan application as being one which must include a specific property address, an estimate of the value of the property (in the case of a new Habitat home build, one obtained by an independent FMV appraisal of the home at the end of construction), and the loan amount, among 6 key pieces of information required; therefore this is not a “loan” application but simply an assessment to determine eligibility to partner with the organization.

What is good credit?

Good credit results from paying all your bills on time each month and not carrying excessive debt. Your credit is your responsibility and maintaining good credit is one of the most important thing you can do for your financial health. Having good credit means that you have a good credit report. A credit report is a record of the personal financial transactions that make up your credit history, such as credit cards, car loans, personal loans and negative items such as collections from utility or telephone companies.

How does your credit history look? You can check yours by getting your credit report. You are able to get a free credit report once a year from each of the three reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. To obtain a copy of your free credit report, visit: www.annualcreditreport.com

What if my credit report shows incorrect information, outstanding collections, debt, bankruptcies, judgments or liens?

The Homeowner Selection Committee considers the whole picture of an applicant and looks for applicants who are ready to accept the responsibility of homeownership. At the same time, we do not want to sell an applicant a home that she or he cannot afford. We do not expect applicants to have a perfect credit history. We do require applicants with negative credit accounts to have a plan to fix any outstanding collections or past-due items. We are unable to partner with applicants who have active, unpaid judgments or liens. Excessive debts and/or very recent unresolved collections may also disqualify an applicant.

Applicants who have filed for bankruptcy in the past should show a good credit history since the bankruptcy, and bankruptcies must have been discharged at least 36-months prior to the application for housing. Certain requirements may be waived in cases of personal or natural disaster.

Homeownership is a huge responsibility. Habitat’s goal is to help you become not just a homeowner, but a successful homeowner. If homeownership is your ultimate goal, but you’re not quite financially ready to apply, below are some tools that can help.

You may access one free copy of your credit report each year at: www.annualcreditreport.com.

If you are concerned about your credit history, we encourage you to seek help from one of the consumer credit counselors listed on the enclosed. HUD sponsors housing counseling agencies throughout the country providing free or low-cost advice; call (800) 569-4287 or visit https://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hcs.cfm for more info. Additional resources may be found through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or at www.KnowYourOptions.com

What can I do to prepare before applying to Habitat?
If you plan to apply for Habitat’s Homeownership Program during the next application round, you can prepare by collecting your financial documents. (See list of required documentation above.) Get a recent copy of your credit report and check to make sure the information is correct. You can get one free copy of your credit report each year at www.annualcreditreport.com
 
How long does it take before I can move into a home?
Habitat for Humanity is not a quick housing solution, but it can be a permanent one. The initial pre-screening application process takes between three to six months. If an applicant is accepted into the Homeownership Program, the process from acceptance through mortgage closing and moving into a home can take up to two years+, depending on available funding, construction schedules and the future homeowner’s “sweat equity” progress.A partner’s enthusiastic and consistent participation in the program may impact the speed of a home’s completion—inspiring more volunteers and donors to become involved not only in the current project but in future projects as well.
 

If my application for the Homeownership Program is not approved, can I reapply later?

Absolutely. We have limited available spots in our Homeownership Program. Sadly, this means we cannot accept every qualified applicant. If an applicant is not approved during the current application process, we encourage the applicant to improve eligibility (if applicable) and reapply during a future application round.

Some of our partners were denied the first time they applied due to outstanding collections and debts, income that was below our limits or other issues. They successfully improved their eligibility, reapplied and were accepted into the program.

If you need help finding additional assistance, please visit our Community Resources page: http://hancockcountyhabitat.org/community-resources

What is Sweat Equity?

Sweat Equity is the work a future Habitat homeowner spends helping to build their own home as well as the homes of other future homeowners. It is a central principle in Habitat’s mission of building community and partnering with individuals and families to provide “a hand up, NOT a handout.” Providing the opportunity for our future homeowners to work alongside volunteers and future neighbors to build their homes is one of the most unique, empowering and rewarding aspects of Habitat for Humanity.

Once you are approved by the Board of Directors to become a part of our Homeownership Program, you must complete the required number of Sweat Equity hours at Habitat’s construction sites. It’s important for a future homeowner to give consistent, active participation on the construction site. In fact, most partners exceed the minimum required hours (250 hours per adult family member). Friends and family may help a future homeowner by volunteering with Habitat and donating a portion of their hours to help fulfill your sweat equity requirement.

Habitat adheres to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If a future adult household occupant has documented conditions that prevent her/him from volunteering on an active construction site, staff will arrange for other opportunities to fulfill the Sweat Equity requirement.

I have to help build my house? What if I don’t know how?
Habitat does not require any previous construction skills or knowledge to be a volunteer or a future homeowner. We have trained staff and long-term volunteers who are eager to teach our future homeowners and volunteers the skills they need to be safe and successful on the construction site.
 

What are Habitat homes like and what do they include?

Because Habitat builds homes with affordability in mind, Habitat homeowners have more limited choices about their homes than someone buying from a traditional homebuilder. While Habitat homeowners are generally able to choose certain finishes and colors for the home, the partner will not, for instance, be able to choose their home’s location [based on available lot(s) and build schedules] or the number of bedrooms and bathroom(s) [based on application occupancy #s]. 

Our homeowners generally are able to choose:

  • Exterior siding color
  • Wall paint (up to 3 colors)
  • Countertop color
  • Flooring shade (light or dark).

A basic description of the home:

  • 1,000+ sq.ft. of living space (for a typical 3-bedroom with square footage varying +/- based on # of bedrooms/occupants)
  • One to two bathrooms with fixtures (depending on # of occupants)
  • Architectural-grade shingles
  • Low maintenance vinyl siding
  • Energy-efficient windows with screens
  • Eat-in kitchen, with built-in cabinets, countertops and double-bowl sink
  • Open-concept living room 
  • Handicap accessible
  • Steel entry doors w/ storm doors
  • Durable flooring
  • Water heater and heating system
  • Range w/ hood & refrigerator
  • Washer/dryer hookups
  • Ceiling lights, fixtures and fans
  • Vent/light combination in bathroom(s)
  • Shed
  • Clothes line
  • Basic landscaping surrounding the home

What is not included in a Habitat home?:

  • Dishwasher, washer, or dryer
  • Garbage disposal
  • Garage or carport
  • Attic
  • Fences
  • Concrete patio
  • Window treatments
  • Furniture

Typical 3-Bedroom, 1-Bath Hancock Co. Habitat Home (actual layout/size will vary based on occupancy #s). Bedrooms are modest sizes, typically just under 10’x10′.  Houses are built on slabs, unless lot constraints dictate or house occupancy #s require more habitable space.  Hancock Co. Habitat does not build garages. 

Note: New construction and rehabilitation projects may provide a set of circumstances combined with local code requirements, lot constraints, or community covenants in which some of the guidelines cannot be met.

 

CLICK HERE to download a copy of Habitat for Humanity Michigan’s blog entitled “Taking Control of Your Credit”.

Please fill out the contact form below, and we’d be happy to send information describing our program and process.  Other than basic contact information (email, phone and mailing address), please DO NOT send confidential personal details electronically.  This contact form and the affiliate’s email is not necessarily operated on a secure network. [Please note: By submitting information through this form, you are granting Hancock County Habitat permission to contact you in the future at the email address you’ve shared, until such permission is revoked in writing.] WE ARE NOT ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS AT THIS TIME, BUT ENCOURAGE YOU TO CHECK BACK DURING OUR NEXT OPEN CYCLE.

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