June 5, 2004- "Virgin Islanders feel strongly about wanting to own their own homes," said Karen Sprauve, assistant vice president at FirstBank.
On Saturday residents, in a matter of minutes, could compute just how close they were to making their dreams reality.
At the FirstBank's Homeownership Exposition, four computer terminals were set up. Residents could enter their income, assets and debt, and find out what home they could afford.
Sprauve said the challenge is becoming greater as housing prices have "skyrocketed in St. John and keep appreciating in St. Thomas."
However, she said there are federal programs that can help potential homeowners along where the bank can't. It was one of the goals of the expo to tell residents about those programs.
And residents were interested in the message. Sixty-seven residents attended the exposition. Sprauve said that at least half of them spent time at the computers to determine their eligibility.
Residents missing the exposition and having access to the Internet can still determine eligibility. They need to go to FirstBankvi.com and go to the pre-approval section.
The exposition also featured advice for repairing a bad credit rating. Sprauve said residents can repair bad credit by establishing a new record of good payment and also just by putting time between the bad credit incidences and a new good credit history.
The number of attendees was a half-dozen higher than the 61 who attended last year in St. Thomas, but it was still less than the 75 who attended the exposition in St. Croix.
St. Croix has an exposition planned for June 12 at FirstBank, Orange Grove Branch. Housing prices in St. Croix are considerably less than those on St. Thomas and St. John.
Another key element of the exposition was a discussion of budgets. Sprauve said residents would be shown "how to adjust spending to afford a home."
Forms were available to use in budgeting.
Sprauve said that the Homeownership Exposition, over the last half dozen years, has been satisfying to staff at FirstBank because, "We have seen people at the expo go all the way through the home ownership process."
Programs that presenters were prepared to discuss at the exposition included those of the Veteran's Administration and the Rural Development Authority.
Besides bank officials there were representatives from the St. Thomas Board of Realtors, the V.I. Housing Council and the Housing Finance Authority. For the first time, Habitat for Humanity was represented.
Sprauve said that organizers were "very pleased" with the turnout Saturday. She said she also spoke to several participants who were satisfied with what they learned there.
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