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Home Ownership Expo Held on St. Croix

June 17, 2007 — Celebrating National Home Ownership Month, FirstBank held its 11th annual Homeownership Expo Saturday at its Orange Grove branch. More than 70 people attended the event to receive educational materials and assistance to prepare for home ownership.
Eleven exhibitors were on hand to answer questions from potential home buyers. A similar event on St. Thomas the previous Saturday attracted about 60 people, according to Karen Ault, who organized the events for FirstBank.
Survey Services Company owners Gail and Gary Bourdon, who have been exhibitors at the expo for a few years, said, "It is rewarding seeing people making an educated step toward home ownership."
They offered information about such subjects as title, boundary and topographic surveys. Bourdon said, "A land survey locates and marks the property corners. Most buyers and their lenders require a survey at the time of closing."
Beyond Visions Foundation representative Yvonne Petersen helped people with credit counseling and the fundamentals of household budgeting. The foundation holds workshops and prepares spreadsheets for people interested in getting a profile of their spending and setting up budgets. Petersen said, "No one I have seen has a balanced income-to-spending profile. People don't realize buying little things add up." Anyone interested in attending a budgeting workshop can call 772-0283.
Mike Simmons of Home Inspector Inc. explained home inspection as "a way to gain information about a very important purchase. It helps them determine whether there are any major defects or system inadequacies before they buy. We are like the unwanted houseguest who gets really nosey. We provide an unbiased evaluation of property that can help buyers and sellers come to an agreement." He noted, "Even new homes may have inadequacies in construction."
FirstBank mortgage coordinators gave participants information on mortgage products the bank offers and set up appointments for them with Paula Cumbermack, the mortgage loan originator.
V.I. Housing Finance Authority representative Dahlia Daniell Percival answered questions about eligibility requirements for the home-purchase program. The authority’s mission is to create enough housing to meet the needs of low- and moderate-income families. The authority seeks to achieve this mission through investment capital to stimulate construction of owner-occupied rental housing and assist home buyers and renters. The authority focuses on counseling and education of potential home buyers.
Energy Office representatives gave information about how the use of alternative energy and energy efficiency would reduce Water and Power Authority bills.
Land-de-Wilde Coldwell Banker had four realtors at the Expo. They gave home-buyer guides and answered first-time home buyer's questions. Karen Poates said, "Our main purpose is to let people know Coldwell Banker will reach out to them whether they are low-income or high-income buyers. We are there for them on a daily basis."
Manager Kimme Bryce and technician Rena Elias from the office of the U.S.D.A. Rural Development talked to people about guaranteed rural housing loans. They discussed eligibility requirements, eligible loan purposes, housing requirements, site requirements and loan rates and terms. They also gave handouts on income limits. The program is designed for people typically unable to get conventional loans. Bryce said, "Affordable housing in the Virgin Islands is a thing of the past. There has been approximately a 122 percent increase in the price of homes in the past five years."
FirstBank representatives gave credit reports to 34 participants and answered questions about the bank’s insurance policy options.
Two seminars focused on how to qualify for a mortgage. Ault, community reinvestment officer, provided insight on the mortgage process and bank requirements. She told potential buyers about mortgage vocabulary, construction loan programs and financial preparation steps, such as improving financial management, repairing bad credit records and understanding credit history. Ault also discussed closing requirements for a home purchase. Ault said, "Closing is a serious obligation, be very clear before signing documents. Ask questions, because it's a huge step."
Potential first time home buyer Rayna Knight said, "I was very happy First Bank provided child care, otherwise I would not have been able to attend this seminar that I found really informative."
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