This program has been in existence for a few years, but here is a new look at its potential.
I have written and provided resources to help new home buyers, so I have touched upon the HOPE program, but a recent partnership with HAR to ensure that these homes are being listed in the MLS has caused me to turn my thoughts to how this idea can improve our housing market even further by focusing on foreclosures around town. HAR has a press release which shows a few positive signs for Houston real estate; however, the fact that foreclosures are driving down home prices and effecting sales of other homes is undeniable.
First, a brief look at the HOPE program to remind home buyers why you may wish to look into using its services. This quote details the gist of what they do:
Houston HOPE is Mayor Bill White’s initiative to reinvest in Houston’s older neighborhoods. The goal of Houston HOPE is to build strong neighborhoods that meet the needs of their current residents and are attractive to new and returning families. For more information, please call 713-522-HOME.
The service helps first time home buyers and buyers meeting certain income requirements move into a home. There are a host of builders to construct those homes, many of which are fitting in with green initiatives. There is also down payment assistance for those who qualify. With the current economy, any help that you can get should be appreciated to purchase a home. I am sure that many buyers might find that they qualify. One of the issues that I think some buyers may have is that the program focuses on certain neighborhoods. They are spread across the city, but they are not always the areas that are considered desirable.
Are the areas really so undesirable? If you are driving around town as much as I do for work (and pleasure), you may have noticed that many neighborhoods are undergoing significant changes. New businesses, or facelifts on commercial properties, can be seen, but the number of townhomes being constructed near downtown are quite noticeable. Along residential lines, you will also see condominiums and apartment complexes rising up. Due to the fear of higher costs of fuel, many young professionals are moving back into these neighborhoods. A few of my inspections have been for first time home buyers who fit the bill of being part of the “creative class”. They are buying many of these older homes to be restored. There are beautiful elements in these older houses. All of this is happening in many of the neighborhoods targeted by HOPE, or close to those areas. My argument is that you will find that neighborhoods that were avoided could now be a real option for you to consider. When new buyers move into a subdivision, they generally improve the quality of life by their involvement. A side effect is that businesses catering to this group follow them into a region, benefiting older residents too.
HOPE could become a tool to help deal with the greater real estate market. HAR presents its metrics about the market with foreclosures added and without foreclosures included. The number of homeowners going into foreclosure is far greater than it has ever been, and we are expecting this trend to increase for the remainder of this year, due to lenders lifting their moratorium on beginning this process. Foreclosures sell for less than other homes, and since consumers have seen their own pocketbooks running low, they are looking for a deal. On the other hand, loans are difficult to come by, so the number of home consumers has decreased. A foreclosure can make sense to many buyers, even if they discover that the home will require repairs. Until we start moving these homes from the market, we will continue to experience lower home values (along with other problems foreclosures can bring to a community).
Although I like the idea of focusing on certain subdivisions, I think that the city should consider evolving HOPE to find ways to remove foreclosures from the market. Here is how I see HOPE accomplishing this task:
By adjusting its mandate to focus on foreclosures for at least the coming year, instead of on certain neighborhoods. We should not ignore their targeted neighborhoods, but the glut of homes on the market is all around the city.
HOPE could purchase the REO properties from the lenders before they come onto the market, so these units could be distributed over time. The current inventory could be a benefit for home buyers for a few years, but these homes are now causing losses for owners who need to sell now. Taking foreclosures off market would help property values.
Include firms which specialize in renovations. Yes many of the builders listed in the HOPE program could assist in preserving homes, but we may find more work for firms that renovate. The green building initiatives in the program are great, but many homes could be converted to a green model (at least in part). My hope would be that current residents of HOPE neighborhoods would also benefit from having renovations done on their homes.
Turn real estate professionals into advocates of the program. It does seem that HAR is helping more with HOPE, but that is only one segment of the industry. Creating focus to win over real estate agents, builders, renovators, and dare I say home inspectors, appraiser, and surveyors with many other professions to teach them about the program, then having them go out to conduct seminars around the town in community centers. Maybe I am missing it, but I am not witnessing the buy-in from the real estate community as much as I think should be happening.
Of course, there would have to be further details; however this outline serves as a way to help first time and low income home buyers, while helping the local economy too.
Even if HOPE does not take steps towards my suggestions (and who am I, that they would be listening to me), I do feel that < !– google_ad_section_start –>a buyer considering purchasing a foreclosure should look into this service. With green buildings available,< !– google_ad_section_end –> it is a great deal. Here is the website: http://www.houstontx.gov/houstonhope/.