Homeownership FAQ

Looking to become a Habitat for Humanity homeowner? Below are some common questions our applicants have. If you do not find answers to your questions below, please contact our homeownership department at homeownership@habitatportlandmetro.org.

What is the first step toward purchasing a new house?

If you are interested in the Habitat for Humanity program and have reviewed the requirements to see if you qualify, the next step is to submit a pre-application. We only accept applications when we have properties available. To get information about upcoming properties and when we are accepting applications please contact our Homeownership Department at 503-287-9529 Ext. 19 or email homeownership@habitatportlandmetro.org.

How are the applicants selected?

Applicants will submit a completed pre-application and paperwork during the open application round.  Habitat staff and volunteers will review the information from your pre-application and pull your credit to see if it is acceptable. We will figure out your Debt to Income ratio, which needs to be less than 13%. If your Credit Check and income meets our minimum requirements, we will invite you to an information session where you will find out more about how our program works and the houses that we currently have and what houses we currently have available. We will also ask you to gather additional documents and information needed to confirm that the applicant meets all of our requirements. If the application passes this second review, we will contact the applicants for an interview in which we will confirm information provided on your applications and thoroughly discuss our program requirements. Once all interviews are conducted, we will make a final determination based on all the information provided. It’s important to note that we usually have a larger amount of qualified applicants than homes available. Because of this, we are unable to guarantee that an applicant will be selected to join our program even if they meet all of our criteria.

Will background checks be conducted?

Yes. Habitat does background checks on all household members over the age of 15. A criminal history does not automatically disqualify an applicant; any issues that come up in a background check will be dealt with on an individual basis.

Who can be a part of my household? How is my household size determined?

Only individuals who are currently living in the household can be considered when determining household size and the number of bedrooms the applicant qualifies for. A child is only considered in regards to household size if the applicant has at least 50% custody of that child.  We do occasionally make exceptions and definitely want to make sure that household members are not discounted when inappropriate. If a person is pregnant during the application process, the unborn child will be counted towards the household size. Please be sure to explain any household size situations in your application.

If pre-approved, how long will it take before I purchase my Habitat house?

Families are in the program until their house has been built or remodeled; generally, this takes 12 to 24 months. Ideally, construction of a partner family’s house begins within six months from the time of approval. Completion of the house will vary.  The construction process is complex with many variables depending on funding sources, the construction schedule and building requirements. This complexity makes it difficult to predict the length of time from pre-approval in the program to purchasing a house.

What is sweat equity?

Sweat equity is the volunteer time participants invest in earning the right to purchase their Habitat house with an affordable mortgage. Following approval into the program, the applicant must complete 300 hours of sweat equity hours. All sweat equity hours must be completed before pre-approved partners are able to purchase their house.

What kinds of houses does Habitat build or remodel?

We typically build two to five bedrooms, wood frame houses with approximately 900 to 1500 square feet depending on the family size. Remodel house square footage and amenities vary. An electric range, microwave, refrigerator, washer, dryer, and dishwasher are provided with most houses. One and ½ or two bathrooms are standard. Often Habitat houses or remodel houses are attached, and share walls. Habitat houses can be condominiums, duplexes, multiplexes, or single dwelling. Newly constructed houses do not have garages, basements or usable attics. Habitat builds and sells simple, decent houses.

Do applicants get to choose the location or design of the home?

No. Habitat does not build custom houses. Habitat will choose the size of the house based on household size and makeup. We expect two children of the same gender to share a bedroom if they are close in age. The location of the house is dependent upon where Habitat is building or remodeling houses. The locations available will usually be discussed during the homeownership application process.

How much will the Habitat house cost?

Habitat sells houses for market value, which cannot be determined until the house is complete. No matter what the price of the house, Habitat is committed to keeping housing payments affordable. Habitat partner families’ housing payments will be set at 30% of their household gross monthly incomes at the time of sale. This monthly amount will include the mortgage payment, homeowners’ insurance, possibly HOA dues, and property taxes.