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 call us at (503) 287-9529 or send a quick email to info@habitatportlandmetro.org.

How do I get a house?

It’s important to understand that Habitat for Humanity does not give houses away. We partner with families who meet our program’s qualifications and agree to contribute sweat equity hours building their home. Therefore, each applicant must agree to partner with us in the program, which includes providing all documentation needed as well as attending homebuyer education classes and working 300 hours of sweat equity. Basic requirements to own a Habitat home are provided at the homeownership application meetings.

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 attend a Homeownership application meeting to learn more about our program and receive an application. These meetings are generally held once or twice a year depending on the construction schedule.  To get information about upcoming meetings, please call 503-287-9529 or fill out the homeownership interest form with your contact information. You will be put on our mailing list, and we will send information about our next open application round as soon as we have the dates confirmed. If you have received a meeting announcement in the past, you must sign up again to receive future meeting announcements.

What is a homeowership application meeting and open application round?

An application meeting is an informative meeting, which explains how the Homeownership Program works, goes over Habitat qualifications and reviews how to apply. The application meetings are the best place to pick up an application.  During the weeks following a set of application meetings, Habitat holds an open application round.

An open application round is the period of time that Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East will accept completed applications. Once the application round is closed, the completed applications are processed and either pre-approved or denied, as determined by the Family Selection Committee.

How are the applicants selected?

Applications are reviewed for basic eligibility. We will ask homeowner applicants to submit financial documentation with their application. After completing the financial review, a home visit and interview will be conducted by Family Selection Committee members. Those members then present the applicant file to the whole committee which pre-approves applicants that best fits the Habitat Homeownership Program. The application process generally takes three months from the homeownership application meetings to the committee decision.

Will credit checks or background checks be conducted?

Yes. Habitat checks the credit of applicants and does background checks on all adult household members. 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.  Habitat will verify employment, check credit and make an assessment as to whether Habitat is an appropriate program for the applicant(s). Habitat does not have a minimum credit score requirement, but credit history and debt will be assessed; applicants cannot have filed bankruptcy in the last three years.

How do you define “family?” Do I have to have children to be pre-approved?

Habitat serves all types of households and families. A “family” can be singles, couples, partners, families with or without children, multi-generational families, etc. The application selection process is impartial. Familial status, age, race, color, religion, sex, handicap, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origins play no part in the choice.

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 a low-interest mortgage. Following approval by the selection committee, the applicant must complete 300 hours of sweat equity. 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 build one to five-bedroom, wood frame houses with approximately 900 to 1200 square feet depending on the family size. Remodel house square footage and amenities vary. A stove, refrigerator, washer, dryer, and dishwasher are provided with most  houses. One and ½ 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. 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 meetings during the 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.

Will I be allowed to sell my Habitat house?

Yes, but there are resale restrictions. If a family sells their Habitat house within 20 years of occupancy, Habitat has the first right of refusal and a shared appreciation model. The longer the family lives in the Habitat house, the larger the percentage of appreciation the family receives upon resale. After 20 years, the family receives 100% of the appreciation of the house.