Thanks to the efforts of the Mon Valley Initiative’s Housing Counseling and Real Estate Development programs, a local single mother is now paying a mortgage cheaper than rent and owns a newly-renovated home in North Braddock.

Since late August, Royale Barnett and her nine-year-old son have been able to call a two bedroom house on Baldridge Avenue in North Braddock their home. And the monthly mortgage payment on this house is about $75 less than what the small family was paying to live in a rental property on Lobinger Avenue.

NEW HOME OWNER—Royale Barnett on the porch of her newly renovated Mon Valley Initiative house in North Braddock.

Barnett’s newly renovated house is one of several in a neighborhood stabilization program in North Braddock that was led through the efforts of North Braddock Cares, Inc., MVI, and Allegheny County Economic Development. The MVI has built or refurbished hundreds of such homes throughout the Mon Valley, and has helped change formerly blighted areas into livable tax generating neighborhoods.

Barnett’s journey to become a homeowner began when she contacted Mike Mauer, MVI’s NeighborWorks® Certified Housing Counselor, and registered to attend a June 25 Homebuyers Education Learning Program workshop. Funded partially through grant monies provided by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, MVI’s Housing Counseling program and its workshops have helped hundreds of families to become homeowners over the last six years.

Following the eight hour workshop where Barnett and others learned useful homeownership information as well as qualification guidelines for low-to-moderate income loan products, the new North Braddock homeowner scheduled herself for an individual pre-purchase housing counseling appointment July 5. After Mauer went over her credit report and debt-to-income ratios, she learned she could qualify for a low interest mortgage product that included grant monies for down payment and closing cost assistance.

As a certified housing counselor, a large part of Mauer’s expertise is a thorough knowledge of specialized mortgage loan products and how potential homeowners can qualify for them. This includes mortgages offered through the Federal Housing Administration and the PHFA that feature down payment and closing cost assistance for low-to-moderate income buyers.

“Many of my clients have misconceptions about the mortgage lending industry and what it takes to qualify for a mortgage,” said Mauer, whose counseling efforts at MVI have helped scores of families into homes this year. “People tend to assume before I meet with them that it is harder nowadays in a weak economy to get a mortgage loan. That just isn’t true. It is just more difficult for risky borrowers to get mortgage loans that are sub-prime. Essentially, the mortgage underwriting requirements for good loans have stayed the same.”

Mauer added that many of his clients are also continuing to benefit from low interest rates, allowing them to purchase homes that they may not have been able to afford a half decade ago.

“Like Royale Barnett, if you have a steady income and pay your bills on time, there’s likely a mortgage loan out there for you,” said Mauer. “And chances are, it’ll be a better fit than what you’d think.”

Once Barnett received her mortgage pre-approval, Mauer continued to assist her through each step of the home buying process from application to closing.

Those seeking counseling as Barnett did have the opportunity to do so now. Future homeowners can schedule face-to-face appointments with MVI’s Housing Counselor and get information on upcoming MVI new home construction. This includes homes being built in Swissvale, Homestead, East Pittsburgh, Turtle Creek and Charleroi.

On Sept. 17, the MVI will host a free pre-purchase housing workshop from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 7421 Park Avenue in Swissvale. Topics to be covered include budgeting to purchase a home, shopping for a home loan, closing procedures and home maintenance.

The venue for the Sept. 17 workshop was an example of MVI’s successful Rehab for Resale program. This newly-renovated, four bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom house is one of several in a neighborhood stabilization program in Swissvale that was led through the efforts of the Swissvale Economic Development Corp., MVI, Allegheny County Economic Development, the PHFA and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

(For more information and registration, call MVI’s housing counselor at: 412-464-4000 x 4008 or visit http://www.mon­

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