When you think about “home,” what comes to mind? As a REALTOR®, it may inspire thoughts of sales, new listings or simply your job. But for many, home is a feeling — it’s a sigh of relief after a long day. It’s a place where memories are made. It’s your comfort zone.
But for many DuPage County residents, finding an affordable home can be difficult. Known for its high-performing school districts, high property values and proximity to Chicago, DuPage is an attractive — and expensive — place to set down roots and raise a family.
That’s where H.O.M.E. DuPage comes in. Based in Wheaton, H.O.M.E. is a HUD-approved housing counseling agency and has been serving the western suburbs for nearly three decades. Their staff of trained housing counselors help low- to moderate-income residents learn the skills and access the knowledge and tools they need to buy or keep their homes.
H.O.M.E. Starts with Mainstreet
Mainstreet’s partnership with H.O.M.E. spans nearly three decades — back to 1991, when the organization was still the DuPage Association of REALTORS®. Through her work with the association, then-CEO Pam Krieter recognized there was a shortage of affordable housing in DuPage County. To address this need, she brought together several organizations to help start what was then known as DuPage Homeownership Center (DPC).
In 1993, the DuPage Homeownership Center was awarded $5,000 through the Partners in Housing Awards Program, a joint NAR/Fannie Mae Foundation grant program.
In 1998, Krieter encouraged Amy Robey, Mainstreet’s Vice President for Marketing & Communications, to get involved with H.O.M.E. “Initially, I got involved with the marketing committee because Pam encouraged me. But I stayed involved because I realized just how important the work they’re doing is to our community.” Robey now serves as H.O.M.E.’s board chair and provides her expertise to the strategic direction of the nonprofit.
How H.O.M.E. Works
When a client comes into H.O.M.E., they’re assessed by not only their current needs, but also their future goals. For example, if a client would like to purchase a home one day but currently lacks a savings account, H.O.M.E.’s housing counseling staff will work with them step-by-step to teach them financial literacy skills, walk them through down payment assistance programs and educate them on the amount of mortgage they can afford.
“One of our goals at Mainstreet is to always make sure our members know about H.O.M.E. DuPage,” said Robey. “As a REALTOR®, they’re meeting with clients every day. If a client isn’t home-buying-ready, they can recommend H.O.M.E. as a free option to learn how to navigate the homeownership process.”
Partnership in Action
When a H.O.M.E. client is ready to take that next step towards homeownership, they’re provided a list of real estate professionals that can help them achieve their goals. Though H.O.M.E. does not steer their clients to individual REALTORS®, all of the real estate agents they work with are associated with Mainstreet.
That’s how Sudan native Klovirt and his wife, Raga, were able to buy their first home. Klovirt and his family of six lived in a two-bedroom apartment when they first met with H.O.M.E. The family has since gone through all of the nonprofit’s pre-purchase housing counseling programs, including their first time homebuyer course.
After learning all of the necessary components of buying a home and saving for a downpayment, Klovirt and his wife worked with a Mainstreet REALTOR®, Annette Akey to find the home that worked best for their family. H.O.M.E. DuPage and Mainstreet helped Klovirt learn the necessary skills he’d need to navigate the homebuying process and become a homeowner.
Klovirt, Raga and their four children recently moved into their first home in the United States. Their story, and others like theirs, were celebrated a fundraising event in Wheaton in October. Klovirt and Raga both were unable to attend, thanks in part to the new jobs they started as a result of their work with H.O.M.E. DuPage.
“When I started with [H.O.M.E. DuPage partner agency] Loaves and Fishes, I didn’t know the homeownership process,” Klovirt said in a pre-taped video, which played during the fundraising event. “I spent three years with H.O.M.E., learning and doing homework so that I could understand the process. I want to use my knowledge to help other people so that they can be prepared, too.”
“We want to help H.O.M.E., and other organizations like it, create more stories like Klovirt and Raga’s,” said Robey. “ When a Mainstreet REALTOR® comes across a low- to moderate-income buyer who may be just out of reach for homeownership, we recommend sending them to H.O.M.E. DuPage. By referring buyers to education courses like H.O.M.E.’s, we not only strengthen their chances of becoming a homeowner, but strengthen the suburban housing market, as well.”
You can learn more about H.O.M.E. DuPage by visiting their website.
H.O.M.E. DuPage is one of six nonprofits that Mainstreet has partnered with to give back to our communities. To read more about all of them, keep an eye on our blog.