An increase in the number of year-over-year participants in Aroostook County Action Program’s HoMEworks Homebuyer Education Class may be one sign that a recent surge in the number of local homes purchased in Aroostook County is not coming to an end anytime soon.
According to ACAP Housing Specialist Greg Doak, who leads the agency’s homebuyer education program, the number of participants successfully completing the program at the halfway point in the year is already up 15 percent over the total number of those enrolling in the course in all of 2020.
Last year, when ACAP moved the eight-hour course from in-person to via Zoom, because of the pandemic, enrollment saw a jump over 2019, with a total of 124 people taking the virtual class offering. So far in 2021, 143 participants have completed the HoMEworks Homebuyer Education Class.
In addition to regularly offering the homebuyer classes, Doak also supports prospective homebuyers with pre-purchase counseling. Those numbers have more than doubled over 2020 year-end totals. Halfway through 2021, ACAP has supported more than 30 customers through the credit building, pre-qualification and buying process. Altogether in 2020, Doak helped guide a dozen families through this process.
“Interest in the class, enrollment and the number of pre-purchase counseling customers has grown steadily through the pandemic,” said Doak. “The convenience of taking the class in one weekend day via Zoom, as opposed to shorter in-person sessions stretched out over a number of days and weeknights, and the attraction of low mortgage interest rates are certainly part of the reason. The other factor that really is at play here is more awareness of the incredible incentives that qualifying program participants receive toward the purchase of their home by taking the class. And, with the price of home sales in Aroostook and across Maine going up, any help toward the purchase of a home is something people, especially first-time homebuyers, are taking a serious look at.”
Along with Doak, ACAP’s HoMEworks Homebuyer Education Class is taught by industry professionals that include lenders, home inspectors, and real estate agents in an educational and non-sales environment. The classes provide an opportunity to learn about the home buying process, and even extends into valuable information on homeownership beyond the purchase, in a neutral environment.
Among the incentives for successful participants in the class, who are eligible for MaineHousing’s First Home Loan Program, is $3,500 toward down payment and closing costs. The First Home Loan Program is designed to make it easier and more affordable to buy a home by providing low fixed interest rate mortgages, with little or no down payment required.
ACAP’s moving the live classes over to a remote platform has not only been of benefit to participants currently living in the largest geographic county east of the Mississippi River, but also for those from away looking to move to the region and purchase a home in The County.
“We have seen people from other parts of Maine and other states registering and taking the class with the intent to buy a home in our area,” said Doak. “This wasn’t feasible in the past when we offered only in-person courses. The trend is certainly in line with what we are seeing in our local real estate market with people from away looking to move to Aroostook County and purchase a home.”
Moving forward, as the pandemic continues to subside and vaccination numbers increase, ACAP plans to offer the course in a hybrid format, with both in-person and virtual participation. The agency is also hoping to provide in-person course offerings in the northern and southern regions of Aroostook County.
For now, ACAP has two additional HoMEworks Homebuyer Education Classes scheduled for 2021, both of which will be held via Zoom. The next sessions are planned for Saturday, August 7 and Saturday, September 18.
Class registration cost is $30 per person or $50 per couple. For more information or to register, contact ACAP Certified HoMEworks Instructor Greg Doak at 207-554-4175 or by e-mail at email@example.com.