When I first became involved with Habitat I held an assumption that recipients of the homes got a “free” house. I knew that Habitat raised money to build the houses and thought the homeowners were just given a house to live in. Now, a few years later, I see that it is not so simple as to just receiving a house as a freebie. Getting involved with the organization has taught me that getting a Habitat home is not easy and recipients don’t get a free house! Homeowners put in hundreds of hours of “sweat equity” before they get their house. And once the house is done, they pay a mortgage – just like the rest of us!
The Habitat home ownership program is unique in a number of ways. To begin with, Habitat determines the amount at which they sell the house to the homeowner by adding the cost of the materials plus the cost of the real estate. There is no profit added into the price of the home. Secondly, Habitat provides the money to buy the house without charging interest. The no-interest mortgage is significant because a loan from a commercial bank adds interest payments, which more than doubles the "cost" of the home to the buyer. A typical mortgage for a Habitat homeowner is 20 years. Mortgages may be extended to 22 or even 25 years in order to keep payments affordable. There are no penalties to the buyer if they pay off the mortgage ahead of schedule – though other restrictions may remain in place for the entire original mortgage period.
Overall, it’s a great opportunity for families. Through Habitat for Humanity of Hamilton County, people who qualify for the program experience all the joys of homeownership – including the mortgage payment!