The Star-Herald

As state home sales rise, so does interest in ACAP’s homebuyer education class

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — 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 Program Coordinator Theresa Dow, who supervises 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, ACAP 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, ACAP 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 Dow. “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 ACAP Team Members, 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 Dow. “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, Aug. 7 and Saturday, Sept. 18.  

Class registration cost is $30 per person or $50 per couple. For more information or to register, contact ACAP at 207-764-3721 or by email at info@acap-me.org.

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