Buying a home can be a difficult process, especially if one isn’t well acquainted with financial and home-ownership knowledge.To make this process easier for the essential Aggies working on campus as support staff, the REACH Project, a charitable organization that helps Texas A&M’s essential workers, created a seven-step home ownership process, REACH’s founder and CEO Max Gerall said.
“The concept was a personalized, seven-step journey to home ownership, one that would be able to accommodate for each family’s various ability to own a home,” Gerall said. “We wanted to make sure that it would be something that was equitable.”
Steps one and two focus on education surrounding bank literacy, personal finance and credit repair with REACH’s partners American Momentum Bank and Junior Achievement, while the current step, the third one, focuses on the home ownership process, Gerall said.
Future steps four through seven will delve further into the details of home ownership, including obtaining pre-approval from REACH’s banking partners, working with REACH’s construction partner Doug French and Stylecraft Homes, finalizing bank negotiations and building and learning how to maintain one’s new home, Gerall said.
“We’ve actually had a couple of families, I’m very proud to say, that since that course and following that prescription if you will, have increased their credit score over 70 points,” Gerall said. “Taking someone from a very vulnerable place when going for a mortgage loan to a very competitive place was really awesome.”
The home ownership program has overall been successful for its first group, with many of the students taking advantage of the classes to work towards financing and owning a home, Gerall said.
“We’re really excited … we’re going to have about 3-5 families that we believe by the end of 2021 will actually be in their first home, which is truly, truly amazing,” Gerall said.
Cathy Robinson, an assistant unit director for the Corps of Cadets’ dorms, said she’s been involved since the program started several months ago and has found it very helpful.
“It’s been very helpful, it’s a lot of stuff that I didn’t know [about] that I learned. You know, how to get your credit together, all that, what you need to know about buying a house, closing costs. It’s been very helpful,” Robinson said.
While credit repair is one of the most significant changes she was able to make, the program has helped with savings management and other concerns in the home ownership process, Robinson said.
“I think I’m ready [to buy a house] … from the classes and stuff. My credit is on point, so [it will be] probably a couple or months or so, three months at the most,” Robinson said.
David Brower, a community development analyst with the City of College Station’s Community Services Department and a licensed loan originator, said he’s enjoyed teaching a homebuyer education course through REACH’s home ownership program. Buying houses touches on most aspects of financial life, Brower said, and with a comprehensive course like this it can be impactful to financial goals and understanding.
“From the beginning [REACH has] wanted to be able to help people … achieve the American dream and buy a house, and that’s where I come in,” Brower said. “There’s a lot of things about credit that are just kind of mysteries to people and the unknown tends to be scary, [so we want] people walking away with a good picture of … [a] path to take to fix credit issues.”
Gerall said one of the cool things about this program is that REACH worked with students to develop this whole program, including working with visualization and business students and professors from the Mays Business School.
“It’s been a really awesome community effort, really getting a broad brush stroke of the Aggie community involved, and so we’re really excited to see it develop and grow from here,” said Gerall. “I think that these first three to five [families] will kind of set the tone, if you will, and be a great example and a great motivational piece for the rest of our families.”