For many immigrants, purchasing a home is a major goal, and a sign that one has “made it” in a new country. But the process of preparing for homeownership, and eventually buying a home, can feel overwhelming. Placido Mowa, an immigrant and asylum-seeker from Central Africa, quickly found this out when he felt he was ready to buy a home. However, Mowa – who now is a homeowner – reached out for support and strongly encourages others to do the same.
“I am a pastor,” said Mowa, “and I met Clement Yombe, program director of ProsperityME, at my church.” Yombe encouraged Mowa to sign up for a five-session course in Basic Money Management at ProsperityME, which he did. The course helped him understand how to budget, save, and work with a bank to meet financial goals – all necessary steps to help prepare for homeownership. Then Mowa took a First-Time HomeBuyers course through Avesta Housing. Finally, he was able to take advantage of the Individual Development Account Program (IDA), which was created by Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI), ProsperityME, and cPort Credit Union, and grant-funded by the federal government. While funding for the IDA program unfortunately was not renewed in 2019, much of the assistance it offered is still available.
Mowa worked with Jill Lorom of CEI throughout the entire home buying process. “Jill helped me understand how to work with a mortgage company, and how to pay all the bills for the house,” Mowa said. He attended four 1:1 Financial Counseling sessions with Lorom and worked on reducing his debt and improving his credit score. Lorom also helped Mowa with the mortgage lender. Although the IDA program no longer exists, CEI and ProsperityME still offer one-to-one financial counseling. Staff is working from home, but continues to assist clients virtually. CEI offers a virtual First Time Homebuyer course, as well as one-to-one pre-purchase and foreclosure prevention counseling. Avesta Housing also offers virtual First-Time Homebuyer training.
“Everything went smoothly on closing day,” said Mowa, who is happy to have a home of his own. Since his purchase, his wife and children have joined him in Maine, and his parish has grown. Mowa recommends that anyone looking to buy a house reach out to Clement Yombe at ProsperityME or Jill Lorom at CEI for assistance. Mowa is also happy to talk about this experience and offer advice to people in a similar situation. He can be reached at 207-317-7107. Other opportunities to learn about the homebuying process are described in “Connect the dots,” elsewhere in this issue.