Wednesday, January 31, 2007

You say “Naahh-cah,” I say “Nya-Cah”

Our friend Michael the contractor told us about the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA). He found out through his landlady at the time, a 21-year-old homeowner named Komani. After causing one too many mortgage lenders to break into hysterics at the regular old banks—you’re how old? You want to buy what? Ahahahaha!—Komani decided to give NACA a try. She is now the proud proprietor of a three-story, brick beauty close to downtown Buffalo. She also works at Righteous Babe Records and has a lime green dining room—you want to be her friend, trust me.

Steve and I decided to find out more about this NACA program and soon found ourselves signed up for a three-hour workshop that would serve as an official (and required) introduction to the organization. We saw an inspirational, if not borderline propagandized, video on the origins of NACA and left as True Believers. Here’s what the “History” page at NACA’s website has to say:

The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) is a non-profit community advocacy and housing services organization. NACA’s confrontational community organizing and revolutionary mortgage program have set the national standard for effective neighborhood stabilization programs that make home ownership a reality for working families.

The confrontational community organizing they’re referring to is THIS and THIS. They basically spent lots of time camping out in the corporate offices of predatory loan lenders (i.e. the former Fleet bank). Anyway, NACA’s requirements aren’t ridiculous but the process is designed to be slow-going and extensive. Unlike the predatory loan lenders they’ve fought against, NACA doesn’t want you to buy a house you can’t afford.

To be sure that their members don’t get stuck with a money pit—well, an extraordinarily deep money pit—there are numerous checks throughout the process. For instance, we had to make a budget and submit our monthly pay stubs, our bank and credit card statements, our credit reports—our ENTIRE financial history, in short. If we hadn’t been paying our credit cards on time, our counselor would’ve told us he wanted to see six months of on time payments. That kind of check. Another example: when we finally found a house, we had to get our housing inspection approved by NACA so that they could determine if we were getting too much or just enough to handle.

NACA pays for your attorney fees and the search and survey of the property. All their counseling—including credit resolution—is free and if all NACA counselors are like ours, you’re in for a treat as sweet as a hot fudge sundae with whipped cream. (Actually, there’s an ice cream shoppe right next to the Buffalo office. To us, this made NACA even better/more credible.) The organization doesn’t pay for any home inspections and you will have to save up some cash for things like a deposit, first home insurance payments, and taxes. Not one to be thoughtless, NACA counselors make sure you’ve got this money in the bank before they pre-approve—before you can even begin working with a realtor.

The full version of their services is available here.

Sound too good to be true? Well, Steve and I definitely left our first workshop feeling like somewhere, in the fine print perhaps, they were going to want each of our first born babies or maybe the ashes of our favorite dead relative. We wondered, What’s the catch?

Here’s the catch: You’ve got to live in your house for the life of your NACA loan but can rent out any additional units AND You can’t own any other property when you apply for the NACA loan AND There are certain limits on income levels so all you rich muthers need not apply AND You’ve got to participate in something like five NACA “actions” a year.

NACA actions include sticking a sign on your front lawn, saying that you bought your house through NACA. Great, we thought, this will fit in wonderfully with the seven other signs we’ll have on the yard during election season—no prob! Occasionally, we might be asked to speak about our experience at a NACA workshop. Again, we were on board: I love talking about myself and my feelings, I thought, I’ll be there anytime you’ll have me! Me, me, me! Yet another possible action would be participating in a demonstration against whatever evil, neighborhood-destroying force NACA has designated the enemy. I don’t think I have to explain too much: this action resonated deep within our communist-hippie souls and we both stood up in our chairs, began shouting the What-Do-We-Want/When-Do-We-Want-It chant without even knowing what we wanted, or when we wanted it. Sold! We were sold.

But seriously, if you care about your neighborhood and you’re not a schmuck, the required participation is nothing but common sense. With that, I demand that you check out a NACA near you. Tell them Whitney and Steve sent ya and that our enthusiastic recommendations should count for at least one year’s completion of required NACA participation, dammit. And then go get some ice cream.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Signs you're too young to be buying a house

Your credit score goes down by nearly 100 points--100 points! The culprit: overdue library books.

When you go to the paint store to look at color swatches, you immediately head to the Nickelodeon brand paint. Favorite colors include Rugrat's "Yellow Diapie" and Blue's Clues "Snail Shell Scarlet."

You mortgage counselor reminds you that he needs a letter from your current landlord explaining your rental situation. This means that your mom has to write a letter stating that you live with her for free, and have been doing so for months.