Habitat for Humanity’s vision has always been a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Here in Kanawha and Putnam Counties we have been hard at work for 28 years building new houses for qualifying families, but we also recognize that there are a lot of people who are currently living in homes whose state of repair is on a downward spiral. Many people simply lack the skills and knowledge necessary to maintain their home, and many others do not understand the importance of doing so. It has become clear to us that in order to achieve our vision, not only do we need to continue to build new homes, but we need to address the deterioration of the existing housing stock.
To address the issue, Habitat for Humanity of Kanawha and Putnam has developed the Master Homeowner program to empower homeowners in our community to be proactive and proficient in the basic skills that are required to be successful. The program is designed to instruct and inform homeowners or those planning to become homeowners, in all areas necessary to be successful, healthy, lifelong homeowners.
The Master Homeowner Program is structured similarly to the widely acclaimed Master Gardener Program offered by the WVU Extension Service: a certificate program that features classroom instruction, and hands-on experience. Classes are taught by professionals in the field and participants then take the information and apply it in their own homes.
The Program was developed with the needs of Habitat for Humanity Home Buyers in mind, but is open to the broader community. Anyone who owns their own home or wishes to own a home in the future is eligible to receive the Master Homeowner certificate. It will take most participants 9-12 months to complete all of the program requirements.
How the Master Homeowner Program Came To Be
In 2014 Habitat’s board of directors adopted a five-year strategic plan that included – as one of its key elements – an initiative to provide comprehensive homeownership training not only to its home buyers, but to the community at large. Not wishing to reinvent the wheel, Habitat staff began looking for existing educational programs that we could employ to accomplish our goal. We knew that there were many education resources that were marketed under the general heading of “homeownership,” but as we took a closer look at these pre-packaged educational curricula, we slowly realized that they all followed a very similar pattern:
• Pre-purchase preparation (financial literacy, securing a realtor, finding a home),
• Financing (selecting a lending institution, appraisals, surveys, application),
• Legal and Closing (loan settlement, assuming legal ownership)
• Energy Efficiency and Maintenance
• Avoiding Foreclosure (working with your lending institution in case you default on the loan)
The more of these programs we reviewed, the closer we came to the conclusion that these programs were first and foremost, developed and funded by lending institutions and were designed to appeal to their core needs: Qualified and educated customers who wouldn’t leave them with a foreclosed property to deal with. The small amount of home maintenance training included in the course was nothing more than window dressing and imparted little in the way of practical information. After reviewing every program we could find with the “Homeowner Education” label, we concluded that there was no existing curriculum that addressed the things we had identified as vital topics that everyone who owned a home would need to be familiar with. None of these programs taught practical skills and concepts that were necessary for homeowners to be successful.
How We Did It
The development of the program began with the assistance of adult education professionals and practitioners. These experts assisted Habitat staff in understanding the basics of curriculum design, including establishing learning objectives and mapping those objectives to the classroom instruction materials. Pre and post tests were developed to provide program effectiveness metrics.
Next, an advisory panel was formed that included individuals from many professions, disciplines and experiences related to homeownership: banking, real estate, law, insurance, education, non-profit service, family resource network, community development, neighborhood associations, law enforcement, fire/safety, civic organizations, housing trade contractors, trade union instructors, and Habitat families and staff.
The centerpiece of the program is nine two-and-a-half hour classes, held weekly in Habitat’s Homeowner Education and Community Center. Click on the class name to go to the registration page for the next available class.
Homeowner’s Toolbox: Participants will learn what basic tools will be needed for frequent tasks in and around the house; how to use the tools properly; how to store and obtain the tools. Hands-on experience is part of this class.
Home Maintenance: Participants will learn the most important motives for and consequences of not maintaining their property, where to begin, what to look for, and in some circumstances how to perform maintenance that will keep the value of their investment in tact and keep their environment comfortable and safe. Hands-on experience is part of this class.
Legal, Insurance and Financial Issues of Homeownership: Participants will obtain a better understanding of all the paperwork signed when purchasing a home, how to make the best decisions for individual’s circumstances, how not to be a victim of predatory lending practices, why estate planning is important and what it entails and how the laws view neighborhood nuisances.
Home Fire Safety & Prevention: Participants will learn the nature of and most common causes of home fires, how to prevent and what to do in case of fire; how to use fire extinguishers and properly place them in the home. Hands-on experience is part of this class.
Home Energy Efficiency: Participants will define and identify energy efficiency terms applied to residential homes, discover the effectiveness and advantages of controlling the conditioned air and energy waste in the home; identify areas of energy loss in their own home; relate proper methods of controlling the loss thus improving the health and comfort of their homes while spending less to do so. Hands-on experience is part of this class.
Basic Household Plumbing: Participants will be able to list reasons for understanding plumbing basics; describe a basic household plumbing system; identify where to check for leaks and how to prevent clogs; relate steps to remedy common plumbing problems. Hands-on experience is part of this class.
Home Electrical Basics: Participants will be able to identify the type of service panel in their home and the basic residential electrical system; relate and practice electrical safety and energy usage in the home; explain new lighting options, space heater safety, brownouts/surges and if an electrician is needed and how to hire one. Hands-on experience is part of this class.
Home & Neighborhood Safety: Participants will identify potential threats to the security of their person and property; describe best practices in reporting and deterring security risks; relate ways to increase potential for stolen property to be returned; demonstrate changes necessary for highest possible security including Neighborhood Watch Program.
Neighborhood Relations: Participants will gain a better understanding of the importance of forming positive relationships with their closest neighbors and the wider community, thus being empowered to improve their environment for their family and their neighborhood. Hands-on experience is part of this class.
In addition to these nine core classes, certificants must complete an appropriate personal finance class; either Dave Ramsey’s Nine-Week Financial Peace University (required for Habitat Home Buyers), or for more seasoned homeowners, a bank-sponsored personal financial literacy class.
For more information contact Janie Hamilton at 304-720-0141 ext. 18 or firstname.lastname@example.org