Homeownership FAQs

How do I find out if I am eligible for a Habitat home?

The criteria for determining eligibility for Habitat home are: 1) Need for Housing, 2) Ability to Pay the Mortgage, and 3) Willingness to Partner with South County Habitat.

Can I still apply if I live on my own and do not have a family?

Yes. South County Habitat is an equal opportunity, fair housing provider with broad definitions for family.

How do I apply?

Complete a Pre-purchase Homebuyer Education Workshop prior to applying.   Click here to locate a class near you.  

Once application periods are posted, schedule an application appointment for homeownership. Be prepared to provide all required information, such as income verification and employment verification forms, along with other information we may request from you prior to your application appointment..

Who decides if my family is eligible?

A committee of volunteers from the community (the SCHH Homeowner Selection Committee) will review your application, usually with input from Rhode Island Housing regarding financial qualifications, to determine if you meet the criteria.  The selection committee will submit recommendations for final approval by the Board of Directors.

How much money do I need to earn in order to qualify?

The monthly mortgage payment cannot exceed 30% of your monthly income. The selling price, taxes, insurance, and ground lease fee determine the monthly mortgage payment.  Further, Habitat uses federal income guidelines to determine financial eligibility. Your total household income must be less than 60% of the HUD median income for the town in which the home is to be built. This amount varies depending upon the number of people in your household. In addition to meeting this guideline, a financial review of your application looks for evidence of a steady income for two years. Habitat considers all sources of legitimate and verifiable income (employment, child support, SSI, disability etc.) in determining your ability to pay the mortgage. Determining financial eligibility is a complicated issue; Habitat can help you through the process.

Do I have to be a Christian to qualify for a Habitat house?

Habitat is a Christian organization, but we do not require applicants to have any or any particular religious affiliation. South County Habitat is an equal opportunity, fair housing provider and does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, family status, disability, ethnicity, religion, or any other basis protected by state or federal law in its selection process.

Once I submit my application how long does it take to process?

If all required information and documentation has been submitted, you will receive written notification of the committee’s decision as soon as possible after receipt by Habitat of your complete application. The process can take a number of months to complete.

If my application is denied can I reapply?

You may reapply at any time in the future.

Should I call to check on the status of my application?

You will be contacted once a decision has been made. Applications are handled by and within a committee; consequently, the office staff will not have the necessary information to respond to your query.

Once my family is accepted, what is the next step?

Once your Family has been selected they will attend an orientation that will explain all the steps required in the process of becoming a Habitat Homeowner. Additionally, your family will be introduced to your Family Support Partner, a Habitat representative who will be your family’s primary source of support and information during the transition to homeownership. The “Family Support Partner” will introduce your family to other Habitat Partner Families, help them to understand the Habitat program, and get them started in earning their sweat equity hours.

How long will it take before I will be living in my house?

Many factors contribute to the length of construction time required to complete a house so there are no guarantees as to when a house will be ready for occupancy.

Can I choose where I want to live?

We only accept applications for current projects, consequently if the location of the current project does not meet your geographic preference you are free not to apply for that house. You can wait, if you choose, for us to build in an area more to your liking. However, Habitat can only build where we are able to obtain suitable projects. We cannot guarantee that we will have property available in the area in which you wish to live.

What can I do to earn my sweat equity hours?

Two thirds of your hours must be completed at a Habitat construction site. The remaining hours can be earned onsite, or, with Habitat’s approval, working at fundraisers, doing office work, working at ReStore, or on other Habitat sponsored projects. The Executive Director and/or the Family Selection Committee has the authority to modify the locations and types of Sweat Equity served to accommodate extraordinary affiliate or Partner Family circumstances.

How many sweat equity hours do I need to qualify for a home?

Two adult families need to complete a minimum of 450 hours of sweat equity. Single adult families must complete a minimum of 300 hours. Each applicant must work a minimum of 12 hours per month (24 hours per month for two-adult families). Other family members (relatives who are not going to be living in the house), and friends can help you earn up to 180 of your total hours (two-adult) or 125 hours (single adult). After you complete your minimum number of required Sweat Equity hours you will be expected to continue to contribute hours as before until the completion of your home.

How can I help build a house if I don’t know anything about construction?

Most Habitat homeowners and volunteers have never built a house before. Habitat’s construction staff and skilled volunteers will teach you what to do and will supervise the work.

Will I get to work on my own house?

Yes, if you are purchasing a new house, you are expected to work on your own house as much as possible. Since Habitat is a partnership effort you will also be working on other people’s houses at least until your sweat equity is completed.

Do I have any other obligation to Habitat once I complete my sweat equity, other than the responsibilities of homeownership?

You are expected to continue to partner with Habitat as agreed. You will also need a down payment of 1% of the purchase price and closing costs at the time of purchase.

What will be the amount of my monthly mortgage payment?

SCHH provides 25 year, zero percent interest mortgages to its homeowners. Under the terms of the mortgage, homeowners make 300 monthly payments to the holder of the mortgage. Your monthly mortgage payment, which includes a principal payment, tax and insurance escrows, and a ground lease fee, should not exceed 30% of your monthly income. Habitat also collects with the mortgage payment a $25 maintenance contribution to be held in escrow on your behalf to be used in the future as needed for major home repairs and maintenance. Other fees may be collected to cover expenses particular to your house or situation.

Where does Habitat get the resources with which to build houses?

As an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, SCHH is a private, non-profit organization that relies on donations from local individuals, churches and businesses to fund its building projects. Habitat also receives financial support in the form of federal, state and local grants and from private and public foundations. Habitat also relies heavily on volunteers to supply much of the labor needed to build our homes. ReStore is also a major fundraising source for South County Habitat.

What type of houses does Habitat build?

Habitat builds simple, decent, affordable homes. The style of the home is determined by a number of factors including zoning regulations, lot size and neighborhood considerations. A typical three-bedroom home has approximately 1100 square feet of living space. SC Habitat homes are usually built to “Energy Star” and LEED’s standards to be energy efficient, easy to maintain and environmentally sustainable.

How much land comes with the house?

South County Habitat retains ownership of the land, to ensure long term affordability, through a ground lease agreement under our Land Trust Model. With this agreement, you will have most of the typical rights and responsibilities of homeownership – such as mowing the lawn, planting a garden, keeping the yard neat and tidy and paying property taxes. Lot sizes vary greatly depending on available project opportunities.

Can I do anything to the house once I have moved in?

Because of the ground lease there are some restrictions, but basically you can do most anything allowed by applicable ordinances, laws and codes. However, any activity requiring a building permit will also require Habitat’s written permission.

What if I decide I want to sell my house?

Under the ground lease agreement, when you wish to sell your house you are required to sell the house back to South County Habitat for Humanity. You will receive any equity that you have invested in the home (accumulated principal payments from your monthly mortgage payments and the initial down payment), less monies owed for mortgage payments, damages beyond normal wear and tear and any other debts owed to SCHH or the mortgagee or to satisfy any outstanding liens. SCHH will re-sell the home to another eligible family.