Class prepares Richmond-area home buyers for smarter financial future

As Virginia Cooperative Extension agent Twandra Lomax was shopping in a Richmond Farm Fresh, she was recognized by a previous student.

“You taught my homebuyers class at Southside,” the woman said. “I closed on my first house last week.”

She was one of 34 students in the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Homebuyers Education class that went on to purchase a home in the City of Richmond in 2015.

The class, formed in collaboration with Richmond’s Southside Community Development and Housing Corporation, focuses on credit, personal finances, the role of the lender and realtor, home maintenance, home inspection, home appraisal, the closing process, foreclosure, and the Fair Housing Act of Virginia.

Two sessions of the class are held each month and are taught by experts in the field. Participants leave the class prepared to start working on credit concerns that could prevent them from qualifying for mortgage loans. At the end of the class, students work directly with a counselor to address any lingering concerns.

“The homebuyers sessions are instrumental in educating the students about all aspects of homeownership,” Lomax said. “So many people don’t know where to begin, so our class gives students all the tools they need to make smarter financial decisions when it comes to buying a home.”

Studies show that financial counseling like the homebuyers sessions can lessen the likelihood of the 90-day delinquency rate of borrowers by 34 percent — a figure that appeals to stakeholders in the City of Richmond.

With its relatively low median income and homeownership rates and large concentration of census tracts with more than 27 percent of the population living in poverty, the City of Richmond views increasing homeownership as one way to revitalize neighborhoods. Increasing homeownership throughout the City could also help create the mixed income communities many in the City believe are essential for economic health.

To fulfill its homeownership policy goals, the City relies on partnerships with community development corporations and other nonprofit organizations, like Virginia Cooperative Extension and Southside Community Development and Housing Corporation.

For her part, Lomax hopes to continue seeing more success stories come out of her class, like the woman she met in Farm Fresh.

“The more success stories, the better — both for our students and the city as a whole,” Lomax said.