Habitat’s Hand-Up: How a Family Becomes a Habitat Homeowner

February 25, 2021 Homeownership Habitat News

True or False – Habitat for Humanity gives away homes to families with limited incomes.

FALSE! Habitat does not give away homes. Habitat partners with qualified and selected families to provide them a hand-up – not a hand-out – to homeownership they can afford.

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For a family with a limited income, finding affordable housing opportunities in the Bay Area can feel like a farfetched dream. However, when a family partners with Habitat, not only can they achieve that dream, but they help build more stable communities.

To make these dreams and communities a reality, Habitat offers qualified and selected families the opportunity to purchase a home through a nonprofit, affordable mortgage.

Much like building a Habitat home, becoming a first-time homebuyer with Habitat’s affordable homeownership program is a true partnership that is not built overnight, in a week, or even a year. It’s a process that takes time, commitment, and dedication.


Before a family can partner with Habitat to become a homeowner, they must meet the program’s guidelines, attend a Homeowner Orientation, and complete a pre-application.*

Habitat’s pre-application confirms an applicant meets our program’s basic requirements – income level, credit history, U.S. legal residency, and first-time homebuyer status. Our full application takes a deeper look into an applicant’s financial preparedness for homeownership.

Once a family’s pre-application is completed and a full application is approved, they are placed on our Buyer Ready Group.

The Buyer Ready Group is a group of approved applicants that are notified when Habitat homes become available. When a Habitat home becomes available, a Buyer Ready applicant is selected based on meeting our all of our program guidelines, standards, and these three criteria:

  1. Ability to Pay an Affordable Mortgage

    A family’s affordable mortgage payments to Habitat are then reinvested in our work to help build more affordable homes and strengthen more communities.

    Each Habitat home has specific guidelines, and we want to ensure that families are ready for successful homeownership. Habitat’s Client Services team works with applicants to ensure they are financially prepared and able to pay a home’s affordable mortgage.

  2. In Need of Better Housing

    Then the applicant is interviewed by our Family Selection Committee to determine their need for better housing.

    A family may find themselves in need of a better housing situation due to a variety of circumstances, such as:
    • Stability of a family’s current housing situation – Is more than 30% of a family’s income going toward housing? Have unpredictable rent increases caused frequent moves? Is a family facing displacement? There are many causes of housing instability, and they can all be important factors in determining a family’s need for better housing.
    • Effect of housing on a family’s health – Overcrowded living conditions, environmental hazards like mold, and other factors in a family’s housing situation may negatively impact their health and necessitate a better living situation.
    • The safety of the family – A damaged or inadequate housing situation, a neighborhood impacted by high crime, and other circumstances may contribute to a lack of safety in a family’s living conditions.

  3. Willingness to Partner

    When a family commits to partnering with Habitat, they are investing in themselves, their futures, and their neighborhoods. They are committing to building the stability, financial security, and community connection that empowers their family for long-term success.

    In fact, most Habitat families invest in a very concrete sense, with 75% maintaining and upgrading their homes long after move-in to build long-term stability for their families. Homeownership with Habitat for Humanity is not a relationship that ends with a mortgage check. It’s a partnership that empowers families to build strength, stability, and self-reliance for generations to come.

At Habitat, homeownership means partnership. After an applicant is selected by the Family Selection Committee and approved to become a first-time homebuyer with Habitat, they fulfill their commitment to partner with Habitat in two ways:

habitat_home--hardhat-iconSweat Equity
Habitat homeowners contribute 250-500 hours of sweat equity to the construction of their homes or the homes of their neighbors. By building alongside Habitat staff, volunteers, and fellow Habitat families, Habitat homeowners become more invested in their community and are more likely to give back long after they move in. Sweat equity also educates and empowers homeowners to maintain their homes well into the future.

donate-iconSavings Plan
Purchasing a home is one of the biggest financial investments a family can make. To ensure a family knows how to be financially prepared for homeownership, our Client Services team works closely with them to create a savings plan. This savings plan not only prepares our homebuyers for closing costs but also future expenses associated with homeownership. To make sure families remain financially stable long after move-in, families also partner with our Housing Counseling program to create a budget that works for them and their family. Habitat East Bay/Silicon Valley’s Social Impact Study found that 83% homeowners credit Habitat training with understanding the responsibilities of homeownership.


It’s true – after a family moves into their Habitat home, they move forward to build bigger and better lives for themselves and their families, but they rarely move on from being part of the greater Habitat family. Habitat homeowners carry their experiences with them and often pay it forward.

Whether they are encouraging their friends and family to apply, continuing to volunteer on site, or even joining the Habitat staff full time – Habitat families stay connected and invested in our goal to build a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

If you’re interested in applying to become a homeowner with Habitat, please click here to review our program guidelines and learn next steps.

Click here to read some of our homeowners’ stories!

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