Virtually everyone in the real estate industry acknowledges the widening gap between the availability of affordable housing and potential home buyers, especially first-time buyers. Sofia Crisp, president-elect of the Greensboro Regional Realtors Association (GRRA), does more than acknowledge it. She is doing something about it. (SEE PODCAST BELOW)
Although based in Guilford County, GRRA’s more than 2,000 members represent some five hundred realtor firms in Randolph, Alamance and Rockingham counties as well.
As founder and director of Housing Consultants Group (HCG), Crisp says, “My niche right now, and for the last 30 years, has been affordable housing and making it possible for people to become homeowners. And it is not just about getting a house, but how you get the house, how you keep your house and what the value of your house is beyond just a place to live.”
Homeownership, she adds, is the vehicle that creates generational wealth for most people, and is the key to keeping that wealth within communities.
Since 2004, HCG, a HUD-approved Housing Counseling Center, has been assisting first-time home buyers with financial literacy programs, prepurchase education through monthly classes and one-on-one counseling. Yet another program aims to help homeowners avoid foreclosure by negotiating with lenders to obtain loan modifications or other solutions.
“Among other things,” Crisp, explains, “we have a five-week boot camp that focuses on credit, budgeting behaviors and spending behaviors. You must have a spending plan that starts at the beginning of each month. We don’t advocate credit repair services. We advocate taking ownership for what’s on your credit report and what you need to do to get your credit where it needs to be.”
As only the second minority president of the GRRA in its 100-year history, Crisp is gratified that late last year her peers in the real estate community found her worthy to be elected president.
“My real estate background is what may have made HCG so successful,” Crisp notes. “I get it from both the perspective of the realtor and buyers – their anxieties, their questions, what they don’t know and what they do know.”
Crisp believes that her many years of experience in real estate give her a good handle on how to approach the lack of affordable housing. In the wake of the foreclosure crisis of 2008, Crisp says it is important to recognize “there’s still a great need among people who want to buy a home for less than $200,000 in this area. There’s just not enough inventory.”
She wants developers to be incentivized to return to underserved communities in North Carolina and around the country. Giving developers, especially small developers, the ability to o
ffer potential buyers gap financing to make homes more affordable helps to make sure they are making money. “That keeps everybody happy,” she says.
Crisp finds the current state of the real estate market “a bit alarming.”
“It’s an interesting time, unlike anything I’ve seen in almost 30 years,” Crisp says. “I tell potential buyers to be patient, maintain their credit, maintain savings and get with the lender and realtor who can quickly provide what’s needed should the opportunity arise.
“I urge people in underserved communities,” she adds, “to stay faithful, stay diligent and stay encouraged. You can’t have too much education when it comes to homeownership.”