“We assist people to become homeowners by improving their financial status through budget and credit counseling”

Kirsten Major works as a communications manager for a synagogue on the Upper West Side. She was just one of the many people whose life was forever changed after purchasing her very first home in NYC. It all started just last February while sitting at her desk at work. “I was thinking about my life and about how much I had always wanted to own a home,” said Major. Like most first-time homebuyers, Major believed that her dream of homeownership was far from reach. “Here I was, earning what I earn and living in NYC, just thinking, ‘How would this ever be possible?’”

Major was frustrated with having to continuously pay exorbitant rent for something that she didn’t own. “I thought I’d have to save up into the six figures just to do a down payment and, I actually learned in the class, that’s not true.” When Major searched online on how to buy an apartment in NYC, HCCI’s homebuyer course was the very first opportunity that appeared. “I read more about it and saw that it was for low to moderate income earners and that it was nearby, so I signed up.”

Since 2003, HCCI’s Homebuyer Education Seminar Series has offered courses year-round to help New Yorkers simplify the process and make their dreams for buying a home more attainable. “We assist people to become homeowners by improving their financial status through budget and credit counseling,” said Rev. Dr. Charles Butler, vice president of Equitable Development at HCCI. He’s also a senior staff member responsible for HCCI’s homebuyer education courses. “The goal of the program is to educate potential homebuyers on the steps necessary, and to introduce them to the professionals they need to work with.” “Rev. Butler brought in reputable brokers, lawyers, and home inspectors. We had the opportunity to meet all of these people and ask them many questions,” said Major. “This was particularly helpful because there are a lot of good and bad people out there. And if you’re a first time homebuyer, you’re so vulnerable to whatever somebody tells you.”

They also learned about the mortgage process and all of the available grant assistance. After months of searching and going to several open houses, Major found her dream home—a two-bedroom apartment in an elevator building with an eat-in kitchen in Harlem for less than $250,000. “The apartment went on the market on a Sunday morning. I called the broker and made an offer right on the spot. By that point, I knew what to ask and what I was doing.” Major’s is just one of the many success stories from HCCI’s Homebuyer Education Seminar Series. According to Rev. Butler, last year’s attendance was well over 475 people. And of the almost 25,000 who have taken the course over the life of the Harlem-run program, approximately 2,500 who have become homeowners.