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Flathead Finance student first to close on a new home

By Lailani Upham

Sharon Marker stands outside her home with coffee in hand enjoying becoming a homeowner last week. She says it feels great it’s all behind her. (Courtesy photo) Sharon Marker stands outside her home with coffee in hand enjoying becoming a homeowner last week. She says it feels great it’s all behind her. (Courtesy photo)

PABLO — She is known as their “Poster child.”

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Housing Authority Affordable Homeownership counselors, Nicole Antoine and Micky Snyder said Sharon Marker was their most difficult client with the toughest obstacles and hurdles that would leave one counselor passing her case on to the next to being the first person to close on purchasing a house from the Flathead Finance class.

Marker closed on her house on April 25.

Renters living in the SKHA Felsman Addition got rare opportunity to become homeowners at a steal-of-deal price starting in January.

With assistance for down payment from the Flathead Finance program Marker’s final purchase price was $46,000. The original price of her three-bedroom, 1,100 square foot home was $55,000.

It took her one month to take care of all the closing procedures which she says was, “Very nerve racking.”

She added the closing was almost more gruesome than getting her credit in order over a two year period.

Through the Flathead Finance program Marker gained insight and tools on how to become “credit worthy” she said.

It was a journey of perseverance and courage, she said.

“You have to write a lot of letters to collectors and credit bureaus; and learn to stand up to them (creditors).”

She said through the class of preparing her to purchase the home, she learned she had rights as a consumer and began to take bolder steps as time went on.

“There was such a transformation in the two years. She went from being shy and timid to confident and standing up,” Antoine said.

In preparation to become a homeowner, Marker said she realized the financial difference of needs and wants. “I have a savings now,” she said proudly. “It’s as simple as knowing you can do without take-out pizza in the month, and putting away that $25 to a savings account instead,” Marker added.

Antoine and Snyder say it takes small steps to start saving money. “Most people think they have to have hundreds or more dollars to start a savings account, but it just takes what you got and what you can afford to put away on a monthly basis.”

The Flathead Finance team feel through the class they have not only reached Marker and other individuals, but their families as well. Marker says she is noticing the effects of financial knowledge trickling down to her sons.

In 1996, SKHA officials began a partnership with investors to create a homeownership opportunity with the Felsman Addition homes.

The Montana Board of Housing - Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program provided funding to construct 20 single-family homes. The proposed plan to construct the homes with SKHA managing them for a period of 15 years, and at the end of the period SKHA would take ownership and sell the homes at an affordable price to the tenants.

The screening process includes: credit reports, no foreclosures on record, and household incomes. Household incomes that have a combined annual income of less than $20,000 will not be considered.

Antoine explains about this opportunity, “Anyone who does qualify for the Felsman units is walking into equity in these homes. Which means an investment into their future. There is really not a better way to invest and it’s more than a great opportunity for tribal members who are low-income and never thought they had a chance at owning a home.”

Affordable is an understatement. Maker pays $250 a month with a 30-year mortgage and a six percent interest rate from Tribal Credit.

Antoine and Snyder agree it is a jaw-dropping opportunity.

Marker says it still has not sunk in that she is a homeowner, because she thought all her life it was something that was unachievable. She says still is a bit nervous, but says it feels good to not be throwing money away anymore.

There are still seven homes in the Felsman Addition that are up for sale.

For more information on eligibility on purchasing a home call Nicole Antoine or Micky Snyder at SKHA at (406) 675-4491.

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