Housing fair attracts record numbers

Prospective Howard County homeowners flooded Long Reach High School on Saturday, April 13, looking for information on available properties, financing options and recommendations to make buying a home a reality.

The Howard County Housing Fair has grown in popularity over the last seven years and organizers said the fair set another record this year, attracting more than 1,400 people to the Columbia school.

Included in the crowd were Columbia couple John and Kira Jahoda, who have been renting the past two years.

Both school teachers in Prince George's County, the Jahodas said they would like to own a home in either Columbia or Elkridge.

"It's been great," Kira said of the fair. "We've gotten a lot of good information. Hopefully, we'll make homeownership a reality this summer."

Based on pre-registration information, event organizer Tracy Gosson said attendance is split between county and non-county residents.

Most attendees come from within a 20-mile radius of Jessup, including Anne Arundel and Baltimore County residents, Gosson said. But she added that attendees also came from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas.

"Last year, the housing market looked to be back," she said. "This year it's back for sure."

The fair, which is sponsored by Howard County Housing, offered attendees an opportunity to discuss homeownership with 55 vendors, including local community representatives, county agencies, financing agencies and Realtors. Free credit reports and one-on-one counseling sessions also were available.

The fair offered 25 hour-long classes discussing topics affecting for first-time homeowners: how to repair your credit score, tips on landlord and tenant relations and various home improvement projects, according to Tom Carbo, executive director of the Howard County Housing Commission.

Columbia resident Charrita Williams attended multiple classes, as did a number of people. The sessions were held in classrooms and were very popular.

Williams said she attended sessions on managing your credit score and purchasing the appropriate home and renters insurance.

Currently is a renter in Columbia, Williams said she would like to eventually own a home in the county.

"Absolutely, it was informative," she said. "I'm more prepared now for homeownership."

New to the fair this year were classes offered in Chin and Spanish and a financial literacy course for teenagers, Carbo said.

Carbo said the number of vendors and classes offered were both record highs.

"The turnout has been tremendous," he said.

Bus tours to four sites in Ellicott City and Elkridge to view model homes also were popular, Carbo said.

"We're letting people know why Howard County is such a great county to live," he said.

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